Rejoicing in the Midst of Pain

June 26, 2011 | 69 comments

It’s 3 a.m., and I pull my chair as close to his bed as I can. I will fall asleep next to him — the boy tethered to breath and food and medicine by tubes and whirring machines.

And all of it is whirring. All of life is whirring.

I slip my hand through the guard-rail of his hospital bed, for I want him to know that Aunt Jennifer is here. I have not left him. He is not alone. Never alone. Never, ever alone. 

He is 17 now — almost a man — but I can’t help it: I rub my hands through his hair and I sing him a lullaby.  

My eyelids droop, and I hear his breaths coming in a steady rhythm. This metronome, it is a machine that puffs his lungs with air.

Outside, the rain won’t stop. But I have an umbrella. The Word is open on my lap.

I fall asleep with Scripture, open. Before I drift, I ask God for the letters of Life to lift off thin-as-onion-skin pages and fill the aniseptic air, a canopy for the boy. For all of us.

I am tired. I can speak words no longer. Holy Spirit, can you speak them for me now?

And it’s this verse that cries open to the ceiling: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

But can we?

Can we rejoice like this? With pain and suffering and the darkness of a valley?
Can we rejoice? Can we be glad?

***

We sleep, he and I. Hand in hand.

I am here in his intensive-care room, so his mama can have a break. She needs sleep. It’s been so long for her, and I ache for her. I want to do something — anything — to relieve a bit of burden. She is my sister. I give her the only thing I can think of: Time. Yes, I will give her time.

I will be the watchman.

It was one week ago that so much of life was upended on an Iowa highway. Five teenagers were jostled and tossed and thrown from car to field.

And I wasn’t even there, but my mind can’t stop replaying how I think it might have happened. I wasn’t there, but I hear the crushing of steel, and I imagine the pain.

One teenage girl died. And four teens are reeling physically and emotionally. Two of them are my nephews — two boys belonging to two of my sisters. 

I have so much love for them. And I wish my love could rinse away pain. Away, away, away. Please, dear God. Please???

I sleep at the side of a deep-sleeping boy. And I force the words out of my mouth before I drift off: This. Is. The. Day. The. Lord. Has. Made. I will say the words — even though the words defy human logic.

This — THIS! — is the day. This day. Right here. And we will rejoice and be glad in it. We will. We will.

***

Morning breaks. Daylight always comes. I awake. For every sunset, there is a sunrise. The Light always comes.

In the morning, I find my sister, and it’s a Sunday morning. We have church — just the two of us — in the ICU waiting room.

I tell her about the verse, the one that was open on my lap. I ask  her: Can we praise, even in our suffering? Can we give thanks, even in our pain? Can we find joy and security, despite  our circumstances? According to Biblical commentators, even Jesus, hours before the crucifixion, would have sung the Hallel (including Psalm 118) at the Last Supper.

He would have sung these words: This is the day the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

If Jesus could do it, could we, too?

Yes. We rejoice. Not because of what is happening. But we rejoice because of the character of God.

This is the hard hallelujah

“Lynda,” I speak as the sun rises over a hospital named Mercy. “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Big sister holds my hands, and she nods. She finds the song on her I-Phone. She plays it loud in the waiting room, and in the middle of our pain, we praise Him. We do. We really praise Him.

We sing. It hurts. But we do it. We sing. 

“Today is the day you have made.
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
I won’t worry about tomorrow.
I’m trusting in what you say.
Today is the day!” — Lincoln Brewster


The boy on the ventilator is Payton, pictured above in a blue American Eagle T-shirt. In front of him, in the white T-shirt, is Brennan, my dear nephew who was the driver of the car. He is a strong young man of faith, but he needs our prayers. (Please pray also for the families of Emily, Abby and Amy.)

by | June 26, 2011 | 69 comments

69 Comments

  1. Sheila Lagrand

    The hard hallelujah. That says it, Jennifer. My heart hasn’t left your side….

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Sheila … Your prayers are the very fragrance of Christ. Thank you for your words in this place, over on Facebook … and especially for the words that you’ve lifted to the Father. You are a blessing.

      Reply
  2. Alleluiabelle

    Oh dear sweet angels of faith, Yes Yes Yes…

    “Today is the day you have made.
    I will rejoice and be glad in it.
    I won’t worry about tomorrow.
    I’m trusting in what you say.
    Today is the day!”

    I sing this song along with you, your sister and your family. My prayers resonate deeply within my mind, heart and soul and rise UP UP UP to our Ultimate Healer for your precious nephews and all of the families involved.

    I love you dear friend.

