“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It’s hard to rejoice in the midst of grief.  It’s hard to give thanks when you’ve just said goodbye to the one you love, and the pain digs deep in your heart.  What kind of God would be so calloused as to demand rejoicing in a time of death, thanks in a time of loss?

Not my God.  My God doesn’t demand thanks FOR all circumstances, but invites thanks and rejoicing IN all circumstances, things that come when we face our grief head-on and embrace it, but let His Spirit lift our eyes up beyond this moment to the light of eternity…

We did not “lose Joy”.  She is not gone, not dead, not vanished forever.  We simply put her on a plane.  The jetway was long and hard, dimly lit and cold, but at last those she loved the most let go of her hand as she crossed the threshold in to that bright moment that would take her to her destination.

I imagine her turning for a moment and flashing a smile, eyes filled with both laughter and tears as she says goodbye for just a little while, and then the door closes.  The engines roar to life, drowning out the sobs of those left on the jetway as the plane begins to lift, carried up on sturdy wings that have never failed.

I imagine a slight touch on the shoulder of each person left behind and a quiet whisper in each ear, “if you have your ticket, don’t worry, your flight will be here soon… and she’ll be waiting for you when you arrive.”

I imagine the plane as it breaks through the storm clouds, past these gray rainy horizons into pure blue sky and onward into white.  I imagine my friend Joy as the plane slows and settles and the door is opened at last.  Imagine her face, that smile that lit up every room she entered; now itself being lit up by a far greater light than we can know.  Imagine as she for the last time feels the cold steel and rough webbing of her wheelchair, and in a moment, like a sudden autumn wind stirs and lifts the fallen leaves, she at last is lifted by her Savior and leaves the machines behind.

No more safety belts and supports and rolling around on wheels – FREEDOM.
No more flickering fluorescent bulbs and glowing banks of buttons and dials – LIGHT.
No more sound of ventilators and heart monitors and hospital intercoms – MUSIC.
No more sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else celebrate – DANCING.

Today we grieve the goodbyes and mourn the empty spaces in our hearts that were filled for a season by such a precious life.  We hurt for the days ahead when we will miss her deeply, but in the midst of the grief, I know one thing for sure.

The same Savior who has lifted our friend into life can lift our hearts into hope.
The same Savior who has led her to dance can lead us to give thanks.
The same Jesus who has brought His Joy home to Him can bring His joy to us as well.

Today as Joy rests in the arms of Jesus, may we rest in them as well, for our God is ever faithful, never failing, always ready and willing to lift up His children on wings of joy.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ… He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.-1 Thessalonians 5:23-24,28