Memorializing my best friend was one of the worst experiences I ever had. I was look to as both a pastor and a grieving friend at the time when everyone else was looking for answers as to why a larger than life man in his thirties was cut down in a matter of months due to Pancreatic Cancer? I had planned the whole service out with the host pastor and worship band, my friends widow and parents. It all was to be simple, real, and a safe place to express themselves over the loss and mourning found in the time of goodbye. I wish I could say everyone kept their cool and it was a somber but calm environment. Little did I know that the video memorial I put together would be the tipping point for the first three rows of family and friends rushing the podium crying out in anguish and sorrow.
I had never witness such cries of grief before, and I pray I don’t have the opportunity again. I found myself caught in the middle of calming the crowd by grabbing the worship team to play us out ahead of schedule and wanting to join in with those in the agony I felt inside. I know this is a strange way to talk about joy, but it was a place where I found the Joy of Jesus was present in the midst of such pain. It was simply because; I had no doubt that my best friend was no longer in pain, no longer watching his body and mind shrivel away, no longer seeing the tears of his wife and three boys, he was asleep in the Lord awaiting the Return of our Savior. He was at peace with his destiny secure, what a reason to be joyful.
When we encounter such sharp emotions in the presence of others who are also partaking of the same feelings, we find ourselves drawn to a larger and collective hope. In this case, as in many other moments of life, we are drawn to the promise of God working in the spaces between the “Chorus and the verse” of the melody that is our life. It’s in places of collective expression that we quickly find ourselves resorting to what we trust in. Those who have nothing to give them promise or peace cannot find joy in the times of trial or pain. We who seek to live a life fueled by faith and practiced trough virtues, cannot help but discover the moments as the Holy Spirit breaks through the clouds and lets the light back into the landscape of our view and circumstances. It’s the same power of God that we have an enduring trust that all will be made right. God, in his plan and righteousness, will reveal to us a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21-22) in his timing and in his plan, not ours or the most savviest theologians amongst us.
The days ahead are going to be filled with wonderful moments as well as those that we are going to need to dig deep into our character and perhaps reach a point of waving the white flag of surrender to the spirit of God. My desire is that we are more quick to surrender to the Spirit of God than to our the reality that we are limited and finite as people. Life will continue to move forward whether we are engaged or not, and I would rather we find Joy in the larger works and promises of God than the efforts we make to sooth ourselves with a temporary happiness.
May your soul have a deepening trust in the work of God in the details and the larger hopes of your life. There may be days of mourning, days of praise, and days that feel pointless. However, if we have the end result of our lives in mind as the set-apart ones (sanctified) then we can draw strength from the Holy Spirit to watch him bring us from dryness to overflowing. What a wonderful we hope we have. It is one my late best friend projected in the last weeks of his life as he kept preaching, praying, and sharing the joy he had in the Lord for his future was secure, even as his present reality was fading away. May we all find that kind of joy with lesser diagnoses in the days ahead!
Keep Looking up!