"...to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. " Isaiah 61:2-3
Recently I have seen several people I know go through the sorrow of losing a loved one. Some deaths were expected, some were not. Either way, the death of a loved one is a tragic experience. Fortunatley, it is not something I have had to deal with much in my life. I know, however, the older I get, the more I will encounter the pain of having to deal with loss. It's not something that I look forward to.
But even this week, as I focused on the joy of the Lord and the choice to rejoice, I have been reminded of several people that, when dealing with the loss of a loved one, have exemplified the strength that is found in the joy of the Lord. I have sat in countless funerals, but there have been a few that really stick out in my mind. Not necessarily because of the person who was being celebrated, but because of the family, or spouse, who chose to rejoice in such a difficult moment.
As I have sat in funeral services and watched widows and children lift their hands in worship to the Lord at the time of the most devastating loss in their lives, I realize that this is what joy birthed of the Holy Spirit can do in someone's life. It does not mean that they don't still go through the greiving process. Some of them even had tears running down their faces as they worshipped- joy and grief wrapped in one beautiful package of worship to the Father. But when I think back on these experiences, this is what stands out to me most as supernatural joy that the world cannot duplicate. This is the joy of the Lord that strengthens us in our weakest moment so that when we can do nothing else, we can still rejoice.
I am so thankful that when the day comes when someone close to me leaves this earthly life, I have the hope of knowing that this is not the end. And I pray that in that moment, I will be able to offer up the gift of worship, wrapped in grief and joy, to my Heavenly Father, who I know will "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."