Advent for the Brokenhearted: Preceded by John

The story of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist is one of my favorites for so many reasons.  

It speaks hope to my heart: these two old folks had given up on the idea that they might yet have a child, yet God brought forth life where human thinking said it was impossible.  

It wasn’t just ANY life, it was a promised life, a planned life, a purposeful life.  John came in the spirit and power of Elijah to make hearts ready for Messiah.

And then there is the oh, so understandable reaction of Zechariah when he was told he’d be a father:  “Really?  How can I be sure?”

zechariah

I imagine any one of us would feel the same way, even if we didn’t open our mouths and let the thought escape.

On the other side of fifty, my life feels kind of dried up and worn out. 

Burying my son has drained  much of the giddiness I once felt that things could only get better and better.  My heart tends to look on the less-than-bright side most days.  

waiting with hope water

But just like Elizabeth and Zechariah, God still has a plan for me. 

He has not forgotten who or where I am.

I am not beyond His touch.  

So I wait-hopefully with a little more faith than Zechariah-for God to bring forth the life He desires from my inward parts.

He can do it.

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest by the name of Zechariah from the priestly group of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was from the family of Aaron.[a] Both of them were good people and pleased the Lord God by obeying all that he had commanded. But they did not have children. Elizabeth could not have any, and both Zechariah and Elizabeth were already old.

One day Zechariah’s group of priests were on duty, and he was serving God as a priest. According to the custom of the priests, he had been chosen to go into the Lord’s temple that day and to burn incense,[b]10 while the people stood outside praying.

11 All at once an angel from the Lord appeared to Zechariah at the right side of the altar. 12 Zechariah was confused and afraid when he saw the angel. 13 But the angel told him:

Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayers. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John. 14 His birth will make you very happy, and many people will be glad. 15 Your son will be a great servant of the Lord. He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born.

16 John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go ahead of the Lord with the same power and spirit that Elijah[c] had. And because of John, parents will be more thoughtful of their children. And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to. That is how John will get people ready for the Lord.

Luke 1:5-17 CEV

Why I Watch the Sunrise

I’m up way before the sun each day-pecking away on the computer keyboard, puttering around in the kitchen, doing a few indoor chores, getting dressed.

But I always stop to watch the sunrise.

Because no matter how many times I observe the red and gold streaks make their way up over the black silhouette of trees and chase the night away, it never gets old.

Every single sunrise is a reminder that darkness has limits. 

Every morning God whispers, “See, I’m still in charge.”

Every ray of light promises hope to my heart.

psalm 8_1

 

 

The Will of God

There are many things I do not understand about life this side of child loss.  Many more I do not like and wish were different. 

But this much I DO know:

God is here.

He has not abandoned me. 

He has not left me to walk this Valley on my own.  ❤

the will of God will never take you

Trust After Loss: Admit the Pain

Child loss is Unnatural-no way around it.

Out of order death is devastating.

When my perfectly healthy, strong and gifted son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident on April 12. 2014 my world fell apart.  My heart shattered into a million pieces.  And after three and a half years, I’ve yet to even FIND all of those pieces much less put them back together.

So what does a heart do when that happens?  Because, try as I might, I cannot stop time. 

Even THAT awful day only lasted 24 hours.

When the sun rose again, the pain was still there.  And behind that pain and mixed with it was something else-disappointment, disaffection, distrust.

Where were You, God???

God is sovereign-He rules.

God is good-He loves.

How do those two truths live together in a universe that includes child loss? How can I trust the rest of my life and my eternal future to a God who lets this happen?

It’s a process.  And it takes time.  It involves purposeful choices by me to place my heart where it can hear truth even when it doesn’t want to hear and doubts every word.

The first step toward trusting again is to ADMIT THE PAIN.

You may be thinking, “Are you crazy?”.   

“Of course I know I’m hurting-my child is no longer here!”

But that’s the easy pain to recognize and own up to.  For those of us who have swallowed the western church model of “Sunshine Christianity”*, we will have a much harder time admitting our dismay that as victors in Jesus we feel discouraged, defeated and disgusted.

