Fragile Vessel, Mighty God

I was asked by a precious fellow bereaved mama to write a guest post for a new and exciting ministry her family is launching in honor of their son, Rhett.

It was an interesting and challenging assignment to create a single entry that might give enough background to make my voice an authentic source of hope based on shared experience.

I spent over a week working it out but settled on what you have below: The essence of my story is I am a broken, fragile vessel whom God chooses to use to share His light, life and hope in a world full of searching hearts.

Child loss is MY cross. Yours may be something else.

But our great and faithful Lord can and will use us, if we let Him.

“But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. “

~2 Corinthians 4:7-10 VOICE

As a young mother of four stairstep children I copied out these verses and taped them to my bathroom mirror for encouragement.

I knew Paul was talking about his own hard times and troubles as he carried the Gospel to those who hadn’t heard but I felt certain God would allow them to minister hope and life to my fragile, worn out heart even if the pressure was coming from another place.

And He did.

Paul’s words became a touchstone I returned to many times over the decades between those early years and one very, very awful day.

When a deputy rang my doorbell in the wee hours of April 12, 2014 I was startled from sleep, unsure of why he was there and generally confused until the words that shattered my heart fell from his lips.

My third child would never be coming home again.

I can’t claim that my mind went immediately to a holy place. I didn’t rush into the arms of Jesus or feel overwhelmed by supernatural peace.

I simply felt overwhelmed.

Undone.

Broken.

In a little while-maybe ten minutes or so-I remember taking the hands of the two children who were with me and saying, “We will survive this. This will not break us. This will not end us.”

Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was reminding my heart of the truth I’d been clinging to for all those years: We might be cracked and chipped but we would not be crushed. We might be confused but we were not abandoned. We were definitely knocked down but we would not be destroyed.

That night was only a beginning. I didn’t have the tiniest clue how much more challenging, painful, desperate and frightening things would become and how often I’d have to return to these verses.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I clung tightly to the promise of preservation in those verses. Now, I am drawn just as much to the promise of pain redeemed.

Paul never pretended that all those trials didn’t scar a heart. He never shied away from giving details about the suffering he endured. He never suggested that death wasn’t real or awful or hard.

I am not the woman I once was. Child loss has chipped away at my edges, poked holes in my self-sufficiency and revealed oh, so many fragile places.

Pain has definitely left its mark.

It’s tempting to try to cover up the tattered edges of my worn out soul but I’m convinced I’m a more authentic herald of the Good News precisely because of the loose threads and broken bits.

This journey is a hard one. There are no shortcuts, no detours, no easy paths through the tangled briers and over rocky steppes.

But my Shepherd King never leaves me.

I think sometimes our desire to demonstrate the power of Christ in our lives makes us long to tie things up into a perfect package.

I know I do-I want desperately to be able to say that I can see the good that can come from Dominic’s death. I long to be able to point to a finished monument of redeemed pain and restored joy.

But I’m compelled to tell it like it is.

And it is just plain HARD.

But God uses the broken things of this life to display His glory.

Because then there is NO DOUBT as to the Source of strength.  He leaves no room for boasting.

He declares His power and faithful love by taking those of us who are weak and stumbling and leading us home, redeemed and victorious.

“For look at your own calling as Christians, my brothers. You don’t see among you many of the wise (according to this world’s judgment) nor many of the ruling class, nor many from the noblest families. But God has chosen what the world calls foolish to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world calls weak to shame the strong. He has chosen things of little strength and small repute, yes and even things which have no real existence to explode the pretensions of the things that are—that no man may boast in the presence of God. Yet from this same God you have received your standing in Jesus Christ, and he has become for us the true wisdom, a matter, in practice, of being made righteous and holy, in fact, of being redeemed. And this makes us see the truth of scripture: ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

I Corinthians 1:26-31 PHILLIPS

Here’s the link to this new ministry: https://www.archwayofhope.org/

Check them out. ❤



The God Who Stays

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Child loss is not a hammer in the hand of God.

He didn’t “take” my son so He could mold me into the person He wants me to be.

But He will use this pain and sorrow if I run to Him.

Sometimes I resist but His Father heart is steadfast in its love toward me.

God doesn’t give up and decide I’m “too much trouble” or “too far gone”.

NO!

He’s the Faithful Father watching and waiting with open arms for the Prodigal to return.

