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God's Presence Prevails in the Darkest Storms

God's Presence Prevails in the Darkest Storms

Marcus died in November of 2021, and our 40-year anniversary would have been in August of 2022. We were married over 39 years and had dated for two before that. So, you're talking 41 years with this person and then unexpectedly, without warning, their presence is gone. It left an instant crater in my soul that the empty house seemed to echo. I hadn't had any real sleep for those 17 days, and it was all starting to catch up with me, so I just crashed in the bed. Over the next several days family and friends would come bringing food and emotional support, but that first night I was home alone. I wanted to be alone.

Outside, we have a beautiful garden patio that faces the swimming pool. It was our backyard retreat. Marcus and I would sit out there in the mornings and sip our coffee. We would also play cornhole together out there in the afternoons. That’s where you toss little beanbags in a hole on an inclined board. If you have a good aim, the beanbag hits the board and slides into the hole. It’s basically a safer version of horseshoes. We loved it and while playing would catch up on everything, who the guests were going to be, the latest news, and just unwind a bit. When my dad and brother died, and then John Paul Jackson died, red birds became unusually significant to me. The Lord had used them to confirm something very personal. There was this one particular red bird that kept returning to our patio. Marcus and I would be out on the patio drinking coffee or playing cornhole and my red bird would show up. We would kid about it and I'd say, “Oh there's my red bird. It's a sign from heaven." I would reflect on those I loved that had gone before us.

Marcus would go, "There's your red bird. You're going to win." And then he’d say, “I want a bird too. I want my own bird."


One day while we were out there, a little black and white bird came that had a quite loud and particular chirp. When Marcus saw it, he said, "That's my bird!"

I said, "Okay, you can have that bird." We both laughed. So, I had the red bird, and he had the chirpy bird which I later discovered was a black and white whippoorwill.

That next morning after my first night of Marcus being gone, I fixed my coffee and walked out on the patio. As I shuffled from the kitchen towards the patio, I was saying to myself, "I don't know if I want to go out there." At that moment I felt the Holy Spirit speak gently, "Go out there. I have something for you.”

I thought, “Ok, Lord” and kept walking.

While sipping my coffee on the patio, I heard Marcus' bird. It was the whippoorwill. I had my phone and decided to video Marcus’ bird the whippoorwill. Just as I began to video, my red bird flew and sat right next to his bird on the bush. Whippoorwills and red birds typically avoid each other. It was like the Lord was giving me a little wink, a God wink, on the day after. It comforted my heart in the midst of the vacuum left by Marcus’ absence. I felt the Lord say, “I’ve got you Joni.” And I felt His presence.

I made the decision early on to continue to go into Daystar on a daily basis and do the program. People were like, “How could you do that?” Some said I should have gone on a sabbatical. But if I had gone on a sabbatical, I would have gone into depression. For me, I needed to do what I'm called to do. God shows up even greater right in the midst of the storm. His presence is so close. He's right there beside you. And if you'll just close your eyes and get still, you can Hear him whisper in your ear, and you know what to do. So, I began to minister to others out of my pain, out of my grief, but now with deeper empathy and greater insight.

Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Letting the Lord do that, and moving forward with the life He has for you doesn’t diminish your grief or pain. As I continued doing what I was called to do, don’t believe for a moment that I wasn’t grieving. At the risk of sounding redundant, I cried for those six months straight to the point my eye wouldn’t drain. I know from personal experience that God shows up in our most painful moments. Like I said, if I had gone on a sabbatical with nothing specific to do, I would have become self-absorbed. Giving and blessing others would help heal my heart. Actually, the hardest part was going home at night after the show. At the studio there were people. I was interviewing, singing worship songs, working on production. I was busy. Then, I’d go home to the emptiness of the house and that’s when all the emotions jump on you. Going home was most definitely the hardest. Yes, I grieved, just not without hope.

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