by Nancy Howell
I will praise you, Lord,
because you rescued me.
You did not let my enemies laugh at me.
Lord, my God, I prayed to you,
and you healed me.
You lifted me out of the grave;
you spared me from going down to the place of the dead.
Sing praises to the Lord, you who belong to him;
praise his holy name.
His anger lasts only a moment,
but his kindness lasts for a lifetime.
Crying may last for a night,
but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:1-5 (NCV)
I’m a Southern girl and proud of it. Raised in a small United Methodist congregation, I became church pianist at age 12.
I held that job for 13 years, until I married my best friend and he whisked me away first to Maryland, then on to Texas.
I cut my teeth on gospel music. Groups such as the Blackwood Brothers, the Stamps, the Gaithers, and others were popular, and I played their songs for offertory many Sunday mornings.
The second 25 years of my life have passed, and I don’t listen to gospel music anymore. Those old familiar four-part harmonies never even cross my mind. I listen to an eclectic mix of contemporary Christian and classic Rock.
So imagine my surprise as somewhat familiar words, and a tune I half-way remember, began playing through my head on a continuous feed two days before Christmas, 2012.
The holiday season is a time of reflection for me, always has been. My second Christmas as a widow, a single mom to two boys, was fast approaching.
And unlike last year, I wasn’t dreading it. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. My late husband loved the holidays and was the biggest kid in the family.
Somehow, though, I knew it would be okay.
I had been at my seasonal job, at a local jewelry store, helping customers (especially men on last-minute shopping missions) pick out gifts for their wives-moms-girlfriends.
Heading home for the day, I felt unusually chipper. I started to feel a sensation deep within my gut, which quickly spread throughout my whole body, reaching even my fingertips and toes.
At first, I wasn’t sure what it was. The old feeling was familiar, but it had been so very long since it had been inside me. And, sitting at a stop light, as a silly smile crept across my face, I solved the mystery.
I was experiencing JOY.
There was joy in my life again. The tears flowed and I laughed out loud to God.
And the chorus of the Bill Gaither gospel song played through my mind, more loudly and more clearly than Blue Mountain by Brandon Heath, which was simultaneously playing in my car.
Hold on my child,
Joy comes in the morning
Weeping only lasts
for the night.
Hold on my child,
Joy comes in the morning
The darkest hour
is just in sight.
(words and music, Bill Gaither)
Joy had come.
I couldn’t stop praising God as I travelled the short distance home. Simultaneously laughing and crying, I knew in that moment that I was well on my way to being healed.
Dear sisters, if God can do this for me, I am certain He can do the same for you.
Time is not the healer in a widow’s journey, although time can help you look at circumstances more clearly. GOD is the consummate healer in a grief journey.
Lay it all out on the table for Him. Hold nothing back. God knows all of your faults, your deepest hidden secrets…and He loves you in spite of them.
He has your name written in the palm of His hand.
Let Him hold your hand. Let Him carry you whenever you cannot walk on your own.
Allow others to help you. You have friends that don’t know what to do for you. Do them a favor and tell them what you need.
Keep the faith.
And there will come a day, maybe tomorrow, or 6 months, or 17 months from now, when you will tingle from head to toe with unexplained joy.
God has promised it.
In Psalm 30, read again the verbs describing God: he rescues. He heals. He lifts you out of the grave. He spares you. He changes sorrow into dancing. He clothes you in happiness.
How lucky are we? Our God doesn’t sit on the sidelines. He is a God of action.
Call out to Him. He will listen:
I called to you, Lord,
and asked you to have mercy on me.
I said, “What good will it do if I die
or if I go down to the grave?
Dust cannot praise you;
it cannot speak about your truth.
Lord, hear me and have mercy on me.
Lord, help me.”
You changed my sorrow into dancing.
You took away my clothes of sadness,
and clothed me in happiness.
I will sing to you and not be silent.
Lord, my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:8-12 (NCV)
We come to you this day, in search of healing. We are all at different places in our grief. We are unique individuals, coming from every walk of life, all circumstances and situations.
The common thread that binds us is the loss of a spouse, a significant other. Let us minister to each other, helping with the struggles that accompany this unimagined journey.
And as we laugh and cry and sympathize and empathize with each other, remind us that seeking your face through prayer and meditation will help us figure out our next chapter in life.
Wipe our tears when they drip from our chins. Pick us up and dust us off whenever we skin our knees. Hold us tightly whenever we long to be held by arms belonging to loved ones, now praising you up in heaven.
And as this new year begins, we pray that it be a fresh page, a chance to make new memories, to become more like you, to heal. Please give us glimpses of joy and laughter along the way. And no matter how dark the night, always remind us that dawn is coming. It always comes.
In your son Jesus’ name we ask it all,
Hold on, my friends.
Joy comes in the “mourning.”
The darkest hour means that dawn is just in sight.