Trust After Loss: Access the Truth

 

“I wake before the morning light.  Every. single. morning.

I get my coffee, sit in my chair and wait for sunrise.

I never worry that today it might not happen.

I’m never concerned that after all these years of faithfulnessthis day may be the one where daylight fails to make an appearance.

There is no fear in this darkness because I know it will not last forever.

Morning is coming.

Morning. Is. Coming.

And that’s the hope I cling to in this longer darkness of the Valley of the Shadow of Death-no matter how many years it may bethe Valley has an end.

The same God Who keeps the earth in orbit around the sun has ordained that death will not have the last word.

Light will triumph.

Darkness will have to flee.”

From Morning Is Coming

sunrise trees

I have loved Scripture as long as I can remember.  When I was in second grade I got the notion to read the whole Bible straight through-in the King James Version.  I made it to Leviticus before I threw in the towel.

By the time my kids were grown I had read and studied Scripture for decades. 

But three years before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I realized my reading had become rote-I felt like I “knew” all the stories.  So I slowed my study to a crawl-only one chapter a day-and I usually copied the whole chapter plus my notes into a journal.  I had just finished this time through the Bible in January before Dom was killed in April.

And all that truth stored in my mind and heart was what I “read” for months when my eyes were too full of tears to see print on a page.

Many verses stung-some still do-but I was committed to bathe my broken heart in what I knew was true.  I would take it like medicine, even when it tasted awful.  I knew-in the end-it was my only hope for help.

It’s easy when doubt creeps in to let my heart hold onto it-even in the face of Truth that puts the doubt to rest.

But if all I do is question, question, question and never still my soul to receive God’s answers or His comfort, then I will simply run out of oxygen and faith.  I will lay prostrate with the enemy’s foot on my neck.

I will lose all hope and give up and give in.

I let my feelings, questions and doubts OUT, but I also choose to take the Word of God IN.

And when I can’t do anything else, I recite and cling to the names of God:

Jehovah-Roi-the God Who Sees Me.  This is the name Hagar gave God in the desert.  He didn’t change her circumstances but He assured her that she was seen, not overlooked and not abandoned.

Jehovah-Nissithe LORD my Banner.  God is the One I look to in the battle.  He will not always save me from the fight, but He has guaranteed the victory.

Jehovah-Shalom-The LORD my Peace.  Jesus is Sar Shalom-the Prince of Peace Who promises Himself to every heart that will turn in faith to Him.  This peace is inner certainty that He is Lord over all, even when the evidence I can see is telling me that’s not true.

THE NAME OF THE LORD IS A MIGHTY TOWER.  THE RIGHTEOUS RUN TO IT AND ARE SAVED.

I leaned hard on the Word stored in my heart. I was too broken (and some days still am too broken) to open my Bible.

God had prepared David for years as a shepherd to lean hard on Him.  David’s Psalms don’t end with “Where are You, God?” they progress to a recitation of the character of the LORD, to an enumeration of His past faithfulness, to a true understanding that sometimes there’s NO understanding what He is doing.

And David leaned in, hung on and recited truth to his heart even when his head couldn’t figure out how what he was experiencing squared with what he knew to be true.

The whole book of Job is full of questions but it is also contains Job’s declaration he was firmly convinced that “as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last.”  (Job 19:25)

hallelujah1

“You can’t hold your breath forever.

But when you first learn your child is dead you want to–oh, how you want to.

I don’t know if it was defiance or hope that made me certain that if I could just stop breathing, I could freeze time.

I could undo the truth.

I could stop the creeping terror that seized my heart.

But it was impossible.  My body insisted that my lungs release the poison of carbon dioxide and refresh my oxygen supply.

There is a spiritual counterpart to the physical desire to stop breathing. 

Most bereaved parents will tell you that at some point in their grief journey, whether they would describe themselves as “believers” or not, they have had to examine their notion of God.

They have to ask, “How am I to relate to this Person that controls the Universe–this Being that could have saved my child–but chose not to?”

I am a Christ follower.  I believe in Jesus and I trust His Word.

But I will honestly confess that burying my child has made me reexamine just what that means and just Who He is.

Before my son was killed, I gave mental assent to the idea that “God is in control” but wasn’t forced to reconcile His control with my heart’s desire to guarantee my family’s safety.

But His existence, and His character does not depend on my understanding.  And to be frank, a God I can comprehend wouldn’t be much of a God at all.

I could not will my body not to stop breathing.

And what I am learning in this grief journey is that I can’t hold my spiritual breath forever either.

The poison of doubt and the insistence that I be able to comprehend the fullness of God will suffocate my soul as surely as lack of oxygen will stop my heart.

So, “Hallelujah” is my exhale.

It is my letting go-my drawing in again the life-giving truth that God is God and I am not.

And acknowledging that while I cannot understand His ways, I can choose to trust His Father love.” 

From Hallelujah is an Exhale

There is no easy answer for why children die-no sweet saying that can wash away the pain and the sorrow and the regret of burying your son.

But I know this:  If my healing depends on me, I am lost.

If the God of heaven is not the god of all, then I have no hope.

If Jesus didn’t really come, and die and rise again,  I have nothing to look forward to. 

Ann Lamott recounts this tale in her book, Plan B:  Further Thoughts on Faith:

There is a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi who alwasy told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts.  One of them asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?”  The rabbi answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside.  But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your hearts break, the holy words fall inside.”

My heart is already broken-burying my son did that. 

Now I’m waiting

and trusting

that the holy words will fall inside.  

band-aid-and-heart

 

Repost: He Knows My Name

Grief can be isolating.  

