Two unspeakable tragedies have hit close to home in the past few weeks which have deeply affected friends, our church body, my girls’ school and our entire community. My heart is so heavy for these families, and the gut wrenching circumstances that are woefully out of my control. Lately, I have felt helpless and lost.
Yesterday, as I strummed a simple melody on my guitar, it surprised me when praise tumbled out of my mouth. The first words that came to my mind were the familiar words of an old hymn. I didn’t know the story behind the song, which was (of course) exactly about what I was feeling that very moment. It was written by a woman who endured many terrible tragedies, including accidental blindness as a baby, losing most of her class to Cholera while she was a teacher, and the early deaths of her husband and her only child as an infant. Yet, in spite of those grim circumstances, Fanny Crosby was a cheerful, thankful woman who was known for her deep love for Jesus and her positive outlook on life, not to mention her beautiful gift for writing poetry and songs. When a preacher pitied her for her blindness, she told him if she had been given one request at birth, it would have been that she would be made blind. He asked her why and she replied, “Because, when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!” Her response is convicting to say the least. I’m in awe of how someone could endure so many painful events, and still have an attitude of praise and thankfulness, and not just have it, but live it.
Oh what a happy child I am, although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be!
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t!
So weep or sigh because I’m blind I cannot–nor I won’t!
Fanny Crosby (Age 8)
I know we are not all Fanny Crosby. I don’t believe that God expects us to always be joyful. There will be seasons when we will need to grieve. Seasons of pain and sadness. I wept an entire day this week for a family I don’t even know. I couldn’t stop thinking of their heartbreaking loss. A few weeks ago, I wept for several days because a child in my daughter’s grade tragically passed away. I was cleaning the girls rooms and found last year’s yearbook. I opened it and there scrawled on the first cover page, was the child’s name written in her own sweet, kindergarten handwriting. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I lost it. From that moment on, my spirit was in continuous prayer for the family, particularly for the mother who I had volunteered with many times since our two girls were both in the same grades for the last few years. I know that God put her on my heart and I prayed for her all day. I teared up every time I looked at my girls. A silent reminder that each day is an amazing gift that we just cannot take for granted. I think everyone in our little community will never be the same. I am still grieving and I am still praying.
Days later, I heard about another tragedy that rocked our community and our church. Again, I couldn’t keep the tears away. When someone I know is grieving, I tend to grieve with them, but this was even beyond that. I felt like I couldn’t do anything but pray and mourn over three young lives that were taken too soon. I have deep empathy for those in the midst of tragedy and pain. Maybe it’s because I have experienced many tragedies, chronic physical pain and hopeless situations in my life. I am familiar with the inconsistency of grief. How it never fully goes away. It ebbs and flows and each sunrise brings new waves of hurt and grief, until one day you wake up and realize the pain has lessened and the choke hold on your heart is not as tight. But what remains is a deep ache that makes a permanent home in your soul.
In spite of everything, and maybe because of everything that doesn’t make sense in this life, my heart still longs to praise God – my redeemer and my Father…the one who will someday make all the broken things in this world whole again. As my sweet friend Carolyn, wrote on her blog this week, “God showed me that my writing was for women living in difficult circumstances. Women who need to learn to pray to the One who created them, cares for them and wants to bless them. God who can make life not just bearable, but good. Productive. A life of purpose in the middle of pain. If we allow God access He can make the pain worth the while. Who else would do that for us? He is so good.”
He is good and in the end, it is His love that will rescue us. I will praise him in the joy and in the sorrow. This is my story and my song. It is also my heart’s cry. No matter what I feel and in spite of the pain this world can bring, I will always have a blessed assurance that my Jesus is still King and He is mine. That is something to sing about.
“I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”
“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.”