Everything went silent.
That’s how it felt when we heard the news. I didn’t know what to think, or how to feel. The world around me hushed. It was if a tunnel had swallowed all but a single focus. Every thought stilled except for the facts I learned listening to one side of a phone conversation.
My husband Mike and I were on vacation in Orlando. Our daughter and son-in-law had just joined us, and my son and daughter-in-law were due to arrive the next day.
Receiving the News
Mike answered a call from his dear friend and second in command who said words we prayed we’d never hear. We had an officer down and he was unresponsive.
Not long later, the medical team issued the pronouncement of death. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office had just experienced their first line of duty death since 1988.
One of the wives in our Sheriff’s Office family, Mrs. Heath Gumm, had just become a widow. His parents had just lost their son. Heath’s sister lost her brother. Fellow officers lost a friend, a trusted partner, and a brother in blue. Our community lost one of the good guys – a deputy who truly loved to serve. None of us will ever be the same.
Finding Strength Through Joy
I’m sharing this with you because I feel that my ministry and calling are to help others find joy in a jumbled life. That day – a week ago yesterday – our lives were far more than jumbled. They were shattered.
My hope is to share how, even as we received some of the worst possible news, the joy of the Lord could remain our strength. You see, joy is not the feeling of happiness. It’s often confused with an emotion or associated with a favorable set of circumstances. But joy is different from that. It’s a steadfast, abiding mindset. It’s an instinctive understanding that all the characteristics of God’s nature remain intact – even through our hardest struggles.
Embracing joy involves trusting in God’s goodness, even when we can’t see how an ounce of good can come from something we’ve experienced.
Embracing joy involves trusting in God’s goodness, even when we can’t see how an ounce of good can come from something we’ve experienced. Joy is wrapped in the knowledge that God can redeem and restore any circumstance. It’s the knowledge that He will eventually shine light through the most terrible, unthinkable circumstances. Even when we can’t imagine how.
The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength (see Nehemiah 8:10). I recently heard a teacher describe it this way: We are only as strong as the level of joy that we embrace.
So, the more I trust God, the more strength I garner to walk through difficulties. The more that Mike relies on the Lord’s guidance to order his steps as he leads the agency and our community, the stronger he becomes – even amidst our own personal grief. The more that you trust in God’s goodness, the more strength, and power you can muster to navigate whatever you’re facing.
It’s not scientific, but it is proven theology. I can’t explain it by numbers or equations but through personal experiences and testimonies of those who have watched it play out. The joy of the Lord, indeed, is our strength.
Joy is God’s Gift of Strength
His joy is available for all His children. It’s one of God’s mightiest gifts to us. Let’s not let the gift go unopened. Instead, let’s open and embrace the gift of God’s joy even when… no – especially when … the struggles of life come close to utterly breaking us.
After Mike received the horrific news, we put him on the next flight home. He began the long journey of seeking answers and moving toward healing, walking shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest men and women in our law enforcement community.
At last, I arrived home several long days later and had the privilege of spending a little time with some of the Sheriff’s Office team. Through the eyes of many I’ve come to love, I saw broken hearts, confusion, and weariness. But I also saw unified purpose and resolve. As they looked to their leader, I saw glimmers of hope and the full awareness that Deputy Gumm’s ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.
The joy of the Lord is our strength, and through that joy, happiness will once again return. It will take time, yes. For now, we grieve. And we do so with honor.
By embracing the joy of the Lord in our pain, He will usher in healing and wholeness. What happened will never be made right, but it can be redeemed. We await that day with eager expectation and trust the Lord will bring it. Until then and forevermore, His joy will remain our strength.