Perhaps you—like me—have been one of the millions of people who recognize the name “Rick Warren” and have read his hugely influential devotional book, The Purpose Driven Life. In fact, you might even be able to recite the answer to the question Rick poses in his book: “What on earth am I here for?”
- Purpose #1: You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure (Worship)
- Purpose #2: You Were Formed for God’s Family (Fellowship)
- Purpose #3: You Were Created to Become Like Christ (Discipleship)
- Purpose #4: You Were Shaped for Serving God (Ministry)
- Purpose #5: You Were Made for a Mission (Mission)
Is it possible that you—like me—have nevertheless been relatively unaware of the details of Rick Warren’s personal life? Last night Rick’s wife, Kay, spoke at Pine Rest’s Foundation Dinner. Her topic was choosing hope and finding joy in the midst of tragedy, but she didn’t select this subject lightly. After years of battling mental illness and depression, their son Matthew committed suicide 19 months ago.
Kay shared an impassioned account of their loss and the family’s journey toward recovery, offering several ideas from her recent book, Choose Joy Because Happiness is Not Enough. What’s the difference between joy and happiness? Well, according to Kay, we won’t always be happy (which is typically based on pleasant life circumstances), but we can always choose to have lives filled with joy, which is “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life; the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right; and the determined choice to praise God in all things.” Kay used Jeremiah 2:13 (“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water”) to point out that putting our hope in anything but God will leave us disappointed and empty. “People, possessions, position, personality”…nothing truly satisfies that deep thirst in our souls except the water of life, which is found only in God. During the Warrens’ years of anguish over how to help their son (and then after his death in learning how to rebuild hope), Kay has maintained a literal, physical “HOPE” box (full of verses and thoughts on hope as she thinks of them), a “CRUCIBLE” box (full of questions for which she can find no answers), and an ongoing playlist of worship music that lifts her spirit to God. Kay says she had to wrestle with the inevitable question of blame but has learned not to blame God or herself. The ultimate answers to all the “whys” of life are a mystery at present, but someday, when we see Jesus, we will understand. For now, she clings to the promise from 1 Corinthians 15:43, where we’re told that our bodies will die in dishonor and weakness but will be raised in glory and power. She quoted Eric Liddell from Disciplines of the Christian Life: “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out his wonderful plan of love.” Are you grieving a tragic loss? God wants us to come to Him for comfort and help when we’re in pain. He alone can provide the mercy and grace we so desperately need. God asks us to choose faith and hope…to choose joy in the midst of our pain, trusting that He loves us, He’s in control, and in the end—even though it may all seem like a terrifying mystery now—everything will work together for a good and glorious ending for all those who love Him.