How Do You Find Joy in the Midst of Sorrow?

by | #TellHisStory, Encouragement, Life | 32 comments

This isn’t the blog post I planned to write. But life doesn’t always go as planned.

Last Wednesday, our family entered into a season of grief and mourning as our precious Penny, a rescued chihuahua-mix, passed away unexpectedly. Praise God, my husband and I were home and with her as she breathed her final breaths. We surrounded her with love and assured her it was okay for her to leave us.

What had started as a typical day ended in heartbreak.

In the days since we’ve laid our sweet furbaby to rest, we’ve been walking down a path of sorrow.

Some of you may be thinking she’s just a dog. But to us, she wasn’t “just a dog.” She was part of our family. The grief, the pain, the heartache–it’s as real as if we’d lost a human member of our family. Honestly, in some ways, it’s even harder. We aren’t strangers to loss, but this hit us in a completely different way.

Here’s the thing–I was never a huge animal lover. Sure, I liked them. After all, puppies are cute and playful and cats can be snuggly. Then we became dog parents by accident. Penny came into our lives unexpectedly, yet at the perfect time. I struggled with empty nest syndrome after both of our boys had left for college or moved out of the house. For so many years, I felt like my identity was tied up in being a mom. I know my identity is daughter–a child of God. However, I spent over 20 years caring for these men who had the audacity to live their own lives. 🙂

Unconditional love

For seven years, Penny was my lap warmer, writing partner, unconditional love giver. She was my baby. She was the one who ran to the door when I came home and was so happy to see me. She forced me to get my steps when I just wanted to sit. She sensed my bad days and gave me extra lovin’.

After she had gotten sick, my husband and I decided to keep her remaining days as comfortable as possible. She still looked at us with those adoring eyes and gave us unconditional love.

It’s been nearly a week, and I’m still struggling with not fixing her meals or hearing her greet me when I walk in the house. My lap is empty.

Despite the sadness in my heart, I’ve still held onto my joy.

How is that even possible?

Well, there’s a difference between joy and happiness.

Even in my sadness, I’m clinging to joy. I’m not angry at God or cursing Him for taking my sweet dog. I praised Him because He answered my prayer of having her pass naturally.

Happiness is an emotion. Something you feel. Joy is the state of your heart. So even though I was grieving, I still had the joy of the Lord in my heart.

Loss is inevitable. It comes in many forms–death, separation, divorce, abandonment, rejection, etc… But that doesn’t mean loss needs to rob you of your joy.

Loss is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean loss needs to rob you of your joy. #TellHisStory #grief #loss Click To Tweet

How do you find joy in the midst of sorrow?

How do you find joy in the midst of sorrow? #TellHisStory #grief #loss #joy Click To Tweet

Acknowledge your emotions. Your feelings and emotions are very real and deserve to be validated. Don’t allow anyone to dismiss your aching heart. Allow yourself to grieve and to pour out the pain. And it takes time. It’s a process each one of us must walk through because we had so much love to give in the first place. Grief looks different for everyone.

Acknowledge His promises. God is our joy giver. His Word promises comfort to those who are feeling sorrow. Pray and surrender your situation to Him. Ask for His peace and comfort to surround you. I love the promise in John 16:20:

Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.

Acknowledge the memories. Even though memories are painful reminders of our loss, they can also be a source of comfort. They allow us to laugh and smile through the tears. They remind us of the happier moments. We honor those we loved and lost by sharing them with others.

Acknowledge the choice. Life can be quite unpleasant. And some days, that’s a complete understatement. It’s so easy to spiral downward and allow our circumstances to steal our joy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe I’m offering a very naïve view, but trust me when I say I’ve seen some of the ugliness of life. However, I choose to hold onto hope and cling to my faith, especially during those dark times. Accept the offers of others who want to help in some way, whether it be a meal, a hug, a word of encouragement. God uses His power and grace and the actions of others to offer you joy in the midst of your sorrow if you choose to accept it.

These seasons of grief and loss take time to walk through. We will never “get over them.” But time brings healing. Time dries the tears and repairs the cracks in our hearts. We won’t ever be the same as before, but hopefully, moving forward we can be better for having loved.

What about you? How do you find joy in the midst of your sorrow?

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  1. Lesley

    I’m sorry for your loss. I love the pictures of Penny and it sounds like she’s been a wonderful friend to you. I appreciate your tips for holding on to hope and finding joy even in the midst of the sorrow.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Thank you, Lesley. Penny was an absolute joy. She is missed very much. But we continue to smile and share how she blessed our lives.

  2. Joanne Viola

    Losing a pet is so hard when they have brought the gift of their friendship into our lives. Lisa, This is so true > “Happiness is an emotion. Something you feel. Joy is the state of your heart.” Circumstances can change our emotions, but need not change the state of our heart for He is always in us and with us. May your memories of Penny bring comfort in the days ahead.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Thank you, Joanne. You’re right–circumstances can change our emotions, but they don’t need to change the state of our hearts. Penny was a blessing to our family, and she is missed. We are feeling the love and prayers from those around us.

  3. Barbara Harper

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your pet. I’m glad you and your husband were there with her at the end and she passed easily. You’re so right about memories–they can be painful yet also healing. I hope they bring you great comfort in the days ahead.

    I like that distinction between happiness being a fleeting emotion and joy being a state of heart.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Thank you, Barbara. Even though Penny isn’t with us any longer, the joy she brought into our lives will stay with us.