It separates me as one who knows loss by experience from those who have only looked on from the outside.  

It opens a chasm between me and people who aren’t aware that life can be changed in a single instant.

And I can feel like no one sees me, no one cares about me and no one notices my pain.

Sometimes it even feels like God has forgotten me-that He isn’t listening, that He doesn’t care.

Read the rest here:  He Knows My Name

What Does God’s Love Look Like?

If, as a believer in Christ, I abide in Him and am filled with His limitless love, why do I portion it out in such a miserly fashion?

I often act as though it were MY personal treasure house and that to give love freely diminishes my supply.

What foolishness!

God’s love is eternal and bottomless and as a conduit of that love He invites me to lavish love on others without fear of running out.

What does God’s love look like. It has hands to help others, it has feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

~Augustine

Love is never wasted!

I want to love without limits and without fear, trusting God with my heart because He is the One Who fills it.

love is not what you say it is what you do pooh

It ALL Matters

I hate to admit it but I not only like to prioritize tasks I often prioritize people.

I divide them into two columns “Matters”  and “Doesn’t Matter” and give different weight and time and effort to each one depending on which side of the paper they are listed.

While that’s just fine for inanimate objects or household chores, it’s just plain wrong for relationships and people.

Because when I’m approaching another human being bearing the likeness of the God Who made him or her, I don’t get to decide how valuable they are.

That’s already been decided by Jesus Christ.

you are worth more than many sparrows

So my responsibility is to do precisely that task I have been sent to do at that moment-whether it is offering a smile, taking a meal, lending a helping hand or writing a note or making a phone call to encourage a tired heart.

Because it ALL matters.

 

Wounded Healers

I’ve come to believe that my wounds and the grace God has provided in my woundedness are not my personal possession.

God did not cause my pain, but He is redeeming it.  He is molding me into a different person than I would have been if Dominic hadn’t run ahead to heaven.  And that person has more compassion and grace and mercy and patience than the person I was before.

If I hide my wounds then I am hiding the hope He has hidden in my heart.  

I won’t do that.  

“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG

Nobody escapes being wounded.  We all ar wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.  The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we  put our woundedness in the service of others?’  When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Jesus is God’s wounded healer:  through his wounds we are healed.  Jesus’suffering and death brought joy and life.  His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love.  As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.  ~ Henri Nouwen

brennan manning share our wounds

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 PHILLIPS

Sharing our wounds makes us vulnerable.

When we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we invite others to do the same.

But  in this community of mutual vulnerability, healing is possible.

Feet of Clay

God is not offended by my human frailty.  He isn’t looking down from Heaven, shaking His head at my halting steps forward on this long, hard road.

we are dustHe understands my fear, my sadness, my longing for wholeness.

But sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that.

I’m surrounded by messages that scream,

“You can do better!”

“Be all that you can be!”  

“Try harder, practice more, do this, do that and you can attain your dreams!”

Even in Christian circles we tend to rank one another based on hours spent in Bible study, Sunday School lessons taught, singing in the choir, serving on committees, showing up at services.

That was the way of the Pharisees-impossible burdens piled high that crushed precious hearts so that they couldn’t imagine a Father in Heaven Who loved them.

That made Jesus angry.

They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

Matthew 23:4 NLT

He didn’t come to mock my limitations or make light of my struggles.

He came to Shepherd my heart past those very things to see His heart for who He created me to be.

He reaches out and reaches in.  He sings love and courage and hope when I’m desperate to hear it.  

For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. “I have gathered your wounded and taken away your reproach.

Zephaniah 3:17 TLB

Reality is this:  I AM broken.  I AM frail.  I AM burdened by this life on earth.  It is absolutely too heavy for me to carry.  I will be crushed to dust beneath its weight.

But He offers to take that burden for which I was never made and replace it with the one perfectly fitted for my shoulders.

His yoke is easy.

His yoke is light.

And He is the One Who pulls alongside me to bear it.

you who are weary come to me

 

 

New Eyes for an Old Story

I’ve studied it many times over a lifetime-beginning with fun “coat of many colors” crafts in preschool and ending with an emphasis on remaining faithful in trials.

Joseph’s story is typically told from his point of view.  

But I’ve never considered it from Jacob’s perspective.  Until now.

Because on Jacob’s side of the door, Joseph was gone, gone, gone-beyond reach, out of sight,  nowhere to be found.

All the while Joseph was very much alive, God was working and Joseph would (ultimately) flourish and Jacob would (ultimately) be reunited with his son.

There was no way for Jacob to know this so, of course, he was heartbroken:

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.  Genesis 37:34-35

Jacob’s grief was real.  His loss was devastating.  His heart was shattered and there was no substitute for the son he was missing.

I understand that now.

I glossed over these verses in the past-rushing to the “happy ending” promised a few chapters later.

But Jacob didn’t have that option.

He was living these years-one day after another, one foot in front of another, one sunrise, one sunset-never knowing he was making his way toward reunion with a living son.

I share Jacob’s heartbreak.  

My son is out of reach, out of sight, unavailable to my arms and eyes.

But I have something Jacob didn’t have-I know the end of the story.  I have the Bible and it’s promise that this life is not all there is, that while this body dies, the soul lives on eternally.

And for those who choose Jesus, the soul lives for ever and ever with Him.  

Hallelujah!

While I too, mourn deeply for Dominic, there IS comfort.

I cannot ignore the pain of separation, but I will hold steadfast to the promise of reunion. I cry for what has been lost, but cry out for faith to cling to what will ever be.

This earthly journey is dark, but there is assurance that light will triumph.  

john-1-5