And should we dare to whisper it aloud we may well be shouted down by voices afraid to hear what they themselves sometimes secretly think but never speak.  So we convince our hearts these are phantom pains like those of a lost limb and try to ignore them.

But they will not be ignored.

The Bible is full of broken people bringing their hearts and their hurts to God.

  • He doesn’t despise my pain.
  • He doesn’t turn away from my tears.
  • He doesn’t hurry me through hearbreak.

Death is awful!  We dare not make it small!

It was the penalty for sin and the price of salvation.  To deny the presence of pain is to diminish the power of the cross.

I must admit my pain:

  • Own it.
  • Feel it.
  • Name it.
  • Speak it.

I’m not the first nor will I be the last to wonder about where God is and what He is doing.  Nicolas Wolterstorff’s adult son was killed in a climbing accident and his little book, Lament for a Son, was one of the best I have read in grief.

It struck a chord with me both because of the similarity of our loss and his honesty in exploring the edges of pain and doubt.

He writes:

Will my eyes adjust to this darkness?  Will I find you in the dark-not in the streaks of light which remain, but in the darkness?  Has anyone ever found you there?  Did they love what they saw?  Did they see love?  And are there songs for singing when the light has gone dim?  Or in the dark, is it best to wait in silence?

Noon has darkened.  As fast as they could say, “He’s dead”, the light dimmed.  And where are you in the darkness?  I learned to spy you in the light.  Here in this darkness, I cannot find you.  If I had never looked for you, or looked but never found, I would not feel this pain of your absence.  Or is it not your absence in which I dwell, but your elusive troubling presence?

Nicholas Wolterstorff, LAMENT FOR A SON

C.S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after the loss of his wife, Joy.  And he also is honest and raw-asking aloud the questions that hide in our hearts, admitting the fear that the God we serve may not be the God we thought we knew.  

Giants in faith-both men. 

Yet they, like us, had to bring the shattered pieces of their broken hearts to the foot of the cross and beg God to put them back together. 

Admit the pain. 

God already knows.  

god shouts in pain cs lewis

*Sunshine Christianity is the notion that once one belongs to Jesus the road is smooth (God can make a way), the path clear of obstacles (if you have enough faith), and if I simply claim the promises of Scripture I have victory over every circumstance.  It does not square with either Jesus’ own experience nor that of the 12 apostles.

Lots of Questions, No Answers

After screaming, “Oh no!  Oh no!”  the next words out of my mouth were, “Why? Why MY son?”

Nearly three and a half years later I have yet to receive an answer.

And I don’t expect to get one this side of heaven although every fiber of my being continues to cry out for some kind of explanation.

But, really, what answer would ever satisfy my mama heart?

Even if God allowed me to see everything He is weaving together through my sorrow and pain how could I embrace it as fully as I embraced the little baby laid in my arms over 27 years ago?  My flesh would continue to yearn for the physical presence of my son,  my soul would continue to mourn his too-soon (from my perspective) departure from this mortal life.

I am convinced that the only answer that will be enough is Jesus Himself.

When I meet Him face-to-face, my fears, my questions, my tears and my pain will melt away in the glorious perfection of absolute joy.  No corner of my heart will remain unfilled, no aching longing will be remembered.

I will not shake my fist and say, “WHY???”

I won’t have to.

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?
― C.S. Lewis

those that wait in hope shall not be ashamed

Repost: Grace for Right Now

It’s funny-or maybe not-that God will weave a theme through a day or week or month.  

He will put the same word in front of me in multiple places, speak it through different people, sometimes even (literally) plaster it across a billboard.

This morning it is grace.

Abundant, sufficient, enduring grace.

Read the rest here:  Grace for Right Now

Repost: He Knows My Name

Grief can be isolating.  

It separates me as one who knows loss by experience from those who have only looked on from the outside.  

It opens a chasm between me and people who aren’t aware that life can be changed in a single instant.

And I can feel like no one sees me, no one cares about me and no one notices my pain.

Sometimes it even feels like God has forgotten me-that He isn’t listening, that He doesn’t care.

Read the rest here:  He Knows My Name