    Alleluiabelle

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Alleluiabelle ~ Grateful for your devotion to prayer. Thank you for singing with us. Much love to you…

      Reply
  3. Shaunie Friday

    Thank you for giving us faces to put with the prayers Jennifer. Praying the dawn that follows the dark night is not far off and that the shout of joy it brings will echo long and loud!! Hugs to all of you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you Shaunie. Aren’t they handsome fellows? 🙂

      I so appreciate you, and your words here. Much love to you …

      Reply
  4. Lynn

    Heart-breaking to read your story. I will keep your family in my prayers.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Lynn. We appreciate your prayers.

      Reply
  5. Diana Trautwein

    Yes, Jennifer – thank you for the picture. And for the words. And for the hard hallelujah. And you have said it so well:”Yes, we rejoice – not because of what of happening but because of the character of God.” That’s the heart of it. Terrible things are terrible things – never beyond God’s power to redeem, surely, but still terrible. Yet even in the midst of terror, God is still good, God is still love, God is still praiseworthy. I’ve been prayerfully wondering how things are going – this gives us some clue as we continue to lift you all before our good God. Many blessings to you and to your sister and your entire family. So, so hard. So, so glad you have the Lord and you have each other.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Diana. Your words always minister to my soul. You find the truth amidst the pain. How I thank ((YOU)). …

      Specific prayer request today: That the doctors would have a CLEAR indication of how to proceed with Payton, who is still on the ventilator. He’s been off the vent a few times, but due to his injuries, he can’t breathe well enough on his own, so they put him back on it. This process of on-again, off-again is so difficult. Prayers for discernment on how best to proceed would be wonderful! Thank you!

      Reply
      • Diana Trautwein

        Was gone most of the day, away from my computer.but am praying now for wisdom, clarity, good decision-making, continuing signs of hope for your nephew AND for peace of mind and heart for all of his dear family as you wait, riding that roller-coaster of emotions and anxiety, all the while offering praise to Jesus for being there. Sustaining grace – the peace that passes all of our understanding…may these descend on you all like comfortable, beautifully tailored clothing…fitting just right. Prayers through the night, too.

        Reply
  6. Glenda Childers

    It is 4 a.m. in Chicago and my nighttime reading has lead me to this post. I am so glad to lift your family to the Lord right now. Asking for a miracle.

    Your simple praise service reminded me of Paul singing in jail. So tender and precious.

    fondly,
    Glenda

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Glenda …

      I thought of Paul, in jail, as I prayed the word of Philippians over my nephew in his ICU room two nights ago! Thank you for this additional reminder that as God’s people, we can praise even as we suffer.

      Reply
  7. Megan Willome

    “the hard hallelujah”

    I am absolutely astounded that you can write so beautifully at a time like this. You’re the real deal, friend.

    That’s just for you. For your sister, for Payton, Brennan, Emily, Abby and Amy, I am still praying.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      You’ve been a blessing to me, Megan. Thank you for … being you. Love you dearly. Thanks for the prayers.

      Reply
  8. Nancy

    Oh, how my heart aches for your sister and for you as you sit and watch with her. I can only imagine what a gift your presence is there with her. “I will. I will.” I will rejoice and be glad in it–this is the kind of persevering faith that says to the world, “Our God is real!” How else could we rejoice? Bowing my head now.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      It really amazes me how Christ exemplified this sort of praise in the midst of the storm. He went to the cross, for the joy set before Him. An incredible example.

      My sisters have really been amazing. You can see God’s Light shining through them, even in the darkest hours.

      Thank you, Nancy, for your prayers and your words in this place.

      Reply
  9. Wendy

    God brought that verse to mind this morning. Sometimes I’m amazed at how connected we all are. Your family is on my heart.
    ~ Wendy

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yes, Wendy … One body, connected limb to limb by Christ.

      I love to hear about “God-incidences” such as these. They are so confirming and so reassuring. Thank you for taking the time to share.

      Reply
  10. deb

    bowing and aching with you .

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Your presence with me — right there at the Throne — humbles me, Deb. Thank you for being here … and being there at the Throne. Love you.

      Reply
  11. Dawn @ Dawnings

    And this is the crazy talk of the Christ life. “For I will yet praise Him.” Psalm 42:10-11.

    All of us are Aaron and Hur, holding your family’s arms up to God as you praise through this battle.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Dawn … I wish I could tell you in person how much your words mean to me. Tears of gratitude here, as I visualize what you’re saying. You’ve blessed me greatly …

      Reply
  12. kendal

    the ache of holding a sibling….i know it well. i am praying now.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Kendal … Thank you, friend. Your prayers are appreciated more than I can express.

