By Lisa Bonnema
I don’t remember the date, or if it was even day or night. What I do remember is being in the shower and not knowing where the water began and my tears stopped. There was just a constant flow of water that, at the time, felt anything but cleansing. I was shattered and crying out to God desperately: Life had dropped on a bomb on us, and I was still reeling.
A routine ultrasound revealed that our third child, the child in my womb, had a birth defect and would face lifelong disabilities and a lifetime of unknowns. Nothing was certain or safe, and I was so scared and sad and confused. This was supposed to be a moment of joy – a blessing of new life and exciting beginnings -- and yet there I stood, drenched in sorrow. I felt both devastated and ashamed for feeling devastated. I loved my baby. I did. And that’s why it hurt so badly. I wanted the world for her -- but this was a world I knew nothing about.
And then they came. One right after another. Verse after verse falling over me and filling my mind so quickly that I couldn’t possibly recall them right now if I tried. They were Bible verses I never remember memorizing, yet there they were, covering me with grace and love and hope. It was a sacred moment of God’s presence I will never forget. As I stood there, soul and body bare, His loving and encouraging words gently washed away my fears, leaving peace and joy in their place.
Of course, that wasn’t the last time I felt fear or sorrow over my daughter’s journey. Just recently, I walked through a surgery with her, and the fears were just as real and as raw as they were 9 years ago. But what happened to me that day in the shower felt like a promise from God: His words – the Word -- would be my comfort and my joy. They were what I needed to navigate this new world I knew nothing about. It’s not that they would erase the hard parts or even take them away; it’s that they would remind me of the goodness and victory that are mine. That are hers. That are all of ours. They are, in fact, our heritage.
I have your decrees as a heritage forever;
indeed, they are the joy of my heart.
Throughout Psalm 119, we read about all the reasons we can delight in God’s Word. It keeps us from sin (verse 11). It gives us hope (verse 74). It lights our path (verse 105). In verse 111, however, the psalmist confidently states that the decrees of the Lord are our heritage. The Hebrew translation for “decrees” in this case is “testimonies.” This means God’s story is our story. His victory is our victory. It means the promises of His Word are not only true; they are our inheritance. We can claim them as ours, and when we live by them and stockpile them in our hearts, we can find joy. Yes, even in those moments when we are drowning in doubt and fear.
This doesn’t mean we won’t experience sadness. Joy doesn’t always replace pain. I find they can often be found together. But we do have an assurance that the well of God’s goodness never runs dry. If we, like the psalmist, claim God’s ways as our heritage, we too can be certain that His plans are good. That’s when the joy comes.
And for our mama hearts, here’s the best part: The promises of the Lord can be our children’s heritage as well. Every time we intentionally pour God’s Word into them, we can provide them with a source of joy they will find nowhere else. It is a practice that is tricky in the day-to-day craziness of life, but it is a practice that could be transformative, not only for their tender little hearts, but perhaps even for their grown-up hearts years down the road. God’s Word is not only our heritage; it can be our legacy.
The more I experience the power and comfort of God’s Word in my life, the more I want to share it with my children. Since the first day my youngest daughter noticed her physical differences, we started saying Psalm 139:14 together:
“I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well.”
During her most recent surgery, when she was struggling through her recovery, we recited Philippians 4:13 over and over again:
“I’m able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
I’ll admit, there are so many other times I have fallen short in this area. My prayer is that our gracious God will store the few verses I have shared with my daughters in their hearts for the days when they need them most.
Constant joy is by no means a given when you are a Christian, but I do believe we have constant access to it. Every moment I put myself and my kids in front of the Word is time well spent, even when I don’t feel like one syllable is sticking. When my mind wanders off or my inconsistent attempts at family devotions end in fights and frustration, I rest in the knowledge that God is pouring into a well somewhere deep within our souls and that joy will rise up at just the right time.