How God Turns My Tears Into Joy
14 December 2017 Year B
There are times when you and I may feel abandoned by God. We may feel all alone. We get so down and depressed that we think that what we see in front of our eyes is what is all there is to life. The problems with our emotions is that they can rule us. They can overtake the mind and the spirit. Being guided by our emotions can be dangerous.
Yet, God made each of one of us with emotions. He is there to help us sort them out. When I feel extremely sad, God is there to take me from a place of sadness to a place of joy. In Jeremiah 31, we have one such example. The people of God are very upset and discouraged. They are crying because of their circumstances. The people of God don’t see a way out of their present situation. Yet, God knows how they feel. He is ready, willing, and able to take them from a point of sorrow to a place of joy.
There is a process in which God helps turn my tears to joy.
THE PROCESS GOD USES TO TURN MY SADNESS INTO JOY
1. God hears my cry. (Jeremiah 31:15)
“This is what the Lord says: A voice was heard in Ramah, a lament with bitter weeping— Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15, CSB)
God is not absent when I cry out to Him. He knows when I am crying. He hears my cry. In this case, God knows the extent of His people’s sorrow. They are so sad that they are “lamenting” or crying. But this is a sincere cry. It’s bitter. The person weeping refuses comfort from others because the circumstances are so drastic. In this case, Jerusalem is destroyed. The city is compared to a child that is lost. The intense sadness at the loss of a child is the kind of sadness that God’s people had for Jerusalem.
This weeping is heard again in Matthew when Herod slaughters the innocent children during the time when Jesus would be born.
“Then Herod, when he realized that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men.” (Matthew 2:16, CSB)
Mothers were weeping because their children were being killed at the hand of an evil king. They felt this intense pain and sadness and they cried out to God.
In the same way, there are times (like when you lose a loved one) when you will feel intense sadness. You will not want to be comforted. You will weep with bitter tears because the pain is so great.
2. God makes a promise. (Jeremiah 31:16)
“This is what the Lord says: Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for the reward for your work will come— this is the Lord’s declaration— and your children will return from the enemy’s land.” (Jeremiah 31:16, CSB)
In the midst of your pain and sorrow, God comes to you and makes you a promise. In this case, God promises the people of Israel that they children would return from Babylon. This promise was made to Jeremiah earlier. God told Jeremiah that the people of Israel would be exiled to Babylon for 70 years. The promises of God are designed to give me hope.
3. God reminds me of a hopeful future. (Jeremiah 31:17)
“There is hope for your future— this is the Lord’s declaration— and your children will return to their own territory.” (Jeremiah 31:17, CSB)
Based on His promise (that God will always keep when He makes them), I am reminded that I have a hopeful future. When you see “This is the Lord’s declaration” in Scripture, it means that God has made a promise that He will keep. He will keep His word. The word He will keep to His people, in this case, is that there will be hope. The certain hope, in this case, is that God’s people would return to the land from which they had been exiled.
4. I reflect on my denial of joy. (Jeremiah 31:18)
“I have surely heard Ephraim moaning, “You disciplined me, and I have been disciplined like an untrained calf. Take me back, so that I can return, for you, Lord, are my God.” (Jeremiah 31:18, CSB)
When I cry out to God and He makes a promise, I should immediately jump for joy. But that rarely happens. Instead, I don’t initially believe God.
Moses hesitated when God told him to lead the people out of Egypt.
David hesitated when God told Him that he would be the future king.
Mary hesitated when God told her that she would bear the God’s Son – if for a brief moment.
We all hesitate. But some of us put up more barriers. Some of us complain while providing excuses to God. Ultimately, what prevents me from seeing joy is my reluctance to trust God.
5. I remind myself of my need for God. (Jeremiah 31:19)
“After my return, I felt regret; After I was instructed, I struck my thigh in grief. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”” (Jeremiah 31:19, CSB)
After I reflect on my barriers, how I deny myself the opportunity to be joyful, I remind myself of my need for God. Why is this important? Because joy can only come from God. God is joy. He is my source of joy.
In this case, Jeremiah felt regret. Regret comes from knowing that you sinned. So the sorrow, in this case, came from disobedience. The people were sad because they had sinned against God and a nation had come to overtake them and displace them.
It’s really hard to accept responsibility for some disgraces in your life. But if you continue to have a pity-party instead of addressing your part in the problem, you will never see true joy in your life.
I need God to help me through this process. He is my source of joy and He can bring me joy, despite my sin and my sadness. I just have to turn and trust Him. That leads me to the final part of the process of turning my sadness into joy.
6. God reminds me of His love for me. (Jeremiah 31:20)
“Isn’t Ephraim a precious son to me, a delightful child? Whenever I speak against him, I certainly still think about him. Therefore, my inner being yearns for him; I will truly have compassion on him. This is the Lord’s declaration.” (Jeremiah 31:20, CSB)
Joy is a direct result of God’s love. God’s love in my life produces joy. Just as God’s love produces peace, it can also produce joy. Here again, we see that God is making a promise – a declaration. He considers His people to be His children. He views them with delight. When God speaks against then, it is not to hurt them, but to heal them. That healing comes from His love. God has compassion for His people. Compassion is love in action.
So when God promised that He would help His people, it wasn’t just with words. God was going to point emotion in action. He will love His people by providing a way for them to return. That hope of return mixed with the compassion of God should sustain God’s people.
The hope of God along with the compassion of God should provide the joy of God during any difficult time I may be experiencing. God’s love sustains me while I wait for Him to deliver me from my sadness to a place of joy.