2 Corinthians 6:10. as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make in our life’s journey is to think of joy and sorrow as two separate columns. There’s the rejoicing column – life is going great and God is blessing me. And then there’s the sorrowing column – life is full of pain and God is punishing me (or ignoring me). If you’re in the “rejoicing column” you must be living right. If you’re in the “sorrowing column,” you must be a bad Christian. The goal then of the Christian life becomes to either move or stay in that “good” column, and stay out of the “bad” column.
But let’s take a closer look at this section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Look at how he describes his life and ministry to them:
2 Corinthians 6: 4-10. but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
The Christian life is the life of the cross. And what is the cross? Is it two separate columns? Or is it simultaneous honor and dishonor, slander and praise? Union with Christ is simultaneous dying and living. Sorrow mixed with rejoicing. Poverty that makes others rich. The Christian life is having nothing while possessing everything.
I was talking to a friend recently. Her life has been very chaotic and full of sorrow lately. I asked her how she was doing. She told me that she is tired. Tired of being sad. Tired of crying. Tired of her life being a mess. She spoke of getting past it all. Of figuring out how to not cry herself to sleep at night. She spoke of figuring out how to win.
I asked her why crying was “losing.” We talked about how her tired, sorrowful, messy life was actually the life of the cross. It is the place of grace. And how anything she would do to “win” or to figure out how to not cry, apart from crying out to God, would just be a form of works and a rejection of grace. We looked at 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 and Paul’s description of a life that is BOTH dying and living, BOTH sorrowing and rejoicing, BOTH having nothing and having everything.
And this is freedom in Christ. When you are able to embrace the mess, the weakness, the tears, and cry out for God’s grace. When you can find that in the middle of the dying there is life. In the sorrow there is rejoicing. In the nothing there is everything. In the cross there is glory. Then you have the true freedom of NOT having to figure a way to get past the mess. Instead, you can find God waiting for you in the middle of the mess.
So how do you see the Christian life?
Do you see it as constantly moving out of sorrow and into rejoicing? Or do you see it as constant sorrowing and constant rejoicing? Union with Christ places us in both columns at the same time – all the time. Paul is not describing a life of a little bit of hardship and then a little bit of rest and happiness. He is describing a life of great hardship and a life of great joy happening all at once.
Despite what the prosperity gospel might say, the Christian life this side of Heaven is not guaranteed victory over each of our struggles. It is guaranteed struggle. The question then becomes, will you engage these struggles face to face with God, embracing his grace along the way?
“To live is Christ” is to constantly sorrow and constantly rejoice. This kind of living in both columns at once is only possible in Christ. Without union with Christ, who would ever choose a life of dying in order to bring life? Without the genuine love of union with Christ, who would ever endure the great hardships of ministry? It takes a constant focusing and re-focusing on the indwelling life of Christ for us to live the life of Christ. It takes looking to the glory beyond this life to live a life of simultaneous sorrowing and rejoicing.
Do you see life as constant sorrowing and constant rejoicing? Or have you been trying to move from sorrow into rejoicing?
You in Christ
How does both sorrow and rejoicing reflect our union with Christ and his death and resurrection?
Christ in you
What might you do today in order to find Jesus in your mess, rather than try to escape your mess?
Playlist: Sorrow and Joy