In the past month I've shared my "life story" a few times, and it's brought more reflection on what it has been to see suffering and death at a young age, and to grow up without a father. I certainly couldn't summarize my experience- or the impact those events have had on me- with words "negative" or "positive." That would be far too simplistic. How can I express what it is to be destroyed yet saved, broken yet healed, lost and yet found? How can I put to words that out of the same fountain came suffering and joy? But as I've continued to grow, I've realized that my experience is not unique. This is what it is to do life with Jesus- to experience suffering and find joy. He Himself brought victory out of defeat, life from death. He Himself chose the terror of the cross "for the joy set before Him."
In the third book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo and Sam are finally reunited with their companions and celebrate their victory over the power of the Ring. But they are not without wounds, and their rejoicing is deeply mingled with inexpressible pain:
"And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them...until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness."
That is how I'd summarize my experience with suffering. The pain of losing my father will never cease to flow in this life. But because of Jesus, pain and delight can flow together. Because I have been united with Him, the sword that pierced me can also turn to joy. Because of Jesus, the very wounds that lead to death are also what accomplish new life in me.