Life is full of ups and downs, and sometimes, they come at the same time.

I had a friend once describe the tension of celebration and grief as a picture of two hands. Because we have two hands, we can hold grief and celebration together. In spite of the tension, we don’t have to let go of one to hold the other. I thought it was a beautiful picture, but I didn’t know it would soon become my reality.

A couple of months after having a miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant again. I was still raw with emotion from losing our first baby. Amid the grief, I felt like my body had failed me, my husband, and mostly, my baby. I experienced anger, sadness, confusion, and at times, healing felt impossible. In the days after our loss, I reached moments of hopelessness. I remember seeing pregnant friends and feeling jealous.

After finding out I was pregnant again, I wanted to be free to experience the joy of new life, but I didn’t know how to hold it in balance with the grief of losing our first baby. I remember even feeling guilty that I was pregnant again. But my heart was also filled with happiness, knowing that a little baby was growing inside me. I found myself in the tension of grief and celebration, trying to know how to hold both. 

The Bible doesn’t hide the raw emotions of the human experience but often displays them in all their fullness. The book of Ezra is the story of God’s people returning to Jerusalem after spending years in exile in Babylon. After the exiles returned and they began rebuilding the temple, there was a complicated mix of emotions among the returnees. The older folks, who had seen the glorious temple Solomon built (which was long gone by then) were disappointed with the new temple that was being built. Prophecies were spoken about restoration and glory and this new temple looked nothing like that. Yet, some who may have not even seen the previous temple were joyful.

“But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away” (Ezra 3:12-13 ESV).

There was a mix of deep disappointment and joyful celebration, all in the same community of people.

As Christians, our churches surround us with people in all seasons of life. Can we truly be happy at a wedding when we are single? What about celebrating our friend’s promotion at work when we hate our own job? Can we share in the joy of a new relationship when our own marriage is struggling? Our church communities, and even our daily lives, often hold the tension of conflicting emotions.

Amid grief and celebration, I think of our Savior who was well acquainted with the human experience. He was the One who wept after Lazarus died, yet also the One who attended weddings and feasts, even turning water into wine. I imagine Jesus holding both grief and celebration in his heart, weeks before enduring the cross. He knew the pain, sorrow, and humiliation of crucifixion, and he also knew the joy of new life from the coming resurrection.

As he endured the cross, Jesus held space for both pain and joy.

As I look back at the last year, I’ve seen that God was faithful to hold me, even when I couldn’t see him. He was there as a stable Father in loss, and he was there as a faithful friend celebrating the new life of our baby. During the beginning of this pregnancy, I couldn’t sleep the night before a doctor’s appointment. I feared seeing the ultrasound and not being able to hear a heartbeat. 

In those moments, the Lord was there. I saw him in the stable love of my husband who came with me to every appointment, holding my hand as the doctor poured gel on my belly. I didn’t run away from grief but sat in it. I let it wash over me and didn’t try to act like I was okay. Those months were hard. 

But I also didn’t run away from the excitement of the new baby. Many days I wanted to. I remember embracing moments of pure joy thinking about him growing rather than allowing fear to win. I wasn’t successful at this every day, or even towards the end days into the third trimester. But I would just take each moment of joy and of fear as they came and try to hand both to the Lord. This often looked like sharing my experience with others, putting these feelings into words, and allowing them to live outside of my head.

In Jesus, I find comfort knowing he also experienced the full range of the human experience, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV). By learning to embrace both grief and celebration, I’ve drawn closer to the heart of Jesus.

When we don’t know how to hold the tension of loss and happiness, of sorrow and joy, we can look to Jesus, knowing that our identity isn’t found in either grief or celebration. It’s found in our Savior who is acquainted with both.

As we hold the tension of hope and disappointment, we can feel free to feel both fully. Jesus, our great intercessor, walks with us in all seasons of life.