Scripture Journal Challenge: When My Heart Needs a Reminder

This time last year I was on the front end of a very lonely, very frightening three and a half weeks.

Each morning began with a sixty minute drive in Los Angeles rush hour traffic toward the downtown courthouse. My husband and I parked and then walked through metal detectors and past guards down a long, long hall to the courtroom.

Every day was one more eight hour shift listening to lawyers, witnesses and a judge as the events of several years were laid out first by one side and then the other. Questions aimed to elicit unflattering responses hit my husband hard.

The opposing counsel even printed out a couple of my blog posts trying to frame both my husband and his family as intolerant fundamentalist evangelicals who certainly didn’t understand how things were done in the progressive West.

Our fate was in the hands of total strangers and the whole time I couldn’t utter a single word.

I was not allowed to nod my head, smile or frown or even cry when I watched my husband recount our son’s death and the toll it took on him as he returned to the workplace and tried to do routine tasks while being challenged repeatedly by a surly , vindictive and manipulative employee.

Trust me, no television courtroom drama can prepare a heart for the kind of stress, uncertainty, mental anguish and overwhelming fear that a real encounter with the justice system evokes.

Sitting alone (my husband was sitting with his attorneys) I could only spend time writing out scripture, taking notes and trying to guess how all this was impacting the twelve jurors sitting mere feet away. Only nine were required by California law to agree in order to reach a verdict which just added to the uncertainty.

I felt oh, so weary, scared and forgotten.

One of the scripture passages I wrote over and over was today’s verses.

27 Why, then, do you, Jacob, inheritors of God’s promise,

    you, Israel, chosen of God—

Why do you say, “My troubled path is hidden from the Eternal;

    God has lost all interest in My cause”?

28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?

    The Eternal, the Everlasting God,

The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.

    His wisdom is beyond understanding.

29 God strengthens the weary

    and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.

30 Young people will get tired;

    strapping young men will stumble and fall.

31 But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.

    They will soar on wings as eagles.

They will run—never winded, never weary.

    They will walk—never tired, never faint.

Isaiah 40: 27-31 VOICE

The nation of Israel was feeling lonely and all alone.

Had God forgotten? Had He abandoned them? Didn’t He care they were at their wit’s end and the limit of endurance?

So Jehovah sends Israel an encouraging Word through Isaiah.

He begins with questions: “Why are you questioning Jehovah’s interest in your cause? Do you think after all we’ve been through He’s forgotten you now? Can anything be hidden from His sight?”

As I sat day after day after day, I had to remind my heart that no matter how it FELT, God was very near. We were not abandoned. Whatever went on in that room with no windows was not hidden from our Shepherd King.

The very next set of questions Isaiah poses is one of my all time favorite verses: “Hey Israel! Do you really not know that God is eternal, everlasting, all-knowing and all-powerful? Haven’t you heard He made the earth and everything in it? Do you imagine He ever gets tired, worn out, too stretched to intervene in the affairs of men? “

This trial wasn’t the first time in my life I needed to be reminded that nothing is hidden from the Lord’s sight. It wasn’t the first time I needed reassurance that God is never too tired or too distracted or somehow limited by my understanding of who He is to reach down and give me a boost.

In the five years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I’ve had days, weeks and even months when, in my despair and grief, I forgot the truth.

The whole passage comes to a dramatic conclusion that leaves Israel (and me!) with no room for doubt.

Hey-God breathed into Adam and made a living man from dust. Sure, you may be tired and worn out from circumstances or age, but He can breathe life and vigor back into you too. Young folks seem nearly invincible but even they have limits. You just wait (expectantly, in faith, certain that He will show up and keep His promises) on Him. The kind of energy Jehovah will give you won’t run out. You’ll be like an eagle soaring effortlessly on wind currents higher and higher and higher.”

I’m here to tell you that God keeps His promises. His Word is sure.

I look back on those three weeks and stand amazed that I didn’t fall over from exhaustion and stress about five or six days in because except for surviving my son’s death, it was the hardest thing I ever did.

It was absolutely, positively God’s strength and not my own.

