I wrote a book about our journey through cancer and deployment, essentially about finding joy in the hard places of life. But let’s be honest, my husband returned, and my daughter is healthy today (nine year’s cancer free April second). My husband’s return and my daughter’s surgery did not end the story; they aren’t the happily ever after I wanted. They came with therapy and new struggles, checkups and fear of what tomorrow will bring. And they came with guilt, survivor’s guilt.
I’m finding joy in our reality.
One of the reasons I talk about finding joy in everyday on my blog is because it’s not an easy place to live amidst pain. Life isn’t clean, happily ever afters aren’t fairy tale endings but rather a journey towards a new normal. The middle places of life are messy. It’s not happiness I seek. Finding joy is about living in the reality of the messiness, the reality of the middle places that celebrate both newness and a life well lived.
It is in the middle places we mourn the life of one suddenly taken to soon, the struggle of the long goodbye when healing does not come, and the emptiness that follows their departure. My children have entered this middle place. A friend passed away, a child, and our hearts are broken.
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7
It’s easy to love a God who does what we want. It’s easy to understand a God who reaches down and in our mess cleans it all up with new job opportunities, healing, wealth and happiness. But that is not the God of the Bible. Healing does not always come. Wealth and happiness are not a guarantee if we pray a prayer or send in our tithe.
Tidy faith breaks down in the midst of tragedy.
So I’m finding a new normal, I’m searching for joy in the everyday places, the ones filled with laughter and the ones with crippling pain. My faith is stronger though I find my trust waning. As we struggle through our recent tragedy where healing did not come as we would have wanted, healing we never even had a chance to ask God for, a tragedy that sucked what little innocence was left in my children’s heart, I want to snatch the reigns back from God and do things my way. I want the fairy tale ending. I yearn for the fulfillment of resurrection now with the joy of a smile I will never again see on this earth.
Last month in Stumbling through Lent, Dana Portwood wrote, “Faith is a series of little deaths and rebirths, each one bringing us around closer to the center.” I am anticipating the new birth of faith in my children. I am holding on to the hope that in tragedy they discover God, that the pain of life is just as much a gift as the triumphant moments. And I am holding on to that truth, though my heart wants to let go.
The beauty of the chaos of life, of the middle places, is that in the worst moments, God is there. Though things are not playing out how I would have chosen, though He is not reaching down into the mess of our life and painting it picture perfect, He is there orchestrating both the pain and the promise.
A God who said no to His only Son who asked that the suffering of the cross be removed from Him, is a God who is hard to trust. A God who wraps His arms of comfort around us and does not close His eyes to our pain is a God I can love. A God who cried at the graveside of His friend is a God I can understand.
Joy is not empty of sorrow.
Joy is richer and fuller for the pain we walk through. Life is fuller because of those who walk through our suffering with us.Tidy faith breaks down in the midst of tragedy. We need messy grace instead.Click To Tweet
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