When Joy and Struggle Exist in the Same Story

I naively tried to place a deadline on when the constant morning sickness would end.

First I said it would be 14 weeks like most of the articles on Google told me.

 Then I pinned my hope to 18 weeks. 

Next up: 20 weeks. 

Surely by 30 weeks the throwing up and constant nausea would cease. 

Every deadline came and went from the calendar and I stayed in the same place: waiting for God to break in with some healing. 

I learned a tough lesson in this space of 9 months: you cannot place a deadline on what God is doing. He will take however much time He needs to bring about the best fruit. And though I don’t believe God conjures the hard circumstances, I know He uses them to script songs of glory. He uses breaking points to set the stage for the most beautiful of breakthroughs.

If you’re like me, then you want the joy without the pain. I want to find this stretch of space where only joy exists, free of struggles, but that place doesn’t exist this side of heaven. 

I think about this time of year where we celebrate the culmination of Jesus’ life on earth. We celebrate the ultimate victory. The ultimate joy. 

And yet it wasn’t instant.

It didn’t unfold without pain and sorrow, without agony and a cross on a hill. 

Jesus rose from the grave and still, there was a Saturday wedged between a Friday and a Sunday where the people didn’t know how the story would end. If their joy would rise again. If there’d be a victory song to sing or a stone to roll away from a tomb. 

I take the truth of this Easter story and I clutch it tightly: Joy and struggle can exist within the same story. It’s weird and it’s hard to embrace that but the evidence is everywhere. 

On a particularly challenging day, when the physical and emotional battle seemed almost too much to bear, I closed my office door, grabbed my Bible, and got away with God. 

I held the Bible in my lap as I breathed in and out asked God for some hope. Something small but significant to hold onto, a patch of light to illuminate the next rung on this ladder I was climbing day by day. 

I sat. I waited. I let all the rowdy thoughts exit my head. And finally, unexpectedly, I come to Psalm 126. It’s a song of joy, sung by a people group who experienced exile and are now walking in freedom because of God’s redemptive plan. It was one of those “this feels too good to be true but it actually is true” moments. 

And then those words, the words I desperately need:

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 

It paints this picture of someone standing a wide-open field sowing seeds. Back and forth. Back and forth. Going up and down the rows, all the while weeping because the desperation in their heart is thick and the need for God to show up is palpable. Their tears are the first form of water these little seeds will ever know.

And yet God does not say that the songs of joy will come only when you’ve stopped your tears. He’s not asking us to muster up our own form of joy or quit crying. He’s saying that those of us who sow — who keep on fighting forward and drawing on his strength reserves — with tears so evidently in our eyes are going to uncover the joy songs. We are going to pluck these songs of elation from the ground like a fresh harvest. We are going to find ourselves singing out words we didn’t think we knew and we will feel those words of victory in our bones, even if the tears aren’t ending in this hour. 

God is saying there is a deep well of joy we can draw from on a Saturday where we don’t yet know the hope Sunday holds. We can dance with joy and struggle at the very same time — giving honor to both. 

The harvest will come. At the most precise moment— exactly in God’s timing and not a second later — the most beautiful of breakthroughs will come through if we don’t give up and keep seeking Him.


Hannah Brencher

Hannah Brencher is a writer, speaker, and author of two books — Come Matter Here and If You Find This Letter. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Lane and rescue puppy Tuesday. They are expecting their first baby in April. You can read more of her writing here.