Can a person experience anguish and joy at the same time? These two emotions are polar opposites, right?

This morning as I read Psalm 31, I was surprised a bit by verse 7, written by King David, a man whose sight was blurred because of his tears (v. 9). He said he was dying from grief and misery had drained his strength (v. 10). He said he was scorned, despised, and ignored, even by some of his closest friends (vv. 11-12). People had been spreading false rumors about him; there was a conspiracy of lies and gossip aimed at making David look like the enemy (v. 13).

This all reminded me of the song sung by Buck Owns and Roy Clark on the old 70s TV show Hee-Haw:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me

You can face the gloom, despair, and agony of your life like the Hee-Haw gang or you can deal with it like David. King David kept his integrity and chose to trust God in the midst of his excessive misery. Here’s what David said in verse 7:

I am overcome with joy because of your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul (NLT).

David’s soul was in anguish, and yet he was overcome with joy because of God’s unfailing love. He was feeling anguish and joy at the same time! How is that possible?

  1. It’s only possible with God. God said, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13). Only God can do that.
  2. The New International Version and other versions begin verse 7 with David saying, “I will be glad and rejoice …” David made a decision to be glad and to rejoice, even in the midst of his anguish. He trusted God with the anguish and made a decision to rejoice in God rather than wallowing in the sorrow. He placed his focus on the God who loves him unfailingly rather than on the sorrow that is temporary.

This all takes trust in God. Later, in verse 14, David says, “But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, ‘You are my God!'”

This is one of the greatest “buts” ever! David recounted all his sadness, grief, hurts, and dangers, and then he said, “but I trust in you, God!” “You are still my God!”

Like David, I can say confidently that while other things have changed and are changing, you, O God, have not changed. You’ve got all this. I trust you with all of it. I don’t understand it. I don’t think I deserve it. This is not what I hoped for or dreamed of. But I will trust you with all of it. My life, my future, is in your hands (v. 15).

What do you think? Can you experience gloom, despair and agony as well as gladness and joy at the same time? How do you do do that?

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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  1. PastorMason

    June 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    "This is one of the greatest "buts" ever!" Well stated! So important to be real with God about our feeling BUT also trust Him in the end. Thanks for sharing.


  2. PastorMason

    June 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    "This is one of the greatest "buts" ever!" Well stated! So important to be real with God about our feeling BUT also trust Him in the end. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Mike Mack

    June 26, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks, Pastor Mason! I believe this is a big part of how God grows us and prepares us. I appreciate your feedback!


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