A chill swept through my body as I listened to my friend’s voice on the other end of the phone. Ozzie, a young man in our church’s youth group, had died in a tragic fall while at a youth retreat, and the youth ,including my son, would be coming home early. Questions swirled through my mind as I hung up. How had this happened? Wasn’t this the sort of thing that was just on t.v. or was reported about places far away? Was my son, Anson, ok?….And on and on….
After the dazed and grieving group returned home into the waiting arms of their parents, reports of the accident and the subsequent events began to be told. The one story that I struggled with the most was told to me by my son. Ozzie’s mother, Maria, had been a chaperone for the youth that weekend and was able to be with Ozzie as he died. After accompanying his body to the hospital, Maria had returned to the camp to speak to the shocked group of kids and leaders who were waiting to hear some news. She spoke of God’s goodness and His sovereignty. She testified of Ozzie’s love for Jesus and his journey to heaven to be with his Lord. She reminded the group of God’s love for each one of them, and she comforted them through her own sorrow.
I just couldn’t believe it. How could she have been able to do such a thing immediately after the death of her son? How was it that my son had been so comforted and inspired by this grieving mother? The cynic in me answered that surely her ability came from pure shock. It was simply not normal.
God brought conviction to my heart that night as I read an author’s perspective on the praise that flowed from Mary’s lips after hearing the news that she was to be the mother of Jesus. Just like Maria, Mary had also received some shocking news. Although the coming of the Messiah brought joy to Mary’s heart, it had to have also brought feelings of fear and uncertainty that this child was to be delivered through her own unmarried, teenage body.
God softened my heart as I thought of Hannah who praised God as she gave her only son to a life in the temple (see I Samuel 1 and 2) and Job who worshipped God following reports from successive messengers of doom and loss (see Job 1).
Maria’s reaction wasn’t normal. It was extraordinary! I have no doubt that days of excruciating pain and grief are ahead for Maria and the rest of Ozzie’s family. However, as I learn more about Maria from her friends and church family, I know that her outreach to our hurting youth group was an overflow of praise from a woman that has cultivated a habit of praise through hard times.
The question that God has gently raised in my heart is, “Sweet daughter, what are you doing to create a pattern of praise?” Blame, anger and bitterness are the sinful soul’s response to tragedy, so praise is something that must be practiced and made a habit. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4–NIV) Won’t you start with me today as I count every blessing and rehearse the truths of God’s character in the good times so that I’ll be ready to respond with praise when hard times come?
Amy Carroll’s joy and passion is helping women find a deep connection to God’s Word and each other. As a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker team and director of Next Step Speaker Services, she’s committed to opening up her whole life to teach the lessons she’s learned in her pursuit of applying God’s truth. Amy is an ordinary woman who laughs at corny jokes, cries at Hallmark commercials and is afraid of bouncing checks and her own double chin. But she has a God-given ability to share His big truths in small, understandable bites. She loves scripture and is dedicated to teaching it in all its unvarnished glory. You can get to know Amy better at http://www.amycarroll.orgor www.nextstepspeakerservices.org.