In the story I’m writing, I’m working with a character struggling with grief. I’ve long been fascinated with this part of life, maybe because it’s so universal. Writers are always looking for experiences that will touch all of us sooner or later, in one form or another.
I recall when my son was just over a year old and diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, a condition that would impact all of us. His brain, I was told, was missing the one protein it needed to function like everyone else’s. Shortly after receiving the diagnosis I happened to hear a man being interviewed on a local Christian radio station who was talking about grief. He’d just lost his father, and had written a book about loss.
In one of my less-than-stellar moments, I listened with contempt to this man who, in my opinion, was simply facing a normal life cycle. Children bury their parents; when it’s the other way around—well, that’s grief, and that was exactly how I felt at the time. I thought I’d had a healthy child who would grow up with a bright future. That child, at least the hopes I had for that child, no longer existed. It felt, in a way, like a very real death.
It’s been about twenty years since that period in my life, and we’ve certainly had our ups and downs. If I’m honest I will admit I still have times of grief. It’s one of those types that you adjust to rather than “get over.”
But recently I’ve been reading about happiness. In his book on the subject by Randy Alcorn, (Happiness) we’re reminded that God wants us to be happy—even now, here on earth, before we reach Heaven where every tear will be wiped away. We, of everyone else on this earth, have the most reason to claim happiness. We know God’s love and we know the future He has in store for us. For me, that’s a reminder that one day my son won’t need a caregiver. He’ll be fully healed for eternity, which will last a whole heck of a lot longer than the breadth of life we know here.
There are plenty of verses in the Bible calling us to happiness! One of my favorites: Rejoice in the Lord and be happy, you who are godly! Shout for joy. (Psalm 32:11). How can you read the Psalms of praise without realizing God actually wants us to be happy? Like Psalm 100:
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
So one of the things I’ll be teaching my grieving character: Even when we’re struggling, we might find a moment of happiness. Recognize it! Because those are the kinds of moments that promise more of them in the future.