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.
As a little girl, temptation looked like cheating on a spelling test or sneaking a cookie from a tray that was supposed to be for after supper.
As a young adult temptation looked like going places and doing things I knew weren’t wholesome or savory.
As a middle-aged wife and mother of four temptation looks like blaming God and forsaking my faith because one of my children is dead.
But God is faithful.
At every step of my life, when tempted to do what I knew in my heart was wrong, He has provided a way out even when I refused to take it.
Little children are often constrained by the thought that their parents might find out and punish them. Teens and young adults might be afraid they will get a ticket or get kicked out of school or end up needing bail. By the time you get as old as I am, you’ve figured out that there are lots of things you can get away with and no one but you will know.
And He cares.
When the enemy of my soul whispers, “What good is serving a God who didn’t save your son?” the Holy Spirit answers, “Eternal good, even in temporary pain”.
When doubts creep up and flood my mind, truth steps in and pushes them back.
When I feel the pain of loss in every cell of my body, overwhelmed by the weight of it, undone by the thought of years and years to carry it, my Shepherd King reminds me that He bore it all-the sin, the pain, the shame and the awful separation from the Father-so that I could stand.
Am I tempted?
Am I doomed to give into that temptation and turn away from the only Source of strength and hope I have?
I can reach out (it’s really just a short distance because He’s never far), grab hold (He’s already holding on to me) and lean in to my Father’s arms as He carries me past the doubts, the fears, the worry and brings me Home.
Not always, or even often, because it makes me feel better.
Rather, like poetry, music distills deep emotions into few words that resonate in my soul.
This isn’t a new song and I have heard it many times. But just the other day someone posted it in a group where we were praying desperately for a baby with profound health issues. Barring a touch from the Father’s hand, there was little hope.
The precious little warrior went home to rest, healed and whole, in the arms of Jesus.
So I listened again. And I realized how unbearably true the lyrics are.
Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
Natalie Grant, This is What it Means to be Held
Appalling, unfair, why did this happen?
Oh, how those questions still rattle around in my heart and mind on some days. When Dominic first left for Heaven they were my constant companion.
“Who told us we’d be rescued?”
Certainly not Jesus.
He said we’d have trouble in this world. He never sugar coated how hard life could be.
But He left us with the promise that He would be with us no matter what. We would never be alone in the flood or the fire or the deep, deep pit of child loss.
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held
Child loss shattered everything-my heart, my world and my understanding of how God works in it. The sacred was most certainly “torn from my life”.
My struggle with the God I thought I knew was as painful as the devastation of burying my son.
This hand is bitterness We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow
It’s so tempting to swallow bitterness when unending despair seems like the only alternative.
But it doesn’t numb the sorrow. Bitterness turns a heart so hard it can’t feel anything-not even love.
The wise hand does open slowly-oh, so slowly-to the beauty and promise of tomorrow.
This is what it means to be held How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life And you survive This is what it is to be loved And to know that the promise was When everything fell we’d be held
When we received the news that Dominic left us that early, still-dark morning, I looked over to a sculpture of upturned hands on my living room table and said, “I can’t open my hands to receive blessings if I don’t also leave them open for the bruisings.”
God is holding me still. He is blessing me still.
I will, undoubtedly, be bruised again in some way.
I’m no stranger to disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement and despair.
I have had some amazingly lofty peaks in this life but I’ve also had some terribly low valleys as well.
Some of the stories aren’t mine to tell so you will just have to take my word for it. Some of the stories I’ve already shared in this space so if you want more details you can check out old posts.
Right now I feel likeI’m in one of those valleys.
In fact, I feel like I’m in the locust years the prophet Joel talks about in the Bible book that bears his name.
So I will restore to you the years that the swarming [a]locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. 27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.
Joel (his name means “Yahweh is God”) was sent by God to encourage the nation of Israel during a time of famine and judgement. Because God’s chosen people refused to follow Him and obey His commandments, they were punished. God didn’t do that to harm them. He did it to draw their attention to their sin and to woo them back to Himself.
I firmly believe that while God may discipline His true children (see Hebrews 12:6) all the punishment sin requires has been paid for by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Still, I feel like there are parallels to the famine and devastation Israel faced and the past eighteen months of my life.
One “disaster” after another.One herculean challenge after another. One hill to climb after another.And with each new hard thing, I find my reserves are fewer and fewer.
Nothing-NOTHING-rises to the level of sending Dominic ahead to Heaven.
But that one giant, life-altering, earth shattering, heartbreaking event has weakened my defenses. It has made me more prone to wearing down and giving up than I’ve ever been in my life.
My faith is intact.
I have absolutely no doubt that every promise of God in Christ is “yes” and “amen”.
I trust the truth that all the enemy has stolen will be restored. Every sad thing will be undone. The world (including my own family) will be redeemed, restored and raised to life in Christ. When I pass my son’s grave facing east, I know one day the skies will open and Jesus will return as triumphant King over all creation.
Even so I am weary and heavy laden.
I take the burden to the foot of the cross over and over and over.
Just as I think the weight is lifted, another heavy brick is added to the load.
Sometimes you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Other times you just have to trust in the dark.
Sometimes the trial is limited. Other times it goes on and on and on.
But I know, know, know God is faithful.
His love endures forever.
And even when I find myself in the midst of spiritual famine, desolation and desperation, He will meet me there.
So I wait.
Holding on to hope.
Looking for the promised bounty.
Trusting that He will redeem, restore and resurrect.