A few months ago our community was rocked by tragedy. A senseless act of violence left a family without their father. I know of this family, although not intimately. Our sons had been in the same kindergarten class and my son had occasionally played against their son during our local Boys & Girls Club basketball season. They lived in our neighborhood so we saw them at our clubhouse pool often, but that’s about the extent of it.
I was out of town with my husband when I heard the news. Once I overcame the initial shock, I was shaken to my core. For the next few days I would just break down in tears at the thought of this man, his wife, his kids, his family. It was so incredibly hard for me to think of what they were enduring. I hurt for this family and I hurt more at the thought that this could be the story of my family at any moment.
I don’t remember the exact words of a brief conversation I had with a friend during the candlelight vigil, but it started with her question that was along the lines of how and why something like this would happen. I vaguely remember saying something about remembering that for those who believe (which thank God he did) there is a hope beyond this life. Her response left me with the impression that while that may be true for some, it wasn’t very comforting in the moment.
I want to take a minute to acknowledge and validate the pain, sorrow, and hurt in the midst of loss. All of those emotions and feelings are real and they are deep. They are often long lasting and seem to resurface just when you’re beginning to “have a grip” on them.
How then do we manage to make a comeback? Where on earth is the joy in situations like this?
When I said to my friend that there is hope in eternity for those who believe, I meant it. But it didn’t comfort her in the moment. Why? Because I think perhaps because we don’t actually feel joy in every single moment. And instead of thinking that we should feel joy over a situation that is tragically sad, we need to shift our thinking a bit. The joy comes because Jesus meets us there in the midst of our loss. I don’t believe He wants us to shove our emotions aside as if they don’t exist, as if our faith is lacking because we hurt. It’s not a matter of thinking, “I’m sad, but I have to forget about that because God is with me.” I think it’s more a matter of “and”.
In our grieving, I believe Jesus wants to whisper…
You are in pain AND I will be your strength.
You are overcome with sorrow AND I will be your comfort.
You are hurting AND I will bring you healing.
The joy doesn’t necessarily come because Jesus takes these emotions away, the joy comes because He meets us in them.
*I am currently loving the song, “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells. It’s a great reminder that during those “valley” moments of life, you are not alone!