His Name is Peace

It never gets old.

IMG_0289

 

I am always amazed to see my frightened flock bound toward me, faces raised in confidence that whatever is pursuing them is no match for their shepherd.

The loud noise may continue, the dogs may still be nipping at their heels, but in my presence is peace.

 

So often we think of peace as a cessation of hostility, but the biblical concept of shalom is so much more.

The Hebrew meaning of the word includes

  • completeness
  • wholeness
  • health
  • peace
  • welfare
  • safety
  • soundness
  • tranquility
  • prosperity
  • perfectness
  • fullness
  • rest
  • harmony
  • as well as the absence of agitation or discord.

It is more like the satisfied sleepy smile of an infant, safe in his mother’s arms and full of wholesome milk from her breast.

There is no thought for what might be next,

no fear that the safety he is experiencing right now may be taken away,

no worry that the bountiful supply of care will be depleted.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23:2

Jehovah-Shalom-the LORD my Peace. 

Peace is not a place or a promise-peace is a Person.

Even as I walk this hard path of grieving my son, I am strangely, inexplicably at peace in the core of my being.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvationt through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: AMPC

Fear reigns in the hearts of many-even those who believe in Jesus.

And if I trust in the government, or the police, or myself to keep me safe, I have every reason to be fearful.

But when I rest completely in Jehovah-Shalom, the LORD Who is Himself my Peace, I can be assured that I am safe.

Not safe from all harm, but safe in His love and care.

 

 

 

 

 

Jehovah-Jireh: The LORD My Provider

The first time God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Jireh, The LORD Who Provides, is Genesis 22.

Abraham and Sarah have received their son of promise.  But God tests Abraham.asking him to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham obeys in faith, trusting God even in this request that seems to undo every promise the LORD had previously made to him.

How would he be the father of many nations if his only son was taken from him?

As they were going, Isaac noticed something unusual, “See here is the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for the burnt sacrifice?”  (Genesis 22:7)

To which Abraham replied, “My son, God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.” (Genesis 2:8)

Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD My Provider was his answer.  

He couldn’t see the provision, there were no loud bleats in the distance, but Abraham knew the character of the God he served and he trusted that what he needed God would provide.

And God did provide.

Isaac, bound on the altar, Abraham’s (trembling?) hand raised, the Angel of the Lord calls to Abraham:

“Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide” Genesis 22:12-14

I wasn’t asked to give up my son.

There was no miraculous intervention on that day.

No angel stayed the hand of circumstance that slew my child.  

But I do believe that even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the LORD is My Provider.

He provided His own Son, Who conquered sin and death and Who made a way through the Holy of Holies for my child to enter eternity straight into the arms of Jesus.  

I don’t have to fear that when Dominic left us, he was left alone.

I don’t have to worry that our seperation is forever.

I don’t have to wonder if he was “good enough” to get into heaven.  

I can trust in the character of my God, The LORD My Provider, that He has made full and adequate provision for me and for all those who trust in Him through Jesus to be redeemed and restored.

And He has provided friends and family and online communities and His Word to bring me comfort in the waiting.

He fills my heart with hope when my soul is weary.  

He grants peace when I am overcome with anxious thoughts.

He pours grace and mercy and love into the empty places so that being filled, I can overflow.

There are days when I wonder, days when I am afraid.  When those days come, I run to the tower of the Name of the LORD.  I remember that He is The LORD My Provider.

He has provided.  He does provide.  He will provide.  He IS His Name.

When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone. Psalm 56:3 VOICE

A Strong Tower

 

In the  days when battle was conducted face-to-face, before missiles were guided from planes and ships and game consoles continents away-a fortified tower, a castle or a deep cave were places of refuge and safety.

Death could be imminent, but if a harried combatant could make it to one of these places he could catch his breath, regroup, plan a counter-attack.

Grief feels like a battle.

And I often find myself looking for refuge.  I need a safe place to find my strength again.

Praying is still very hard for me.

