Beneath the branches of a broad oak tree in a parked car near the local arts center, my boyfriend Josh and I discussed marriage. He’d been recently diagnosed with an operable brain tumor, so we had a lot to consider. His well-known specialist was predicting he had 20 years before the slow-growing tumor would change, however, so we began planning our life together.

His primary care physician recommended he take low doses of preventive chemo. Having observed my family’s unsuccessful experiences with chemo, I suggested that he run this by his specialist. A resounding “no” filled the room. Chemo began a week later, and we continued our wedding plans.

And then, on Fathers Day 2008, I was shopping for vacuum cleaners for our new life when a deep uneasiness sent me to Josh’s home. There I was greeted by two forlorn EMTs. “I’m Josh’s fiancée. What’s wrong?” I asked.

“We tried to revive him,” they responded. “He is deceased.” My knees broke beneath me.

There are no words to describe what it was like to hear I had lost Josh and my future. Platitudes, Facebook posts, calls, hugs, sympathetic thoughts, scripture references…they could not comfort me. Looking back, I’m still not sure how I made it through those days. Without my permission and lacking survival skills, I’d been tossed into a barren wilderness.

Following Josh’s funeral, a longtime friend brought me a scripture plaque with wisdom from Romans 5:3–4: “Rejoice in suffering, suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

“Rejoice?” I said tearfully. “How?”

“God will get you through,” my sweet friend replied. “That’s all I know.”

As a Jewish convert, Christians had always fascinated me with their ability to “ forever have happiness ” no matter what sad piece of news. This joy in sorrow concept was not part of my Jewish culture, but it had a pull on my heart and curiosity. God had a plan.

When Josh died, the wilderness was inevitable. My choices? I could walk the wilderness path or give up. Giving up was not a workable option, so I pressed though each tear, sad moment, and disappointment. I found ways to rejoice through the lonely heartaches, persevering when my faith was less than a half a mustard seed. I laid it all at the foot of the cross…picked it up…laid it back down…until it was completely given to God.