Be forewarned: I am a recovering pastor’s wife.
My family and I have suffered through what I will forever consider as the great divorce. No, not a marital divorce, but a divorce of a church from its pastor. Their pastor, who is my beloved husband.
Life isn’t always filled with happiness, laughter, or sweet memories. In fact, sustaining joy is often just a disciplined mindset as we live in the day-to-day.
Allow me to be the first to admit how often I fall short in seeking mindful joy, succumbing instead to anxiety, worry, and distress in the continuous grind of ordinary life. However, I lean deeply into seeking Him. I trust that, in pursuing Him, He alone will transform my weakness into His strength.
Matt Hammitt* is a singer and song-writer who has a song entitled, “Tears”. A portion of his lyrics say,
“Watch the old become new. Let the fear fade away. Feel his arms around you. It’s ok…”
He continues to sing,
“You’ve been waiting a long time. To let this out into the daylight. You’re not alone, we all have days, when the well inside needs to break. Just let ‘em fall like healing rain. Watch the walls start crumbling.
Let your heart beat and feel the weight…Just let ‘em fall right down your face. Hit the ground in a pool of grace, and feel the things you haven’t felt for years. Then you’ll know why God made tears.”
I have been letting many tears fall like healing rain over the past several months. While still grieving the loss of a beloved brother and friend over the Christmas holidays, 2019 opened with a gut-wrenching, sucker-punch of colossal force: the complete loss of my place of worship and church community through a devastating church split and thus, my husband’s resignation. The unexpectedness of it all left me reeling, full of grief. It acutely touched each one of my family members, threatening to rip each of us apart from one another. As life carried on, as it always does, another heartache was added, the passing of a beloved cousin. I can honestly say that in 2019 I have been down on my bruised knees, wracked with sobs, more often than I have been living with hands raised, lifted in praise and adoration. As a result, I have been walking the precarious tight wire of closing myself off from people, due to immense hurt and pain, while consciously realizing how this truly closes myself off to joy.
All Things New
Realizing the potential for impending change (in the form of our family relocating) there is yet another layer of anguish to experience. We walked this path of ministry turned upside down for months, hoping things would work out. Only to have it all unravel in a divisive church split that left us jobless and searching. Our family is now facing the fact that change is upon us. Change is here, whether we asked for it or not.
Grieving all that has been lost, while striving to remain focused on trusting of all the new and good God has for us, has truly been a challenging tight-wire balancing act. I honestly find myself falling off this precarious tight wire time and time again. I am eternally thankful for how our God is so gracious to catch us and extend mercy each and every time. God continuously has me taking a hard look at how change is yet another one of those areas that leaves me falling short in sustaining joy, clinging in complete dependence upon Him. However, I confess the fear within the mere possibility of change has the ability to win my focus instead of a more fixed focus on our Lord Jesus Christ and His extended hand.
Daily, I repent from trusting myself more than my Lord, and take hold of His hand, asking for strength and for His perspective. Daily, I wrestle with Him over how change is always the last thing my heart desires, I allow tears to
“hit the ground in a pool of grace, and feel the things (I) haven’t felt for years.”
With each cleansing tear that God sees and wipes away, I am comforted and more deeply appreciative as to why God made tears.
Exercising mindfulness in sustaining joy when grief threatens to overwhelm is challenging. Not something, I would argue, that can merely be attained in our own strength. To truly overcome our miserableness when lacking the gift of joy in the midst of grief, we need a relationship with Jesus Christ. When we lean into His everlasting arms, allowing Him to hold us, take our burdens, and carry our hurt, grief, and wounds we find the deepest sense of connection. As spiritual beings, we find Jesus is the source of our confidence. He is our supplier of joy and gratitude. He showers us with love, even when we find ourselves mistreated by people. God is madly in love with each of us and eager to be invited into the heart of relationship with us.
I have recently experienced an exercise of letting go and receiving. Given three stones, I was asked to place a burden on each stone set in front of me. What were the burdens most pressing on my heart? What was I holding onto so tightly that I simply did not want to let go or give over to Christ?
As I was led in this time of meditation, I was encouraged to envision being in a place that brought me complete joy, offering solitude, peace, and serenity. I was invited to acknowledge Jesus sitting with me. I was encouraged to surrender these burdens, one by one, over to Him. In my imagination, I could picture His loving face as He took each burden, held them, and looked at me with such sincerity and love that it made my heart skip a beat. He then extended me a gift. He pulled me into His arms, offering the gift of His eternal embrace. Being able to envision Him with me there brought me to a point of truly releasing each burden, giving them over completely to Him. Picturing this ability to release, I noticed a subtle shift of the breeze. A stench wafted in, making my nose crinkle with disgust. Yet, Jesus’ eyes probed mine and He encouraged me to find the spiritual significance to this shared moment.
Realizing that, were I to continue to hold onto these rocks labeled worry, confusion, and anger, my attitude would begin to be one that would be just as foul as the stench that had just wafted through.
Is that the witness I desire to portray as a friend and lover of Jesus Christ? I quickly realized, no, the witness I desired to portray was one that provided evidence of fruit that I was a disciple of Christ. I wished for my life to portray succulent fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holding onto these stones would only bring me down, and further burden me into deeper emotional darkness. However, letting them go into the hands of my Savior, trusting in His goodness, would bring freedom, joy, clarity, and a deeper connection with Him as I surrendered my trust to Him.
May we all surrender our control, our wounds, and our burdens in the hands of our Savior who is madly in love with us and captures our every tear. He is so in love with us that He sacrificed it all so we could be in everlasting relationship with Him. What sustaining joy is found in knowing Him, walking with Him, and being in relationship with Him!
*https://youtu.be/J46hMyrTL7Y (Matt Hammitt, “Tears”)
Blog post written and c. Stacy McClelland, April, 2019