Monday, September 8, 2008

Sorrow AND Joy

"The Man of Sorrows is the fountain of all joy to others, and is the possessor of all the joys of heaven and earth, by virtue of his triumphs. He has experienced joys in proportion to his sorrows; as He once waded through deep waters of grief He has now climbed to the highest mountains of happiness. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross despising the shame, and now having sat down at his Father's right hand he enjoys pleasures for evermore." -- Charles Spurgeon, in his message "The Gladness of the Man of Sorrows", delivered on Sunday morning March 8, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London

A view from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at Navajo Point

A few years ago, Nicol and I stood atop a viewing platform at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was breathtakingly beautiful... and cold. We found ourselves there the day after a concert that Selah had done in Phoenix. It was totally rad... to borrow a phrase from my SoCal (Southern California, that is) friends. We had rented a shiny black convertible Ford Mustang GT (unfortunately, it was too cold to put the top down) and zipped up the highway, stopping at an In-N-Out Burger for cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes (you seriously have to go to In-N-Out before you die... Five Guys is the closest in the category of 'Great Burgers' that I've found in the east, so go there if you can't make it out to the left coast); and in Sedona, for coffee (Sedona was beautiful and very cool, but also a little spooky for some reason... no offense Arizonians); and also at a gas station in the middle of nowhere for a much-needed, near-emergency bathroom break (and no, I'm not going to say who was in trouble).

Anyway, after nearly 4 hours of driving, we made it to our destination. We were greeted by three caribou grazing in a nearby patch of grass, freshly dusted with snow, adjacent to the parking lot. We met a wonderful couple out on the viewing platform, both American Indians, who were, ironically, headed to Chicago to check out Moody Grad School, where I was a student... what about that? We perused the gift shop, albeit very quickly, only to find that there was nothing there we couldn't live without. And we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of one of America's most visited tourist attractions.

One of the things I remember most about the Grand Canyon is its rugged, jagged and terrifying vastness. Yes, it is a gorgeous and awe-inspiring site to behold, but it is also just plain scary to peer out into its overwhelming enormity. It is 277 miles long, ranges in width from 4 to 18 miles, and is more than one miles deep in places. While it is not the deepest canyon in the world or even in the United States, it is incredibly impressive. So I highly recommed it to everyone... and don't forget to stop at In-N-Out Burger on your way!
All that to say...

My mind and heart are afixed to the idea of thoughts that are at first glance incompatible: images that create both terror AND allure... terrain that is both jagged AND beautiful... depths that are both repelling AND appealing... swirling winds that both freeze your cheeks AND invite you to stay just a little while longer... rays of sunshine that both penetrate the frigid temps AND at the same time cannot find their way to warm the lowpoints below... a setting sun that both, for safety's sake, asks you to leave AND begs you to watch it slip behind the horizon.

My mind and heart are afixed to the idea of thoughts and activities that are at first glance completely incompatible: losing our son AND moving forward with life... having our hearts broken AND surviving the pain... feeling the sorrow AND laughing with joy... feeling the weight of heavy grief AND having the strength to rise in the morning... knowing God allowed this terrible thing to happen AND finding rest, comfort, and peace in Him... knowing God could have kept Luke alive AND seeing His grace in ways never before imagined... asking God all the hard questions AND thanking Him for sustaining us, for being with us in this.

My mind and heart are afixed to the idea of a Savior who is equally familiar with our sorrow AND our joy.

So said Spurgeon...
He has experienced joys in proportion to His sorrows.

He is the good news of great joy AND He is the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

