Dying Beautifully and Living Joyfully

Last fall, while everyone was sipping their pumpkin spiced lattes and taking pictures in pumpkin patches, I was at home sinking into a deep depression after having a surgery that didn’t go as planned. What was supposed to be a routine operation left me sick beyond belief, resulting in an anxious and fearful heart. Many of you may even remember that I took a step back from ministry and work for a month to rest, recover, and be restored by the Lord. Looking back, I can see more clearly that God had a purpose in the pain, but even in knowing that, I can honestly say last October was the hardest of my life.

I still remember the ache of loneliness and the pangs of doubt that overshadowed my heart, squelching my joy and crushing my hope. As the leaves began to die and fall from their source of life, it felt like I was dying on the inside, too. If you've ever walked through a season of anxiety and depression, you know exactly what I mean. Anxiety is different from worry. I've always been a worrier. Little problems have tried to steal my focus and consume my mind for the better part of my life.

Dying to Live

As a recovering perfectionist, this is an area of my heart that I constantly submit before the Lord. Anxiety goes a step further than worry does, because it takes over the body. The trauma I walked through with surgery and an illness prior to the surgery left my mind, heart, and body in a state that it had never been in. I was uncertain I would ever fully recover and be myself again. Friends and family drew near and spoke life into my weary soul. I cried like I've never cried out to the Lord before, and in my lowest moments, I felt the profound nearness of God. I learned that death doesn't always have to be a dark, depressing thing. Sometimes in order to know God most fully, we must experience death in this life.

Death of pride.

Death of a dream.

Death of self-sufficiency. 

Death of plans, ambitions, and goals.

Through Christ, we die in order to live. (Luke 9:23-24, Philippians 1:21) That's the parody of the kingdom of God. Last fall, when I felt like I was dying physically, emotionally and spiritually, God saw the new life springing up in those dark places. When I felt like my life would unravel at the seams and never be put together again, He saw His grace holding me together. By the sheer mercy of God, in our hardest seasons of life we can learn to die beautifully like the trees of autumn in order to live joyfully.

Yielding to the Season

The trees taught me a lesson last year about dying beautifully. Rather than resisting the "death" that comes with autumn, they willingly embrace it, taking on new colors and drifting towards the earth in surrender. What begins with death soon becomes new life in the spring. God never leaves us in one season forever. Dying is the process that begins new life in the kingdom of heaven. We must first yield to the seasons of life, walking through them rather than avoiding them, clinging to the hand of Christ fiercely, knowing that He will not let us go.

As I type these words, I am sitting in the same chair that I would sit in last October and weep. I glance to the left of me and see the beginning of the leaves surrendering their grip on the trees and falling down as the wind gently blows. I see the couch where I laid sick so many days. I see the light peering in through the blinds and resting on the floor. This room used to feel dark and lonely, but today it feels light and redeemed. The same could be said of my heart, soul, and mind. God has redeemed what Satan intended to harm. He is the same God of last October as He is this October. I am thanking Him for this new season and opportunity to learn what it means to die beautifully and live joyfully at the same time. 

You could be in the situation I was in last fall. You could be dying on the inside while it seems that everyone around you is living to the fullest. You could be walking through darkness, feeling your way towards the light. And if you are in any of those places, know that you are not alone. God does not let His people walk through any trial that He cannot sustain them in. He will sustain you. Jesus already walked before you and has felt your pain. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus sympathizes with you, friend. In the Greek, that word means "to be affected with the same feeling as another." He understands your heartache. And He will endure with and through you. Approach the throne of grace with confidence, even if it feels like you must crawl there, because you can't stand on your own. Jesus will stand for you. Submit and yield to this season, knowing that God has a purpose in the fall and spring will always come.  

JoyFULLY Following Jesus

I am living proof that you can walk through a lonely, dark season of autumn and come through the other side as a new creation in Christ. There is hope, always, in the Lord. Let not your heart become so burdened that you dare stop believing. Hold onto Him, for He is holding onto you. 

This fall you’ll find me drinking pumpkin spice lattes, and beholding the splendor of the leaves that are dying beautifully for the glory of God. You'll find me walking through this season with a fresh perspective and a tenderness in my heart towards those who are aching and grieving. And all the while, you can know that I am clinging just as tightly to my Savior's hand, learning to live joyfully by following in His footsteps.

Yield to the season. Die beautifully so you can learn to live joyFULLY, all because of Jesus.

walking with Him,

Gretchen