Joy in the Sorrow – Matt Chandler (and Friends)

Joy in the Sorrow Matt Chandler
Joy in the Sorrow: How a Thriving Church (and Its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well by Matt Chandler
Also by this author: Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home Through Time, Moments, and Milestones
Published by Good Book Company on September 1, 2019
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Theology
Buy on Amazon

We all wonder how we will cope in times of terrible suffering, and how we can best support others who are suffering. And we all ask the question: how does suffering square with God's character and purpose?
As a young pastor, Matt Chandler knew he needed to learn how to help hurting people. He studied the Scriptures, and he learned from people at the Village Church who remained joyful in their suffering. And then suddenly he was having to live what he'd learned.

This is the moving story of Matt's battle with a potentially fatal brain tumor. But it's also the stories of those who taught him, and teach him, how to walk with joy in sorrow. This book will make you cry, laugh, and worship God. And you will see how you can live with joy when times of sorrow come, and how you can support others going through tough times.

In November 2018, just over a year ago, my family and I went through a disrupted adoption. We were four weeks away from moving, from my wife taking a job that would have us traveling around the country, when the phone call came. Your son’s first mom is pregnant again. Do you want to adopt this baby too? We changed everything. Undid the notice that I’d given at both of my jobs. Immediately began to prepare for a new baby. Then, a few months later, got on a plane to go get our daughter. And we waited, and waited, and waited. And nothing. No contact. No communication. No daughter.

It was a difficult time. Not only for the loss of a daughter, but the loss of a first mom for our son. We had been close to first mom since his birth, talking on the phone once every few months and sending pictures. Now, nothing in that relationship was certain. In the weeks and months that followed, we began to make sense of the loss—to try to find Joy in the Sorrow.

It’s a sorrow that had reopened as we neared the one year point of that loss and it was amid those emotions that I chose to pick up Matt Chandler and the Village Church’s book Joy in the Sorrow, a compilation of stories of loss and heartache and the good God who reigns through it all.

The book begins with a quote from Horatio Spafford’s hymn It Is Well With My Soul. This hymn—this version in particular—was an almost daily balm in those first few days after our loss. From there, Matt begins his story of learning to suffer well through his trial with brain cancer. What I really appreciate about this book is that it easily could have been the Matt Chandler Biopic and people would have bought it just the same. Instead, Chandler gives space to his congregation to tell their own stories of loss and sorrow.

The result is a compilation of voices, perspectives, and losses. Some, I found myself relating with intellectually; others second-hand, knowing a friend that had gone through a similar loss; and still others were intensely personal. There’s a story for you in here. There’s a story that you will gravitate toward. There’s a story that will seem familiar to you because it your own—and because loss is universal.

That can make this a hard book to read, but it’s necessary—particularly if you’re in the middle of a trial—because here are the stories of people who have been through the fire and come out refined on the other side. There’s an old leadership adage that you can only lead where you’ve been. It applies in similar fashion here. These voices will teach you and encourage you to learn joy in the sorrows of life. Not to downplay the pain or the hurt or the loss, but to make beauty from ashes and draw closer to Christ through the sorrow.

There’s so much to say about each of these stories individually that I’m afraid I’m going to have to tell you just to read it for yourself. Each one touched me differently and distinctly. So to the contributors, thank you for telling your story. Life is story and is a blessing that you’ve shared yours.

Fast-forward six months from our loss and I’m holding a newborn girl. My daughter. Move six more months forward and she’s crawling—crawling!—around the living room as I write this. She is my joy in the sorrow. There’s still the loss of my son’s birth sibling. There’s still the loss of relationship with his first mom—though we have spoken since. But there’s been joy and redemption as well.

The world needs to hear these stories. We all have them, but we rarely share them. The result is that we feel so alone. Joy in the Sorrow will leave you feeling less alone…and more secure in the arms of the God who loves you. Joy in the Sorrow is an intensely personal and powerful collection of life stories on suffering and loss that will encourage you to overcome and praise God through it all.