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Choose Joy

Choose Joy

A Mother Needs to Feel Comforted

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us. ~ Henri Nouwen1

It was the Friday of Mother’s Day weekend and my mother was sick. Her health had taken a sudden nosedive, and though doctors had run a series of tests, no one could pinpoint the cause.

My siblings and I had cried all week. My dad seemed to have aged about twenty years. No one said it out loud, but we sensed this might be the end. She was on the brink of death.

While my kids were at school Friday, I stayed at the hospital. My mother was unresponsive, and as I saw how it took several nurses to change her clothes and move her limp body, my heart broke. Where was my strong, capable, determined mother? Who was this woman too helpless to take care of herself?

I expected her to bounce back, to dig deep and recover like the Steel Magnolia she was, but her condition looked bleak. Besides feeling sad, I felt cheated. Losing a mother on Mother’s Day weekend was a cruel irony. I wasn’t sure how I’d ever get over that.

Around lunchtime, my phone alarm sounded, signaling my time to leave. I had been invited to a Mother’s Day Tea for my youngest daughter, Camille, who was in kindergarten at the time. Normally, I loved these teas, but this one I dreaded. I didn’t feel like faking joy. My eyes were swollen, and my heart was in a vulnerable place.

But as we moms do, I pushed through my feelings and made myself go. I’m so glad I did, not only for Camille’s sake, but also for myself.

As you might imagine, the kindergartners were running wild as I entered the classroom. They were thrilled to see their mothers and high on the anticipation of eating cupcakes after their performance.

They laughed, sang, and grinned from ear to ear as they thanked us for taking care of them. The classroom overflowed with energy, youthfulness, and life — and I couldn’t help but notice the striking contrast this presented to the hospital scene that I had left.

I had gone from a place of illness to a place of vitality, a place where people were nearing the end of their journey to a place where journeys were just beginning.

Out of the blue, my heart swelled with new emotions. Once again that day, I held back tears, only these were happy tears. I needed this hour of joy on an incredibly sad day. I needed to spend time with rambunctious six-year-olds whose joy could not be contained.

In this moment, I felt God’s goodness. I understood how He really does know and meet our needs. As I looked at Camille (my fourth child, the surprise baby who I felt ill-equipped to have because I was so overwhelmed as a mom of three), I realized that God knew, even as I cried throughout her pregnancy, how He’d use Camille to restore me on this particularly trying day.

All my doubts about having a fourth child vanished once Camille was born, and as I’d done countless times since that day, I thanked God for this little girl who I did not have the foresight to pray for. Like her sisters, she was an undeserved gift, and at this Mother’s Day Tea, I felt overwhelmingly aware of this.

I also felt guilt for feeling joy while my mom was sick. There was a strange tension in my heart unlike any I’d known before. How could I feel intense joy and deep sadness on the same day? How could I reconcile the conflicting emotions without letting one overshadow the other?

I wondered if this was what “adulting” looked like, and if I’d entered a new stage of life where letting opposite emotions peacefully coexist was the only way to move forward.

Thankfully, my mother survived that difficult weekend. She never walked again or fully rebounded, but she hung on for four more years and showed remarkable resilience. She had more close calls where we wondered if she’d make it, and with each setback I looked for silver linings. When heartache tries to drag us into the abyss of a black hole, silver linings ground us. They keep grief from engulfing us.

  • Even in trials and times of sorrow, your heart can feel joy.

These moments are made possible through God’s supernatural grace. Feel your pain, but fight for your joy. Don’t let people or events steal your joy or lead you to mistakenly believe that your joy is over.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. — Romans 15:13 NIV

1. Henri Nouwen quotation, “Joy,” Henrinouwen.org, https://bit.ly/3ipcy1U

Excerpted with permission from More Than a Mom by Kari Kampakis, copyright Kari Kampakis.

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Your Turn

Even on our hardest and saddest days we can remember, "This is the day the Lord has made." (Psalm 118:24) Trusting in the Lord during trials is holy work, but the Holy Spirit will come alongside us and help. In that we will rejoice and be glad! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

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