He is seated on the throne AND He was born in a filthy manger. He ascended up into heaven as the risen Savior AND He condescended to earth as Immanuel, God with us, the God Man. He received the Spirit of God, the blessing of the well-pleased Father AND He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord AND He was scourged by those who hated Him. He came to a world in need of good news, He sought out the broken, the downcast, the bruised, He opened blind eyes, set captives free, He came declaring a new Jubilee AND He was criminalized, exchanged for a thug. He brought forth justice, did not cry aloud or lift up His voice, He gently breathed new life into the lifeless AND He breathed His last breath, giving up His spirit, while nailed to a tree. He accomplished the will of the Father AND He suffered in the flesh. He heard shouts of 'Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!' as He rode into Jerusalem AND He listened as they later mocked Him and scoffed at Him as he carried His cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull. He poured out His soul as a humble, lowly servant of all AND He poured out His soul to death, was numbered with the transgressors, bore the iniquities of us all. He prayed 'I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do' AND He cried out 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? ... My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?' He is exalted to the highest place, has been given the name that is above every name AND He was despised and rejected by men. He has been made perfect AND He learned obedience from the things He suffered. He sits at the right of the Father, crying out, living to make intercession for everyone who draws near to God through Him AND He watched and listened as religious leaders and political authorities conspired to kill Him. He is the lion of the tribe of Judah AND He is the sacrificial lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He wears a crown of honor and glory, a crown of gold AND He wore a crown of thorns. He will give us the crown of righteousness, the crown of life, a crown of glory AND He wore our crown of guilt and shame. He will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost AND He was given for drink a sponge soaked with sour wine. He will crush the head of Satan AND Satan bruised His heal.

He is the good news of great joy AND He is the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

He has experienced joys in proportion to His sorrows.

He is Jesus and He has been with us like never before, walking with us in this valley of death, ever present, ever near, ever familiar with the sorrow and grief we now share with Him.


He has allowed us to feel the sorrow AND the joy.

The canyon of sorrow that was carved out in our hearts the night Luke died is wide, long, and breathtakingly deep. Many others are viewing, some up close, some from afar, but there is a particular spot on the viewing platform reserved only for Nicol and I. We share it with no one, except our Lord. Perhaps Summer will one day step over to where we are. It is jagged, dangerous, and terrifying. It is slippery and utterly unappealing. Cold winds swirl. Darkness invades its space. Sunlight cannot always find its way in.

But that same canyon, with its enormous width and length and depth, has afforded us unspeakable joys as well. Its vastness does also now fill up with once-thought "simple" pleasures of life. We've had glimpses of beauty ne'er 'fore beheld. The pitter patter of Summer's little feet when they hit floor in the morning have never sounded so sweet. Pushing her on a swing has never been so fulfilling. The sight of her tummy rising and falling as she sleeps never more precious. Her deep belly laughter has never been so hilarious. Our own laughter has never been a better remedy on a day when we are ailing, never been tastier medicine for our hearts. Nicol's caring ways have never been so obviously sacrificial, never more intentional. Her voice never so soothing to my soul. An out-of-the-blue phone call has never been so eagerly received. A day on the golf course was never so peacefully enjoyed. A fender bender has never looked so lovely. Past offenses have never looked more miniscule and insignificant. The longing to be with people has never been greater. The anticipation of seeing loved ones again was never stronger.

The love and grace and mercy and peace of God has never been more apparent, more tender.

The sorrow AND the joy have never been deeper.

And all this is by virtue of the triumphs of our Savior. He defeated sin. He overcame the grave. By His stripes we are healed. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. He will make all things new. His dwelling place is with us. Ours is with Him.

He will guide us in our sorrow AND He will guide us into everlasting joy.

For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross despising the shame, and now having sat down at his Father's right hand He enjoys pleasures for evermore.





































38 comments:

Sarah Shalley said...

Wow. You said exactly what my heart feels and what my heart needed to hear. I'd say that I'm only a cousin...but in my family cousins are like sisters and sisters are EVERYTHING. I lost my 16 year old cousin in a one car accident 3 weeks ago tomorrow. Life is terrifying and oh-so-beautiful all in the same moment. I pray for you and that your hearts find the peace they ache for. Much love to you.

Sarah

Devon Rene said...

Your words ring so true to my heart.

I just joined this "club" six months ago when my precious twin boys left us here and went to meet Jesus.

My heart hurts with you for I would never wish this journey on anyone...

I know our sons are dancing with Jesus...

Thank you for sharing your heart.

Monica said...

