Finding Bright Joy on a Sad Day

“Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story…”~Psalm 107:2

12 years ago at this very moment, I sat at the foot of my mother’s bed and watched in horror as she took her last breath and a stillness like none other took over her body.

My heart shattered.

Hope was nowhere to be found.

I felt helpless and alone.

I didn’t think I could go on; I had no idea how I would survive…

…But then here I am, 12 years later, with a loving husband, beautiful children, and living in a foreign country to share Jesus with a nation that is over 99% Muslim. I reminisce about all that we have been through to get to this point – the joys, the sorrows, the funerals, the goodbyes, the learning, the miracles…

I think back to the day that my mother stood before her King while I knelt on her floor in brokenness, and I see with God-given maturity and wisdom how that was one of the most important moments in my entire life. That was the moment that would start the snowball of sadness that would hurl me deep into darkness. And it was in that pit of darkness that Jesus would rescue me and pull me out into nothing but radiant Light.

Chains were broken and joy was discovered.

Grief would paint my life with a depth that would open my heart to seeing God in all things and would drive me to seek His Light every single day that I have breath.

I would be discipled and I would unearth the treasure of Hope.

I would learn how to take every though captive, making it obedient to Christ, and I would learn the transformation that comes from savoring God’s Word as the love letter that it is.

Yes, that day of horror in my mother’s bedroom would become the launching pad to my becoming of who God has designed me to be – a secure daughter who shines as she tells others of how God rescued her. And because the Father does not allow anything to happen to us without His knowing and for His ultimate glory, I sit here longing to be with my mother, but inspired to not let my life go to waste. Of course there are still feelings of sadness, deep sadness in fact, because I love and miss her, but with Jesus, no amount of sadness can conquer my mind or extinguish my hope.

My joy is seasoned with sadness and therefore has a realness to it that my happiness prior to my mother’s death never came close to. Looking my pain directly in the face and choosing Jesus fills me with deep gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf, making joy possible and naming me daughter.

So, knowing all of this, how can I possibly waste today? After realizing what a treasure I possess through my life experiences and through the victorious Spirit that dwells within my very soul, how can I keep quiet about it and lock myself away so that no one knows? What’s the point of the pain if we are just going to mask it?

No grief, pain, or trauma is wasted when you allow God to use it for the Kingdom.

On today, the precious anniversary of what would lead me to love Jesus with all of my heart, I followed the Spirit’s leading to take the focus off of myself and put it onto God my Father – to take my focus off of the pain and place it on my redemption of that pain. I accepted His strength to embrace transparency for His glory.

As our daughters’ nanny, a woman who is Muslim and speaks no English, walked through our front door this morning, my heart swelled with love for her and broke simultaneously that she still exists in a kingdom of darkness. Her face looked tired and as I asked her if she was ok, she said yes but that she’s tired from fasting for Ramadan. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting my heart to share with the nanny the significance of today, and so I obeyed. I told her how today is the anniversary of my mother’s death and how because she loved and followed Jesus, she is Heaven. I told her how when Jesus died on the cross, her took away her sins and how I am sad but hopeful because I know I will see her again in heaven. I asked if she understood me and she smiled so warmly, patted my arm, and said yes. She has been reading one of my books about Jesus and women. I know slowly but surely she is learning about Jesus and Lord willing, seeing us model the love of Christ in our home.

As I said goodbye and walked out the door with my husband, my heart filled with deep satisfaction in this day that I used to dread more than anything. I learned how taking my focus off of myself and placing it on my Savior, floods the pain with joy, resulting in gratitude. I am exchanging dread for alert expectancy and finding freedom as a result. I am learning that living in a Muslim nation, which tends to be an isolating nation as a follower of Jesus, on such an anniversary is a gift rather than a sacrifice. Seeing the lost faces of those who have never tasted hope draws my perspective to Jesus, the One and only Savior whom they need just as much as I do. There is just no time to waste – every single day people are dying and entering into eternal separation from their Maker. Yes, the temptation to sulk in self pity over not being surrounded by my group of believing sisters back home for support was there, but this morning, the Father taught me through experience that the brightest joy comes from seeking His comfort above others’ and sharing the Good News with those who have yet to embrace it. The brightest joy comes from taking my focus off of myself and the past and placing it on Him and my hope-filled future where sorrow will cease to exist. Oh how the brightest joy comes from not focusing on the death of my mother, but instead sharing the secret to Life with the Muslim woman He placed in front of me, planting another seed that hopefully will lead to her freedom from death. Because of Jesus’ death, I am free from the grip of despair over my mother’s death, and able to share Life with women who are headed for eternal death! Jesus defeated death with death so that I may dance in the Light of Life and shine His hope where He plants me. What an undeserved gift…

I challenge you to share your stories with someone today. Transparency is the secret to others seeing the Lord’s restoration of our lives – lives that are broken beyond repair aside from Jesus, and lives that can be vessels for displaying His power if we allow them to be! Please pray for our nanny! We love her very much and want more than anything to be able to call her Sister!

“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” ~Romans 8:5-17, The Message

{Here are some beautiful images of our people group in our neighborhood.  These images were taken by my sister-in-law and edited by me}