denial

To deny the presence of pain is to diminish the power of the cross.  

Dying, Jesus honored His mother’s courage by acknowledging her pain. She was losing the Son she loved and it hurt in a way that only mothers can comprehend.  He didn’t tell her that it would “be alright” or that “the ending is ultimately victorious”.

Instead, He looked upon her trembling figure and saw her broken heart.

He made what practical provision He could by telling John to care for her. He knew it would not undo her sorrow.

Some in the church preach that pain and suffering are anomalies–that they are aberrations in the “victorious Christian life”.

And we place great emphasis on the idea that even though we may have trouble in this life–“We know the REST of the story! Jesus WINS!

Yes. He. does.

But some of our earthly stories-the ones we are living right now- do not have tidy, happy endings:

Some are burned in the fire.

Some die of cancer.

Some fall headlong into mental illness.

And some bury their children.

What to do when you are confronted by undeniable pain in your own or someone else’s life?

Acknowledge it.

Look with mercy on the broken heart.

Allow suffering to flow from the cracks unchecked and unjudged.

Be still and be love.

Offer practical aid without strings attached.  Be mindful of what is actually helpful even if it doesn’t make sense to you.  Come alongside for the long haul.

There is no greater gift to the one who is suffering than a faithful friend who refuses to be frightened away.

Loving burden-bearers help those of us living with no-happy-ending earthly stories cling more securely to the hope of ultimate victory in Christ.  

And by doing so, declare the power of the cross.  

For the message of the cross is foolishness [absurd and illogical] to those who are perishing and spiritually dead [because they reject it], but to us who are being saved [by God’s grace] it is [the manifestation of] the power of God.

I Corinthians 1:18 AMP

Ambushed

I know that certain things will bring tears to my eyes or make it impossible to squeak out a sound.  So, when I can, I avoid them.

But sometimes I can be minding my own business and BAM! from out of nowhere a sight or a sound or a smell or a memory sneaks up and there I am, ambushed by grief.

The other day was one of those.

Waiting to meet my dad for lunch, I was wandering around Cracker Barrel, enjoying the cute kitsch when the song playing overhead caught my ear–

“I bet it gets so quiet in Heaven sometimes
Even God cries when an Angel’s hands are tied”

(Rodney Atkins – Angel’s Hands)

I started listening more closely.  And as I did, Bible verses and Sunday School lessons and sermons all ran together in my head:

“God sends His angels to intervene sometimes.”

“He sent an angel to try to stop Balaam from his folly.”

“Was there an angel there when Dominic had his accident?”

“Does God cry?”

These thoughts shot lightning fast through my head and straight to my heart until I found myself searching for a corner where the tears could roll and I wouldn’t have to answer anyone’s polite inquiry, “Are you OK?”

Foolish and perhaps theologically unsound questions that sent me right back to Day One.

By the time my dad arrived, not a trace of my grief attack was left showing.

Some days are like this.  Some days are filled with sadness still.

But not every day.

Thank God.

 

 

 

Sanity Sundays

This is an insightful and helpful blog on depression and the church’s response. Some churches do a good job welcoming the depressed, the grieving and the lonely. But as this blogger notes, many “try to drown [their] pain with the cacophony of the untroubled”.

Lee's Notes

sanitysundays

For this week’s Sanity Sunday, Psalm 31 (Amplified):

In You, O Lord, I have placed my trust and taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness rescue me.

Incline Your ear to me, deliver me quickly;
Be my rock of refuge,
And a strong fortress to save me.

Yes, You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.

You will draw me out of the net that they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength and my stronghold.

Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth and faithfulness.

I hate those who pay regard to vain (empty, worthless) idols;
But I trust in the Lord [and rely on Him with unwavering confidence].

I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love,
Because You have seen my…

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Better than?

We live in a world where rankings rule.

The FitBit craze, while a boon to healthy living, is also a testimony to our competitive nature.

You would think that in the pit of despair, the need to be “more than” or “better than” would disappear.  But that’s not the case.

I continue to judge myself in comparison to others.

I find it difficult to give up the inner tape measure that marks progress or regress in this grief journey.

When I’m having a bad day, I feel like a failure.  I feel guilty for not taking firmer hold of the promises of God in Christ.  I question my commitment to the truth and I wrestle with unbelief.

When I’m having a relatively good day, I congratulate myself on the distance traveled, the hurdles overcome and the positive progress toward pushing grief to the background of daily life.

This is unhelpful.  And it rests in a root of pride.

