I actually have a very difficult time as July begins every year. Undoubtedly because this time of year is associated with two big losses in my life. My deceased husband died on July 6th and my beloved sister-in -law died on July 12th. The deaths were nine years apart, but the memories are always fresh. This year as I grapple with the disease that is affecting my husband.. the grief was triggered again.. So.. there is no way around it all. Life is about loss in many ways and the years that pass take the edge off but the losses are never gone..we learn to live with them. That is the nature of grief.
Maybe you are wondering why I write about grief so often.. the answer is because it has changed me to understand and accept grief as part of our life in this world. God made us the way we are.. He allows us to feel sad and lonely and forgotten. He allows life to be more challenging than we ever imagined. He knows we are going to suffer and that we will cry out to Him in our pain. We live in a fallen world and all these things are reminders to us that there is more. ” All the sad things will become untrue.” I am totally counting on it..especially now.. more than any other time in my life I am longing for that heavenly mansion and the place where there are ” no more tears.”
One thing suffering does is produce a hunger in us for the Lord.. we can either pull away in bitterness or cling tightly to Him.. sometimes we end up doing both as we wrestle with challenging circumstances. We may lash out in anger and tell Him He is unfair while at the same time crying out for relief.. at least that is what I do. Today while I was sitting with my cat and reading my BIble I thought of this song from an old CD and as I played it I realized that it was describing me.. just as I am, not as I want to be.. but as I truly am today.
I want to thank those of you who responded to my last post and are praying for us. I almost took that post down because it makes me feel too vulnerable.. but I am leaving it. The emotions I was sharing are real.. when you are in the depth of grief and loss, these are the thoughts that cross your mind and there are many questions that remain unanswered. God has not suddenly let me in on His purposes.. but He has been showing me His presence in the last couple days. I sense that He is at work in this season and that He will carry us for as long as we need it. In the past I wrote about grief and loss .. I began experiencing it deeply 19 years ago when I was widowed and have been counseling people with grief issues ( which turns out to be most of us)
This season of grief is different in that it is ongoing and will not necessarily get easier to live with. Because that is so foreign to me, I suspect that the Lord is teaching me even more about this topic and for that I am grateful. It means I will have a greater understanding of those who live with grief because of something that has happened that does not go away.. I think about parents with a disabled child or one who commits suicide. Others who have lost family members suddenly in accidents or other life changing events. I am also reminded of those who watch a loved one suffer through a long season of illness caused by cancer or another one of the many disease that plague our world. We can never know all there is to know about grief and as we get older there are more and more losses of all kinds.. Aging in itself is loss.. loss of strength, stamina, dreams, desires, abilities.. and so much more.
Unfortunately as we live in a youth oriented culture there is little focus on this process.. almost as though people think that it will not happen to them.. let’s close our eyes and pretend we are going to live forever.. I understand the temptation to do that, but it will only cause us more pain in the long run.. So the alternative is to face what is happening and to truly value the days that we have on this earth.. I am taking lessons in that subject daily. God continues to work with me to help me let go of the things that I cannot change.. and to be at peace with Him in an unbearable situation.. Only He can enable me to do that.. It seems that the major lesson is that I need to be totally dependent upon Him.. to come to the end of my own resources over and over. Yes it is very humbling for a self-sufficient type.
I want to share the hope I have with you since I shared some of my despair and depression in the last post. I am hopeful that God is in control and that He will provide for us.. I am hopeful that others will benefit from reading this blog as I share. I am hopeful that this life is not all there is and that someday the waiting will be over. I am hopeful that I will learn to live more fully even when I can’t see more than a step or two in front of me..
So.. as this journey continues.. I am hopeful that I will have new things to share with you and that they will build your faith.
So we move from Romans 8:28 to Romans 8:31
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
He is our hope and He is faithful and He will not leave us.
What happened this week? Two celebrities that many people admired and believed in are gone. Both of them took their own lives and left behind young daughters. It is profoundly sad and tragic. As I think through this horrible loss, I realize once again how little we know about people and the pain they carry inside. These people did not just decide in one day to take their own lives.. there is history here. More than likely they were struggling with depression and despair for years before this happened. Anxiety and depression are at epidemic proportions in our country and possibly around the world. We live in a broken world and it is so easy to feel overwhelmed and under water emotionally. When someone in the public eye decides to take their own life.. it causes widespread grief to spread throughout the culture and the world. Why? We never saw it coming.. they seemed to be doing so well. Yet we are faced with a different reality.. obviously they were not doing well at all and maybe someone should have seen it coming.