  4. Michele Morin

    So sad for your loss. Penny was a true sweetie.
    I am working hard at the practice of allowing the sadness of this world to set my heart on another world. No more death, no more tears, and the Lord is the light and the temple. I think it’s a heart training process for us to feel the sorrow while still setting our hope on the unseen.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Thank you, Michele. I love what you said about it being a heart training process. It’s so easy to allow circumstances to dictate control of our emotions, but if we maintain a joyful heart, then we know this time on earth is temporary.

  5. Linda Stoll

    Lisa, I’m so sorry …

    • Lisa Jordan

      Thank you, Linda.

  6. Donna

    Lisa, I’m so sorry for your loss of sweet Penny. I know how hard it is to lose a dear loved fur baby. I walked my Golda home almost 3 years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her terribly. Yet even in my sorrow, I, too felt the joy of God’s answered prayer in allowing me to walk Golda home, providing doggie hospice (I work in hospice), a small portion of the abundant unconditional love she gave me and to gaze in to her loving eyes until the last moment. NO, they are not “just” dogs-they are the beauty of God’s creative, unconditional love held by us for such a brief moment. Such good thoughts on joy here, thank you!

    • Lisa Jordan

      Donna, thank you. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your Golda. You are such a blessing to work in hospice. I’m sure your patients and their families truly appreciate you.

  7. Jerralea Winn Miller

    What a great promise: our grief will be turned into joy. We don’t know how long that will take, but the promise is sure.

    I’m sorry for your loss. May God comfort as only He can.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Jerralea, thank you. I’m so thankful for God’s promises. We can always trust him to keep his word.

  8. Anita Ojeda

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m going through a season of sadness right now concerning decisions people close to me are making/have made. But I still find joy in their company. God reminds me day after day that we are all works in progress. I acknowledge my sorrow and continue to pray for the future.

    • Tea With Jennifer

      It’s difficult when these little fur companions leave us Lisa, as they wrap their little paws around our hearts & when they leave our hearts break.

      I find that joy in loss & grief is impossible without God’s comfort & love… Don’t you think?

      I’m not a stranger to loss & grief having lost my son, my daughter & my late husband.
      To answer your question,
      I find joy in celebrating the the sweet memories of their lives while I nestle myself in the arms of my heavenly Father & His comfort through His Holy Spirit.
      Bless you,

      • Lisa Jordan

        Jennifer, I’m so very sorry for the loss you’ve endured. I know the pain of losing a parent, but not the pain of losing a child or spouse. You’re absolutely right–joy in loss and grief is impossible without God and his tender love and comfort.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Anita, thank you. I understand those seasons of sadness. I’ve walked them also regarding those I love. I’m so glad you’re able to find the joy and continue to lean into God for his promises and his comfort.

  9. Susan M Shipe

    Lisa, I am so sorry for your loss. We lost our beloved Sam in July 2018 – and I could still cry and we still feel the loss. Like losing a loved one – one totally dependent on us. Hard.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Susan, thank you. I’m sorry for the loss of your Sam. I know it takes time, and I’m so thankful for the memories we have of her. However, I miss her terribly.

  10. Karen Friday

    Lisa, I’m so sorry about your sweet, Penny. So heartbreaking! We have two beloved pets, a dachshund and pug, both getting up in years, and I just wish they could live forever! They bring so much joy to our family. Still, your thoughts here about grief and joy resonated with me. Love this: “Joy is the state of your heart. So even though I was grieving, I still had the joy of the Lord in my heart.” And all the ways you note we “acknowledge.”

    • Lisa Jordan

      Karen, thank you. I told Penny she wasn’t allowed to leave me, but I guess her little body couldn’t take it any longer. At least she’s firmly nestled in my heart.

  11. Beth K Vogt

    Sending you a hug, my friend. I’m so sorry about your sweet Penny. Thank you for reminding us that even as we grieve, we can find joy in the midst of sorrow.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Beth, thank you. I appreciate your love and support. So thankful God is greater than our grief.

  12. Barb Hegreberg

    Sometimes grieving a pet is harder than grieving a human. The love of a pet is unconditional & pure. Human relationships are messy.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Barb, you are so right. Thankfully, God’s grace helps with the messiness.

  13. Lois Flowers

    Lisa, I’m so sorry for your loss. I appreciate your thoughts about finding joy in the midst of grief. I’ve experienced that too, especially when it comes to memories. I heard something in a GriefShare session that was so powerful … “As the grief softens, the memories grow warmer.” I’ve found this to be true, and also that there is both comfort and joy when those memories are shared with friends and loved ones. Hugs, friend.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Lois, thank you. I love that quote. I can see how that happens.

  14. Lauren Renee Sparks

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Thank you for guest hosting.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Thank you, Lauren.

  15. Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog

    I totally related to your comment about Penny being ‘just a dog.’ I lost my Oliver last August completely unexpectedly after thirteen years. He was just a dog, but I grieved his loss more than I have some people. And that made me feel some kind of way, but… Dogs are beautiful gifts from God, I think. They are faithful companions and love us no matter what. You gave wonderful advice for loss of any kind; I’ll be saving it for sure.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Ashley, thank you for visiting. I’m so sorry for the loss of your Oliver. Losing a pet is like losing a best friend. The tears may dry and the ache may lessen but they’re always in our hearts.