How to Replace Grief With Joy
“Not my Joe,” I cried out over and over again. Although he was 19, he was still my baby, the youngest of my three sons.
casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
That night at the emergency room, black sorrow filled the air when the doctor said, “We lost him.”
Lord, how can that be possible? Joe was a leader in every way. He was the captain of his football team. He was the star player for his lacrosse team. Joe attended Bible study, encouraged anyone around him. His sense of humor and contagious smile lit a room.
He’s gone? Sleepless nights kept me tossing, trying to find an answer. Trying to seek God’s comfort and reaching for something, someone to ease the pain.
Is that what losing someone we cherish looks like? We long to fill the void, but cannot. We wish it were a nightmare and desperately hope to wake up and find all to be normal like before. And we secretly wonder, will peace ever come back?
But instead, peace becomes a foreign word. We drag grief like a chain that chokes with every step. And as we shuffle through life, we wipe one more tear and give one more sob.
But in the midst of all those emotions if faith remains, and if trust in God grows, He leans toward us and severs the chain of pain with these words: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
That’s exactly what I was doing, mourning, terribly and constantly. But Jesus said I’d be blessed. I’d be comforted.
I leaned my head back, inhaling His truth and savored the promise. That’s when, ever so tenderly, His healing trickled into my heart. It came in five stages:
- Belief that God’s love, unfailing and constant was available to me. In His tender care were my tears and my anxious moments. He said, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) In His hands I placed my hope for healing and my expectation of peace to come back.
- I changed. Rather than speak of the void in my heart, the pain of my loss or my dark fate, I spoke of the life in God’s restoring love. I repeated the power of God at work in me. And I declared the beautiful truth that God extends compassion for those whom He loves. I spoke words out loud that gave life into my gloom. Always remembering that, “The tongue has the power of life and death…” (Proverbs 18:21)
- I chose to forgive. Initially, I was convinced the man who stabbed my Joe 23 times had to be punished. Justice had to prevail, and he had to suffer the consequences for such a horrible crime. Anger and bitterness toward the man were justified. But in Mark 11:25 God instructed the contrary. "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." On my knees, I asked God to help me do the impossible. I begged Him to help me forgive. He did. And my complete, genuine forgiveness ushered freedom that brought on peace, deep and lasting.
- Gratitude replaced bitterness. I looked back at the gift my Joe was to me for 19 years. And that’s when gratitude began to sing. I was grateful for the memories, of the laughter, hugs and the kisses from that young man. Each memory made my life rich. I thanked God for the nights I cried out because He was attentive to each one (Psalm 40:1). I thanked Him for the tears, for He stores them in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). I thank Him for the stale grief of today, because tomorrow will be fresh and new. (Isaiah 43:18)
- Moving beyond my heartache, I chose to reach out. Every pain has a purpose. Some make us humble. Others make us grow, and others become the vessel God uses for His glory. And as His instruments, we can play the melody of God’s comfort to help ease others’ pain (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), encouraging others, showing them the path to peace and pointing them to Jesus is the formula that brings back our own joy.
Eventually, that joy changed my thoughts. I used to cry out, “not my Joe!” But because of my Joe, I came to know the reality of God’s comfort, the truth of His promises and the power of His love.
Pray this week:
Father, in the midst of my sorrow, speak Your truth to me. Grant me the heart to receive what You offer. Show me how to relish in the freedom that forgiveness brings, and help me prepare my heart to receive renewed joy. In Jesus name.
What needs to change for you to welcome joy once again?