He will weave even the darkest and most tangled threads into a beautiful, redeemed tapestry if I let Him.

He’s the God who stays.

Always.

Forever.

Amen.

Scripture Journal Challenge: Unshaken and Unshakeable

If there is one phrase that describes child loss it’s this: Utter destruction.

When that deputy showed up at my door and the words he spoke sank into my brain, my world imploded and exploded at the same time.

There was nothing left that made sense except the hands of the two children who happened to be home that night.

I held on for all I was worth because I was certain if I let go I’d float away into nothingness like an astronaut whose spacesuit tether is cut in two.

Living this side of 2000 plus years of Christianity, it’s easy to forget that Paul probably felt much the same way when the religion he had embraced, had vigorously defended (to the point of putting “heretics” to death) and had trusted to frame his life and understanding of the world was swept away on the Damascus road.

Not only did he endure three days of blindness, he endured three years in the desert as the Lord helped him connect the dots between what the Scriptures (remember-there was no New Testament yet) said and what He was doing in the world through Jesus, His Son.

Then as he took this Gospel-the Good News- to others, he was subjected to prison, beatings and more. Often he despaired even of life ( 2 Corinthians 1:8).

Yet Paul kept on going. He clung to the promises of God that no matter how much he suffered, the comfort of Christ was enough to help his heart hold onto hope.

All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. For even as His suffering continues to flood over us, through the Anointed we experience the wealth of His comfort just the same. If we are afflicted with such trouble and pain, then know it is so that you might ultimately experience comfort and salvation. If we experience comfort, it is to encourage you so that you can hold up while you endure the same sufferings we all share. Remember that our hope for you stands firm, unshaken and unshakable. That’s because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so you will also share in our comfort. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 VOICE

Paul doesn’t simply receive the comfort God offers and hoard it. He doesn’t pile it up in a corner and keep it to himself. No! He declares that the comfort he receives is meant for sharing!

A pastor friend says, “Your misery is your ministry.”

I think he’s right.

Child loss has been my greatest challenge, my deepest pain and my most profound misery.

But is has also been the very place God has met me with the greatest comfort, the deepest compassion and the most profound revelation of Who He is.

So it is with suffering; it never leaves you the same. You run into the traps of temptation that greet every sufferer and are left with a cruel harvest in your heart and relationships, or you run toward the comforts of grace, which shine most brightly in the darkness of suffering, and reap a harvest of blessing. Yes, you may continue to suffer, or its effects may remain, but you now live with a changed heart, a sturdier faith, and a joy that suffering cannot take away.

Paul David Tripp, Suffering

The comfort I have received is now mine to give to others.

In spite of everything I’ve endured, my hope remains unshaken and unshakeable.

QUESTIONS:

  • What specific comfort have you received that you could share with others?
  • Is God placing people in your path who need that comfort?
  • How might you do that? Where can you share your story?
  • If you are already sharing, do you edit yourself so that the hard places don’t seem so hard? Why or why not?
  • Are you afraid to share the darkness you felt/feel because you think it undermines God’s reputation?

PRAYER:

Father God, open the eyes of my heart so that even in the darkest place, the most desolate path, I see Your light and feel Your Presence.

You don’t ask me to deny pain or to pretend that things are “just fine” when they aren’t. You only ask that I bring all my broken bits and heartache to You. When I choose to do that, You are faithful to minister love, grace, mercy and comfort to my spirit and renew my strength.

Help me hold onto hope. Help me to lean into love. Teach me to trust Your truth even when it’s hard.

Take my life and turn it into a testimony of Your faithfulness. Make my misery a ministry to others. Give me beauty for ashes.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: Life Everlasting

Today’s verses are ones often read at funerals and memorial services to remind those left behind that for believers in Christ, death does not have the last word.

What a comfort!

But it’s also a reminder that the world as it is right now, is NOT the world God intended. He made everything perfect and perfectly alive.

Sin brought death.

Death brought heartache.

And for those of us who have too soon been separated from the child of our heart, we know how very much a heart can ache.

I absolutely rest on God’s promise that there will be a Day when everything is redeemed and restored. Christ’s resurrection is proof that His sacrifice is sufficient.

But even Jesus does not yet (in time) possess the full reward for that sacrifice.

So it’s no wonder we often struggle walking in the here and now while waiting patiently for the perfect hereafter.

