Yesterday Scott and I had the tremendous blessing of witnessing our daughter, Kristen, enter into the covenant of marriage. As I was lying awake this morning thinking about yesterday and all the days preceding it, 1 Peter 1:8 came to mind.
“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 1:8 [NASB]
Lying there in silence, as the orange rays of the rising sun pierced the darkness of our room, I was overwhelmed by the graciousness of God. In the quietness of those moments He whispered to my heart, “joy inexpressible and full of glory.” This is it. I am tasting it now. This is joy inexpressible and full of glory.
As everyone slept I quietly slipped into the living room and watched the video of the wedding ceremony, I watched as three of my four daughters and Scott and I walked a stone path in our backyard leading to a swing arbor built for our four daughters ten years ago. I watched as our precious Kristen stood beneath that arbor and entered into a holy covenant with a little boy we have watched become a strong young man after God’s heart over those same ten years.
But what I didn’t see was Sarah. There was a gaping hole where our sweet Sarah should have walked and stood. Her absence, though a constant painful void, uniquely pierces our hearts in precious life moments as these.
The sharp bitterness of the sorrow and anguish that we feel and taste from Sarah’s absence affects our perception of every other moment and experience. Every moment of every day, good and bad is tinged by the sorrow of her absence. Every other sorrow and difficulty amplifying the constant reverberating groan within our souls, but every joy magnified against that groaning as well.
For many watching the ceremony yesterday it was likely just another wedding, not unlike any other. But as I watched I saw a breathtaking display of the mighty hand of our righteous God.
I was taken back to June 8, 2017 as Scott and I sat broken and huddled on a hotel bed with Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie, telling them that, though our hearts were completely shattered at Sarah’s absence, we, as their parents, would continue to be fully present with them in their lives. We promised them in those moments that we would rejoice and fully celebrate every life event with them. Though I spoke those words fully meaning them, it was impossible to fathom how we could carry this crushing sorrow and yet simultaneously fully celebrate them.
As I watched the ceremony I saw God’s answer to shield, protect and guide our family through the schemes and attacks of the adversary, and to draw each of us closer to Himself. I saw the rich fruit of His tenderly and faithfully guiding us, and our following.
As I watched I saw God’s answer to countless nights of pleading for Him to carry us through the darkness and to knit our family tightly together with cords that the enemy could not sever.
As I watched the ceremony I saw God’s answer for a godly young man who already steadfastly loves and steadily leads our daughter. A godly young man we have fervently prayed for, deeply love and are thankful to call ours.
As I watched, I saw the righteous right hand of our mighty God. The God who strengthens and sustains, the God who carries and comforts, the God who weeps with us and sings over us. The God who lavishly redeems and restores. The God who is making all things new. The God who beckons us to look toward our glorious eternal future with Him.
Against the dark backdrop of the anguish and sorrow of Sarah’s absence, the celebration of Kristen’s and Austin’s wedding was a vibrant display of the overwhelming grace, immeasurable mercy, constant faithfulness and long suffering lovingkindness of God.
In those precious moments I kept my promise to be fully present with Kristen and to celebrate and rejoice fully with her.
What I couldn’t fathom as we made that promise on June 8th, 2017, was that the ongoing deep sorrow of that day would not only not be an impediment to our joy and rejoicing, but that it would actually enhance it.
The deep sorrow of Sarah’s absence is a constant sanctifying flame, a testing fire, melting away the worthless and causing us to fix our eyes fully on our God and His eternal purposes. Though we have yet to behold Him face to face, we have seen Him. We saw Him yesterday, and today I am basking in that joy. Joy tinged with crushing sorrow. Joy rendered by sorrow so deep and precious that it is “inexpressible and full of glory.”