Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
I still find myself being weepy periodically as I think about the events of Friday. I imagine this will last for awhile. Someone suggested that we were becoming desensitized to these things as a nation. I’ll speak for myself, but I feel I becoming… whatever the opposite of desensitized might be. I feel this tragedy in ways that I’m not sure that I can even adequately explain.
I go back to yesterday’s worship service and the catharsis that came with crying with a community of people. And of being in a community of people with which I didn’t mind crying. It made me think of family funerals. While there’s is the overwhelming sad elephant in the room on those occasions, there is also the a weird sense of comfort (and joy?) that comes with being with loved ones, knowing that they share some of that hurt and that the path forward is with those folks that you have left. It draws you closer, even if temporarily.
This, I think, is what separates “joy” from “happiness”. I don’t say this in a way of minimizing happiness. If I could feel happy all of the time, I most likely would. But joy is something much different. It is deeper and it is able to exist even under harsh conditions. Joy springs up from internal wells. It comes from something foundational. It comes from recognition of those things that are truly lasting. That’s why we can feel joy in places where we might not feel happy, like at a funeral or a somber worship gathering.
The Psalmist points us to another aspect of joy. It is a recognition of the temporal nature of life. Sorrow is real, but it need not be lasting. It need not be all-defining. It need not be terminal. You may go through a night of weeping, and that “night” may last for days, weeks, months, or years. But joy can come on the other side, as the sun rises on a new day with new opportunities.
This is what I hope for the people of Newtown. It is what i hope for anyone who has experienced unspeakable loss. I hope they grieve and grieve well. I hope they mourn together and share in each other’s pain. I hope they find themselves surrounded by love in ways that, even while they feel sadness, they might also feel joy. And I hope that as new days dawn, and new suns rise that they will find ways to honor those that they have lost. I hope that they will cling to those things in life that matter and are lasting. I hope that in them they find comfort and joy.