QUESTIONS:

  • I know most of my readers are bereaved parents and probably share my testimony of days, weeks, months of utter exhaustion under the load of grief that child loss dumps on a heart. Can you identify a specific moment when you felt God’s strength poured into your spirit? Can you think of an event, holiday or date you just knew you couldn’t face but somehow managed to survive?
  • How can meditating on these verses help your heart hold onto hope?
  • What new insight does including verses 27-28 to this familiar passage give you?
  • Consider looking these verses up in at least three different translations/paraphrases and compare them. Does that help you understand them better? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Father God, I want to always remember that You are so much more than I can ever imagine or comprehend. Too often I try to circumscribe You by my limited understanding of how you work in the world. But You are too big for any box I try to stuff You into.

When I forget, remind me. When I doubt, strengthen my faith. When I feel alone, make Your Presence undeniably real to me. When I am weary, breathe new life into my spirit.

Thank You for patiently, graciously, mercifully dealing with me. Thank You for your everlasting, faithful love. You are a good, good Father.

Amen

*If you want more details about what happened last year, you can find it here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/08/24/heres-the-post-ive-wanted-to-write-but-couldnt/

Repost: Dig the Well BEFORE You are Thirsty

I am not a fan of church signs.

Most of the time they try to be cute and reduce eternal truth to a few words that often leave room for [mis]interpretaion.

But I saw one today that I DID like:  “Dig the well before you are thirsty”.

Read the rest here:  Dig the Well BEFORE You are Thirsty

Hanging On

(A psalm by David.)

Listen, Lord, as I pray! You are faithful and honest and will answer my prayer.

~Psalm 143:1 CEV

There are days when I am not interested in a deep dive into Scripture or a lengthy conversation with myself or anyone else about faith.

Days when I’m too tired to try to tease out the meat from the fat or the subtle from the obvious.

On those days I hang on to HOPE by remembering some basic truths:

admit-im-weak-but-strong-god

In my own power I am lost, but God promises not to abandon me to my own resources.

He made me, He called me and He keeps me.

i-have-made-you-and-i-will-sustain-you

He hears my cry for mercy.  He collects my tears.  He turns His face toward my suffering and doesn’t look away.

When my heart is overwhelmed, He is my Rock, my Refuge and my Very Present Help in time of trouble.

when-my-heart-is-overwhelmed-lead-me-to-the-rock

He will not abandon me.

i-am-with-you-always

 

Homesick

desire-for-another-world-c-s-lewis

Forty years!  

Forty years Israel wandered in the desert, unable to claim the promise given them through Moses.

Forty years forbidden to set foot across the Jordan and partake of the bounty that lay on the other side.

Forty years of death as the rebellious ones were laid to rest because of their rebellion.

I bet they got tired of traveling.  I bet they were weary of moving on.  I bet they wondered (even though they had sure knowledge) just when this would be over.

And all that time, even in the midst of their heartsick longing to go back, have a do-over, make it right and the heavy weight of knowing, knowing, knowing there would be no going back, the LORD was in their midst-a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night-He was there.

I understand completely.  

Sundown yesterday began the  Feast of Tabernacles for Jews around the world.  It’s a seven day period to celebrate God’s faithfulness in the wilderness and to remember that this world is not our home.

Feast of Tabernacles Transp.png

I think it is a beautiful tradition and a wonderful way to speak truth to our hearts.

Because it’s easy to forget.  

Unless something happens that sharpens the homesick longing that lies latent in all our hearts, it’s easy to get comfortable here. Life seems pretty good-we gather our people and our stuff around us and think, “I could stay here forever.”

But no one stays here forever. 

This world is not my home.  

It never has been.

And I am tired of traveling.  I am tired of moving on.  I wonder just when this is going to be over.

But even here, God is in the midst of it.  

Emmanuel-God With Us-is near.

Jehovah-Shalom-The LORD My Peace-is speaking peace that passes understanding to my weary spirit.

I was created for a place where love and light reign and sickness and death cannot enter.

I feel it every day.  

“I began to try to define the pain I felt. Yes, it was sorrow, but it was something more, something infinitely deeper. I felt it all the time, even when I was happy. It wasn’t just sorrow. It was a longing; a pining for a better place and time … no, not just a better place and time, a perfect place and time; a different reality. It felt like longing for home, but not for a home I had ever been to. I began to see that it was something like homesickness …. Perhaps Christians are the most consistently homesick people in the world because they know this world (as it is) isn’t their true home. Yes, I was home, but I was still homesick.”
~Elyse Fitzpatrick, Home

 

Inseparable!

