Happy New Year! This is the time people all around the world are making resolutions.
Happy New Year! This is the time people all around the world are making resolutions. Mine is simple—I resolve to be happy. I choose to embrace the joy of the Lord as the strength for my life.
If it were only that simple.
Unfortunately, grief is a language spoken by many. My friend, Michael, for example, has sung the song of grief with the seasoned panache of a refined musician. If grief was an art, he would be the Renaissance artist that paints grief to life.
Michael lost his mother when he was a toddler. His relatives tell him he was one of those children who would be soothed only by someone that they were comfortable with. His mother could soothe him as none other.
Her death was not sudden. Her body failed slowly and became more frail by the week. Her immune system was not strong enough to fight the disease that attacked her like a marauder—all this while her baby needed her. She knew she wouldn’t make it, and one can only imagine the grief and pain that she felt. The thought of her struggle still causes Michael pain.
Michael’s mother left him with her parents, as his father had abandoned them long ago. His grandparents raised him as one of their own.
Life deals all of us different blows. Michael’s portion was never to bask in a comfort zone, for he was repeatedly plucked from the comforts of love and family. His grandmother, who took him in as her own child and raised him as a mother: her life was snuffed out by a stroke.
Michael lost a close friend to a freak car accident that resulted in his friend’s death but saved 13 other lives. He had to take another dear friend to a morgue in the middle of the night because his friend gave up on life, having struggled with mental illness.
In spite of it all, Michael has learned to live. He draws courage from the One who came to give us “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10, Message).¹
Michael also learned to long. He longs for a place where “the wolf and the lamb will feed together” (Isa. 65:25, NIV) and where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4, NIV). Paul says that “even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are insignificant compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us” (2 Cor. 4:16-18, Message).
Michael has learned to sing. The caged bird can learn to sing only when its owner covers the cage, forcing it to listen and learn the one song it is meant to sing. With the distractions of daylight, and hearing the music of other voices, the caged bird will not sing the song that its master seeks to teach it. Indeed, Michael’s grief taught him that God “has a song to teach us, and when we have learned it amid the shadows of affliction we can sing it ever afterward.”²
Michael has also recognized one foundational constant in life: God has no orphans. He is truly “a father to the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5, NIV).
As we work to make 2020 an intentionally happy new year, Michael’s experience is a reminder that even in grief we can find joy.
¹Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
²Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 472.