      Reply
  13. Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

    Thank you for writing this through pain – for loving your sister and her handsome sons deep and well – for surrendering to this tender, heartbreaking time that the Lord could use you to bring Him into desperate places (far beyond Mercy hospital) to minister deeper still. You are all in my prayers this day – the day He has made. XOX

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Patricia …

      Patricia,

      It helps to write through the pain, somehow. I know you know what I mean — you who is gifted with the ability to put words to feelings.

      I am grateful that you care enough to read these words, and to walk alongside me a while in this place. So grateful for all who walk a while, and listen, and join in this pain — and in this inexpressible joy of Christ’s immeasurable love.

      Reply
  14. Jo-Ann

    I don’t know you but I’ve been reading your blog for a while and my heart is heavy as I read of your circumstances at the present time — for you, your sister, and your family. Your strength and trust in the Lord is so evident through your writing and I will pray for all of you as you lean on Him in the days ahead. God bless you.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Jo-Ann …

      Thank you for peeking through the cyber-door this morning, and making your voice known. Whether you come by silently to read — or whether you share your words in the comment box — you are welcome here at GDWJ either way. But today, Jo-Ann, it blesses me greatly that you chose to share words in the comment box. I needed this. You are all Jesus to me, to us… Thank you so much.

      Reply
  15. Gramma T

    I remember all to well the picture you gave us with our own little man laying there breathing with the help of modern medicine. Thanking God for His healing hands as these boys heal both heart and body.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Gramma T,

      I’m sure this brings back memories — of what it means to “Praise Him in the Storm.” Thank you, Gramma T, for standing with us as we ride out this storm. Love you.

      Reply
  16. Patty

    Praying for you all as you offer up a true sacrifice of praise. love you dear…

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Your continued prayers are a tremendous blessing to our family, Patty. You’ve been so, so good to us. Love you.

      Reply
  17. Kim Harbath

    Know that prayers of healing and peace are being sent from Ogden, Utah for all of you and all those precious children.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Grateful for you, Kim. So grateful for this Spirit-driven Body of Christ — living, breathing, loving. Your words bring life and Light to dark valleys.

      Reply
  18. laura

    Oh, Jennifer. Hurting with you. Praying without ceasing. Thank you for this picture. Faces to lay the names on. Yes, He is shelter from the storm. Love to you.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Love you, Laura. Thank you for your commitment to pray. Words can’t express how much this means.

      Reply
  19. Brenda Holtrop

    Because of His great love – we are not consumed. Praying God’s comfort, peace and presence over you and all those you love.

    Love you my friend,
    Brenda

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Brenda. You know how I love you. Thank you for loving us the way you do. xoxo

      Reply
  20. Marie Godfredsen

    Oh, how you know the words to write, to say. I pray for these boys who are hurting physically and/or emotionally and for you and your sweet sisters. Lord God, I lift Payton in prayer for your healing.Lay your healing hand on him and give peace and comfort to all who love him.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Marie,

      Your prayers are working, Marie. God is doing a Healing Work. Much love to you.

      Reply
  21. Linda

    Praying with and for all of you Jennifer. On the very worst day of my life I felt that same prompting of the Spirit – rejoice, praise. With it comes that incomprehensible peace.
    Praying for grace and healing and strength dear one.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you for sharing, Linda. It seems all at once strange but right to praise Him. You know what I mean? Grateful for the peace that comes when our eyes stay fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

      Love you … and thanks for your prayers.

      Reply
  22. Simply Darlene

    I just don’t know what to say, except I give my love and prayers to you, your family, and all those involved.

    Blessings.

    Reply
  23. Jeanne Damoff

    I am more and more convinced that we have no idea how much power is released in heavenly places when we trust God with the unthinkable and praise Him for the hardest gifts. Every breath is always grace, when we are aware of it and when we are’t. You, your sisters, your nephews — all of you held by the One who goes before, who prepares the path, who is never taken by surprise. He saw this day — MADE this day — long before it dawned, and He is in it to redeem all brokenness.

    You are beautiful. Your heart, your faith, your choice. May the Lord give the promised peace that passes understanding as you live moment by moment in the hard hallelujah.

    Praying with you. Loving you. Rejoicing and being glad with you. Even now.

    With all my heart,
    Jeanne

    Reply
  24. Steph Zevenbergen

    Praying for you adn your family Jennifer. What a beautiful post – While I was reading the song “This Is the Day” by Lincoln Brewster was playing on the radio! Now “Alive Again” by Matt Maher – God is a God of miracles! Praying you thru

    Reply
  25. Jessica

    I don’t know why but this post brought this song to my heart: http://youtu.be/Rm5kx3xqmg0

    Amy Grant’s, “Better Than a Hallelujah”

    My whole life God has rooted the moments with music. I pray that He grabs you deep and holds your family firm. To learn to rejoice even in the midst of this… that’s worshipping with your whole being.
    Sending love and prayers.
    J.

