Learning to celebrate despite heartache

(Photo: Unsplash/Samantha Gades)

Last month I spoke about the need to lament. I believe the last few years have taught us that we neglect this biblical principle at great cost.

As I shared, my own life has been filled with some deep griefs and as a family we are walking through an intensely difficult time right now. It is hard for us to plan anything and often we aren't able to do things that we used to take for granted.

So when it came to my husband's recent 50th birthday I was concerned whether we would be able to celebrate it as well as we'd like to. Although, in all honesty, I felt too exhausted to try and do more than get through each day. The idea of organising anything that might need to be cancelled filled me with dread.

And then we decided to utilise a voucher some friends had given us many months previously to do something for just the two of us. We downed tools very early one day, and went out for a slap-up brunch while the kids were at school. While it was very stressful to actually get to a point of being able to leave the house, as soon as we were out, we were so pleased we had made the effort.

The arrangements then kept falling into place, and we were blessed to be able to see friends as well as family to celebrate my husband and what he means to us all. It was a special time for him but, yes, it was constantly punctuated with the sadness of life's obstacles yet to overcome.

As we were in the midst of our busy weekend, I kept being reminded of the Israelites in the wilderness. While God provided for their needs (and we can testify to him doing that in our lives too) their day-to-day experiences must have been tough. A nomadic lifestyle, no modern-day facilities or medicines, and having to bury their dead before moving on must have brought some really harsh realities. And yet God taught them the importance of remembering and celebrating through the many festival days that were a part of the law he shared with Moses on Mt Sinai.

One of the family traditions we started in lockdown was having a gratitude jar we would all add to each week; these days we are practising 'three things I'm grateful for' before going to bed. That way we notice and celebrate the things we might otherwise overlook in our lives – and often we see what God has been doing in the everyday, which is something I think the festivals must have provided for the Israelites.

When we take time to celebrate one another our relationships deepen, and when we celebrate who God is (which hopefully we are doing week by week in church but also in our own personal walks with him) we have a sense of his closeness. It is also important to celebrate ourselves (something I am not very good at). It has been vital for me to have friends and family who have reminded me of who I am in this season of heartache and exhaustion. Facing hardships does not negate the need for celebration.

As a family we are looking forward to celebrating my sister's wedding in a few weeks. It will be bittersweet as my mum will not be there, but my sister made sure she was involved; mum helped make the dried flower bouquets and arrangements for the special day.

I think that, in the midst of our busyness, we don't give ourselves time to take stock nearly enough. Sometimes that does involve lamenting and processing hardships and disappointments, but it can also mean celebrating well too.

Claire Musters is a writer, speaker and editor who blogs at clairemusters.com. Her most recent books are Every Day Insights: Disappointment and Loss and Grace-Filled Marriage. The latter was written with her husband, and they have provided a series of free videos to accompany the book, which can be accessed on the Big Church Read website. Claire also writes and edits for Premier Woman Alive and Christianity magazines.