Merry Christmas! It’s just such a joyous season, right? Anyone else feel a little less than thrilled? While this season is a joyful season, it is also a very difficult season for many. Yesterday was my daddy’s birthday. He would have been 63 years old. However, we lost him one year, 6 months, and 24 days ago, but who’s counting? Last year was our first Christmas without him, but I think we were all still in so much shock it didn’t 100% register. I busied myself trying to make sure everything was coordinated and organized, making sure everyone was okay and nothing was going to send anyone into an emotional firestorm. This year is a different story. Reality has set in and I have slowed my roll. I am filled with sorrow. I am grieving. These feelings are in direct conflict with how I feel about celebrating the birth of Christ, the one who delivered, rescued and saved me. These feelings are in direct conflict with how blessed I feel about being with my family during Christmas. Regardless, the feelings are coexisting in my heart. I am hurting. I am deeply wounded, and I still don’t understand why Daddy’s gone. I am convinced all I will ever feel is hurt at the loss of the man that chose to love me as his daughter.
My daddy was not my biological father. He was the man that stepped in after my biological father died when I was 4-years-old. My daddy knew my mama from work before my father’s death. After his death, he took up a love offering for her at work and brought it to my grandmother’s house where we had moved after the tragic death. There was something inside my daddy that just wanted to love my mama and just wanted to love me. He wanted to rescue us from the storm we were living through. While he was not perfect (as if any of us are), he exhibited something that I don’t even think he recognized all those years ago. My daddy was an example of Christ’s love, that same love that years later rescued and delivered me. Daddy reflected this love in that he chose me as his child. He chose me, not out of obligation, but out of love, tenderness and compassion. After my mama and daddy started dating, never once did he ever treat me like anything other than his daughter. Never once did he ever acknowledge that I was not his biological child. I remember one time when I was a little girl, we were at a restaurant when a waitress commented how much I looked like my daddy. He just beamed. I truly believe he never forgot that moment. It meant so much to him. My daddy also reflected the love of Christ in his love for my mama, my sisters and me. He loved us with an unconditional, sacrificial love. Everything he did was for us and for our good. So, now I face life without the man that first showed me the love of Christ. Daddy was not a religious man and he didn’t go to church when I was child. He just exhibited the love in his heart. God moved in his life in a mighty way in my adult years, and I think Daddy came to realize what deep down he knew all along, the true source of love, Jesus Christ. Daddy developed a strong relationship with the Lord years before his graduation to glory. I am thankful for this gift. Some of Daddy’s final moments were spent telling the nurses and hospital staff about Jesus. He also expressed his pride in his daughters for different reasons. What an incredible gift! His legacy lives on…
I had to share all of this because I think it helps you to see just how deep this wound is for me. I am hurt and my heart is filled with sorrow. I feel like I am grieving more now than when I first lost him. The reality of the loss is heavy and the weight seems too much to bear, but my Lord has shown me something. He has shown me that it is possible to be filled with sorrow in my grief, and still be joyful. Weird, huh? I think it’s a contradiction to the highest degree. The Kingdom of God does not make sense in this world. How can one be so hurt and sorrow-filled, yet experience joy in her heart? I have no idea, but it’s happening to me.
I know that loss of loved ones is hard, but joy does not die when sorrow is present. Joy and sorrow exist in the Bible, not sequentially, but simultaneously. 1 Peter 1:3-6 says, “In this you rejoice, though you are grieved…” Grieving and rejoicing is simultaneous. 2 Corinthians 6:10 says, “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Simultaneous joy and sorrow once again.
As I face a second Christmas without my Daddy, a man who loved Christmas with his daughters and grandchildren as much as he loved Disney, I am sorrow filled. However, at the same time, I am joyful. I am overwhelmed with joy because he was a wonderful daddy. I am filled with joy at the thought that God blessed me with him for 37 years of my life. I am overcome with joy that Daddy is without pain or heartbreak, and is with our Lord and Savior. I am stirred with joy at the time we had together in his last days here. That time gave me the opportunity to let him know that he was an incredible daddy and to share my appreciation for his unconditional love. I am delighted that he instilled so many good traits and morals in me. Nothing can replace him and no amount of grieving will ever seem enough for the magnitude of my loss, but I can be filled with joy in the presence of my heart-wrenching, tearful moments. I can experience simultaneous joy and sorrow just as scripture says.
It would not be right for me to sink into a dark place and wrap my sorrow around me when I have so much for which to be thankful. Just as a woman giving birth can’t pretend there isn’t pain, I don’t have to pretend I am not hurting. That would just be silly. The pregnant woman travailing in birth experiences immense pain and joy at the same time. Why does she have joy while the pain is so overwhelming? Because of her focus. Her focus is not on her pain. Her focus is on the gift coming from the pain. I can grieve and I can have sorrow, and no one should fault me for that, but, dear Lord, do not let me stay there and forget all the blessings you have given me.
So, this Christmas season, I have a joyful, sorrow-filled heart. A heart that has broken places from loss, but a heart that is bursting with joy simultaneously. The joy comes from my focus on all the gifts in my life. That focus comes from a place of gratitude. My joy comes from not just the countless gifts I have already received such as salvation, love, grace, freedom, and mercy. My joy comes from the expectation of the gifts to come. The promise that my mourning will be turned into gladness (Jeremiah 31:13), and the promise that my grief will turn to joy (John 16:20). And, let me not forget the promise of hope, a hope to be reunited with those I have lost (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
Oh the joy I feel at the thought of sharing another Christmas with my husband and daughter! How much more precious our time together seems in light of a great loss! I have great joy at the thought of the time with my extended family and all the friends with which God has blessed me. I am encouraged because I know I am not alone in my grief. Jesus is with me and I have so many others here to comfort me as well. I am well loved, and I just have to rejoice in that!
My God is a Sovereign God. He reigns over all things. If He reigns over my good moments, I must let Him reign over my not-so-good moments. That means letting Him stir in my heart so that joy and sorrow can coexist. Though I am sorrow-filled, I will rejoice in my Lord (Psalms 30:11-12). My joyful, sorrow-filled heart will celebrate and rejoice always!
Be encouraged. You are not alone with your sorrow-filled heart! Rejoice!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)