I have been keeping up with your blog and Angie's..My thoughts and prayers are with your families.Two years ago my cousin went thru losing her 3mos old son,Jackson.He was fine at birth and then something terrible went wrong.A rare condition I can not spell at this time...I finished a book "The Shack" by William P. Young;I think it would help you and the family.It is wonderful in all kind of ways..It gave me answers to questions I have asked God in the past,present and the ones for the future..I know he never leaves us,he is always right here with us through every moment..I hope my suggestion helps and does not offend...With the love of Christ..Monica

Megan said...

This is a beautiful post. Thank you for your words.

Mare said...

Couldn't have said it any better. Sometimes we really need to look for the beauty within our tragedies, but it's there. My prayers for you and your family.

maggieallen123 said...

WOW! It is only with God that these things are possible...it can't be explained any other way. Thank you for sharing so beautifully!
Becky

Anonymous said...

That was wonderful, and I was truly moved. I see your heart, as difficult as it is to get out on 'paper', starting to show through, and I cant wait to hear more. We know what you have in your heart to share, and we pray that God gives you peace and strength to be able to do it. Maybe, don't do it for us, or for your own self, but for Luke. If his story could save even one baby from dying the same way that he did, it would be a story worth sharing. Luke had weight on this Earth...he had days...he was here for a reason. And God chose you to be his dad, to share what Luke was here for.

Amanda said...

thank you. i needed your words tonight.

Misty Rice said...

Your words are solid and peaceful. I truly ache deeply every day I look at baby Lukes pictures and read your blogs. The pain is sometimes overwhelming. I have asked God "how would I handle something like this?" Today while driving I even had the thought come to mind how I haven't had to attend a funeral since 1997, when my cousin was killed in a car accident, leaving behind 3 beautiful children ages then 2, 7 and 8. Wow... am I a blessed person. Although I say that, I fear that my time (attending a funeral) is just around the corner. I fear because I often wonder if I could ever be even an ounce as strong as your family and Angie's family are. I can only pray and hope so.

Thank you for your continued open heart in sharing with us. I am watching from a far physcially, but I sometimes feel that I am sharing emotionally next to you, when in truth, I probably don't even come close to that either.

Tonight I pray again that God take your thoughts away, rest your hearts and your mind so you can fall into a deep peaceful sleep. Tonight, I hope that he brings dreams of smiles and joys of a happy, chunky, healthy little Luke. Letting you know that he loves you and is always with you.

I kiss his little face again and again on my screen.... I think I need to clean my screen tomorrow and make room for new kiss prints. :)

Good Night to you and Nicole and GOD BLESS.....

PS: Ahhh the sound of Summers little feet, the smell of her hair, the sound of her giggles.... truly is that you "HAVE SUNSHINE ON A CLOUDY DAY" each day you wake up to that baby girl of yours.

Lewis Family said...

true true. We can only truly have joy when we have experienced sorrow and pain. It's still hard.

THAT GIRL said...

I am here from Bring the Rain...

Your words are God breathed, written magnificiently... I am speechless.

takingheart.blogspot.com

Kristy said...

Your description of the canyon of sorrows took my breath away - in such a painful way. I've never heard pain and grief put into a better description. I will be praying for you to be able to write about what happened to Luke in detail, as you referred to in your previous post. I pray that more and more often, that canyon of sorrow will fill up with joy for you and Nicol.

KK said...

Thank you for sharing 'Sorrow and Joy', as we continue to walk this path with your family from afar, and in doing so, pray for peace of mind, continued healing and for you to feel 'completely and unconditionally covered by HIS love'.
Blessings today and every day.
Kaye
2 Timothy 1:4

Stacy D said...

This post was beautiful and totally captures all of the contradictions encapsulated in the grief of losing a child.

Your words encouraged my heart. Thank you.

Stacy

Julie Doody said...

Greg....wow! your Christ led words continue to amaze and bless me!!!! I pray that you continue to see and feel God's GRACE during this very difficult time. I can see that you are reaching people that truly need to hear your words. You are doing amazing things through this journey. As always you and Nicol and sweet little Summer will be in my prayers!

Love in Christ, Julie Doody ;-)

Maggy said...

