If you’ve joined me here for very long, you know I have a particular dislike for what I call “Sunshine Christianity”.
It’s not because I’m opposed to smiling faces and feel-good Bible verses plastered across doors, hallways, t-shirts and social media.
It’s because it doesn’t tell the whole story and sets up hearts for disappointment (at best) and walking away from Jesus (at worst) when their personal experience falls short of this hap, hap, happy picture portrayed by so many.
This life is NOT all smiles and rainbows. It’s hard work, hard times and often devastating circumstances.
If you find your heart limping through Scripture instead of gaining strength, may I suggest you try a different Bible translation for a bit? Sometimes familiar words-even the words of God or His prophets-just fall flat.
I can read them and not digest them at all.
So lately I’ve been reading and copying from the VOICE translation and it has helped me see old passages in a new light.
Here’s one of them. I think those of us walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death have a lot in common with Jeremiah.
I love to read familiar verses in different translations or paraphrases.
It helps my heart hear what I might otherwise miss because familiarity DOES breed a form a contempt even when considering the Word of God.
Recently, on my way through verses on HOPE I copied out Lamentations 3: 19-26.
Heartache (which is very real, and often outside our control) crushes a spirit.
That’s a fact, reality, truth, cause and effect.
I understand how those who have not been visited with hard, unchangeable, traumatic life circumstances can be tempted to see only the “choice” side of this verse. But those of us who have had our hearts shattered, our worlds destroyed, our lives ripped asunder know that sometimes there is no choice in heartache.
And we should not be guilted into smiling when our hearts are breaking.
I realize not every parent enters child loss with the same reverence for Scripture and trust in the promises of God that I had when Dominic left us.
So it may be hard for your heart to believe the words we’ve been reading and studying this month. It may be near impossible for you to feel that God is a good Father, that He has not abandoned you and that He has a purpose and plan for your life, even here in this awful Valley.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that while I still have faith, it’s a tested faith. I have dragged every single thing I believed before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, held it up and scrutinized it in the cold light of loss.
Some things I don’t clutch so tightly anymore. Many things I wouldn’t spend five minutes defending anymore. But there are absolute, rock-solid, foundational truths that I will declare with my dying breath.
The character of God is flawless. His ways are holy and good. He will not allow the enemy of my soul to have the last word. Death is (ultimately) defeated and victory is sure.
When I was on my face in mourning, when dust was my food and bitter tears were my drink, these are the promises that breathed life back into my broken heart.
Remember [always] the word and promise to Your servant, In which You have made me hope. 50 This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me and given me life.
Psalm 119: 49-50 AMP
When people in the Bible asked God to “remember” it wasn’t that they thought He forgot. It was a way of reciting truth to their own hearts and praying God’s words back to Him.
So when I was just on the other side of the awful news but past Dom’s service and all the people and activities surrounding it, I began most days in my journal with something similar.
I would write out a verse confirming God’s promises to me and my family. I would make it personal-put our names in it- and pray it back to Him. The more I did that, the more my spirit was revived. The more my spirit came back to life, the more I was able to listen to and hear from Him.
It’s a slow, slow process.
The blow is sudden, severe and debilitating (no matter how your child left this earth).
Recovery cannot be rushed along.
I feel most days like I’m still receiving hope and life in drips and dribbles.
But the more I focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on God’s sure promises, the more alive I feel.
And one day I’ll be fully alive-as Dominic is right now- dancing, laughing, singing to the tune of millions of rejoicing voices.
Until then, I’ll keep pointing my heart in the right direction.
My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise. ~Reepicheep
C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Do you have hope? Why or why not?
Do you think you can influence whether or not hope lives in your heart? Why or why not?
What do you do each day to feed hope in your heart?
If you are new on this journey of loss, you may be certain you will never feel alive again. You may think you will never feel hope or joy or anything besides sorrow again. I promise that if you will let the words of God sink in, if you will take your heartache to Him and allow Him to touch the broken places, you will begin to revive. How do Reepicheep’s words speak to you today?
If you are farther along the road of loss, record some specific moments when you felt God met you and breathed life into your spirit.
Truth is that all life comes from You. There is nowhere else to turn but to Your face, Your hand, Your heart. Part of me wants to give up and give in. I want to be rid of this pain, this heartache, this sorrow and unrelenting despair. But I know You have a purpose and plan for me even here, even now.
Help me choose to make space for Your word and Your love to penetrate my heart. Help me offer up my broken bits to You and wait patiently for You to weave them back together into something beautiful.
When I have nothing left, touch me. When I give up, encourage me. When I can’t see the light for the darkness, shine on me.