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FIRST-PERSON: Grief yet joy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In a seven-foot ditch that surrounds my sister’s house, fumes ignited from the substance my husband was using to waterproof her basement when the air-conditioner clicked on. The explosion left him severely burned. In the hospital, I helplessly watched him lay in excruciating pain for eight days before he died. I found myself alone, a brand-new mother and a widow at the age of 21. How would I get through such a crisis?

During the following days, I often turned to God’s Word for answers. A verse in the Book of James annoyed me as I read, “… count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing” (1:2-4, NKJ). Where was the joy, I wanted to ask James, when I walked into the emergency room and couldn’t recognize my husband? His skin had turned completely black, his head was twice the normal size and the skin on his arms was missing.

While some grief, such as death, may take a lifetime to heal, the good news is that during that lifetime you can, once again, experience joy. Over the years, I’ve found joy by discovering that my grief is in fact working for my good.

Still, having joy doesn’t mean that I will never feel pain. God created my emotions, so it’s acceptable to grieve. On the other hand, I don’t have to remain in dismay. Looking at my life before grief, during grief and after grief, combined with God’s Word, I began to see the purpose of my burden. God was at work in my grief, making me perfect, complete and lacking in nothing.

My life before grief felt as if all of my dreams had come true. Not long after we were married, God blessed us with a beautiful baby boy. Life was going just as I had planned. However, did you know that God’s plans are not always our plans? Isaiah 55:8 says it like this: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘… My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (NKJ). I didn’t know God had a different plan than mine until the night my husband died. As a result, my life of grief began.

My life during grief was lonely without him. I felt angry and betrayed by the God I had loved since I was a little child. I locked those feelings in my heart, as if God didn’t know how I felt toward Him. Then one night I reached a desperate point and cried out to God. Bursting through the door to the thrown room of grace, I shook my fist in His face and boldly questioned, “Why — why did you do this to me? Oh God, I need to know why!” Just as a mother runs to her screaming child, so did God the Father run to me, His child. I didn’t see Him with my eyes or touch Him with my hands, but I felt His presence consume me as if God poured Himself over my entire body. In the comfort of His presence, I was compelled to read Psalm 139: “Is there anyplace you can go from my spirit? If you climb to the sky, I am there! If you go underground, I am there!” (v. 7-8, The Message). I knew then that my Lord had not betrayed me, He had come to say, “I am here!” Healing began as I cried out to God and allowed Him to carry me through the painful moments. This process continued until He lifted me to a new level of grace.

Life after grief grew bright, as I focused on His promises instead of my circumstances. Grief usually offers me two choices. I can despise it and die in my anger and bitterness or I can live again by confessing my feelings and trusting God. I chose life. The Apostle Paul said in Romans that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (8:28, NKJ). I believe God is saying, “In this fallen world, not all of your experiences are going to be good ones, but because you love and obey Me, I will make them good.” Still, why should I believe God is working for good when it feels so bad? Because His Word says that nothing can separate me from His love, and I chose to believe that. I like the way The Message interrupts Romans 8:38: “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst of sins listed in the Scripture….” I’ve learned not to judge God’s love for me by my circumstances, but by the cross where He suffered and died for me.

Consequently, grief has made me stronger, more mature and patient so that I’m able to handle trials to come. Plus, I’ve learned that joy can be found by believing that God loves me in all things and is working for my good, conforming me to the image of Christ. God also has kept His promises by blessing me with a wonderful new husband, two more beautiful children and a heart that believes my Lord is good — all the time.

How can you experience joy in the mist of your grief? First, draw close to God by crying out and allowing Him to meet you in your pain. Second, stop asking, “What am I going to do?” Instead ask, “What is God going to do?” God is not working to destroy you, but to re-create you. He is making you strong and Christ-like so that you’re able to finish the race. Finally, choose life by trusting God and not your circumstances. As you do, you’ll gain a renewed love for Him, as His love enables you to encompass joy in the midst of your grief.
Used by permission. Micca Campbell is assistant director of Certified Speakers, a division of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and a member of Parkway Baptist Church in Goodlettsville, Tenn., near Nashville.

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  • Micca Campbell