Once again, my heart was shattered into a million pieces.
I barely noticed the gorgeous weather as I sat alone on our front porch steps, tears streaming down my face. My husband was still at work, but I needed to step away from our three young children as I wept over the devastating phone call I had just received.
“Mrs. Mullett, the pathology report came back. The tumor we removed from your son is cancerous. We’re sending this on to his transplant team, and you will hear back from them on next steps.”
I felt physically ill as I thought about how to break the news to our six-year-old cancer survivor. Austin had just completed one year of aggressive chemotherapy and was just beginning to enjoy life again, despite the lingering effects of his toxic medications.
I remember praying that day, “Lord, I know Your grace has carried me through my son’s heart transplant, my daughter’s heart transplant, and through Austin’s first battle with cancer. I know you’ve been there for me. But, God, how much can a six-year-old experience Your grace?”
Over the next ten years, our losses became more intense: cancer, heart failure due to rejection of a heart transplant, severe debilitating skin conditions, seizures, a second heart transplant for my son. Each loss led to that November day when the casket holding my firstborn, Austin, was lowered into the cold, damp ground. I stifled a scream as my heart shattered in a way I never thought possible. I wondered if I’d ever experience joy again.
Loss comes in many forms. We might lose a job, our health, a relationship, our finances—we might even lose someone through death. For anyone going through a harrowing loss, it can leave you wondering if true, lasting joy is even possible.
With all that our family has experienced, as improbable as it sounds, I can attest that joy is possible. In fact, it’s a promise (Psalm 30:5)
Each person’s journey to rediscovering joy is unique and personal. While no two paths look the same, there are a few different ways you can find joy again.
1. Embrace the presence of Jesus amid sorrow and loss.
In Genesis, God addresses the very first human crisis: the crisis of aloneness (Genesis 2:18). God never intended for us to walk alone.
During one of our children’s health crises, I was driving, tears streaming down my face as I prayed to God, begging for His mercy and healing. I was exhausted, hurting, and feeling completely alone. As I was praying, a warmth washed over me as I felt the presence of Jesus in a way I’ve never felt before.
Later that day, I read the words of Joel 2:25: “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.”
It was a promise I clung to in the years ahead.
2. Remember the realities of eternity.
Austin’s heart function significantly declined sixteen years after his first heart transplant. He was incredibly smart and knew the statistics of surviving a second heart transplant.
I watched, amazed at the strength of my sixteen-year-old as they prepared to wheel him down to the operating room for his second heart transplant. His joy was contagious.
“Austin, aren’t you scared at all?” I asked.
He smiled at me and replied, “Mom, the worst thing that can happen to me is that I die during the surgery or soon afterwards. And if that happens, I’ll be in heaven with Jesus. Why should I be scared?”
When we view hardships through an eternal lens, we begin to see clearly.
3. Recognize that joy is not the absence of pain, but the gift of grace.
Even though the pain I’ve felt since saying goodbye to Austin has seemed suffocating at times, I’ve come to experience grace upon grace. God’s grace fills me with incredible joy, hope, and anticipation—even as we navigate the journey of our daughter’s chronic health issues since her heart transplant.
Every time I breathe, I breathe His grace.
If I could have the pleasure of hearing your story as we sit in a cozy atmosphere, sipping our drinks, what would you share with me? What are the painful events that have threatened to turn your heart cold? Are you turning to artificial sources for fulfillment, or are you allowing the Giver of life and breath to breathe grace deep into your soul?
This life will fail us, but God never will. He will always walk the storms with us, as we choose to cling to Him. God is always good, in spite of our circumstances. With each breath God gives you, choose to breathe grace and reach for joy. It’s still there, just waiting for you to find it again.
About the Author
Cindy Mullett and her husband Duane are involved in full-time church and prison ministry, touring with their singing family across the US and Canada for over thirty years. They have battled many life-threatening events with their children, including three heart transplants, two malignant cancers and other chronic conditions, as well as the death of their oldest child and only son, Austin.
Out of their own grief recovery, the Mullets have imparted a “From Pain 2 Purpose” life message to hundreds of churches and thousands of individuals, offering hope and healing to many.
Duane and Cindy have four children, all of whom sing on tour with the family. They reside in western North Carolina.