"The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can't stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope--and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us." Walter Wangerin, Jr.
We are in the midst of grieving, but blessings abound. My father died Wednesday evening. Within hours my siblings and I had gathered with my stepmother - are still gathered - to comfort one another. We have been blessed by gifts of food, by kind words, by warm embraces, by memories shared. We hold each other up. Like the poles of a teepee we can't stand alone - but leaning against each other we are strong. At each meal we pray the blessing my father always did, knowing that he was one of our greatest blessings. He endured much suffering in his 89 years, but, by the grace of God his suffering was transfigured into endurance, and the endurance into character, the character into hope and the hope into joy.