Originally published Thursday, 18 August 2016.
I've been thinking a lot about mothers lately mostly because I am watching the health and mental capacity of my mom decline. The once vibrant mom I knew is slowly fading with dementia day by day. It's like a slow death. So I asked the Lord to bring me joy FOR her.
Joy is difficult to realize when you lose someone you love dearly.
However, there are some situations when it's easily accepted. For instance, at the end of person's life with the natural progression of old age. We often ask for early release unto death with the suffering by pain and with the terminally ill. Over the years with technology and advances in modern medicine, we've even grown accustomed to watching pain close up too.
How can joy ease the pain of death? I think about how Mary, the mother of Jesus handled it. The Bible relates her standing at the cross where Jesus died. She had support system that included, John the beloved, and two other Marys. Onlookers to this event had a front row seat to watch the immense pain-filled suffering of Jesus, and watch her response as his mother. I would have been wailing if it were me.
I'm grateful she handled it gracefuly.
The Bible doesn't talk about her emotions a lot, but I assume she cried. This tragic event would be in addition to all the other times a mother weeps for her children from her kitchen, on her knees, or while sharing with other mothers. Mary was a normal human and full mothering emotions after all. Did she use self-control? Did she weep for days when Jesus died? Was there any consolation for Mary even knowing Jesus was going back to the Father?
There had to be some comfort for her, afterall, Jesus predicted his death many times.
I'm also reminded as a mother that watching your child die, at any age, is never easy. I know, however, Mary was highly favored and entrusted with the care of Jesus unto death. I would agree joy is part of God's design which can be activated in very tough and joy-less situations like death, grief and loss of a loved one.
So where is the joy in death? Mary witnessed death with intensity. No one expects to be crucified, a brutal and cruel death nor leave this world in such a way. So where's the joy in watching death slowly snuff out life? Jesus explained how joy works in his last meeting with the disciples and I think he explained it specifically for mothers to grasp ahold of. Here's his final word on death:
"The Disciples’ Grief Will Turn to Joy"
John 16: 15-33 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
Jesus saw they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."
Wait a minute, did Jesus just say joy is completed in death? As hard as death is to watch, it's even harder to accept the reality we will never see our loved one again this side of heaven. But encouragement comes with joy, because we know one day we will join them again in Heaven. Jesus encourages us further for days filled with trouble...
“I have told you these things, so in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I believe Jesus was saying there is joy found in death, and this joy completes our peace. Joy, through death, comes in knowing where our final destination is. There's an eternal Home waiting for our arrival and for many of us, a lot of loved ones are waiting for us to arrive!
There's joy in knowing there is an end to pain, suffering, and a place where automatic joy begins. So when watching someone die a slow painful death, for me joy paves the way for my faith and gives me assurance that I too can have joy here right now. Joy has become my sacrifice of praise and helps my heart to understand there is joy complete when peace comes.
Let this kind of joy be yours as you suffer through a death or difficult situation. The opportunity to choose joy is only given this side of heaven. Heaven is already abounding and full of JOY.
Jesus gives us joy but He IS JOY too!
The compassionate heart of Jesus amplifies joy in our lives. God knows how valuable and helpful it can be, as joy becomes our reward for going through all situations. You can have the attitude of joy in your heart with great rejoicing on your lips even in death.