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Saturday, 14 November 2015

How Can You Laugh? Veteran Shares Insights on Regaining Joy After Horror!

Are You Wondering How to Regain Joy?

How can you laugh at a time like this?
Has something knocked you so hard that each breath without tears feels like a betrayal of your sorrow?
Does the joy in others feel like sharp shards of glass piercing your heart?
Does anger well up inside you even hearing the cheerful twittering of innocent birds?
I've been there. I've been through the lonely dry desert of anguish.
Are you wondering how to support someone going through this pain, or perhaps are you wondering how you can ever feel joy again?
In the aftermath of Remembrance Day and some extremely terrible news that has left our congregation reeling - the sudden death of a toddler, Pastor Peter at Hope Fellowship in Courtice, Ontario will be interviewing Veteran Syl Gerritsma, about regaining Joy following horror. This post contains some scriptures and reflections about my personal journey out of the dry desert of anguish.

Many of us will experience some personal horror that can leave us wondering how we will ever be able to feel joy again.
Has this happened to you?

Anguish - My Isolation Experience 

Yesterday was Pneumonia Awareness Day.
When we suddenly lost our youngest brother to pneumonia at age 16 - the shock rocked me to the core. I was working with my fiancé at an itinerant carnival, and we had just visited my brother two weeks earlier - he had agreed to be our ring bearer. Even today, over 35 years later, my heart tries to rip itself out of my body and fling itself up through my throat - the searing pain in my throat causing my eyes to well with tears.
That day, ambulance attendants extricated me from the public phone booth where I collapsed after screaming and screaming until there was no more sound.
"She may never recover from the shock," one attendant solemnly pronounced as they told my fiancé what had happened and gave instructions for my care. 
That night, the world seemed to mock my sorrow as the sounds Victoria Day Fireworks resounded throughout the park where our amusement crew was working. I wrapped my grief around myself like a shield, trying to shut out everyone and everything that had even the slightest amount of joy.
"No," I thought, "I never want to recover from this."
To recover from my grief seemed a betrayal to my brother.
You see , the night before the phone call, I'd had a horrific nightmare about my brother:
I was trying to save hime from a giant crocodile that was trying to drown him in a river. Try as I might, my brother escaped my slippery grasp, and sank from view.
I chose the lonely plummet into the Pits of Despair.
Have you ever chosen to abide in Pits of Despair? 
My brother did not have an easy life. When he was born, he was the most disabled child win Canada. At 16, he was despairing for his future - life lying in a bed alone in a nursing home.
I had sworn that I would take him to live with me. I would not allow that to happen. My fiancé had agreed. We'd drawn up plans for a dream home that was wheelchair accessible.
Now, Death had released my brother from years of heartache, painful operations, and psychological and physical torment by my mother. However, death had snatched away the fun we had together making funny faces, and discovering ways that he could lead a more active life in society. Death had stolen the light from my family life. Death had thrown all the plans I'd made for my life out the window.
Dwelling in the Pits of Despair was my selfish choice.
I could have chosen joy at his release from his life of sorrow.
I choose anguish and despair.
Grief- Satanic Tool for Dividing God's People? 
Grief can be very isolating - what a great tool Satan uses for tearing people away from God and each other.
Did you know that when we are of one mind focussed on a mutual good goal it will be accomplished through the Grace of God? .
In Genesis, during the building o the Tower of Bable, God says that when people are of one mind they can accomplish anything they imagine. Christ also promised "Wherever two or more are gathered together what they ask of God in His name will be done."

How Do You Recover Joy?

 I wonder
  • How did Eve recover from Able's murder? 
  • How did Abraham and Sarah recover from the seeming death of their son Joseph? 
  • How about Job?
  • In the first testament, was there any promise of eternal life? 
In Biblical times, and up to the Victorian ages, it was expected that a family hire at least one mourner to wail at a funeral and there were societal laws that designated the length of a mourning period. Mourning clothes served as a warning to others about your state of mind and protected your fragile psyche from innocent enquiries about the health of your family members.
Did these traditions help people recover from mourning more easily? 
After Jesus appeared to His disciples following His resurrection, not only did they know about the promise of eternal life, they had tangible evidence it could happen. 
Christ even prepared breakfast for them on the shores of the Sea of Galilee!
As Christians, we can stand on the promise of eternal life. 
We can chose to laugh and live in spite of grief!

Learning to Laughing in Spite of Grief 

Nehemiah 8:10 reminds us that the Joy of the Lord is our strength. Many studies show how laughter truly is the best medicine. 
So how do you turn tragedy into a funny story? 
Some skilful raconteurs are quite adept at  turning tragedy into comedy - my father for example. My dad had a horrible childhood with my grandmother, yet he was somehow able to flip his nightmare childhood into rollicking tales that would leave people in stitches. I once asked him how he was able to do this. 
Dad's response? "It's better to laugh than it is to cry.
Some day, I hope to be able to use his skills of changing the method of relating tragic situations to foster laughter. 
Did you know that in some Christian denominations the crucifixion of Christ is known as a great practical joke God played on Satan? 
I wonder if their reading of the crucifixion has the a more comedic lilt?

Will I Ever Stop Mourning?

Are you wondering if you'll ever get rid of the pain of loss? 
I am still dealing with the loss of my brother - but in a different way. Today, I guard myself against even dipping my toes in those murky waters of grief, lest I get sucked under by the undertow and not be able to surface again. 
My eldest daughter, criticized me at the time of my parent's death for not showing any emotions. 
Do you know someone who rarely shows any grief? 
Perhaps , they too are protecting themselves from entering the Pits of Despair. 
Until recently, the sound of fireworks would still trigger deep depression and despair accompanied by suicidal thoughts that I pushed away by sitting in all night coffee shops. 
Today, through the Grace of God,I no longer sink into the Pits of Despair -this blessing came with my healing on August 13th 2012. I am confident that my brother knew Christ and he will have life eternal. 

Unfinished Promises

Jim's death was so sudden and unexpected,and yes sometimes it is still time to cry. I had saved Jim's ashes for years wanting to honour his request of having them scattered at sea. Unfortunately, when I became homeless this spring, his ashes were sold along with all our belongings in the storage unit. 
If it is God's will, my brother's ashes will find their way back to me so I can honour his request. 
If not, I know that God will give me the grace to deal with these feelings of frustration at not being able to perform this final act of love for my brother - my brother who was like a son. 

How Have You Regained Your Joy?

I'm looking forward to hearing what the veteran will say at tomorrow's service on how he learned to find Joy in life again. My journey back to joy was very long and I am glad to have the Peace that comes from my walk with Christ. 
If you would like to come along, there are two services at Hope Fellowship Courtice- 9am and 11 am. with coffee between and after. Perhaps I'll see you there. 
Thanks for reading! Let's keep in touch!
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May God Bless you today and always,
Suzanne