“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12 [NASB]
The song “Restore to Me” by Mac Powell and Candi Pearson-Shelton from the Album Glory Revealed has been a bit of a theme song for me the past two to three weeks. It’s a simple but profound song based on Psalm 51:12 that resonates deeply with my heart right now.
Restore to MeGlory RevealedMac Powell & Candi Pearson-SheltonVerse 1Hide your face from my sinsAnd cover my iniquitiesCreate in me a clean heartAnd renew a right spiritWithin meDon’t cast me away from your presenceDon’t take your spirit from meChorusRestore to meThe joy of your salvationRestore to meThe wonders of your loveRestore to meThe joy of your salvationRestore to meRestore to meVerse 2Deliver me from this hour of darknessThrough the pain and brokennessAnd I will sing of your loving kindnessAnd of your righteousnessChorusRestore to meThe joy of your salvationRestore to meThe wonders of your loveRestore to meThe joy of your salvationRestore to meRestore to me
Joy was one of the first thoughts I had after Sarah left us, questioning if perhaps she took it with her and we would never find it again. But that very night as I looked into her sisters’ eyes and saw the brokenness of loss, I knew Scott and I as their parents would have to lead them back to joy. We would have to help liberate them from the crippling bonds of grief to embrace joy. To do so we as parents would have to make a conscious decision to not be enslaved by our own grief. We committed to Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie that very night to be fully present in their lives, to strive daily for joy and to celebrate every milestone with them as if Sarah were still here celebrating with us. We assured them that just as our home had always been a place of joy, rich with hope and laughter, through God’s grace and power it would be restored in His time despite the persisting pain.
Since immediately after the accident, 1 Peter 1:6-8 has regularly echoed in my mind.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,” 1 Peter 1:6-8 [NASB]
I long to greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, but in the darkness of the valley the light of joy can seem so elusive. Through this valley I have been reminded that the source of our joy is the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11). All superficial, temporal pleasures of this world quickly become irrelevant and impotent in the presence of deep grief. The only joy capable of withstanding the tides of grief is that which is rooted in the eternal, in God Himself. His Word tells us His testimonies are the joy of our hearts (Psalm 119:111). We can affirm this as truth as His promises alone bring us joy right now. The promises regarding the security of Sarah’s salvation, her presence with Him and our eventual presence with Him and her are particularly sweet to us. Our Hope in Christ and the peace that passes understanding are expressions of our joy in this valley.
I find myself pondering if our joy is found in the presence of the Lord, and He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), then perhaps His joy should be more noticeable than ever in this valley? Perhaps our deep grief uniquely positions us to recognize and more profoundly know the joy found only in Him? I’m reminded of times when we’ve escaped the lights of the city, driven far away and gazed into the night sky. The stars seem so much brighter on the backdrop of darkest night in the absence of all the manmade lights. So it is with our joy in this dark valley, all the manmade lights of superficial happiness have faded, but the joy He gives seems to shine brighter as a result. Every outpouring of grace, every meditated on promise of His Word, each a bright light in the darkness. Every joy that remains is directly linked to Him.
Initially I was concerned joy would only be found on the other side of this valley, but thankfully I was mistaken. Our joy came in the depth of the valley and intermingled with mourning. Glimmers of joy initially shone through in the very early days and continue now as we see God beginning to redeem the pain of Sarah’s absence by using her life and testimony to point others to Him. Joy also shines through as He consistently ministers to us through His Word and His people. Day by day, little by little He is restoring our joy. It will be a long journey, but praise God we do not have to complete our journey through the valley before we once again find joy, it is available now, it coexists with the pain and agony.
I’m praying that as the storm clouds clear in the months and years ahead, more and more of His joy will be visibly restored to us. I pray that we as a family, and Scott and I as a couple will choose to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances knowing that this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5:16-18). May we consistently be characterized as a family by joy inexpressible and full of glory, despite the pain.
Artwork: Sarah Harmening
Below is my first journal entry after Sarah’s departure, my prayer remains the same.
“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:5-18 [NASB]
Lord, this passage is my heart today. This earthen vessel is cracked and broken, shattered beneath the weight of grief. Yet Your divine power shines through the cracks of brokenness to reveal the truth of Your Word. Lord, You took our precious Sarah to be home with You and we are so jealous for her. I long now to be with her yet long to minister to and love my precious babies who remain here. Strengthen my weak and feeble being to choose to live joyously and victoriously through your power and grace. Bind us together, Lord, knit our family with indestructible bonds that we may shine all the brighter for You together.
~ Karen Harmening