The Impossibility of Joy

July 30, 2020

By Sarah Spradlin


I feel it,

a certain heaviness in my heart

as I’m making my way home one evening.

Joy and Sorrow are very nearly always together,

are very nearly always mine to hold—

every mountaintop

and every valley:

my story.

The way we laughed after we talked about the wars we’ve fought

reminds me that Joy—


is strong enough to lift up Sorrow,

never once shaming sweet Sorrow for how heavy she might be.

Joy is gentle because she wants Sorrow to still feel loved.

Even in her levity, Joy, in all her kindness, knows

she will never force Sorrow to become someone she’s not.

Joy is patient enough to listen to the stories that Sorrow will only tell with time,

never smothers her voice with empty positivity,

never drives her into silence with misguided comparison and

“Well, at least it’s not” and

“It could be worse.”

Despite their differences, Joy, with immense respect for Sorrow,

makes sure Sorrow feels at home at her side:

not a problem to be solved but a friend to be heard.

When they stop along the road,

when the tears finally come,

Joy never forces Sorrow to move on but, gently,

asks how she might start to walk again.

Joy does not leave Sorrow alone.

Joy knows that it is Sorrow who makes her possible.

It’s the valleys that lead to mountaintops.

It’s the darkness that leads to the light.

Joy, holding up Sorrow, is the feeling of the first leaves pushing into winter,

while the air is still cold and bitter but, somehow,

no longer as certain as before.

Joy knows that winter will come again,

but she looks forward to summer anyway.

Joy knows that things were never meant to be this way—

that things were never meant to die.

She knows that one day Sorrow’s heart will be healed.

As the old song goes,

“Mourning will turn to dancing.”

Joy, who already knows in her own heart her second name:


also knows that Sorrow will on that day change her name, too.

How beautifully she’ll smile

while every scar and wrinkle fall away

as she declares to the world in a symphony of a sentence,

“I go by Peace now.”

And Joy,

as she has all along,

will take Peace’s hand and say,

“Let’s go together.”

This time, Peace will lead the way.


Sarah grew up in Georgia with her mom, dad, and little sister, Merry. She attended the University of Georgia, where she majored in International Affairs and Agriscience Environmental Systems. After graduating in 2019, Sarah took a job working alongside small-holder farmers in Chinandega, Nicaragua as a missionary with Amigos for Christ. She loves telling the story of the global farmer and nerding out about how nature works. Sarah has been homeschooled, private schooled, and public schooled, graduating from the Madison County High School in 2015. She lived in Costa Rica for seven months, and even hung out in Panama for a few days. She’ll read pretty much anything and has tried her hand at almost every kind of writing, though she likes poetry best. (Although fiction books are making a surprise now-that-I’ve-graduated-from-college-I-have-time-to-read-again comeback.) But because writing bios is a struggle, if you really want to get to know Sarah, shove some words in her general direction on her Instagram @sarah.spradlin or email her at sarah.beth.spradlin@gmail.com.


  1. Zachary Holbrook

    I’m having trouble expressing the emotions this poem stirred inside me. I really, really like it.

    • Zachary Holbrook

      ALSO it makes me want to watch ‘Inside Out’ again, and write a story about the two girls in the picture.

    • Sarah

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 InsideOut in part inspired the poem, so I love that you picked up on that! 😉 And go for it!! Write that story!!

  2. Sue LaFave

    This is AMAZING. You are so gifted. 🙂

    • Sarah

      Awww thank you, Sue! <3

  3. Jeanne Spradlin

    Touched me deeply, Sarah. Exactly where I am in the most difficult part of this life’s journey. Believing the best is yet to be, but walking with joy & sorrow side by side right now. ❤❤❤

    • Sarah

      <3 So glad it spoke to you, Nana. Love you so much!

  4. Emily Maynard

    This is beautiful! I’ve been learning to balance joy and sorrow lately. I’m naturally optimistic, and it can be hard to not be abrasively happy when others are going through a hard time.

    • Sarah

      What a beautiful thing to be learning yourself and how to love others well too! That’s awesome, Emily! <3

  5. Libby

    Sarah, wow. This poem has made it’s way into one of my favorites. What a deep, beautiful encouragement, so poignant and so full of truth <3 Wonderfully written, Sarah – thank you for sharing.

    • Sarah

      Awwwww <3 <3 Thank you!

  6. Kristianne

    This is absolutely beautiful!! I love the friend-like relationship you portray between Joy and Sorrow. It reminds me that they don’t have to exist in an either-or relationship. In fact, we can often experience both at once, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    • Sarah

      Thank you so much!! <3 That is so true: they really can exist together and that's okay–even good. <3

  7. B

    AHHHH. This is gorgeous! I bookmarked this tab to come back to and read and feel this masterpiece again.

    • Sarah

      <3 Thank you, sweet friend! I recently read this at my first open mic, and it was awesome to revisit it and what God was teaching me in this moment.

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