The Alpha and Omega of Joy: Proverbs 14:13


“Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief”
Proverbs 14:13

We have all probably heard the age-old saying, “All good things must come to an end.” But few know that King Solomon was the first to opine on this notion, eloquently observing in Proverbs 14:13 that “the end of joy may be grief.” Many like to paint Ecclesiastes and Job as the more somber of the wisdom books. And this Proverb seems like it would be right at home in Ecclesiastes. Indeed, if we consider its implications we are sure to find ourselves in a new, – and perhaps unwelcomed – state of melancholy.

In this world, the things that bring us the most joy are unfortunately likely to end in grief. My marriage, which has been so graciously blessed with an abundance of love and joyful service, cannot persist indefinitely. The wife of my youth, in whom I delight always, shall grow old and dim, and I along with her. Despite all the love and joy, one day our marriage vows will be complete, and at death, we will part. The end of our joy will be grief.

I consider my children: the only two creatures in all the world who could rival my wife. With them, my days are constantly filled with mirth and cheer. But my joy often births passing moments of sadness, as I consider their relentless march toward maturity. As they advance from life stage to life stage, I of course find new joy.  But I am also met with new grief, as the son and daughter I once knew begin to change entirely new livelihoods. Eventually, they will move away from my home altogether.  And later still (Lord willing), I will move on from their lives as I pass from this one to the next. Our joy will end in grief.

King Solomon’s proverb regarding joy is quite profound. In some ways, it seems beautiful, and yet in others, it resembles a curse. Fitting. Solomon’s proverb is an inescapable reality in a world touched by sin. Truly, not even Jesus, the very embodiment of God’s perfect joy, could avoid it while he was on earth He was joy itself, in the flesh. And yet, he was beaten, pierced, and crucified for the sins of the world that hated him. He ended in grief.

There is a difference, however, between Jesus and us. Unlike you and I, Jesus did not stay dead. His grief was not total, nor was it permanent. For us, joy is a fleeting and passing thing, and grief is our inescapable conclusion. For Jesus, grief is that which passes, and joy is His finality. In the death and resurrection, Jesus takes Solomon’s proverb and flips it on its head. Jesus gives us a new proverb: grief is the beginning of joy. As He tells his disciples shortly before His betrayal, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will cry and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy” (John 16:20).

In Christ, our joy is made complete. Sure, there will be grief, sorrow, and death.  But that grief is merely the beginning of eternal joy. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Solomon’s proverb has been replaced by the one who makes all things new. So, if someone ever tells you, “All good things must come to an end,” kindly let them know that it is no longer true.

For further reading
The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson and Jason Roth
When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper
The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
Austin Rouse

Austin Rouse

Austin Rouse is the Pastor of Families and Students at Southern Heights Baptist Church in Russellville, KY, where he and his wife, Addie, reside with their two children, Naomi and Tommy. He will graduate from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary this fall with his BA in Biblical Studies and is on track to graduate with his M.Div in the fall of 2024. Austin shepherds Southern Heights in the areas of family worship and discipleship, mission strategization, corporate worship, and student ministry, and co-hosts The Council podcast with a fellow elder of the church.

February 19, 2024

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