How Can Grief and Joy Live Together?

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A building crumbled. A 24-year-old construction worker who was remodeling an old store into a new Lewis Drug buried under the rubble.  A 22-year-old woman who lived in an upstairs apartment also buried. 

Three and a half hours the girl was trapped, not knowing if she was upside down or right-side up. Hope hung on as she connected with her parents and workers by phone. Cheers, fist thumps, and high fives as the girl is rescued in good condition.

But the mood soon sobered again as the caring, dedicated rescue workers carefully kept searching for the man who was buried deeper. Hoping against hope. A search dog was brought in, and an area was targeted. Seven hours after the collapse, he was found. No life left.

So many mixed emotions in a few hours. Shock and grief but praying and hanging desperately onto hope. Elation and gratitude as God worked a miracle. Fear and a deep foreboding about the life of the construction worker. Then grief and disappointment. And ripped-apart hearts for the family who would have a missing place this Christmas.

One family can celebrate life spared. Another must grieve a life snatched away.

It baffles me. How can joy and grief mix together?

My heart rejoiced that the girl was alive. But after the loss of the other life, the miracle of life didn’t seem as special any more. Well, it still was, of course. But the joy of it drained away and seemed out of my grasp when another family was devastated with the loss of a loved one.

Pain. Loss. Devastation. Everywhere. In our hearts. In our families. In our world. How does one remember the joy of the miracles when the grief can be so heavy and overwhelming? How does one rejoice for the miracles without feeling guilty of disrespecting the grief? How can joy and grief live together in one heart?

It’s a mystery… The joy in Christmas is all about God stepping into our deepest heartache. There can be no joy at all without the broken. Because Jesus came into this world of suffering to be broken for us, joy is possible. Only because of His unfathomable love can we rejoice in anything at all.

It is descending into the dark valleys of grief that we learn to more deeply appreciate the gift of God’s love. The love that infuses light into the dark places inside. The love that seeps joy in to make the grief more bearable. The love that radiates hope into despairing hearts.

For you who are feeling downhearted and trodden down with troubles, I pray God will help you find joy in His gift of love. Grief and joy can live together. God’s love can carry us through the grief. Allowing ourselves to process our grief at the feet of Jesus brings greater joy. And joy is all the more glorious because of the grief.

Then Jesus said, “Come to Me,
all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

But the angel reassured them.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said.
“I bring you good news
that will bring great joy to all people.

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today
in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
Luke 2:10-11

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“The Gift of Love”
by Hillsong

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I am taking a blogging break the rest of the year.

I hope to be back in January.
My prayers will remain with you all!

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Waiting and Longing, Hoping Against Hope

Joy's poem
Joy Lenton – Shared by Permission

As I gazed at the bare, dead-looking trees, an ache squeezed my heart so hard it hurt. Oh, how I long for spring when new life springs forth embracing my heart with hope again. But I have to wait and let winter play its important role…

Waiting… How difficult it must have been in the Bible days to have to wait for the Hope of salvation to be born. How discouraged people must have felt at times waiting and longing, hoping against hope,

When an angel came to Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, there had been 400 years of silence from prophets. The last one who prophesied the Savior was Malachi. And it was 300 years before that when Isaiah prophesied:

“All right then, the Lord Himself will give you the sign.
Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son and will call Him
Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”

Can you imagine the anguish of waiting? Some didn’t even see it happen in this lifetime. What faith they needed to believe He would yet come to be their Savior, too.

Six months after Elizabeth conceived, the angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise of Immanuel – God With Us. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped with joy. The Savior was to be born from Mary!

We are so blessed to already know He has come. But sometimes there can still be longing, aching, waiting times for Christ. Sometimes wondering where He is in our lives. Sometimes aching for His presence – to truly feel Him. Sometimes waiting for unmet longings.

When Jacob was running for his life from his enraged brother Esau, he stopped at Bethel and used a rock as his pillow. He dreamed of a ladder stretching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending it and the Lord Himself at the top. When he woke up, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

Isn’t that what often happens with us? The Lord is ever faithful with His presence. It’s we who are not always aware of it. He was still there when there was 400 years of silence, and He is still here when we feel darkness surrounding us within and without. His fulfillment of His promise is just as steadfast whether it’s night or day. Whether we can “feel” Him or not.

Winters in nature are necessary. Trees look dead without leaves, but the truth is they are alive and growing underneath the surface as long as the ground isn’t too frozen. The nutrients empower the roots in the barren times. The roots grow down deeper and stronger, preparing them for what is to come, more able to suffer times of heat and drought. Longing and waiting for the signs of life again makes us value spring even more.

That’s how it is with spiritual waiting times, too. Our roots need to grow deeper into Christ and His ever-sure promises that He is here even when we can’t “feel” Him. And after the times of longing, waiting, and hoping against hope, we become more alert and aware of the evidences of His presence and the fulfillment to His promises and we appreciate those signs of new life so much more.

“Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” ~ Ephesians 3:17-19

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“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
~ Sung by Barlow Girl

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