The days were so painful that I wondered whether I would ever feel joy again.
Nights were actually okay. Blessed sleep meant getting away from the reality of life without Dan. I’m so grateful that I had no trouble sleeping. And I owe most of that to faithful praying friends. But I also owe that to pure exhaustion: days were filled with a way-too-long to-do list and I was now one parent doing for seven kids. Nights were a welcome relief from the terrible missing. But every morning as the alarm would sound, I’d leave the sweet relief of sleep and confront the day: Dan is gone. This is life. Gotta get up, Lisa. I cannot do this Lord.
Grief doesn’t just run you down with sadness and despair. It steals every bit of interest in the outside world. I didn’t care about trying new recipes or reading the latest bestseller or re-doing the girls’ room. I didn’t pick up one homeschooling catalog and could have cared less about what was going on politically.
The only thing I craved was God’s Word. That was my very food. And, of course, I was deeply interested in my kids and how they were coping. But the things of this world had grown strangely dim. In the middle of a life shattered, you hope there will be joy again — you count on it –but how long will it take?
Our first test was two weeks after Dan died. It was Rachel’s 18th birthday and should have been a mile marker birthday celebration. I couldn’t muster a cell in my body to celebrate.
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That morning, I wearily opened my Bible to my reading for the day:
When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126
You better believe I wrote the date and our name next to those verses. To the Lord I cried out, “How long? I believe in my heart you will restore our joy but it hurts so much. I miss Dan so much. And I cannot fill the huge hole left in seven kids’ hearts.”
God, in His goodness and mercy, answered that weak prayer lifted with a grain of hope.
That night, a sweet family in our church brought us a meal. The whole family came in, sat on our couch and loved on us. We owe much of God’s healing to the precious fellowship we had night after night as families, in the midst of their busy lives, brought us dinner.
After dinner, we all headed out to a local spot for Christian ballroom dancing. I hadn’t planned one detail, but Facebook had done its work and Rachel’s dearest friends turned out for her 18th birthday. Love, not details, make a celebration.
Everyone, even my boys, wore pink to celebrate with Rachel. Friends brought pink balloons, two friends brought pink homemade cakes and another brought a dozen pink roses. Even the four- and six-year-old got to stay up past midnight with us. Watching Rachel ballroom dance with her brothers and friends, I caught myself smiling. And when we finally loaded into the car with balloons and roses and cards, Rachel said it had been one of her best birthdays.
As she spoke those words, I was amazed at how quickly and personally God had answered. We would not have to wait months for joy. God, in His goodness, brought joy right in the midst of grief. There is pain, yes. But there is LIFE. And the promise that if we keep sowing, even with tears, God will give us songs of joy.