"Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not,
you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory..."
1 Peter 1:8
A scripture about joy may not be the most common one you think of when someone you love passes away. Yet this very verse washed over me as I knelt beside my once vibrant-feisty sister mere minutes after she breathed her last here on earth.
My brave 29-year old sister fought to remain on this earth to raise the little boy we dubbed “Miracle Michael” four years prior when he entered the world prematurely via cesarean section. Her doctors announced she could no longer hold off treating the enormous cancerous tumor growing along with her pregnant belly, nearly matching it in size. Once her little angel arrived they whisked her into surgery to remove the tumor once believed to have been a blood clot. Grueling chemo and radiation treatments quickly began, consuming her life and ravaging her body.
The night we gathered together as a family to celebrate the milestone event of her 'two-years free of cancer', our parents delivered the news; our dear dad diagnosed with the very same dreaded disease. He passed away six short weeks later, at the young age of 49.
My tenacious sister went on to raise that rambunctious little boy. Never failing to proclaim the message of Christ and the joy of the Lord. When the little guy turned three years old she began experiencing serious symptoms, the cancer returned with a vengeance. Surgeries and intense treatments flipped her life upside down all over again. Her faith remained rock-solid believing with everything in her that she would be healed.
Yet God’s plans are far more than our minds comprehend.
One hot summer night she breathed her last breath only feet from where her little guy slept.
No one wanted her miracle to be this; we all wanted her to be healed on this side of heaven. God’s plans were otherwise. Knowing His plans and ways are far greater than ours remained our comfort.
Overcome, I knelt beside my bald sister who once sported unruly long-blond-hair. The song and verse she often quoted rang in my ears; "It is joy unspeakable and full of glory.” It felt strange to have that particular song playing in my mind at a time like this. However, the sweet gift of that message swept over me immediately. I felt as if she was right there saying to me; 'Oh sister, you would not believe it here, it is JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY, you don't know the half of it.'
As this message invaded my soul I quickly recalled hearing the very same from my dad. The night before he went to heaven God showed him an exquisite glimpse of streets of gold and colors brilliant beyond description.
The message seems clear, yet on this of side of heaven so difficult to comprehend and accept. In heaven we have no grief, we know no sorrow, in heaven we only know JOY. The depth of joy we have yet to experience. We are given glimpses of such joy when holding a newborn baby in our arms or marrying the one we love. We feel this pleasure when we have a good ole belly laugh or feel the fresh ocean breezes wash over us. I feel it when I am in the depth of the forest of pine trees high in the mountains. I think these are the little portals of heaven God allows us to experience.
These are glimpses of the real joy that’s yet to come, the bliss that we have yet to experience. The joy that’s unspeakable and full of glory.
I realize that our greatest lessons in life often come during times of searing pain.
New York Times Best Selling author Margaret Feinberg writes about the lessons she learned while going through the trial of a lifetime.
From the moment Margaret received her diagnosis she committed to fighting through the battle of breast cancer with joy. Knowing this attitude would make all the difference in the way she survived and overcame her battle. She bravely shares about her courageous journey in her newly released book "Fighting Back with Joy.” She also wrote a corresponding Bible study which will assist in the lessons of growth in finding joy in the mundane as well as the tragic. Bringing our lessons into perspective as we grow in our own relationship with God is imperative as we progress on our journey. I am just finishing up the book and I'm anxious to dig into this wise woman’s treasure trove of lessons in the corresponding Bible Study.
Every day I live I am reminded I must be intentional about finding joy.
Embracing joy unspeakable amongst the tragedies as well as the sublime is a choice. Battles in life are inevitable, but how we fight them remains one of the most important choices we face.
Like Margaret, I choose JOY.
Check out the video message from Margaret herself at: http://mar.cta.gs/0be
Then jump over to these links to pick up the book: http://mar.cta.gs/0bi or Barnes and Noble at http://mar.cta.gs/0bh
& the 6-Session Bible Study Kit at: http://mar.cta.gs/0aq