Losing a loved one is hard. Real hard. When it happens, you feel as if a piece of you is missing. Losing my Dad I thought would be one of the hardest things that I would have to go through. Don't get me wrong, its been very difficult and its been an emotional roller coaster for the past two weeks..but at the same time I have experienced a deeper joy that I could have ever imagined. I feel good...I feel strong....I feel peace....I feel content....I feel happy. Most of the time our joy seems to depend on our circumstances. When life is going well, and things are easy, we of course feel happy. But when life unravels and the days sometimes seem unbearable, God’s presence is unmistakable. I have felt this time and time again in my life...especially during this difficult time. If some days my only major accomplishment for the day is making it through without a breakdown, there has been something so extraordinary about my time with God during these times. I realize that I desperately need Him every hour. To give me strength. To revive me. To help me hang on. To comfort me. To guide me. Through some of my excruciating days since my Dad passed away, days where I would tell God "Today is a really hard day for me...I need your help. I need your strength."... He would speak to me. He comforted me through His Word. He used others. He would send angels to assist me and comfort me at those exact times when I needed it the most. He whispered to me in the darkness, as I lay awake on my tear-stained pillow. He sang songs over me of His love. His hand is over everything and I have seen His hand so much through all of this. On the worst days, I just kept asking for Him to take the pain away. I felt like just sitting in my Dad's room crying all day. I didn't want to rejoice in the moment. I didn't want to rejoice at all. But then I clung to God and His promises knowing He would bring me through. I can tell you that the joy I feel now did not come easy. I had glimpses of delight here and there, but mostly my joy was slow and incremental. As the days continue to pass, I realize I now have a joy that I can't explain. It is completely independent of circumstances. It seemed like the harder things got, the more joy God continued to pour into me. The joy I have is in knowing that God can be trusted and in seeing and feeling His faithfulness through unimaginable pain. Though I’m referring to a time of great suffering in my life, what I’m writing about isn't limited to earthshaking pain. Small trials that I have faced have forged my faith, but I live, as we all do, in the mundane suffering. Feeling misunderstood or rejected by a friend or family member. Feeling lonely or depressed. Dealing with the same parenting issues over and over again. Being overwhelmed by responsibilities. Having everything in the house break down at once. Feeling physically ill- with a cold, a backache, a headache. Those things are universal. We all face them. But just like the monumental struggles, we wish they were different. That they’d go away or get resolved so that we can get on with our days- the real things we’re called to. We fantasize that if they were different, we could be happier, more joyful, more faithful. But what if we looked at those trials as the very things that God has ordained for our joy. To mold our character. To teach us to trust. To give us Himself. When we run to God with our pain, instead of running away, our perspective changes. We find a joy that can never be taken away. If we could only see all our disappointments through this lens, we would discover that suffering is often the gateway to joy. The joy that we get from enduring suffering gets richer over time. Our circumstances cannot diminish it. It produces lasting fruit like endurance, character and hope. It draws us to God in breathtaking ways. It achieves a weight of glory that is beyond all comparison. I am convinced that our capacity for God, and for true joy, is carved out of our suffering. Suffering chisels deep into our soul, often making us feel empty, misunderstood, and alone. And yet it is out of that suffering, that emptiness, that God alone can fill us. With Himself. With His joy.