Well Done – I Will Rejoice!
A week ago today, Kay Warren, the wife of noted pastor and author of the best seller, The Purpose Driven Life, wrote a very powerful and unexpected message on joy. It also happened to be the anniversary of the birth of her youngest son who tragically took his own life just last year.
Rick and Kay Warren lost their beloved son, Matthew, in 2013 when he took his own life after years of pain and struggle with mental illness. Yet in spite of the grief and the searing pain of a mother’s worst nightmare, her words will no doubt surprise and likely encourage you if you are facing any difficult situation or are in pain of any kind. Here is what she wrote:
“On July 18, 1985, I gave birth to our beloved gift of God, Matthew David Warren. Holding him in my arms that morning, I had no idea how dark the journey would get for him – and for those who love him. All I knew that bright morning was that I was madly in love with him, and could see nothing ahead but a mother’s dreams of a good life for her son.
My pregnancy had been extremely difficult and included three months of TOTAL bed rest (not even able to get up to use the bathroom) due to a severe allergic reaction that temporarily crippled me and caused tremendous physical pain and discomfort. The doctors reassured me that I and the baby would be fine – but how could I be sure? What if the baby wasn’t alright? What if I wasn’t alright?
I remember Easter 1985 – I was sick in bed, unable to go to church. Rick took the kids to church and I stayed by myself for a few hours – the TV remote by my side as my only companion. Somehow I dropped the remote and couldn’t retrieve it – so there I was, alone on one of the most joyous holidays, with not even a TV preacher to keep me company, full of anxiety and fear for myself and my unborn child. I painfully reached for my Bible and it fell open to Habakkuk 3: 17-19 (NIV):”Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to go on the heights.”
This was a word from the Lord to me – and I determined that even IF my worst nightmares came true – if my baby died, or I never walked again – that I would trust in God my Savior; I would rejoice in the Sovereign Lord.
Matthew David Warren was born and everything seemed fine. But by his first birthday, we began to wonder. And by his second and third birthdays, we knew he wasn’t like his older sister and brother. As time unfolded, so did his struggles and I couldn’t help but feel that my challenging pregnancy had negatively affected his developing brain and nervous system.
When he took his life last year – after battling and fighting so hard for decades – a friend sent me Habakkuk 3:17-19 in a sympathy card. She had no idea this passage was incredibly significant to me, but it was a fitting “bookend” to his life. Because I had feared for years that he would take his life….it became his greatest pursuit and my deepest anguish…..I had to come to the point in which I said as I had 27 years before – “EVEN IF my worst nightmare comes true and he takes his life, I WILL rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
So today – his 29th birthday – through weeping – I shout it to the watching universe: I will rejoice in Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior. My heart remains wounded and battered, but my faith is steady. There is, and will be, as Steven Curtis Chapman says, a “glorious unfolding” of all that God has in store for me and my family. God is faithful to his promises of rebuilding and restoring the ruins – and I am confident that I will yet be a witness to many, many, many lives healed and hope restored – all because of my beloved gift of God, Matthew David Warren. I miss you, darling boy…..but it will just be for a little while.”
Kay Warren rejoices in spite of her pain and loss. Her rejoicing is not based on outcomes, not on prayer answered the way she asked it would be. Her rejoicing is not an emotional reaction, it is a choice she makes. She does not rejoice in circumstances that can change day to day or even minute to minute. She, like the author of the book of Habakkuk, rejoices in what is consistently good no matter what the circumstances. She rejoices in the Lord who is her strength.
Shortly after Matthew’s death, at a conference for people who had lost loved ones to suicide, Kay referenced a quote from Eric Liddell, who was the Olympic gold medalist runner in the 1924 Munich Games, who said, “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans. But God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out his wonderful plan of love.”
Overcome with emotion, Kay said, “If you are in this room, or watching, and in some way your life had a day where there was a ruination. … God is not helpless among our ruins.”
Jackie and I have invested ourselves in Two Chums to share whatever we can about love, joy and abundant living. I am deeply inspired by Kay’s story and find her words filled with love, hope and amazingly, great joy. So to her we say a responding “Well Done”!
No matter what your circumstances are right now, may you too be inspired to rejoice, so that in finding joy and giving thanks, your life may be abundant beyond your wildest dreams!