“…Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:19 (NIV)
Justin was known for laughter. He made us laugh. He had a great laugh… He enjoyed living.
His 18th birthday was the first occasion we had to “celebrate” without him here. I remember asking someone: “What do you think birthdays are like in heaven?”
My husband and children went with me to the cemetery that day where we sang happy birthday as we held hands and prayed around his grave. I presented one gift to each member of the family as the little happy face balloon bobbed up and down off the ground bouncing around much the way Justin did when he was alive. We laughed at the sight of it and prayed before going around and “meeting the neighbors.” (The way we describe reading the markers of those who are resting in Justin’s section of the cemetery.)
It is quite a morbid thought these days. The little ways we found comfort as we navigated those early days of grief as a family. His 19th birthday was spent going out to dinner with his grandparents and I gave them a gift to mark the occasion. This year, the day came and went with little fanfare. I was looking forward to facilitating at my support group and had requested a donation of books by Randy Alcorn for the members. The books arrived on Justin’s birthday. A gift from God for my grieving friends.
As I talked with my good friend on the phone the day before the occasion, I confessed that I was really having a difficult time being sad about the day. I was remembering how Justin came into the world and thanking God for the years we had together. I had little time for sorrow because I saw God doing so many wonderful things.
Joy swept back into my life again unexpectedly.
God restored my joy in a fashion that left me very nearly unaware. The confession did not hit me until long after the conversation ended. “This year, I really feel like I can say that the Joy is back in my life. The Joy of the Lord is my strength.”
The hope I leave you with as you walk out your healing in the days and months to come is this:
No matter where you find yourself in the grieving process, the Lord wants to restore your joy and grant you peace. Before the joy came on the wings of God’s Holy Spirit, I had to choose to find the joy in life. I had to choose it and reclaim its place in my life. To walk it out when the day didn’t necessarily beg for it. And, in cultivating an attitude of joy – God brought back the gift of joy and He kept His word in Isaiah 61:3. I did, indeed have an anointing of joy once again!
Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
~ Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV) ~