When Someone Else's Joy Makes You Sad

Mother’s Day—smiling women surrounded by adoring, healthy, happy children. Your arms are empty, or your children are prodigals, absent, or angry. 

Wedding Day—filled with promises, hope, and beauty. Your bed is empty and your heart is cynical, or your grown children—the ones you prayed for every day of their lives—are stealing the benefits of marriage without bothering to make the commitment. 

Graduation Day—diplomas, job prospects, and a bright future. You dropped out, or maybe your child did. Maybe they never made it to college in the first place, or an expulsion, probation, or too much partying delayed or destroyed their hope of graduating. 

Easter Day—new life, fresh starts, and the resurrection. You see only death, hopelessness, and the tomb. 

Scripture tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, but what do we do when someone else’s joy reminds us of what could have been, should have been, and might never be? When we plaster on a fake smile and make an excuse to leave early? When we feel petty, selfish, and small in light of such great rejoicing? What do we do when they are rejoicing and we are crying inside? 

We do what Hannah did. 

 Hannah was a childless woman. Beloved of her husband yet barren, she lived in a household where a second wife bore child after child when her womb remained empty. 

“Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” her tenderhearted husband said one day in an effort to make her smile. Instead sorrow made her heart ache and grief stole her appetite. 

I hesitated to use Hannah as an example because her story ended the way she had hoped—she received not only one son, but many. Your story may not end this way, but regardless, the truths of Scripture still apply. Hannah was a godly woman, and she wrestled with her sorrow and disappointment in a godly way. 

There are six steps to Hannah’s example: 

1. She allowed her sorrow to drive her to God, not away from him. She visited the temple and spoke to the priest: “I am a woman who is deeply troubled,” (1 Sam 15). 

2. She sought God in prayer. “In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord” (v. 1:10). 

3. She was honest with God about her pain. “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. . . . I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief” (v 15). 

4. She submitted her request and trusted God with the outcome. By prefacing her prayer with the word IF, she left room for God’s will. “IF you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me . . .” (v 10). 

5. She accepted God’s comfort. “Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast” (v. 18). 

6. She worshiped the Lord. “Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord” (v. 19). 

Some may argue that it was easy for Hannah to honor God in her sorrow because she ultimately got what she wanted. If we read the text closely, however, we see that Hannah responded in faith during her darkest days—long before God answered her prayer the way she had hoped. 

If you’re struggling with sorrow, disappointment, or grief today, I pray Hannah’s example will challenge and encourage you. Guard your heart and “see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15). Whether God answers your prayers the way you hope or not, trust him. You’ll be glad you did. 

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). 

Personal Note: Today is my BIRTHDAY! 
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  1. Thank you for this today. and Happy Birthday.

    1. And thank you, Anna!

  2. Happy Birthday, Lori!! I just turned 50 in December :)

    1. Welcome to the club, Lois!

  3. Very heart felt post. My daughter lost a baby last year around Mother's Day but I'm so glad to report, although she is not expecting, her husband and her handled the very sad situation with the grace of God. Blessings

    1. Aw, Rebecca, I'm so sorry. I'm so glad that your daughter and her husband are resting in the grace that only God can give. Blessings to you.

  4. Thank you for writing this. I love finding information about biblical women that is backed up with scripture. It helps me to grow and makes for great bible studies. (Found you through the Modest Monday linkup!)

    1. You're right, Ivy, we can learn so much from these amazing women. They certainly demonstrate what a life based on faith can look like. Thanks for stopping by.