I’ve written before how grief impacts physical health.
It’s true that our hearts and our bodies are intricately connected and stress in one area inevitably produces effects in the other.
I thought I had made it past the “critical period” when child loss might show up in my body but I was wrong.
Christmas Eve Day landed me in the hospital with a massive GI bleed. It wasn’t the first time I’d had such an incident. They began in 2007 and this made the sixth trip to the emergency room for the same problem-third since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
But this is the first time it’s taken nine long months to rebuild the red blood cells I lost.
I’m sure age and my autoimmune disease have something to do with it. Still, I’ve been pretty puny trying to do chores around this place with insufficient oxygen flowing to my muscles and my lungs. It’s been a challenge walking up the long hill from the horse pen to the front door. It’s been hard marching up and down the stairs in the house carrying laundry and sundry other things.
Tuesday, though, I got some really good news!
I get bi-monthly infusions for my RA and it’s standard practice to run labs before to make sure my body can tolerate the onslaught of potent medicine flowing through my veins.
For the first time in nine months the results showed I had a normal blood count.
I suspected that it had finally crept up into normal range because when I had my grandson here a couple weeks ago I was able to keep up with him. But it was lovely to get empirical confirmation.
And just like bad news drags me lower since Dom left us, good news boosts me higher.
There was a time when I thought I didn’t want to keep going-the pain was too great, the burden too heavy.
Thankfully, I’m not still in that pit of despair.
I miss Dominic. I miss the family we were. I mourn the uncle and (probably) husband he would have been.
But I have people here who I love. I have a life that still has meaning and purpose.
Romans is a dense book full of quotable verses often taken out of context.
Today’s verses include some of the most hopeful and, frankly, hurtful verses tossed at broken hearts.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ” (Romans 8: 28 NIV)
Often this verse is shared by well-meaning friends who want us to “look on the bright side”. They can’t comprehend that the darkness of child loss is so complete our hearts can’t imagine light still exists.
But when you see that verse and the ones that follow in context, a heart can find a foothold.
A similar thing happens when we pray. We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words. 27 Don’t you know that He who pursues and explores the human heart intimately knows the Spirit’s mind because He pleads to God for His saints to align their lives with the will of God? 28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. 29-30 From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters. As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory.
Romans 8: 26-30 VOICE
Paul has laid a foundation earlier in chapter eight for the Spirit’s work in the life of the redeemed. The Holy Spirit testifies to our sonship, is a down payment on what’s to come, informs us that all creation is waiting for redemption and prays for us when we don’t know how or what to pray for ourselves.
As we align our hearts with the heart of God, our will conforms to His and we are positioned to receive even the hard things of life as having passed through His loving hands.
Not all things are good.
Let’s just get that out of the way right now.
Sin has infected every aspect of life on earth. Disease, genetic mutation, environmental destruction, people’s personal foolishness, sin and cruelty all add up to awful outcomes.
The sting of death has been removed but the fact of death remains.
Frankly, life is hard.
But all those things that are outside the perfect will of God-the pain, the heartache, the destruction, the awful, awful sadness-aren’t outside His power of redemption.
He takes those dark moments, months, years, LIFETIMES and weaves them into a beautiful tapestry that ultimately displays His glory and our transformation into the likeness of Jesus.
I am a co-heir with Christ.
One day I will look more like Him than I ever thought I would.
And it will be the pressure of pain and struggle that squeeze me into the mold of His likeness.
Not everything IS good, but everything will work TOWARD good.
You can take that to the bank.
Have you ever had “all things work together for good” tossed at you? How did it make you feel?
Does seeing that verse in context make it easier to read/digest? Why or why not?
Being conformed to the likeness of Christ is painful, regardless of how the pressure comes. Can you see how the pain of child loss has molded your heart into a closer approximation of the heart of Jesus? Why or why not?
Why is it important to make a distinction between the idea that everything that happens is good versus the idea that everything that happens (good or bad) can be used by God FOR good?
I remember that dark morning just having no words. I think all I could manage was to repeat the names of God. When has the Holy Spirit prayed for you? Are you encouraged by the idea that even if you don’t know what or how to pray, He has you covered?
Lord, I know people don’t mean to do it but it hurts my heart when they toss Your words at me like a volleyball expecting me to just hit it back and act like nothing’s happened.
My world stopped. My heart was shattered. Child loss is not good. You can use it FOR good, but it is not good.
Thank You that Paul was a faithful scribe and put Your truth in context. Thank You that I can look up all the verses and see that the message You gave him was not that ALL things are good, but rather that even the awful, heartbreaking, terrible things can be USED for good in Your loving, sovereign hands.
Give me the courage to trust You with even this. Help me lean in and take hold of an eternal perspective so I can endure patiently. Give me strength to finish strong. And when the process of conforming me to the image of Christ seems too hard to bear, remind me that You are here and will give me sufficient grace.
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
James 2:14-17 MSG
James doesn’t mess around.
He says what a lot of people are thinking but are too timid to speak aloud.
I like that.
We could use a good dose of his brand of preaching in the church today. Let’s stop pretending that following Jesus is just about getting our theology right. Let’s stop acting like going to church, serving on committees or teaching Sunday School is the best indicator of where my heart isrelative to my Savior.
Let’s face facts: if my life does not look different than the lives of those who do not know Jesus, then either I don’t know Him or I’m not paying attention to what He’s telling me to do.
I have been blessed on this grief journey by a few dedicated friends who go out of their way to do good, be light and extend hope to my heart when I’m barely holding on. They have chosen, often sacrificially, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in my life.
And they make a difference!
Sometimes it’s a card in the mail, sometimes a text or message and sometimes a visit-but they DO something. They might not understand why God is putting me on their heart, but they obey the prompting.
So if the Spirit is nudging you to reach out to someone, don’t ignore Him or put it off. Sure, praying is important. We are commanded to do that.
But we are also commanded to be physically present and to extend practical help to hurting hearts. We are supposed to BE the hands and feet of Jesus.
Who knows,I might be the answer to my own prayer that God send encouragement to someone else.
I can choose to do good.
I can choose to shine light.
I can choose to share hope.
And my small gesture be the very thread that holds a broken heart together.
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.