“This is it. This is her final journey home,” my husband said.
For the past 24 hours, our phones had blown up with text messages from my father-in-law. My husband’s 94-year-old grandmother was in the hospital. The doctors had just made their diagnosis. This would be her journey to Heaven.
She had told us for years that she was ready. She’d been relatively energetic despite a slow-growing leukemia doctors had diagnosed her with years ago. We all joked that she might outlive all of us.
Grandma’s illness lasted weeks longer than anyone thought. What a rare gift to be able to say a long goodbye, to share one last round of stories, to hear one more song played by a great-grandchild, to exchange “I love you” one last time.
At her funeral, the pastor asked friends and family to share stories. I twitched awkwardly in my seat. “Did you know they were going to do this?” I whispered to my husband. He shook his head no.
One by one, her community blessed us by sharing story after story of what she meant to them. The hats she crocheted for thousands of babies. The countless prayers uttered with neighbors. Her community dearly loved her.
The pastor used the word “joy” to describe her life. When you know her full story, which included being widowed in her 40’s and a cancer survivor, she’s a testimony to the joy of the Lord being our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
How can the joy of the Lord be our strength, in the midst of heartache, pain, and such a confusing world?
Several months before Grandma fell ill, Kedron asked her to share her testimony with him. He recorded her 4-minute story on his phone.
She said that at the age of 12, after asking Jesus to come into her life, everything just seemed better. “Oh I wanted to go to heaven right now. Look at all that’s up there. Birds sounded more beautiful than ever, the sky more blue. Everything was different.”
Even when the Lord took her husband home at the age of 47. Nearing the end of her life her anthem was, “The Lord is still blessing me.” At 94, despite all the heartache and the physical pain. She saw His blessing. She had her eyes on Him.Jesus was her whole life. That was her joy.
If your “everything” is wrapped up in a child or marriage or job or opportunity, it will surely disappoint.But when Jesus is your everything you will have true joy no matter the circumstance.
Our pastor has been preaching a series out of Philippians called “Choosing Joy Under Pressure.” This clip from a few weeks ago, reminded me of Grandma’s life. To live is Christ, to die is gain. (Email subscribers click here to view video.)
That’s the joy of Jesus. This is how His joy becomes our strength: when He is our life.Joy is not dependent on our changing circumstances. Jesus is the joy that never changes.
Grandma’s life had some unpleasant circumstances. But it didn’t matter what happened to her, she focused on what had been done for her. And Jesus had done an incredible thing by giving his life for hers. She gave her life back to him, and that brought joy.
We can do the same.
How has the joy of the Lord been your strength? Do you know someone whose life is marked by joy?
As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love and Change by Cynthia Ruchti is a beautiful and encouraging book for anyone with aging parents. It’s not a “how to” but rather a “me too” filled with insight and wisdom from the experiences of others, Scripture, and poetry. November is national caregiving month. Pick up a copy for yourself or a friend as a gift.
In my book Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community, I included prayers on the themes of joy, caregivers, the elderly, and more. When you’re lacking the words, or where to begin, my prayer is this book will jumpstart your conversations with God and bring you closer to Him.
Suprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life by C.S. Lewis – This memoir by the beloved author gives an inside look at his early life and his journey from atheism to Jesus and ultimately the deep joy he found in Christ.