Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
Author’s note: This article was written the day after I played and sang at a funeral. It has been several years now.
Yesterday, I joined a dear brother to play and sing at the graveside assembly of a dear friend of his. It was a blustery spring day. People arrived and hung around the fringes of the area standing in small cliques trying to find comfort in friends they knew who also knew the one who had passed. The tent was up. The chairs were set. The widow and daughters were in their place. These events are always overwhelmingly sad even when we gather to celebrate the life of the one who has died. Sadness always accompanies death. It’s natural, so natural that I don’t even have to begin to explain it.
The director began to encourage people who needed them to use the chairs under the tent. There were few takers. People are more comfortable when they remain farther away from death, I guess. Or, maybe they just didn’t want to intrude. The widow urged them to join her. A few did. But most just hung on the fringes seemingly trying to encourage without getting too close. I was alone there. Most of the folks there were not people I knew. Not a common situation for me.
The preacher spoke the gathering into motion. And then, with his approval, I began to play and my brother began to sing. In that moment, something changed. It often does for me at end of life gatherings. The words rang out crystal clear.
‘I come to the garden alone….’.
Alone before God even when surrounded by others. Face to face with Father God even when trying to keep a distance. And there, in this awkward place and this uncomfortable event…
‘He walks with me and
He talks with me and
He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share
As we tarry there
In that moment at that strange place, I encountered the undeniable Presence of the Lord my God. It was tangible. He was near. The words rang out and hearts were moved. Everything seemed to stop as our voices delivered that amazing truth. The birds seemed to quiet. People stood still. Joy hung in the air and penetrated hearts.
As I walked to the truck after giving my best to my buddy and his wife and my thanks to the widow, I was overwhelmed with the exceeding joy of Jesus Christ. Tears welled up and threatened to burst forth accompanied by those strange noises associated with weeping. I was overwhelmed. There weren’t really specific words that came to mind just a deep sense of His presence and His love – Joy. I don’t understand fully and honestly feel a bit odd to have joy at a funeral but – there He was. Walking. Talking. Claiming me. Deep in my heart. Ringing out joy. Nothing compares.
His Word this morning reminded me…
‘Father God, you are my exceeding joy.’
Exceeding the trauma, the fear, the failings and the end of this life. You are my exceeding joy, Lord. Your joy is my strength.
He walks with, talks with and claims you too. It is truly miraculous. May He be your exceeding Joy. My friends, nothing compares with Him.