I know my Father is listening, I know Jesus is with me but I don’t really have much to say. The one great cry of my heart cannot be answered, my son will not return.

So I run to the promise that is His Name.

When I can’t even whisper a prayer, I speak peace to my soul by declaring  Who He is.  

Years ago I memorized this verse:

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  Proverbs 18:10 NIV

And it has been a light in the darkest nights of this dark, dark journey.

I know many who read my blog are fellow bereaved parents and they are battling too. They are struggling to find a way to face another day without their beloved child.  They hurt and they long for the comfort of hearing God’s voice in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Prayer might be hard for them too.

I want to speak courage to your heart.

I want to whisper hope to your battered soul.  

When you can’t speak, when you feel defeated, when you are running for your life from the enemy who would have you believe that there is no safe place, remember that God sees you. He is your refuge.  

His name is powerful and He is mighty to save.

Many of us have memorized the twenty-third psalm.  We don’t see it in English, but these verses contain several names of God.

shepherd 2

At the start of this passage, God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Roi: “The Lord my Shepherd”.

He is the God Who sees, He is the God Who is present, He is the God Who guides me even here in this awful valley.

So I declare the truth that God is my Shepherd to whoever and whatever is chasing me.

I declare that God is with me to my weary soul even when I cannot feel His Presence.

I shout, “God is my Shepherd” to the darkness and run for safety to His arms.  

 

 

Job’s Comforters

Most of us know the story of Job.

A righteous man, singled out by Satan to be tempted, ends up bereft of his children, his fortune and his health.

Sitting in the dust, scraping the pus from his wounds, three friends join him in his misery.

And they make it worse.

It’s hard to imagine that after burying a child, anything that people say or do can make you feel worse-but it is possible.

I had many friends and family that brought genuine comfort to my spirit.

They were the ones who spoke courage to my battered heart and helped me face another day when all I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and pray that the sun refused to shine.  And I will never be able to repay them for that kindness.

But there were others….people who wanted to make sense of a senseless tragedy.

People who wanted to equate the loss of their aged aunt, their job, their (fill in the blank) with the unexpected, sudden loss of my perfectly healthy son.

And some folks kept poking around for details, for tidbits of information surrounding his accident like chickens scratching in the dirt.

Then there were the ones who tried to use human wisdom to fit things into their version of God’s “greater plan”.

It was very painful at first to fend off what felt like attacks.  It was hard to ignore the additional burden of careless words or thoughtless actions.

But at this point in my grief journey I think I’ve figured out some of what motivates people who follow in the footsteps of Job’s comforters.

While I, the one who suffered loss, knew immediately and irrevocably that I WAS NOT IN CONTROLbystanders and onlookers were still trying to preserve the illusion that they were.

They were looking for a clue, for a pattern, for a reason so that they could avoid the same fate.

If it’s possible to map a path to what led to my son’s death, then they will choose a different route.

If danger lurks in one direction, they will head the other way.

And that’s really what Job’s comforters were trying to do-they were attempting to fit Job’s experience into a grid they could understand.

They were struggling to align their concept of God, of righteousness and fairness with what they saw with their own eyes.

Surely Job must be hiding something.

Surely he wasn’t as righteous as he appeared.

Surely bad things don’t happen to good people.

Because, really, if they do, none of us are immune.

If doing the right thing, being careful, being “good” doesn’t protect you, then the world is a much more frightening place than we can imagine.

Believe me-I get it.  Having lost one child, I would do ANYTHING to guarantee that it didn’t happen again.

But newsflash: We are not in control.  We cannot guarantee outcomes.  We do not determine our days.

God does.

And His ways are higher than our ways.  His plan is bigger than mine.

Job asked God, “Why?”

God never answered Job’s questions.

Instead He invited Job to consider the great gap between himself and the God Who made him.

