Sharing my post from Real Women Ministries series “Fruits of the Spirit”
James 1:2 NIV Consider it pure joy whenever you face trails.
“My water broke, get up!” I shouted to my sleeping husband. It was time for our third bundle of joy to make an appearance. My due date was still several weeks away, but excitement ruled the early hours of that fall morning.
Hours of labor finally gave way to the birth of our first son, William Charles. Upon hearing it was a boy, my husband, Bill, ran off to tell our girls and the rest of the collected family. As Bill left the room, I noticed a strange look on my doctor’s face. The doctor walked over to my bed and spoke in hushed tones. “I tried to stop your husband because I need to tell you both something. There is something wrong with your son.” Panic welled up, and I heard the doctor order a sedative for me. Bill walked back into a very different place than the one he had joyously run out of a few minutes earlier. Our son had severe birth defects, life-threatening birth defects. My doctor explained that they would perform testing to determine the extent of his problems. The outlook was bleak at best.
The next several days became a blur of activity and raw emotions. Finally, we received a diagnosis. William had Tetrasomy 9P, in layman terms; he has four tops instead of two on his ninth chromosome. Only nine other babies are known to be born with this defect because most die before birth. Our son died nine days later. My world shattered as I watched him draw his last breath while lying in my arms.
During those dark days of mourning, I came across James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” I wanted to throw away my Bible immediately. Consider it pure joy? I buried my only son, and I am supposed to feel joy? The dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” I could not reconcile this verse to the depression that enveloped me. I felt in my heart that I might lose my religion altogether if I did not find the Joy of Christ again in my life.
Joy is not happiness. Joy is not a temporary, fleeting emotion. As Christians, we learn joy comes from our relationship with Christ. Rick Warren defined Joy in the following way:
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
I wrapped my head around this definition of Joy. God was in control of my situation, and I knew He would make everything turn out all right. But how would God make the death of my son all right? How could I praise God in the middle of this tragedy? I knew I would see my son again someday and I allowed this vision to ignite a little joy in my soul. That thought was the starting point for praising Him. I wish I could tell you things improved right away but they did not. It took years. I still cried rivers of tears. I still wished my son were alive. I still prayed I would wake up from this horrible nightmare. My situation did not change, but my heart slowly found joy as I praised Him for each day.
In the years since that day, God spoke through the pain in my heart and showed me children in need. He encouraged us to start an orphan ministry, and now we have 50 children calling us mom and dad. God also provided me opportunities to write and speak to help others find their joy again. During those horrible days, I thought about walking away from my faith. Now, I realize how many blessing I would have missed. I chose to find joy in Christ no matter my circumstances. When I have nothing, God is all I need.
Dearest Lord, increase in us the understanding of Godly joy. Teach us to thank you in all circumstances and to learn the Joy of Christ is not the same as worldly joy. Calm our hearts and provide us the quiet confidence to place our trust in your perfect plans. You are the only provider of true joy. Lord, thank you for not abandoning us. Thank you for walking beside us always and for providing all we need in life. In Jesus’ most holy name, we pray. Amen.