I am not in control.

My struggle to rate my “progress” in grief recovery is an attempt to exert my will over things I cannot subdue in my own power. And if I feel successful, then the glory goes to ME.

When I choose to practice spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting, I am placing myself in a position to hear from God and to be receptive to His will in my life.

Likewise, when I choose to lean into the support of others and focus on truth revealed in Scripture, I encourage the healing process.

But if my restoration rests on my efforts, I’m doomed. I do not have the power  or authority to redeem my pain.

I cannot save myself.

I need a Savior.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin [by which it brings death] is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory [as conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].

I Corinthians 15:56-58 AMP

 

Preaching to Myself

Some days I’m afraid that I’m not making progress.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m settling for lagging behind.

And there are moments when I want to give up and give in.

But I’m still in the fight.

I haven’t surrendered.

I WILL NOT QUIT.

Because my God is The Living God.

THERE IS NO DEVASTATION GREATER THAN HIS RESURRECTION.

There is no desert that will not bloom under His flood of grace.

There is no wall that is higher or stronger than His onslaught of mercy and no heart so cold that the warmth of His faithful love cannot penetrate it.

He has promised to redeem my pain.

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
    because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
    heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
    pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
    a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
    and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
    give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
    a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.

Isaiah 61:1-3a MSG

 

 

Truth out of Balance

A  wise pastor I know made a profound statement that has stuck with me through the years: Heresy is truth out of balance.

I read my Bible.  I have been in church for most of my life.  I’ve heard sermons, participated in Sunday School lessons and listened to teaching on tapes and the radio from sound expositors of the Word. So it is unlikely that I would fall headlong into chasing after a wildly twisted theology that bore little resemblance to biblical truth.

But, I can be seduced into taking tiny baby steps away from the straight line of doctrine and look up one day only to realize that I am miles from where I thought I was headed.

The Pharisees clung tenaciously to the Law until they excluded grace.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he addressed the opposite extreme, answering the argument that if grace was so abundant, then perhaps one should sin more so that grace could be made more evident:

Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought!   ~Romans 6:1, 2a Phillips

Grieving the loss of a child, I am forced to face and balance questions that I thought I had once settled firmly in my mind:

  •  Is God good?
  • Is God in control?
  • Is there a heaven?
  • Is the blood of Christ sufficient to cover all sin?
  • Why does God save (physically) some people and not others?
  • Why do bad things happen to “good” people?
  • What, exactly, does God want from me?
  • Does God love me?

And if all I do is roll them around in my mind, depending on my own reasoning , I am at risk of answering my queries in a way that may seem right but which might actually be far from the truth.

There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, But its end is the way of death. ~Proverbs 14:12 AMP

Or if I look to other people and their lives, I am limited by what I see–which is never the whole picture.

So I must meditate on the Word and balance my interpretation in light of the whole counsel of Scripture as well as being honest about my own feelings and experience.  I must ask God through His Spirit to “lead me into all truth”.

And when I find it, I must cling to it with all my might and refused to be uprooted by the winds of sorrow and pain.

“Make them ready for your service [Sanctify them; Consecrate them; setting them apart for service] through your truth; your ·teaching [word] is truth.”

~John 17:17 EXB

 

 

 

What Fills Your Heart?

Jesus taught that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What I value most is where my heart rests.

Burying a child has pushed that truth right in front of my eyes.  I am pouring my life into something–no way around it.

So two questions fill my mind most days:

What am I willing to die for?  What will I live for?

Dying for something or someone would be a moment in time, an unrepeatable and finished work.  A single act.  

It’s much more challenging to think about what I will live for.  

I have to decide and commit to THAT over and over.

My first journal entries after Dominic died were filled with prayers begging God to pour His love, mercy and grace into my broken heart and to make me a vessel of healing for othersto not allow me to become bitter or hard or uncaring–

It was the only good I could imagine coming from the horror of burying my child.

Years ago, my husband gifted me with the CD “Revival in Belfast” by Robin Mark.  And in these months after losing my son, it is the one soundtrack I can play over and over because it speaks to deep places in my heart and spirit.

One of the songs,  “When It’s All Been Said and Done” has become my anthem:

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and heaven after
For you’ve joined me at my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone…

When It’s All Been Said and Done (lyrics)

When It’s All Been Said and Done By Robin Mark

“Only what I’ve done for love’s rewards will stand the test of time.”

I want my heart to be filled with love.  

I want my treasure to be eternal.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I Corinthians 13:13 MSG