“Standing on a road I didn’t plan, wondering how I got to where I am. I’m trying to hear that still small voice; I’m trying to hear above the noise.”1
That has been my journey over the past two years. Time and time again, in disbelief, I have muttered, “How did I get here?” I never saw it coming. I never imagined stuttering the word, w-w-w-widow, when asked my marital status. I didn’t expect to have to put aside forever those plans to travel to Ireland with my best friend. My heart breaks when my three-year old granddaughter, not fully comprehending the concept of death, asks me, “Will you tell Granddad how pretty I look in my new dress?”
This is where I have paused in my life’s sojourn. Life goes on, I know, but for me, the interruption of my plan has set me back on my heels, and on my knees. Occasionally, I need to be reminded that The Almighty knows more than I do and only tells us what we need to know when we need to know it. A verse from book of Deuteronomy says,
“The Lord our God has secrets known to one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us …” (Deuteronomy 29.29a, NLT)
So, God has secrets and no matter how we may plead and cajole, He will not tell us these hidden truths unless revealing them will help us. Sometimes the truths are in plain sight, but do not come to full light until they are quickened to our soul. One morning, I was breezing through chapter 14 of the Gospel of John, familiar with the content and not really focusing. Jesus was speaking with his closest friends, telling them some of those special secrets he knew they would need to know; He was preparing them for His imminent death. He gave them the privilege of asking the Father for anything in His name and promised them peace of mind and heart.
At that moment, I was asking, “What about me? I have no peace. My heart is broken, and my dreams shattered.” And then I came to verse 28. Jesus, sensing their distress, said to them, “If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father…” That verse pierced me like an arrow. It said to me, “If you really love Bruce, you would be happy for him.”
On more than one occasion Bruce had said to me something like, “I can’t wait to see Jesus face-to-face,” or “If I die before you, don’t be sad because you know I’ll be with the Father, and happier than you could imagine!” And my response to him always was something like, “Yeah, good for you, bad for me.” Or, “I’ll be happy for you, and sad for me because I don’t want to do life without you.” And that is what happened. That is why this verse startled me, though I’m certain I had read it many times before. I was focusing on my ‘sad’ and not Bruce’s ‘happy’. Truly, I could not turn off my ‘sad’, but tempering my sorrow with Bruce’s joy was a key to my healing.
A crossroads was before me. I felt the challenge to release Bruce to that ‘happy’. I did not want to release him, ever. I wanted him back. It was not as if my feelings were keeping him from enjoying the fullness of a new life in God’s Presence, but I guess wishing him back was not yielding to God’s will. I knew I had to choose to release my husband, and after I did battle with my feelings for a while, sobbing, I whispered the words, “I release you, Bruce. Be happy. Fulfill your destiny.”
The tears lasted hours that morning, but I think that it was something God was intimately nudging me to do. This was an act of choice. Grief did not miraculously disappear, and maybe never will, but that moment gave me a different perspective on Bruce’s journey from this world to the next. I chose to allow a deep, abiding sense of His joy to infiltrate my heart. The Word of God breathed a holy secret to me that morning, and it fanned the sparks of hope that lay dormant in my soul.
I recently read a book by a favorite author of mine, Margaret Feinberg. Margaret has been going through a grueling battle with cancer for the past year and a half. Her book, Fight Back With Joy, chronicles her struggle, as she shares a secret key to survival: Joy.
Joy and happiness are not the same thing. We cannot pretend to be happy when wracked with excruciating pain, horrendous reactions to chemotherapy, and fear for the future. But we can have joy. Margaret candidly speaks from her heart and from her own experience, which gives her credibility when she says, “Joy emanates out of the abiding sense of God’s fierce love for us… Life’s thorniest paths can lead to great joy.” In spite of circumstances, we can choose to believe that His love will overwhelm the darkness.
Embracing God’s sovereignty and love for us changes our attitude. Just as focusing on my husband’s heavenly joy changed my perspective, fighting back with joy armed Margaret with the ability to overcome.
I choose joy.
This post is part of Margaret Feinberg’s Partymob for her brand-new book and Bible study,Fight Back With Joy. To join the celebration (and learn more), click here. To grab a copy of this book, click here or here.
1Plumb. “Need You Now (How Many Times)”. Need You Now. Curb Records, Inc., 2012. CD.