What Spending Mother's Day at the Morgue Taught Me About Supernatural Joy

It was May 12th, 2001. It was not a typical Saturday in our neighbor’s home. The family’s boys were with dad doing boy things on the family farm. The girls were in a nearby town at a baby shower celebrating the anticipated new life to a beloved family member.  What happened that afternoon could have never been anticipated or imagined; yet, somehow, God was preparing them the entire time.

My husband answered the phone that Saturday afternoon while preparing his message for the Lord’s Day to be informed tragedy had struck this dear family in the most inconceivable way.  Collin, while doing boy things, was killed instantly after his bike wheel went under the trailer his father was pulling.

We left our home immediately to be with the family and arrived on the scene prior to the medical team and the girls.  The sheriff’s department in the nearby town interrupted the baby shower being held at the local library to let the girls know they needed to come home right away. Nothing was typical about that Saturday.

Mother’s Day at the Morgue

The next day was Mother’s Day. Patti, Collin’s mother, desperately wanted to see her little boy. His body had been taken to the morgue before she arrived home from the baby shower. These words just don’t even go together:

Mother’s Day.
Morgue.

After the worship service, we picked up Collin’s parents and made our way to see Collin. We prayed in the car on the way to the morgue, as we knew this would not be easy. I stayed in a waiting room with their six-month-old as they went to view Collin.  While Patti’s last Mother’s Day with Collin was not typical, God, in His kind providence had been preparing this family for this tragedy.

The Week Before Mother’s Day

Let us see Thy hand in the instruments of our grief, rejoicing that they are from Thy over-ruling Providence.
— Valley of Vision

The Wednesday before Collin’s death, the Women’s Bible Study had been going through a book and had learned that while we make plans, God may redirect them (Proverbs 16:9). This family had just encountered Plan B.  And because it was God’s plan, we were all learning it was Plan A all along.

The Sunday prior to Collin’s death was not typical either. Our church took a break from the exegetical study of James, where we had just learned what it meant to count it ALL joy, my brethren to welcome the teaching of a guest pastor. This guest pastor chose to share for the first time from the pulpit how God had carried their own family through the loss of their young son in a farming accident. Following the message, Collin’s family went home and discussed over Sunday dinner how they would react if such a dreadful thing was encountered in their home.

“Graceside”  Service

As any parent can imagine, the funeral for Collin was not easy. But, as had been evidenced already, God was using this tragedy for His glory. There were few souls in the community that were not impacted by this event. The gospel went forth at the service as well as at the graveside. This little community was seeing Christ in action as the church served this precious family. No doubt, God was center stage of it all.

But it was at that moment I experienced beauty from tragedy.
Joy in sorrowing.

I approached Patti under the green tent providing shade for the family that hot May afternoon.  Before the little white casket was to be lowered into the ground, I knelt down to hug this dear sister hoping to bring her comfort. In such delicate strength she whispered in my ear:

“Kim, I consider it a privilege that God would choose to use Collin for Himself in this way.”

I will never forget that moment in that day. God’s grace was so evident in Patti as I embraced her and tried to wrap my own heart around the words she just shared. Only God can do a work of this magnitude in the midst of such a tragedy.  I truly had just witnessed what it meant to rejoice in the Lord always (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

The Lord finds music in his children’s cries.
— C.H. Spurgeon

Of course, Patti was not giddy with excitement at all that had happened. Rather, she was experiencing what it meant in Scripture to be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10). Patti’s heart was being enlarged for the deeper things of God through her suffering. Somehow this tragedy was displaying an inexplicable joy to my suffering sister.  The joy of the Lord truly was Patti’s strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Supernatural Joy

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.  1 Peter 1:16

This joy of Patti’s was not at a human level. It was of a clearly of a divine level. The fruit of the Holy Spirit was so evident in Patti. It was a supernatural joy I saw evidenced at the graveside. It was nothing less than a grace gift from God that had been exemplified in Christ’s suffering:

While keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

The very word joy is rooted in the Greek word for grace. I knew that intellectually. However, God allowed me to witness it experientially that day.  This scriptural command to rejoice at all times is impossible in the flesh. Patti’s sorrow-filled joy was a product of walking by faith through this trial, not by sight.

God faithfully works to mature His chosen ones in joy through various ways. Patti’s trial may not be the trial He ordains for you, yet you are called to the same inexplicable joy. What are you doing to allow God to cultivate joy in you?

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

  • Do you see trials as opportunities to rejoice?
  • Is a joy-filled faith evident in your life?
  • Can you, like Spurgeon, say you look forward to the fruit and future ministry that comes from trials?
I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.
— C.H. Spurgeon

Only God knows what a day holds.  Whether our day is typical or tragic, will we, like Patti,  and ultimately like Christ, exhibit joy? Oh, how I pray we do!

 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It Is Well with My Soul, Audrey Assad