“As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing …” (2 Corinthians 6:10)
The apostles were unique men – not so much for the supernatural miracles that their hands performed, but for the supernatural joy that they maintained in the most trying circumstances. Paul could testify: “… I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.” (2 Cor. 7:4) He wanted every believer to know this joy and prayed for the church to be “strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Col. 1:11).
Even in the Old Testament, we read: “… for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10) Sorrow of heart is nothing to trifle with; it can be debilitating, even deadly. The joy of the Lord is part of our spiritual weaponry. It strengthens us to withstand the temptations of a sorrowful season. The tempter would train our eyes on the want of the wilderness. He would have us mourn good things we have lost or hoped to have.
Paul did not sugarcoat the suffering of this life. He “suffered the loss of all things” (Phil. 3:8) But he knew a joy in the Lord that was greater than the sorrow he experienced. The apostles were after something more than “the good life” as defined by men of this world. They looked forward to a day when they would hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt. 25:23)
Everlasting joy will one day be upon our head. (Isa. 51:11) There will be nothing to sorrow over. (Rev. 21:4) For now though, there is a joy we can possess even in the midst of sorrow. Like Paul, we can be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.