Pain and Hope in Grief

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  These beautiful words of Jesus in John 15:11 emanate with hope that appeals deeply for a world that is so desperate to know and hold on to evading happiness.  They are rich truth that builds a foundation for hope and point us to the one place where joy is forever certain.  But, where is that joy in the midst of heart-shattering pain?

It was five years ago today, that I lost my dad.  I loved him deeply, but I had no idea at the time how much my identity was sunk into my father and my relationship with him.  I still remember the shock of the news, and the horrifying reality setting in that there was a sudden end to the visits we would pay him, the conversations we would have, and the memories that our children would enjoy with him.  Deep, gut-wrenching pain only begins to explain the feeling that pervaded then, and even the feeling that continues to reverberate now.

How I still miss my dad terribly 5 years later.  How I grieve that he hasn’t been here to share in my life, and will not be in the years to come.  How I long for the mutual happiness of getting together, his delight in the children, his expression of pride in me, his embrace that meant the world to me.  I miss his goofy humor, his quickness to help with projects, and his love for teaching the children new things.  I learned so much from my dad, and I’m grateful for the time he invested in me.  I cherish the times we spent biking and playing baseball together, the opportunities I had to help him with his work, and his commitment to being at so many events in my life.  I can only pray that I can pour into my children in such a meaningful way as my dad has done for me.

The pain is real.  But the hope is also real.  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  These words of Romans 8:18 are in the midst of the pinnacle part of the book.  There is so much to look forward to!  And while I miss my dad and want to see him, I eagerly anticipate something far better: the day that I see my Savior face-to-face, and spend the rest of eternity in awe of Him.  What will that be like?!

I am grateful for the relationship my dad had with Jesus.  He struggled with many things in this life… but he is in the presence of Jesus, the only way, truth, and life.  And “in [His] presence, there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).  My dad’s joy is full and unshakable, now and for all eternity.  I am comforted by such amazing truth.

However, joy is not just a future concept.  Yes, one day, “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes,” and, “there shall be no more pain” (Revelation 21:4), but, there truly is joy NOW, as Jesus offered in John 15:11.  That joy is experienced, felt, and enjoyed in the midst of an abiding relationship with Jesus.  It’s not a joy that chases the whims and passing pleasures of this world at the expense of knowing Jesus; it’s a joy that recognizes the depths of His love and rests in Him, despite the difficult circumstances of the world and the agonizing suffering that we face.  No storm can sink us, because Jesus is all our hope and stay!  We have an anchor into present hope that can hold us fast.

I am grateful for the time God gave me with my dad.  I am honored to be his son, and also honored to be loved by God.

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