    Reply
  26. Joy

    Praying and singing right along with you. Blessings.

    Reply
  27. jasonS

    I definitely know what it means to rejoice in Him when all the world seems off and bent on harming us. It’s a worthwhile pursuit and life-changing. Thanks Jennifer. Praying for your nephew.

    Reply
  28. David Rupert

    I’ve been in anguish over this news and in deep prayer as often as it comes to my mind.

    Reply
  29. Duane Scott

    The song that helps me when I’m awake in the middle of the night goes like this:

    I made the night so you could trust in Me.
    I made the night so you could place your hand in Mine.
    I made the night so in the early morning…
    You would see My sun rise and shine. -God

    And all I could think during reading this was about a verse:

    Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.

    “How does one rejoice in hope?” I asked myself yesterday while squirming in the hard wooden pew.

    And I wished, kinda prayed that God would reveal the answer to me.

    And by this post, He has.

    Because, when all we have left to do is hope, we can rejoice in the fact that our God is big enough and great enough and loves us enough to give us that hope.

    I want to tell your sister myself that I’m praying for her, but I suppose you’ll tell her.

    I’m not that far away, Jennifer. I’ll drive out there if I can be of ANY help to anyone.

    Love you all,

    Duane Scott

    Reply
  30. S. Etole

    This makes a person’s heart ache and yet I know from personal experience the Lord is Lord even in ICU units.

    Reply
  31. Dave

    Travails, instead of useful words, are what I find myself groaning, Jennifer.

    The Holy Ghost, though, allows groans to become useful words of prayer.

    Praying with and through groans and travails, my friend, by the power of the Holy Ghost for your family.

    Reply
  32. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    I have been praying for these boys and waiting for this post, checking for it as your family has been continuously on my mind.

    His children singing in worship when it hurts must be the most precious worship to the Father.

    Reply
  33. Angela

    Bowing in prayer with & for all of you. Thank you for the picture, it helps put faces to the names.

    Reply
  34. Sandra Heska King

    Wrapping my arms and heart around you and your family, my sweet, sweet friend.

    Reply
  35. Natalie at Mommy on Fire

    I don’t really have any words.

    This. Yes, this is a huge fear of mine, a worry I posses as I look at my babies aged 2,4, and 6, and know I can’t keep them in the bubble but yet so want to do so.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am for all of these families. Your sweet nephew, as the driver, absolutely has my prayers and your other nephew has my prayers for healing. And the other grieving families, they have them too.

    Thank you for visiting my blog – I’m truly blessed to have found yours.

    Reply
  36. Lisa Marie

    Jennifer, wrapping your family in prayer. I have a 19 year old son and my heart aches both your nephews and their families. Rest knowing that our Father’s heart is aching for you too and that He has you in a loving embrace.

    Reply
  37. Joan

    Oh Jennifer! My heartfelt prayers are being lifted to God for your family. I cannot even imagine the anquish you, your sister, and the others close to this situation must be feeling. I am praying for you and your sister, both of your nephews – Payton and Brennen as well as the families of the other teens. I pray that God gives you strength and comforts you in this difficult time and that He guides the doctors and nurses to provide the best care possible for Payton. Please keep us posted.

    You are in my prayers, Joan

    Reply
  38. Sue Awes

    Jennifer – The witness of you sisters three – will help us all someday to sing the hard hallelujah when we find ourselves in the valley. I keep praying for you all.

    Reply
  39. Debra Weiss

    My heart goes out to your family during this difficult time. I’ll be praying. <3

    Reply
  40. red or gray

    Jennifer I lost my teenage brother to a car accident oh so many years ago .. it is life changing…thinking of all family members involved in this ..my prayers are with you

    Reply
  41. elaine @ peace for the journey

    You give them your time; I give you my prayers… for all of you. For the healing presence of Christ to be amongst you, reminding you of his love and tender willingness to bend low and take care of your hearts.

    peace~elaine

    Reply
  42. Jenny

    Prayers, prayers and more prayers. I am heading to Mass this moring and will lay all of your famiy at the altar of God.

    Reply
  43. Christena

    Jennifer,
    I linked over from the Wellspring and wanted you to know that your words moved me. I’m praying for your family.
    Christena

    Reply
  44. Becky

    Our family has been thinking of your family and the others daily during this difficult time. Prayers to all for comfort being wrapped Christ love.

    Reply
  45. Lori

    Jennifer, your site is such a blessing to so many and I know there are prayers and hearts and hands held all across the internet waves for you! I pray comfort and strength for your family right now. Lori

    Reply

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