Celebrating Joy Amid Loss
My husband and I became foster parents in 2014. Since then, we have had ever-changing family photos. I will forever have holes in my heart because of the absence of the kids we have fostered for a week, a month, or longer, who have called me “Mom.”
The apostle Paul was no stranger to hardship and loss. Yet he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). And, “Rejoice always,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
During our years of fostering we have struggled as we’ve walked through our foster kids’ difficult behaviors and prayed for their emotional healing. Our “good-bye” moments have been filled with tears with little ones we have loved. Yet God’s Word is clear to believers—joy is to be a consistent part of our story.
What can we do to celebrate joy when we’re on a path that brings inevitable loss?
Remember Jesus’ Story
Jesus’ earthly life began with joy yet ended in sorrow—or so it would seem. The gospels tell us that although His life on earth ended with great pain and suffering, His Resurrection proves there is more to the story than meets the eye: Sorrow is often a conduit for joy, death can bring forth life, and loss is only for a little while.
Jesus told His disciples they would weep and mourn while the world rejoiced, but their grief would turn to joy that no one could take away (see John 16:20).
The author of Hebrews encourages us to focus on this lesson as we keep our eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus, who “ … For the joy set before him he endured the cross … Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2–3).
Keeping our eternal perspective in focus can help us know the joy of serving God—even when the journey is difficult or painful.
Surrender Our Mistakes
We recently said goodbye to a foster daughter who had lived with us for seven months. While I knew I had loved her well, I also wished I had done better. The morning after she left, I sat before the Lord and offered Him my regrets and mistakes, praying, “God, I offer these pieces to you and ask that you would take my broken efforts and put them back together into something good.” In response to my prayer, this verse filled my thoughts:
“[He will] … bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3a).
Our lives will never be perfect this side of heaven. Yet carrying around guilt because of the mistakes we’ve made will push away the joy God wants to give us. His comfort that day reminded me that I need not despair: He would take my efforts—an offering of ashes—and turn them into something beautiful.
My memories from fostering the kids who have since left our home are filled with games of hide-and-seek, playing “make believe,” sharing funny words and phrases, and teaching them how to catch a ball or ride a bike. Although we no longer have their physical presence with us, they will always be in our hearts. Living fully in each moment and remaining aware that we can make a joyful memory any minute is a key to letting joy be a consistent part of our lives.
At a playground recently, one of my foster children and I played tag. We laughed together when she realized I was harder to catch than she expected. Pausing to catch her breath, she said with a smile, “It’s fun to play tag with an adult.”
She was right. Life can be fun—even for us adults—if we celebrate the smiles in the small moments and hold onto the joyful memories.
Please Talk to Strangers
I love listening to women share their stories, especially when the story includes an element of testimony regarding her faith journey. Often, our e-Links contain such stories. In January 2017, we heard two stories – Sarah reflected on training in grace and we Fran shared how God has called her to choose the aroma of love.
Today, we will hear a story from Kate. When she sent me this testimony, I knew it needed to be shared!
Please Talk to Strangers:
I’d waited over a year for this moment. Toyota had recalled the cracked dashboard on my van and it took nearly 2 years for the part to come in. I arrived at my appointment and the courtesy car was ready to take me home. I approached the car. My first thought was, “Do I sit in the back seat or the front seat?” It was a God thing. I chose the front.
I introduced myself to the driver and he told me his name. I asked, “Where are you from?” Iran. I guess I’m good at asking questions because in half an hour’s time, I’d heard his life story: Grew up Muslim, believing that Islam was THE religion, and all others were infidel. Believe, go to hell or be killed. It was all about hate, he told me. He grew up hating.
He fought in the Iran-Iraq war for two years as a sniper. Every morning it was his job to go out and check the road. One morning he had the urge for a cigarette, so he went back to have a smoke. His buddy took his place. The soldier never returned; his head was blown off. “Why wasn’t it me?”
Eventually he made his way to the USA and married a Christian woman. She prayed for him; her family loved him. Eventually he, too, became a Christian. The Christian faith, he told me, is all about love. The contrast with his past faith was stark. He chose Jesus and His love. Wow!
Finally, it was my turn to say something. I told my driver that I was a Christian, and that I had been praying for the Muslim people for many years. Amazingly, he was the first one I’d had a meaningful conversation with! I told him I’d heard that thousands of young Muslims were turning to Christ, disturbed by all the terrorist violence of ISIS. He said he believed that could be true.
What he said next could have come from the lips of A.B. Simpson: The problem is that most of the Muslims don’t know, he told me. They haven’t heard. If only someone would tell them, surely they would turn to Jesus, too, just as he had.
And then he pulled up to my home. I squeezed his arm and called him my brother. Suddenly my prayers for the Muslim people had a face. These people have names. They have families. They have needs. And we have the privilege of praying for them.
So, I want to encourage you, Great Commission Women! This is what we are all about. Keep praying for the lost. And please, talk to strangers. You might find a treasure like I did.
“Mrs. Kate” Carpenter, pastor’s wife, attends Friendship Alliance Church, Callahan, FL. (She’s also a folksinger, songwriter & storyteller!) Website: www.MrsKate.com
Article Submitted by: Jen Vogel, Director, GCW National Executive Team