Thank you for sharing once again,I ampraying for the specific prayers you gave us. And also every day I say a little prayer everytime I see my son,being a Mom I can relate to the love that we have for our kids, so I pray for Nicole and you every morning, so the Holy Spirit can fill you you both every morning when I wake up.
Thanks for your words, so I can share your sadness a little,I have to confess I cry everytime I read it.
But my tears are diferent now because when I read your blog and cry I go to the Lord and pray for your family. And the love that I feel it canonly comes from our Abba Father.
Love in Christ.
Maggy

sheila said...

Greg thank you for sharing your thoughts and words. For some reason I struggled yesterday with sharing something with you and Nicole. My thoughts were 'why would I have a word/message for you', God can surely give you the message and does not need me.' Still maybe true, but here is goes anyway. I receive a series of messages from Rev. David Wilkerson, Times Square Church, World Challenge Pulpit Series, very good and enlightening/encouraging. It was entitled 'The Ever-Increasing Demands of Faith',as I began to read it yesterday I just kept thinking of both of you.Then I felt I couldn't share this with you because it wouldn't be the whole message (too long for a blog) and I wouldn't want to not convey what he was saying. Blah, I am babbling. Point 1 was considering Abraham's Faith: Genesis 22:12, 16-18. (First, I know that God spared Isaac and he could have Luke also but hang with me ok)I was pondering this passage and sharing it with you and really just trying to understand Abraham's faith. My faith is not big enough and the Lord knows it. Forgive Lord. You see, God could not have told me to sacrifice my son (God knows I would have argued, screamed, probably even tried to hide from him if he said this is the valley you are going to walk through. I know he is God, I know logically he has my best interest, he loves me, but my breath catches when I think of my other four children. I could not be obedient, forgive me Lord. You didn't give me the choice that I couldn't of made. Thank you. Abraham's heart must have been breaking, yet he was obedient. Did he think God would spare Isaac in the end? I don't know. But I do know he was obedient and God said to him, Because thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me...Because thou hast done this thing...I will bless thee...
There is so much more here to share with you but I just want to say 'This will all end in blessing'. May God's love shine on your family today. In God's love, sheila

m said...

you have touched the depths of my soul...God is using you...may you be blessed by His peace as you continue to travel this path of sorrow AND joy. My prayers and thoughts have been with you and your family.

Beth said...

That was absolutely beautiful. I can never understand the kind of pain you are going through but your words are very powerful and I am so thankful to be able to read them.

rthling said...

I am truly humbled to be able to read every word you have written. I look forward to meeting your sweet family, including little Luke one day when we walk in the presence of the Almighty God.
Prayers and peace be unto you and yours.
Diane

Pam said...

WOW - what amazing insights! (I see that 'wow' is the overwhelming sentiment here) I cannot begin to imagine your pain but can surely see how God is using it to bring glory to Him and to give you a deep understanding of His wonders and complexities. When I lost two babies to miscarriage, I took great comfort in Isaiah 55:8-11. Luke's life (along with Audrey's and my babies) will accomplish what God desires and the pupose for which He sent them.
I am praying that God will give you great peace and even joy as you await your eternity with your son!
Praying for your family!!!

CIRCLE OF LIFE said...

NO ONE CAN UNDERSTAND THE GREIF THAT YOU ARE PROCESSING UNLESS THEY HAVE EXPERIENCED THIS THEM SELVES. YOU ARE SO SONGER AND YOU WILL ALWAYS WONDER WHY? WHAT IF, WHAT IF THIS HAPPENED OR THAT BUT JUST BLINK, CLOSE YOUR EYES AND THINK , YOUR SON YOUR LUKEY IS WATCHING OVER YOU AND NICOL AND WATCHING HIS BIG SISTER SUMMER. HE IS DANCING AROUND, THE PITTER PATTER OF FEET RUNNING ALL AROUND , AND PLAYING WITH SWEET AUDREY HE IS NOT ALONE AND WANTS YOU TO BE AT EASE, I pray God continue to give you strength , and that strength will alow you to end one day and begin another. words can not express how sorry Iam for your whole family to have to experence this in youir life here. there is a light shining on you both at he is saying we are here and ok . luke is so loved and there should not be a worrie in site. you will see him every day all you need to do is blink :
remember him always. and that shining light is your big boy looking and smiling at you all saying hi. i love you. please rest well tonighht knowing that so many people (strangers ) are in your thoughts and prayers. in jesus name amen.

georgia tarheel said...