We are not the first to wonder just how long we might have to wait! Paul was writing to comfort the church at Corinth. He reminded them of truth. He encouraged them to take hold of it and hide it in their hearts as ammunition against the lies of the enemy of our souls.

 Stay close because I am going to tell you a mystery—something you may have trouble understanding: we will not all fall asleep in death, but we will all be transformed. 52 It will all happen so fast, in a blink, a mere flutter of the eye. The last trumpet will call, and the dead will be raised from their graves with a body that does not, cannot decay. All of us will be changed! 53 We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life. 54 And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says:

Life everlasting has victoriously swallowed death.[a]

55 Hey, Death! What happened to your big win?

 Hey, Death! What happened to your sting?[b

56 Sin came into this world, and death’s sting followed. Then sin took aim at the law and gained power over those who follow the law. 57 Thank God, then, for our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, the Liberating King, who brought us victory over the grave

I Corinthians 15: 51-59 VOICE

Look at that first verse, “I’m going to tell you a mystery…”

Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us!) that what he’s about to say doesn’t necessarily “make sense” in the way a math equation does. In order to lean into the truth to follow, I have to become comfortable with the space between what I can see, taste, touch and feel and what may very well be true but not accessible by my limited physical senses.

That can be hard and uncomfortable.

So often I want tangible proof.

But that’s not how God works.

He asks me to step out in faith and trust His heart even when I can’t trace His hand.

The good news is that the world is not being tossed about in a battle between equals.

There’s no doubt that the final victory belongs to Jesus, the Author and Perfector of my faith.

So how can I arm my spirit against the wiles of the evil one? By studying the Word, hiding it in my heart and choosing-as an act of willful obedience-to believe.

Questions to ponder:

  • Do you believe that Death is defeated? Why or why not?
  • Obviously people still experience physical death. How does that fact impact your understanding of how God works in the world today?
  • What about the mystery Paul reveals is hardest for you to accept or understand?
  • How does the promise that these bodies we inhabit aren’t the last word encourage your heart?
  • What does it look like to live confidently in the hope of redemption, restoration and resurrection?

Prayer:

It’s not always easy to choose life, Lord

Because then we have to struggle with who we are

and why we are, and who you are,

And what to do with who we are,

and why we are, and who you are. 

We have to let you make us new,

and being made anything always hurts.

Father,

Let the morning come in our hearts,

So morning can come in our lives,

And the world that needs a word of hope can hear

‘Death has lost, and life has won.’

Verdell Davis, Riches Stored in Secret Places

Please join the conversation as we encourage one another, discuss Scripture and ask questions.

Just remember that THE BLOG site is PUBLIC. My own Facebook page post is set to PUBLIC. So any comments you post there will be visible to ANYONE.

All of the closed groups for bereaved parents are PRIVATE.

Only members can see your comments there.

I don’t want anyone to accidentally post something publicly they would rather remain private. ❤

Love First, Always and Forever

Usually I write about how child loss has impacted my life and the lives of my family.

Part of the reason I do that is to offer encouragement to other bereaved parents and guidance for people walking with and ministering to them.

Sometimes I address my writing to a broader audience that may include people who do not follow Jesus because some topics have more to do with general situations and less to do with faith-although my faith informs my life in every way.

But today I want to say something directly to the Body of Christ in the world whether or not you have personally suffered tragedy:

If we are gathering in the name of our Blessed Saviour and pushing the wounded to the fringe of our fellowships,

we have got it all wrong.

Jesus came for the broken,

the wounded,

the limping,

the very ones who were unwelcome in the “upstanding community”

of synagogues and the Temple.

He had no where to lay His head, carried no purse full of gold and walked everywhere He went.

He died between two thieves, mocked and naked, bleeding and helpless (in the human sense).

When He met people, He spoke directly to their HEART, regardless of their outward appearance.

He met REAL needs.

He LOVED in ways that made a difference.

We are calledI AM CALLEDto be like Jesus.

If I memorize the entire New Testament and miss this truth, I have missed Him.

We read I Corinthians 13 at weddings and treat it like a marriage survival guide.

But that passage wasn’t written to two young people joining lives and “in love”, it was written to the CHURCH as a guideline for how Christ in us should be present in the world.

I don’t want to be a clanging gong!

I want to sing hope to those I meet by reflecting the love of Jesus everywhere I go.

I’m starting this morning at my own church door.

1Corinthians.13.2_lg have not love am nothing