So we have to process this loss and hopefully we will take it seriously by realizing that many people are struggling with the desire to end their own lives. The suicide rate has risen 25% in the US since 1999. That statistic tells us that something is terribly wrong. For many of us.. life is nothing like we hoped it would be.. either our dreams are not coming true or they have come true and we still feel empty. Either way this world does not seem to have much to offer us. We need more than the fulfillment of our desires to hang on to..we need someone to turn to when it gets so bad we cannot see a way out. Without faith.. we are totally lost. We were never meant to do all this alone. I remember knowing this when I was a child growing up in an atheist home with unbelieving parents. Somehow I realized that I could not do life alone like they were.. my heart longed for the Living God. Eventually I found out that He longed for me too and that was 40 years ago.
So today.. so many years later I still know that I cannot do it alone.. especially in the middle of the night when the tears are flowing and the hopeless tries to take over. He is my refuge and my sanctuary and He will rescue me as I call out to Him. I truly hope you are in relationship with this amazing God who gave everything so you could come to Him, rest in Him and trust Him.
Don’t entertain any self-destructive thoughts.. find someone to talk with and never make a rash decision that you have nothing to live for.. You are the beloved child of the Lord and He knows you and accepts you and will never leave you.
I had a vision of the narrow path today when we were out walking. The Lord was showing me something in a picture that totally makes sense to me..yet I never saw it as clearly as I did today. When we first enter into a relationship with the Lord our path looks a certain way.. we may become part of a community of Believers and enter into all the activities of the church..most of us have had this experience. As we move along in our faith many of those activities may seem less attractive and we may feel like it is time to become less committed to the church and more committed to our relationship with the Lord. This can be a startling change for us.. what exactly are we to tell everyone? Will they be able to understand our new choices? Is it OK to say no and to slow down the pace of our life? Shouldn’t we continue to serve and give? There are no pat answers to these questions.. because the answer has to come from the Lord to us. What is He wanting in this season as the old things don’t fit anymore?
This is what I saw in the picture. We were on a wider part of the path .. many people were walking with us and we felt like we were included and needed and supported by others. Then as the path became more narrow.. there were fewer people doing the things we were doing. We can see them behind us.. still very actively involved in many activities but we are being called forward.. closer to Him but further away from others.. our journey has different challenges than it had in the beginning. It seems easier to get distracted and we feel a pull back to what we once knew.. But He calls us to come closer.. and to come alone. I see the path winding up a hill with challenges along the way.. there are other paths with people saying ” come this way” but that is not what the Lord is saying. He is drawing us closer so that we have eyes only for Him. Remember that this path is leading to the end of our lives and we must walk those last miles alone.. trusting Him with the changes that happen as we grow older and as we lose more and more people.. as dreams die and opportunities fade. The good news is we see Him more clearly and as our faith is tested we trust Him more fully. There is no other way.
So I am praying and asking God to keep me on that path. To block out all the voices that try to pull me in the wrong direction. I want to follow Him up that winding path.. to stay close to Him as the path seems to disappear at times.. My desire is to hear Him as He leads me and to trust Him with everything.. Let it be so Lord!
“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help”
If there is one word that continues to haunt me these days.. it is hope. I think for the first time that I can remember as a Believer.. I am struggling to have hope. The world seems like such a mess.. as I write this, fires are still burning in Northern California.. and that is our home. We smelled the smoke and looked at the pictures of homes burning, people dying and there was nothing we could do to stop it. It is heart breaking to see the suffering that is all around us.. the mass slaughter in Las Vegas.. just a week earlier. What is happening Lord? Everything seems to be out of control and there is so much suffering.. In my personal life there have been challenges on a level I have never encountered.. emotional and physical trials..
So as I process all of this.. the word HOPE emerges. We cannot live without it, but it does not come from our circumstances or our surroundings. Our hope .. my hope.. can only be found in the Lord. He is with us and He is unchanging and we are living in a fallen world.. a dark world. All of these tragedies teach us that this world is not going to provide us with security or be our refuge .. it is an unstable place and we are not safe here. I believe that God is taking us deeper.. to a place where our faith truly rests on His goodness. Often that happens when everything else fails.. when all our dreams are broken..when we no longer believe that anything here can save or protect us. The world gets excited when people come together and accomplish good things.. and of course that is encouraging.. but not enough to sustain us through the long years of recovery.. through the grieving process. Once the headlines are gone.. and we go back to our “normal” lives.. there are people who cannot do that and we may forget about them because their pain is not public.. time to pray for them.. to remember them.. because it could have been us.