In the first days and months after Dominic left us I copied this verse dozens of times-in my journal, on notecards, on posterboard to plaster across the refrigerator and stick on mirrors and doorposts.

I had to remind my heart that even death could not separate my son from Him.  

That even the most wily schemes of the enemy could not rip me from the hand of my Savior and that even my own doubts or fears or questions were not stronger than God’s love through Christ to hem me in and keep me safe within the confines of His protection from eternal damnation.  

God’s Word is living and active.  

It is part of my inheritance in Christ Jesus and I can appropriate it for my own life.  When I am afraid and when I doubt, I try to repeat truth until my heart can hear it:   

“If God is for [Melanie and Dominic] who can be against us?

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for [Melanie and Dominic]—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give [Melanie and Dominic] all things?

33 Who will bring any charge against [Melanie and Dominic] whom God has chosen?

It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

35 Who shall separate [Melanie or Dominic] from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 

37 No, in all these things [Melanie and Dominic] are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [Melanie or Dominic] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8: 31b-35,37-39 NIV

nothing can separate1

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.

But Jehovah hasn’t abandoned me.  

Have you ever wondered why there are lists of names in the Bible?  Do you, like me, sometimes rush through them or pass over them to get to the “main part” of a story?

But look again, the names ARE the story. 

The God of the Bible isn’t the God of the masses.  He is the God of the individual. 

He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve.  He called out to Cain, ‘Where is your brother?”

He took Enoch, guided Noah, chose Abraham and Moses.

He anointed David, spoke to and through the prophets and He CAME, flesh to flesh to bear the sins of His people, redeem them from death and cover them with His blood.

My name is graven on His hands.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”

Isaiah 49: 15-16a NIV

My life is hidden with Christ.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life,appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:3-4 NIV

He has a new name for me, a secret name I’ll receive in Heaven.

“To the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death, I will feed you with hidden manna and give you a white stone. Upon this stone, a new name is engraved. No one knows this name except for its recipient.”

Revelation 2:17b VOICE

The enemy wants to convince me that God has forgotten me.

That He has abandoned me in my sorrow and pain.

That when my son breathed his last, He was looking the other way.

That’s a lie.

And I refuse to listen.

Years ago I heard this song for the first time and it touched my heart:

He Knows My Name by Israel  (listen here)

Lyrics:

I have a Maker
He Formed My Heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

(Chorus)
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

Not everyone reading this has lost a child.  

But everyone has lost something or someone.

And everyone, if they are honest, has experienced moments of anguish wondering if God in heaven cares.

graven on hand

 

He does.

He hears.  

He knows your name.

 

 

 

There’s a Hole in My Bucket

I bet most of you reading this have listened to more than one round of the kiddie tune, “There’s a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza”.

It is a funny song full of silly remedies for patching a bucket that won’t hold water even though it’s been dipped in the well and filled to the brim.

I was talking to my husband the other day about how hard it is to describe the ongoing difficulty of living with child loss.

And this song popped into my head.

Good things still happen in our lives (our bucket is being filled) but losing Dominic has put a hole in the bottom of it (the bucket never gets full anymore).

It’s not that we don’t appreciate and enjoy happy moments.  We do.

We love seeing our children, we like to celebrate their accomplishments and sing, “Happy Birthday!”.

We are so very proud of who they are and what they have overcome.

We savor the time we get to spend together, we enjoy eating and laughing and sharing experiences.

But we can’t plug the leak of loss that saps our strength and reduces the fullness of our joy.

Hope postponed grieves the heart; but when a dream comes true, life is full and sweet.

Proverbs 13:12 VOICE

Lest anyone think I’ve forgotten that Jesus promises joy to those who follow Him, I haven’t.

But I also know many promises will not be completely realized until He returns as King on Earth.

lion-and-lamb-best-friends-fahad-photographer

 

The lion will lie down with the lamb, but not today.

Swords will be beaten into ploughshares, but not just yet.

 

There will be no more night, but the sun still sets once every 24 hours.

rev 22_5

I am looking forward to the moment when every single thing I now believe in faith will be plain to every eye.

I can’t wait to see the redemption of not only my pain, but ALL pain.

I long for the morning when JOY is all I will know.

In that day the New Jerusalem shall descend and there will be no need for the sun or moon, because the LORD Himself will be the light.

All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.

Ezekiel 48:35 NKJV