Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Forty Days of Proclamation: Joy
Sharon Suiter Reyes
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” Psalm 126:5
“I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.” – Nicolas Wolterstorff
Does it seem strange to start a devotional on joy with a Bible verse and quote about weeping? This is the very tool God has used over the past two years to produce unmistakable joy in my life. And we all know that 2020 has been such a difficult year in many ways.
After walking through a very dark time of personal loss, then depression with my teenage son, I descended into a deeper season of lament. Prophetically and sovereignly God brought the book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy across my path and began preparing my heart for what was to come.
One night, God woke me from my sleep and simply said, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5), and a few verses later, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing” (v. 11). I jerked awake and wrote those two verses down, then God connected them for me: Joy comes through the mourning!
Within the next month, my husband caught Covid-19, and I dropped him off at the ER curb, telling him “to get better soon!” He was quickly admitted to the ICU, put on a ventilator for severe lung disease, and spent 66 days fighting for his life! We had no hospital visitation rights for five weeks while he was heavily sedated and medically paralyzed as his lungs healed. During that time, he almost died three time when his kidneys shut down, he vacillated between blood clots and excessive bleeding, and his heart stopped after going into septic shock. My son and I both had Covid-19 as well, isolated and quarantined from our family, friends, and community. The grief was more than I could handle; I would weep as I weakly recounted God’s promises. My son’s depression deepened as he worried of the uncertainties ahead. I had to admit him to the hospital twice as I was scared for his safety. I sat at home, alone, and howled and groaned, begging God to rescue, relent, and restore my husband and son to me. Eventually, God did just that. After 84 days in the hospital and rehab, my husband returned home, and my son’s countenance began to lift.
We have been home over two months, facing unique complications from Covid-19 and an extended ICU stay. My husband is crippled in his right leg from neuropathy and walks with a cane. Will God fully restore his physical strength so he can play football with our son again? We lost our income as he recovers on medical leave. Will we find meaningful work to share God’s story and healing with others?
How could God bring joy to my heart in such a situation? Teresa of Avila states, “Suffering is a great favor. Think of how our gain is eternal.” Each day, as I work through the emotional and spiritual lessons, I let my tears fall. One day, my spirit was so heavy with grief, I spent hours weeping bitterly before the Lord. In the midst of my tears, I heard God speak so tenderly and clearly: “Sharon, you are languishing. I am here with you. I see you. I love you. You are known and heard. I will be with you every step of the way.” Immediately, I felt a peace settle in my heart – a joy in the pain and suffering that I could not describe.
God gave me specific scriptures that validated my languishing but also forecasted my lavishing (read additional references below). He showed me that for a season we would feel “dried up,” “withered;” we would “groan,” “lose heart,” “despair,” and “be sick at heart” (Joel 1:12, Isaiah 19:8), but full restoration is coming! He promised we will “sing songs of joy,” be “radiant,” “abundant,” and “healthy” once again (Jeremiah 31:12). Then the final promise from the Lord:
“Their life will be like a watered garden, and all their sorrows will be gone. ... I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing” (Jeremiah 31:13). God teaches that joy is on the other side of our sadness ... we must journey with Him.
For further reading: Ecclesiastes 7:4; Joel 1:12; Isaiah 19:8; Jeremiah 31:12-13, 25; Psalm 52:8-9
Sweet Father, thank You for walking with us through suffering – that You hear our cries and are attentive to our groans. Thank You for using suffering to expand our hearts to know You and birthing true Joy in the deepest places. Oh, Holy One, stay ever so near us as we walk through the trials and difficulties of life. Shine your Light in our darkness. Amen.