Five months ago, we watched JD take his last breath, left the hospital without him, began a long, hard, uphill road of grief.
Truthfully- it's been the longest and most difficult five months of my entire twenty four years. I feel like October was years ago. Though we, at one point, were fairly prepared for what was coming when the cancer spread and there were no further treatments, nothing- nothing- could have prepared us for life without him, how hard continuing on would be. I had no idea. I never dreamed a $5 footlong subway commercial would make me cry or empty shampoo bottles left in the shower would cause an ache so great. I never anticipated the overwhelming need to just hear his voice, see him move again. I broke down last night in a way that seems to be coming less often these days, but I missed him so fiercely. I scoured my computer for every clip that had his voice. It was tortuous and relief at the same time. I smiled and laughed, hearing that chuckle of his, listening to him crack his little jokes- but ached upon recognizing that there would be no more moments like those... that these videos, these memories, that's all we've got for now. Please don't misunderstand- I wouldn't trade those times for anything- we had so much fun, so many good times- I'm so thankful for those... but my kids won't grow up with Uncle JD. We won't hear him sing anymore, won't hear stories about highschool, won't watch him get married. I miss him, and I ache for what could've been. I truly just enjoyed my little brother. I looked forward to any time we got to spend together, and I know that was reciprocated. We had a really neat relationship, and I just miss him. Those words seem so small and insignificant compared to what my heart feels, but I know no other way to express it.
I recently went back through an old online journal that I kept and started reading from the beginning of this journey of cancer we went on. The road was long- started in 2005, and it was interesting to see the lessons learned and re-learned, God's faithfulness, the things being pressed upon my heart as a result of our circumstances.
One thing I saw multiple times (and if I weren't lazy and wanting to sew, I'd probably link to them all for you to see- it really was neat), but am really just now starting to grasp, I think... On the numerous occasions that we received good news- clear MRI's, good surgeries, etc- through songs, verses, teachings, God seemed to say every time that if the news we got had been otherwise, He'd still be good and worthy to be praised.
I had an 'aha!' moment last week as I was studying in Philippians for our girls bible study. Paul begins chapter 3 by simply saying, "Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord." The background of this book of the Bible: Paul is currently chained to a Roman guard, sitting in a jail, writing to the Philippians. His instruction: Rejoice in the Lord.
It's hard to wrap my mind around that being the reaction of my heart while circumstances seem so... un-rejoice-worthy. But as you read the words and consider what He's saying... Paul doesn't mention circumstances here, does He? He doesn't say, "Rejoice in the hard things happening in life," but rather, "Rejoice in the LORD". There's a tremendous difference. The things we face can be grueling. Life is stinkin' hard. But God- He does not change. He doesn't shift with the waves of life, is unmoved by our circumstances. His love isn't dependent on our actions or swayed by our unfaithfulness. He is 'yesterday, today, forever the same'. (Hebrews 13:8) Additionally- and tremendously- he loves us unfathomably, cares for us, keeps us. His faithfulness to me, His goodness that is so apparent all around me- those are things I can rejoice in.
I don't know what your circumstances look like right now, what you're facing, what might be looming darkly over you- but I want to encourage you that God is above it, that He's bigger than it, that He's got it under control. May I challenge you (and me) to fix our eyes on Jesus, hold fast the Word of life, cling to our God who is faithful and good, who is steady and unchanged, who is not dependent on our circumstances but wants to draw us closer through the storms we may be facing.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!