Life is filled with many ups and downs. You may experience great joy and tremendous sorrow in the same day or even in the same moment. Most everyone knows what it is like to hear good news and bad news in the same day. Most everyone knows what it is like to see both joy and sorrow in their family. Jacob experienced a moment in his life that brought great joy in the midst of great sorrow. He witnessed the birth of a son and mourned the loss of his wife at the same time. Life is a mosaic of lights and shadows, joys and sorrows; and the same baby that brought Rachel and her husband joy also brought tears. As we study this passage, we see the constant swing between joy and sorrow.
Sorrow (v. 16). Jacob and his family left Bethel and was on their way to Ephrath. This is significant because Ephrath is the ancient name for the city of Bethlehem. While on their journey, Rachel was in tremendous pain. She was going through a very hard labor. Physical pain is something we all wished we could avoid. Pain keeps you from thinking clearly. Pain keeps you from doing even the simplest of tasks. Pain is a huge disruption in your life. It is also difficult for the whole family. Seeing a family member in pain and not being able to do anything to help them is painful in and of itself. One of the greatest sorrows is that of hopelessness. Seeing someone suffer brings great sorrow.
Joy (v. 17). In the midst of her sorrow, Rachel is told that she is giving birth to a son. The birth of a child is one of the most joyous experiences. The announcement of a birth brings much rejoicing. Think about the times in your life when you experienced great joy. The birth of a child, graduating from school, accomplishing a goal, buying a new home, winning a championship; these are just a few of the things that can bring joy in one’s life. The greatest joy of all, however, is the joy of someone being born-again. Seeing someone come to faith in Christ is exciting and joyous. It brings about a time of celebration. Our joyful experiences in life should be cherished.
Sorrow (v. 18-20). Jacob’s joy of seeing his son born is quickly turned to sorrow as Rachel dies. It is hard to imagine such sorrow. To see your wife die giving birth to your son would simply be unbearable. Jacob buries his wife on the road to Bethlehem. The loss of a loved one is something you can never fully recover from. The pain of loss is the worst pain of all. It leaves you empty. A piece of you has been taken away.
Sorrow upon Sorrow (v. 19-29). After the loss of his wife, Jacob experiences the pain of a son living in sin and rebellion. On top of that, his father Isaac, dies. The sorrows Jacob experienced are the typical sorrows experienced in a lifetime. It seems that in this life there is more sorrow than joy.
Joy. The place where Jacob experienced this roller coast ride of joy and sorrow is the same place where Jesus was born. God has a way of turning our sorrows into joy. These places of sorrow are often turned into places of joy. Even though life is filled with sorrows upon sorrows, the joy of the Lord overshadows it all. Knowing Jesus gives us a joy that is beyond comprehension. To think that He loves us so much that He came to rescue us from this sin-cursed world! To think that He loves us so much that He died in our place! To think that He loves us so much that He gives us a home in glory! To think He loves us so much that He is there with us in the midst of our sorrows! The joy of the Lord is truly our strength. The joy of the Lord surpasses whatever sorrows we may encounter. Whatever you are dealing with in this moment, whatever your pain, whatever your joy; give it to Jesus. The joy of the Lord will sustain you and will keep you. The joy of the Lord will carry you through the sorrow.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (p. 71). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.