Finding Joy in the Grief~10 Years Gone
I was standing at the sink washing dishes when something came over me that brought back a memory of my Dad.
It may have been a smell. A sound. Something.
And the picture of that memory was so clear in my mind that within seconds my body was over taken with sobs.
Streaming Tears. Grief.
Yet surprisingly, there was joy. Have you ever experienced a feeling of being so intensely joy filled and deeply sad at the same time? Joy because you have seen that God’s plan has been perfect all along and you can’t help but be thankful for His gifts. But sad because in that moment you want to share your joy, your life experiences, with someone who is gone. You feel the urge to pick up the phone and call on a Saturday afternoon; to talk to Dad. To see what he’s up to. To talk about life. To tell him funny stories about your son. But he’s not there. And he hasn’t been for the last 10 years.
It’s truly hard to believe that it’s been 10 years. Today, 10 years ago, so many things changed in my life. My Dad’s heart stopped and he left this world to be in the presence of his heavenly father. The next 10 years God would be teaching and showing me so much about Himself. There would be grief and there would be pain. But even more, there would be hope and there would be joy.
Grief isn’t something that simply goes away with time, but as Christians it shouldn’t overtake our lives.
When my dad passed away I was a senior in college. I was a normal young 20’s something just beginning to figure out life on my own, not eagerly waiting for tons of advice from others. When I lost my Dad, I was grieving as a child who lost the one who took care of her. Grieving the funny person my Dad was. Grieving the father who paid for my things, who cared deeply for the direction of my life, and who was just beginning to meet my boyfriends.
And 10 years later, I’m still grieving the loss of that man, but as an adult. As a mother. As a wife. And it looks different. It feels different. I grieve that my son cannot know his PePaw. I grieve that I don’t know what my relationship as an adult would look like with my Dad. I grieve that family traditions cannot continue as they once did, but with more kids added.
But I have learned that I do NOT have to be overtaken with grief, as one who sorrows with no hope. And therein lies the joy in it all. Knowing that Christ has conquered death. Knowing that I will see my Dad again. And knowing that God has a special plan for my life. I Thessalonians 4:13-14 says, ” But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
There are many things I have learned these past 10 years about death, and loss, and grieving, but one thing that is always comforting is remembering that I am a child of God. A child of a heavenly Father who loves me. Who cares about me. And who offers me hope. He is the same God now that he was 10 years ago who showed amazing grace in those first few months of losing Dad. He doesn’t care any less of me just because time has passed. His promises are still the same. And there is joy in the midst of grief. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I was recently reminded through a book study, that we are free to grieve. We see examples of Jesus grieving in the Bible and showing deep emotion for loss, but he was comforted by trusting the will of His father. Grieving allows us to be comforted. “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)
In these past 10 years, there have been some deep moments of grief in my life, and I have seen several friends experience similar grief. And I ache with them. But God has been showing me that there is joy within that grieving. From a human standpoint, I can grieve those things I expected my Dad to be a part of as an adult, but true joy comes when I fully accept this life, with all its circumstances, and embrace the plan He has for my life.
There is freedom in releasing your control on life, in refusing to live in the past where there is no hope, and in finding your true identity in Christ.
This past weekend I spent some time with my family in Monterey, CA. This place is majestic. I sat on the rocky beach and watched the sunset before me, and with a beautiful golf course behind me, I thought of my Dad and how he would have loved to experience this beauty with me. And through the crashing of the waves, and the fierceness of the wind the song lyrics, ” They are strong. They are free. Their pain is passed now. They rest at last now, safely home,” reminded me of God’s sovereignty in my life.
This life He has given me is a good life. I look at my son, a precious gift from God, and there is joy. I look at the people he has placed in my life, and there is joy. I look at the provisions he gives my family over and over again, and there is joy. I look at the beautiful state that I live in, and there is joy. I look at my kindhearted husband who eats endless amounts of leftovers just like my Dad used to, and there is joy. And I remember the man, who was and is my Dad, and I learn from the good and the bad, and I talk about the funny stories he told, and I am inspired by the passion he had on this earth, and I show pictures and I think of the memories. And in the tears, there is joy. Joy that God allowed me to know my Dad for 22 years. Joy that I can remember him. And joy because this life now is exactly the life God wants for me.
This is Joy Under the Sun.