Trust After Loss: Appropriate God’s Strength

My friend and fellow bereaved mom, Margaret Franklin, Ryan’s mom, shared a beautiful Dutch word with me “Sterkte” (pronounced STAIRK-tah).

It literally translates “strength” or “power” but culturally means much more.  It means bravery, strength, fortitude and endurance in the face of fear and insumountable odds through the empowering strength of God in me.

Not MY strength, but HIS.

It’s the strength Isaiah meant when he wrote:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 KJV

This is what it means to appropriate God’s strength:  

I have to exhale my doubts, inhale His truth and then allow His Spirit to weave that truth into armor so that I am strong for battle.

armor-of-god

There were twelve spies that scouted out the Promised Land.

All twelve had experienced the parting of the Red Sea, all twelve had seen the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day,  all twelve saw God conquer the Egyptians.  But ten of them never allowed that experience to go further than head knowledge.

Only Caleb and Joshua embraced that truth and allowed God to use it to change their hearts.  Those two were willing to fight the giants because they knew it would be God fighting for them and through them and they did not have to depend on their own strength for victory.

That’s what “sterkte” is-it’s inviting God’s power to dwell inside me so that I am strong for battle in HIS strength.   It’s letting His Spirit speak courage to my heart so I have the endurance to live this life NONE of us chose.

In my own strength I am doomed.  In His strength I am guaranteed enduring to the end.

When I was searching for a verse to help explain sterkte-because it is such a lovely and succinct expression of how hearts can and do endure this awful pain, the dark nights of doubt and yet remain strong in this journey-I found it in Habakkuk.

It’s a tiny book tucked into the back of the Old Testament and begins with the prophet asking God questions:

“Do You know what Your priests and leaders are doing?  Are You going to DO something?”

And God says, “Yep.  Going to use the Babylonians to wipe them out.”

Habakkuk answers, THAT’S Your plan???”

God responds, “Yes-but see, I’m going to be sending a Messiah to make all this right.  I’m doing something you can’t understand.  I’m working my plan for history and eternity.”

Habakkuk ends his book with these verses:

16 I heard and my [whole inner self] trembled; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones and under me [down to my feet]; I tremble. I will wait quietly for the day of trouble and distress when there shall come up against [my] people him who is about to invade and oppress them.

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

19 The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

Habakkuk 3:16-19

Nothing changed!

Bad stuff was coming!

But Habakkuk appropriated God’s strength for himself and knew that would be enough to see him through. 

He was broken but trusting.

There is no shame in being broken.

Here’s the deal:  God loves the broken.  Christ came for the broken.  It’s the broken and breathless who long for the Spirit to blow llife across their wounded hearts.

It’s the hopeless and fearful that run faster to the safety of their Shepherd.

It’s the worried and weary who are thankful for a Burden-bearer.

Hallelu-Yah!

This is NOT a once and done kind of thing- I m here to testify that it is most certainly NOT.  I am assaulted repeatedly by pain and doubt.  I circle back around and revisit places I thought had healed over and over and over.  A sound, a sight or a memory can bring me back to Day One in a heartbeat.

So what does faith really look like?

Is it always a never-ending, wild “Hallalujah!”?

I don’t think so.

I think faith is essentially this:  turning my face toward the God I love even when (especially when!) I’ve stopped expecting an answer and maybe even when my heart has despaired of help.

I would argue that faith is precisely that step forward into the dark unknown, onto the broken road, lifting the unbearable heaviness as an offering and trusting that

God sees,

that He hears

and that He will not abandon me.

Each time I doubt I am quicker to acknowledge the pain and admit my doubt– I take my questions to God.  My mind is more likely to access TRUTH and my heart is more inclined to appropriate God’s strength, my personal bravery, my invincible army.

hebrews-11_1.jpg

I used to think that Hebrews 11:1 was essentially a personal verse-my faith confirmed to ME that God was working.  But now I see it in a different light.  I think it is a corporate verse leading my heart to emulate lives that exemplified enduring faith-that “great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on from Heaven.

I did not choose this life but it is the one I’ve been given.  My prayer in this Valley for myself and all of us who are broken is this:

“God to mold me and make me into the masterpiece You designed me to be as a testimony to the fact that You are who You say You are.”

I long for my faith to be evidence to a doubting world that there is MORE than the eye can see.  I want my endurance to be an invitation for others to join me in pursuing what lasts for eternity and not just for this short mortal life.

Full redemption will have to wait for Heaven, but God is working even now to bring some redemption from my pain. 

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich

courage and perseverance

 

Repost: I Will Not Be Moved

I’m not brave by nature.

If I have a choice, I will run every time.  But there are just some things worth fighting for.

My family is one of them.

I will not let the enemy have them.

I will not allow despair to overtake us, fear to bind us, hopelessness to sap our strength.

I will not let death win.