That was amazing. You truly have a gift with words, Greg. Sometimes it seems so crazy to be able to trust God in the midst of so much uncertainity. You summed it up so nicely. Life changes in an instant and the only constant is our Lord and His love for us.

Thank you for sharing. Praying for you as head back to Dalton.

Blessings!

vaneblu said...

beautiful post...

Michelle said...

Amen and Amen

lynette said...

The picture is breathtakingly beautiful - both the photo and the one you captured with your words. Continuing to pray for you all,
lynette

Angela said...

Greg,

When I read your statement about the canyon of sorrow in your hearts being wide, long, and breathtakingly deep, I immediately thought of Ephesians 3:17b-19. "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Praise God, it is wider and longer and higher and deeper than your canyon. He is able to fill it. He will fill it to overflowing.

Love,
Sis

Stuarts said...

Very poignant and heart felt words. What a powerful message you just shared.

Chris said...

You have a beautiful way with words!! I needed that! My 2 month old daughter was born with spina bifida. I face sorrow and joy on a daily basis. Thank you for allowing God to use your life as a testimony to his greatness! I am touched by how you are able to share your heart! God will be by your side as you continue your long journey - that is one thing we can be sure of. Your whole family is in my prayers!

Anonymous said...

Amen!

May God continue to give you strength and perfect peace that comes through His foundation of grace!! My prayers continue to be with you, my dear friends!!

Love,
Neighbor Stefanie Van

Deb Lieber said...

You are truly a talented writer. I eat up your words. Peace be with you and your family. I'm praying for you every day.

Shawn and Mir said...

God be praised that you are using such a horrible tragedy to share your faith with countless strangers. God be praised that you continue to praise Him in the midst of your grief. God be praised that we have the promise of salvation, Heaven and the comfort that you will be reunited with Luke again one day. Your family is in my prayers and I thank Him that He is using you in such profound ways. God bless you.

candesintx said...

Beautifully written. What else can I say but AMEN.

So Blessed said...

Precious, beautiful post.
Your family is in my prayers.

Donna P said...

Absolutely beautifully said Greg!

Kristi said...

NOthing is ever perfect... except God's plan for each of us. There is so much beauty in knowing that Luke rests in Jesus' arms every night. On the day you meet him again, he will know everything about you life as you will about his. Faith builds that, but it doesn't take away the pain you feel in your heart each and everyday until that lovely boy in the arms of you and Nicol.

I'm also using the next posts where you are asking for prayers regarding your house ect. I will certainly will pass this list on to my gy friends and they will join in. We have so many friends with prayer lists/chains- where satan stalks and preys on the needy-thinking they'll be easy targets, but instead finds people who are hurting all the way to their soul, but God has given us all enough to fight him off, even in our weakened state. Another example that God always has his hand on my shoulder, leading the way.

Lisa said...

I love that God has His own set of laws and things that work in "His" world just don't make sense to us here...yet.

I've never compared the "Sorrow and Joy" like you did here.

Thank you for so beautifully laying it out for us.

My heart is with your family.

Stac said...

I have followed your family's story since the first time I heard Nicol sing at our church in Tunnel Hill this year. I was in awe and so deeply touched by Nicol's music. Her voice and the words of her songs ministered to me so deeply. And then to learn about Luke...I am so very sorry for your loss. I am so deeply hurt for you. My thoughts and prayers have been with you since this time. I have shared your story with so many dear friends who keep your family in thier prayers and ask about your family. I can now tell them about your blog and they can keep up with how you are doing and send you thier kind words and prayers. Like so many others who have been touched by this loss, we can't know the depths of your pain but we certainly cry and hurt with you. I pray that God continues to pick you up from those dark places when you need it and that peace and joy returns to your life at the times you need it most. I want to thank you and Nicol for being a blessing to my life and so many others. Not only has Nicol's music been a powerful tool in my life living for Christ but even greater has been how you and she have held fast to God and your continued praise and worship for Him knowing that He is with you and carrying you through this storm. We love you and pray for you! God Bless you and your family.