Posted by: Kara Luker | September 25, 2018

A sacrifice of praise

Pain throws your heart to the ground.
Love turns the whole thing around.
John Mayer

Last Tuesday, grief didn’t play nice. An oppressive sorrow moved in like a brooding storm with no intention of moving out. I should have asked for prayer, but I didn’t. So there I sat in the darkness as wind lashed and rain pelted. It hit me hard and knocked me down. Then anger rose. Anger that I have to walk out this impossibly hard thing. That I am vulnerable to pain striking at any moment. That my story now involves the death of a child. That my life could be defined by this one irreversible act or by grief itself. That I now have to navigate memories and conversations and innocent questions like, “Do you have any other kids?”

It was a HARD day. My hope was bruised and my strength was sapped. Chase and I were working on preparations for his birthday; something we love to do. But I just couldn’t. Any of it. Hosting a birthday party suddenly seemed like an insurmountable task. Not just the preparing, but the people. If my one kid seemed overwhelming that day, how was I going to handle 20 more that weekend? Instead of climbing that mountain, I just wanted to curl up in a cave alone with my sorrow. John graciously rented a giant inflatable obstacle course and bought decorations in place of the ones we planned to make, lifting my load and making the party seem somewhat doable. But it couldn’t fix my life and my loss and my future.

At some point in the day, I recognized something deep within me; a familiar foe…. my unyielded will. It is the part of me that houses my expectations and is often accompanied by a sense of entitlement that could rival a strong-willed toddler with a want. When things don’t go the way I hoped or expected, my prayers can resemble a tantrum-ish tangle of hurt, disappointment, frustration and rage. While I have every right in the world to hold onto my justification for these feelings, especially with the loss of my son – until the end of my life, if I so desire – I’ve been here a thousand times before and my very extensive experience has proven that the longer I take to yield my will to the Lord and be willing to get His mind on things, the more miserable I will be. And the longer I will postpone the arrival of grace and its resulting joy.

So I listened to Thy Will a thousand times or so. And I called out to the Lord for help and opened up my heart to Him as best as I could. That night at my women’s group, I declared His goodness through my tears. And then, like a ray of sun through the clouds, I remembered the never-failing game changer: Praise. Because He is always worthy. Because He is always good. Because through praise, we enter His presence where there is always hope and fullness of joy.  Praise is not dependent on things going the way we hoped or planned. And it is certainly not dependent on us feeling like it. Which, I’m sure, is why Paul called it a sacrifice of praise.

So Wednesday was spent thanking God. For all of it. For the loss, for the hurt, for the way God is going to use it. For His love in the midst of it. For all the beauty along the way. For how He makes a way when there seems to be none. And for all the very tangibly good things that aren’t hard to be thankful for. The sorrow wasn’t oppressive anymore (I think it found it hard to compete with all the worship), but it wasn’t until that evening that it totally broke – while I was reading out of my Bible to Chase as he illustrated the stories (I process with words; Chase does with art). My own ears started to listen. “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?” And before I knew it, my heart exploded with childlike excitement. Suddenly, the power of God that had been shadowed by sorrow seemed so apparent and I knew – and I mean knew – that this grief is not too big for Him. And, in fact, when I looked for it, my grief was nowhere to be found.

Thursday was full of joy, which seemed impossible a couple days before. The praise was flowing pretty freely. As I was working on preparations that night for the birthday party I was now excited about, the Lord met me in a profound way with a palpable experience of God’s presence and Cole’s life, accompanied by the verse “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” These words spoken of Jesus to the women at the tomb were a reminder to me that night… from the heart of heaven… that Cole is more alive than he ever was. It didn’t just lift pain – which is temporary, but ministered healing – which is lasting. And then, literally in the midst of that sacred experience, I received a message from one of Cole’s Navy friends. He spoke of the blessing Cole was to him during the difficult time of training where depression and suicide were rampant, and he shared a dream he’d had on Wednesday night of Cole in heaven, looking happier than this friend had ever seen him look. “And I could do nothing but grab him and cry with joy seeing him alive again.” The confirmation of Cole in heaven brought him such relief, but he will probably never know how deeply his words spoke to my heart and how divine their timing was.

No one will ever convince me that the transformation of my week wasn’t tied to entering into God’s amazing provision through the yielding of my will and the sacrifice of praise. The week finished with the sweetest birthday party on Saturday for a very special six year old and a whole slew of kids and parents, complete with a giant inflatable obstacle course and a mom who was present and full of joy. I know this isn’t the end of the process, but what an encouragement that God will indeed carry my sorrows and give me the oil of joy… just as He promised.

Because surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. (Isaiah 53:4)

And He has promised to them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isaiah 61:3)

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy… Psalm 16:11




  1. Love you Kara! ❤️🙏🏻💕

    • And I love you Kelly!

  2. Chapter 5…..incredible

    “Even when it hurts to sing, louder then I’ll sung your praise”

    So much love, xoxo

  3. I was realizing today how amazingly appropriate the title of your blog is – “where waves grow sweet,” as you see God replace turbulence and pain with sweetness.

    Also Larry was here yesterday afternoon and sends all his love. He and Nancy were astonished at your sharing at Cole’s memorial.

    On Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 3:10 PM, where waves grow sweet wrote:

    > karanoel posted: “Pain throws your heart to the ground. Love turns the > whole thing around. -John Mayer Last Tuesday, grief didn’t play nice. An > oppressive sorrow moved in like a brooding storm with no intention of > moving out. I should have asked for prayer, but I didn’t. S” >

    • The thing I love about the blog title is that in Narnia, the sea grew sweeter as they got closer to Aslan’s land. I think we have drawn closer to Him and His land more these past 2 months than ever. I can taste the sweetness already.

      So glad you got to spend time with Larry and Nancy. What deeply wonderful people they are!

  4. I love your honesty and getting right to the guts of the issue. I sat here smiling as I read becasue much of what you wrote I have learned and written in my grief. God is amazing how He can show each one of us the same basic principals in very unique ways. When my son was 10 we lost his father in a river accident (nearly 30 years ago) and then God taught me the lesson about praising in all things and for all things, the sacrifice of praise. However, it was reinforced and relearned after my only son went to Glory. It is so good to hear the reminder or your words. You right spot on in my book. I am praying for you, I know you will get through this, I know God is with you and will comfort you and teach you. You write beautifully.

    • Wow, how heart breaking. And yet what a powerful thing to learn. It really is amazing how God’s principles are the same but he teaches them to us in unique ways and times. Thank you so much for your kind words about my writing. I’m really looking forward to reading yours!

  5. […] there was one brutal day when my thoughts turned sour. Anger rose, which in itself wasn’t wrong. It was simply a symptom […]

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