Read the rest here:  I Will Not Be Moved

Baby Steps and Falling Forward

Sometimes I schedule a post the night before and wake up to a day that contradicts everything I just wrote.

Grief is like that.

Good day.  Bad day.  Better day. Worse day.

I can barely predict one moment to the next, much less a day or a week.

grief-is-not-linear

It’s easy for me to become discouraged when I stare at my own feet-measuring paltry progress when I long for leaps and bounds.

But truth is, no life is lived primarily by giant strides.  It’s mostly baby steps and falling forward.

Got up this morning?  Step.  

Remembered to make that phone call?  Step.

Smiled at the bird outside the window? Step.

Looked at Dominic’s picture and treasured the memory instead of crying?  Step.

And when I trip over my broken heart listening to a song on the radio and tumble headlong into wracking sobs-I reach out and fall forward, still making a little progress toward learning to live through a day.

It doesn’t matter how fast or how far I’ve traveled in this Valley.

It only matters that I refuse to give up.

may not be there yet but closer than yesterday perseverance

 

 

 

 

 

Repost: Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

As a follow up to the repost a couple days ago:  Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?, I wanted to share this entry.

Here are some practical ways to deal with anxious thoughts, take them captive or redirect my focus so that they don’t rule my heart.

Please feel free to add any helpful tips in the comments section below.  We learn best from those that share our journey.  You may have the very words that will encourage another parent’s broken heart!

I no longer have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in the life of a mother-I know exactly how it feels. 

And if I allow my heart to ponder that too often or too long, it consumes me.

So I am learning to take those anxious thoughts captive, learning to make them live in only a small corner of my mind instead of taking it over completely.

It takes effort and discipline, but it’s possible.  

I don’t have to live the rest of my days a quivering mess-

Read the rest here:  Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

Can’t You Just Fix This?

I’ve been sick the past couple days.

Nothing serious, just a bad cold but the fever, stuffy nose and body aches make everything

So.

Much.

Harder.

And it has reminded me why people flock to the doctor’s office or urgent care clinics on day 5 begging for a pill or shot or SOMETHING that will make them feel better.  Trouble is, viral colds can’t be cured by antibiotics.

But lots of folks refuse to believe that.

The only thing to do for the common cold is to treat the symptoms-drink fluids, get plenty of rest, eat healthy food and take vitamins or over the counter medications.

In other words-slow down, pay attention to what my body needs and take care of myself.

This rotten cold reminds me that on day 1,134 since Dominic left us, I wish there was a pill or a shot or SOMETHING that could make the pain and heartache of child loss go away. Trouble is, the only cure for missing my son is to hold him again.

But that won’t happen this side of heaven.

So the only thing I can do in the meanwhile is to acknowledge the pain, give myself space and time to do the work grief requires and choose to speak truth to my heart so that it can hold on until Jesus calls me home or He returns.

In other words-slow down, pay attention to what my body, soul and spirit need and take care of myself.

I’m not always the best patient when it comes to colds and sometimes I’m not willing to take my own good advice when it comes to grief.

I’m often tempted to ignore my need for rest.  I try to push harder, move faster, go further but it always ends badly.

This Valley is long and I want to finish well.

I’m going to try to be better at doing what it takes to make that happen.

let-yourself-rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Head Above Water (Most of the Time)

Some days I go gangbusters-rip through my “To Do” list from top to bottom before lunchtime.

And some days I can barely get up out of the chair in the morning for a second cup of coffee.

It depends.

Most times I have no idea what throws me into a tailspin.

Oh, I’m prepared for the “circle the date on the calendar days” like Mother’s Day (coming up!), Dominic’s birthday, his heaven day and the holidays. But there are random, not-special-occasion-days that plunge my head under a grief wave that I did not see coming.

Maybe it’s the smell of cut grass through an open window or the sound of a motorcycle thrumming at the end of our lane or the sight of trees full of leaves (again-another season he isn’t here).  I really don’t know.

The drowning feeling may last five minutes or five hours.  All I can do is go with it and hope the wave spits me out sooner rather than later.

And they DO pass.

My heart is always tender, always aware of missing Dominic.  But it is better able to join in laughter and celebration than it was even six months ago.

I no longer feel as if I am drowning every moment of every day with only a gasp of air now and then.

Instead I feel like I’m swimming-tired and often out of-sight of shore-but managing most of the time to keep my head above water.

Grief waves come.  They will always come.  I have to endure the choking, sputtering, frightening, drowning feeling when they do.

But they are not the only thing I feel now.

And for that, I am very grateful.

be-thankful-for-today-change-in-one-moment

 

Repost: Love Doesn’t End

I know that others want desperately me to be “better”.  They want me to be happy and carefree and back to the Melanie they knew before child loss.

And not just for their sake, for mine too.  

It’s hard to watch someone you care about in pain.

But my reality has been forever changed.

Read the rest here:  Love Doesn’t End