Jesus, the ultimate example of emotional self-control and the Creator of our world, was troubled and yes, he even wept. Jesus loved deeply. He knew that to truly love meant being vulnerable to having his heart shattered with pain, and yet he truly loved anyway. The news of Lazarus’ death caused Jesus’ heart to be troubled to the point of weeping. Even though this part of the story is the sad part, it has brought me comfort because it reminds me of the one thing I have in common with Jesus: our humanity.
Humanity brings with it what I like to call the bittersweet paradox of joy. If you have never felt this joy, you will if you are human. It is the feeling of happiness, despite the pain. The hope along side the despair. The shimmer of light within the tragedy. The optimism of a terminal cancer patient. Mother Teresa’s Kaligat Home for the Dying. Jesus coming only after the death of Lazarus.
This week my dear cousin Whitney Jensen and her husband Jayson experienced deeply this paradox of joy. Whitney was young and full of life. She was a fourth grade teacher who was blossoming in her new married life with her sweetheart and returned missionary Jayson Jensen. They were madly in love and were both watching the beauty of life unfold for them. Whitney was one of the most Christlike, kind and optimistic people I knew, as shown in this Facebook post:
This was the last thing she ever posted.
Heavenly Father chose to take her home from what seemed to be a hopeful beginning of a beautiful new family. This would be shocking during any time of year, but it was especially shocking at Christmas time. I don’t think I’ll ever know in this life why this happened to them at this very time. What I do know, however, is that because of her death, thousands of people have been lifted and inspired by her life. The bittersweet paradox of joy.
I sat at her funeral on Monday and looked back to see the entire chapel overflowing with many people standing. So many who came to support and lift Jayson and Whitney’s family were lifted themselves by the optimism and hope of the family, who lost their dear Whitney at Christmastime.
(read the details of her passing below in her husband’s post)
Her burial was Tuesday and as we stood outside in the snow, we sang hymns and Christmas songs. It somewhat reminded me of a manger scene and it made me think: this is what Christmas is all about. The joy we feel amidst the pain. It is a paradox to me, but it is what God intended us to experience. He is a God who weeps when we weep and who feels joy when we rejoice. If we are to become like He is, we must experience the paradox of joy. In the classic Christmas story we all read in Luke 2 every Christmas, Simeon tells Mary of this paradox when she brings the Infant Jesus to the temple:
“Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel…yeah a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also…”
Like Mary, we will all be pierced by this sword, but the pain will be swallowed up in joy. Jesus did weep at Lazarus’ death, but don’t forget that Lazarus came forth from the grave. Jesus’ promise to Martha is a promise to us all: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
***Author’s note: Please Click here to support Jayson and his family at this time of loss. And read the full touching story from her husband below. If you haven’t given yet this year, please consider giving to this fund for Jayson and his family to recover after this tragic loss.
From Jayson Jensen, husband of Whitney:
On my birthday last month, my wife woke me up to the most exciting news of my life. After more than two years of trying, we found out that my Whitney was finally pregnant. The following month was one of most spiritually strengthening of my life. Despite the craziness of life, I felt like the most blessed person alive.
At the beginning of this month, however, we found out that this tiny blessing would be leaving us to be with our Heavenly Father. This was the most difficult news I could have received at that time. People kept saying “This is a blessing” and “Your child is too perfect for this world”. I believed what they were saying, but nothing they said could comfort me or bring that child back.
Just when I thought our sorrow was over, after what we thought was a clean miscarriage, Whitney began to complain about pain. Small, sharp pains soon became intense. I rushed my princess into the emergency room. They began to operate on Whitney and discovered that she was septic.
The doctors removed as much of the infection fluid as they could. In her hospital room, she began receiving lots of pain medication and antibiotics. Her condition worsened, she was moved to the ICU, and her organs began to slowly shut down. Over the next few hours, her heart and breathing would stop several times. I kept hoping and praying that her condition would improve.
During this time, I kept picturing a future in which Whitney would feel better. I just kept hoping that the pain would go away. This blessing came very differently than expected. My pretty princess passed away on the morning of December 17, 2015. She was finally free from all her pain.
This past month, I have lost more than any person should ever have to lose. I love her. I will always love her. I miss her so much, and I can only imagine the emotional pain she is feeling having lost all her friends and family members.
Despite how I am feeling right now, deep down I know that I haven’t really lost her. Almost two and a half years ago, we were sealed to one another in the Salt Lake Temple.
I love all of our family members and friends. So many have reached out to us at this time. I will never be able to thank everyone for their love, support, and the outpouring of blessings at this time. Know that your words have strengthened and uplifted me at this time, and I’m sure Whitney too.
I keep hoping to just hold her one last time in my arms. I will forever await that day. If there is a relationship that needs to be repaired, fix it. No offense is worth the pain. You will never regret the kind words you say. If you have anyone close to you, hug them and let them know that you love them like it’s the last chance you’ll get.