I am grateful for my life.. grateful that so far we have a roof over our heads .. grateful for the way I see people reaching out to help others.. but what I am the most grateful for is my relationship with the Lord.. for the knowledge that He loves me and is with me no matter what happens next.. He is my safe place and my refuge in the storm.. He is good and we can trust Him when nothing makes sense and when our next trial starts.. Our faithful loving God.. we are blessed.
Hebrews 6:18 in the Message says:
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us..
We have these places in our lives. They are like closets full of things that we don’t want to look at too closely. The truth is they are not hidden from the Lord. He sees and knows all the things we are keeping from Him and from ourselves. This closet may hold secret sins and idols.. but it also holds pain. Pain that we put in the back under everything. Why? So we don’t have to grieve and face the losses that happen in life. So when God goes into that closet and begins to pull out things.. He has only one purpose in mind and that is healing. How do I know that.. because I have experienced healing from His hand over and over again.
He wants to bring us into freedom. To touch our wounds and heal them. To bring out the poison.. the toxins that have developed because the wound is old and is covered with band aids that are filthy.. underneath there is an infection.. His desire is to clean the wound and heal it so that it is finally unable to keep us in bondage. Why do we resist this process? because it is painful. It order to receive this healing you need to open up and feel the pain that is stuffed down inside. It is not as though you have to relive it is.. but there is pain in remembering and releasing grief that is unresolved. The beautiful thing is realizing that God can take this process and change you.. He can ” create a clean heart” in you.
I am writing about this because I am concerned about Believers who run from this process. They hide their pain deeper and deeper because they are either embarrassed, ashamed or fearful. We are here on earth for a reason..not just waiting for the day when all this over. Eternity is here now.. we have entered the kingdom of God and He is at work restoring us. We need to let Him in fully if we want to begin experiencing the abundant life He promises in John 10:10.
Our God is pursuing us daily. He desires to go deep with you.. to take you to your hidden places and help you bring them out into the light so you can be set free to walk with Him without always looking back and without fear of the future. I want to encourage you to allow Him to come into those places.. if you are unable to do it alone, find someone to help you.. there is nothing wrong with needing help. The Holy Spirit is the counselor and He leads the way when it comes to unraveling your past and unveiling those wounds.. but He often works through counselors..especially those that walk with Him. Pray that the Lord will lead you to the right person and take a risk.. you won’t be sorry. He has only good things for you!
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free” (Luke 4:18)
I had an interesting conversation a few days ago and the topic of healing came up. That is not unusual when I am engaged in a deep conversation because healing is the focus of my life. For the last almost 20 years I have sought healing and for the last 11 years I have facilitated healing in the lives of my clients. Much of my life revolves around this concept.. healing is so critical and it leads to much more freedom than we could ever imagine.
Many of us walk around with deep wounds from our childhood and later from our adult years. These wounds appear to be harmless and often we decide that we can’t do anything about them so we bury them. They may try to open up again… we grab the band aids and plaster them all over the wounds to keep them from bleeding out into our lives. There is a better way. We have a God who not only wants to heal.. but actually can heal those wounds so they never have power over us again. The key to receiving the healing is to seek it.. diligently. I decided that without healing I would never be able to live fully. My desire was to be a whole as I could be while I was here.. we are not going to be perfectly healed on earth.. but we can definitely make a lot of progress in that direction.
Our childhood memories are keys.. what do we remember and why? What was it like growing up? Most people say.. “my parents really loved me” or “I really love my parents” Right.. that is easy enough to say.. but what happened to you as a child? Parents love very imperfectly and as a result there is emotional damage that happens to us. If we take the time to look at it fully.. to grieve our losses and to face the way things really were.. we have the opportunity to move ahead in forgiveness and faith. There is a cost.. we may need to revisit the painful things that occurred or feel a glimpse of the abandonment or fear that we had as children.. it is worth doing even though there is pain. God wants to heal those broken places in your heart.. His longing is for you to realize that His love is nothing like the love we get from our earthly parents. It is not only unconditional.. it is always available at a moment’s notice and it is the cure for all the ways that people have failed us.
So.. I named this post Seek healing.. as a way of encouraging you to do this. Get help if you need it.. pray and ask God to direct your steps to the person who can help you and expect the Holy Spirit to be at work revealing things to you as you step out in faith.. believe that the Lord is at work in your life.. longing to heal and set you free.
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free. Jesus said this in the book of Luke!