Growing up in California, we were taught what to do in case of earthquakes. Once I moved to Alabama, I had to learn what to do during the threat of a tornado. When we lived in Kentucky, we had to prepare for severe snowstorms. In Florida, it is hurricanes we hunker down for. With each of these threats, there are safeguards taken and supplies gathered. The goal is to be ready for the worst-case scenario. Whether it be bread and milk, gas and water, batteries and canned goods, firewood and extra blankets, each possibility for a natural disaster demands their own stockpiles. Just as it would be foolish to fail to prepare for a pending hurricane, we must not be fools when it comes to grief. The Happy Soul expects and prepares for it. The Happy Soul gears up for grief.
The unexpected loss of my brother James knocked the wind out of me for a while. But it didn’t take me down. I never once doubted the good character of God. It’s not that I understood His timing. It’s not that I didn’t ask why James had to struggle the way he did. It’s that I was driven more by what I knew to be true about God—that He is an all-knowing, all-loving, in-control God. But without this foundation—twenty years of studying God’s Word and stockpiling truth—my experience of James’s death most definitely would have been different.
The biblical truth we gather up when our soul is thriving is the nourishment our hearts will feed off of when we’re barely hanging on. This is a mark of the Happy Soul. Resiliency, no matter what comes her way. When the waves of grief pound her hard, it will be the firm and steadfast grip she already has on truth that will keep her from being tossed, tattered, and torn when tragedy strikes. This doesn’t mean she won’t question or weep or writhe in pain. But it does mean that—regardless of her circumstances—she will experience a peace that surpasses understanding, a joy indescribable, and a spiritual nearness to God even when every cell within her screams, “My God, my God. Why have you abandoned me?” When we have truth stored up within us, we can preach those truths to our hearts during the darkest of hours. Holding on to the truth He’s given us is how we keep our leaves from withering.
Our questions and doubts do not scare or offend God. He knows and understands our frailty and fallenness way more than we do. We don’t need to hide our questions from God, but we do need to recognize the bigger picture: the fact that we see in a mirror dimly and have limited knowledge of God and His beautiful ways. God is powerfully, perennially, and perfectly doing a million good works, of which our pain and sorrow are all encompassed. From this earthly view, we will never come close to beholding or understanding the marvelous, intricate, and one day perfectly complete work of God. We must hold a firm grip on the good character of God and His ability to work all our painful experiences together for His glory.
This is the resiliency we receive when our life is founded on who God is. Instead of being tossed around and victimized by the waves, we can hold on to hope through the storms. He never promises us that the storms will cease. He promises to hold us through the squall. The Happy Soul is not exempt from trouble, but the Happy Soul has the comfort of God to guide her through it. But we have to stay saturated by the Source in order to benefit from this strength. The Happy, resilient Soul is dependent on God’s provision.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
— Psalm 22:1–5 NLT
This is an excerpt from Secrets of the Happy Soul my new book from Bethany House Publishers.