It’s that time of year where everybody talks about the longest day of the year. June 21st is the first day of summer. Some refer to it as the Summer Solstice. Regardless what you call it, most people know it as the longest day of the year. I guess I would have to take exception with that. For me, it’s June 16th, James’ birthday. It’s not just the day itself. It’s the days leading up to it. The reality hitting again of another birthday without James. Sometimes it’s a double hit like last year, when his birthday falls on Father’s Day. The words from the chorus to Mercy Me’s “Homesick” run through my mind, “I close my eyes and I see your face, If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place. Lord, won’t you give me strength to make it through somehow. I’ve never been more homesick than now.”
When we share James’ story, we speak of the tragedy of his loss, but we follow that up by saying the bigger tragedy, the bigger loss, would have been to have never had him and to miss the purpose. But it still hurts every day, and today and the days leading up to it just emphasize the hurt even more. We read the words of Isaiah 55: 8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We think on the words of Jeremiah 29: 11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We had plans for James. James had plans. He was excited about going to The University of Georgia. He wrote in his application essay, “I am so excited about the opportunity to spread my wings and leave home to experience a different aspect of life. I have been blessed to travel to various parts of the world during my father’s military career, and I believe that experience will serve me well as I move on to this next phase of my life. I realize there is more in life to experience and I look forward to this next step.” God had other plans.
We spoke at House of Joy yesterday on Surrendering to God’s Will, and, in truth, that’s how we move forward on this longest of days, and every day. James modeled surrender for us. I found a quote from John Newton when preparing my notes. He wrote, “God’s people have no assurances that the dark experiences of life will be held at bay, much less that God will provide some sort of running commentary on the meaning of each day’s allotment of confusion, boredom, pain, or achievement. It is no great matter where we are, provided we see that the Lord has placed us there, and that He is with us.” As I shared yesterday, those closing words are key to surrender. Understanding that He is with us, and will sustain us regardless of the trial if we fully surrender. Chip Ingram wrote, “God always has and always will look for men and women who say to Him, ‘I trust you so much, I’m all in. I want your way not mine. I am willing to live by faith!’” James did that, and taught us so much about faith. We won’t always understand what we’re going through, or why we’re having to go through it, but we can trust that God will bring us through it by faith and surrender to His will. We have to understand there will be days and moments of pure joy, and days of loss and sadness, days that we encounter that Broken Hallelujah. The Afters sing the words to that song, and encourage us with the lyrics,
“I can barely stand right now.
Everything is crashing down,
And I wonder where You are.
I try to find the words to pray.
I don’t always know what to say,
But You’re the one that can hear my heart.
Even though I don’t know what your plan is,
I know You’re making beauty from these ashes.
I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here’s my broken hallelujah.
With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here’s my broken hallelujah.”
Happy birthday James. I love you and I miss you today and every day. God, I know you will never leave me nor forsake me, so though it hurts deeply, I offer you this broken hallelujah on this longest of days and thank you for James.