And faced with undeniable evidence,  Job relented:

Then Job replied to the Lord:

 I know that You can do anything
and no plan of Yours can be thwarted.
You asked, “Who is this who conceals My counsel with ignorance?”
Surely I spoke about things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to[b] know.
You said, “Listen now, and I will speak.
When I question you, you will inform Me.”
I had heard rumors about You,
but now my eyes have seen You.
Therefore I take back my words
and repent in dust and ashes.

Job 42:1-6 HCSB

Choosing Brokenness

From the world’s perspective there are only two potential responses to trials-better or bitter.

I can either use the struggle to strengthen my resolve to take charge of my life or I can give up and give in, wallowing in self pity.  

If I embrace popular culture as my guide, the best outcome I can hope for is that I grow as a result of sorrow, pain, conflict, tragedy and hardship.

But Scripture tells me that there is a third option:  I can choose brokenness.  

I can choose to submit my heart and my life to God and His purpose.  

I can lie prostrate, unprotected, impotent and trust that the One Who made me will ultimately remake these shattered pieces of what’s left of my life into a masterpiece, declaring His faithfulness and goodness.

“But enduring deep pain and unchangeable circumstances requires continued commitment to face the fork in the road over and over, and to choose well each time.”

It is A Daily Struggle

 

Why Not?

I cannot bring Dominic back-I cannot have my child once again in my arms.  I cannot undo the damage death has wrought and the great gash loss has made in my heart.  

And so I am left with my pain and my questions.

“Why?” is not a particularly fruitful question (although I ask it still).

 “Why not?” is probably more helpful.

If I consider the lives of all the people God chose as examples of His faithfulness and grace there is not one who escapes heartache.

Not even one was allowed to walk this sod untouched by suffering that forced them to lean hard into the only Hope that lasts for eternity.

Adam and Eve reaped the consequences of their sin, were cast from the Garden and buried one son murdered by the other.

Noah watched the world descend into unbelievable wickedness around him and then witnessed the destruction of all flesh on earth.

Abraham left the familiar, trudged for years in a land promised but not given, had a son that he loved but had to send away because he was begotten outside the plan and will of God. He finally received the son of promise but was aked to sacrifice him.

He grew old without the blessing of possessing much of what God had promised him.

Jacob reaped the reward of his deception but lived a complicated and heartbreaking life.

Joseph enjoys a happy ending,  but it was a long lonely path that led him there.

David, Moses, Paul, the apostles, Elizabeth, Hannah, Mary, Esther, Ruth-all were called to walk in sorrow as vessels of God’s glory.

Only recently in human history have we been able, in small pockets of abundance, to mistakenly assume this mortal life is as wonderful (or, dare I say it?) MORE wonderful than the promised eternal life provided by God through the ultimate and complete suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.

I want victory without war.  

I want harvest without planting and working the fields.

I want to be happy and satisfied here yet still have a heart for heaven.

It is impossible to have both.

Only in light of eternity am I free to live a life set apart for God’s use in the here and now.

Only as a recipient of God’s grace can I be a conduit of that grace to others.

Only in deep sorrow can I find the true value of Christ’s promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Only alone can I fully appreciate the gift of God’s constant companionship.

Only when I am truly hungry can I taste the bread that satisfies my soul.

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope].

John 6:68 AMP

Displaying Our Scars

What if, instead of hiding my pain, I allowed others to see it and offer it as a testimony of the power and grace of God in my life?

What if, instead of pretending that “everything is alright”, I admit that it’s not, but that God is still on the throne?

What if, instead of creating a gulf between myself and others by walling off parts of my life that I deem too messy, I throw open the door and invite folks inside-mess and all?

My scars make me who I am.  My struggles are part of who I am becoming.  And my messy life is the only one I’m likely to have this side of Heaven.

As I’ve written before:

If the people I meet think that I have it all together all the time, they are going to be much less likely to admit that they don’t.  And let’s be real, none of us have it all together.

We all have at least one place in our lives that hurts and that needs healing.

Everyone has scars.

Authenticity is the key to opening doors and creating communities where one person can reach out to another and where genuine healing can begin.

You can read more here:  Dropping the Mask