Tag Archive | Loss

Where joy and sorrow meet – December 4

I woke to a light dusting of snow with flakes still falling.  In the still-dark morning, it was a lovely awakening.   The day seemed promising and full of anticipation.

But a shadow clouded my sleepy thoughts.  My sweet William and I would go and share a great loss with dear friends this morning – a loss that cannot be explained, a grief that surely seems unfair.

As I sat in a small chapel crowded with friends and family, I thought, “We cannot take their grief away.  We can only share it.”  And then the Holy Spirit whispered, “God does not take our grief away either.  But He did come to share it.”

My mind went back to another December in 1982 when I waited in a hospital room while my dear mother endured a treatment on her lungs, by now infested with cancer.  The treatment was simply temporary relief to her breathing.  The doctor had told us she only had three months to live.  His diagnosis/prediction was very accurate.

It was Christmas time but there was no Christmas spirit in me.  Thankfully, my extended family took my nine-year-old son with them so he could enjoy the holiday festivities.  I certainly was not interested in shopping, baking cookies, or putting up a Christmas tree.  My mother lay dying in a hospital bed.

She wanted me with her while the treatment was being administered.  I sang to her, quoted Scripture, held her hand, and tried to appear strong for her sake.  I was anything but.  I was falling apart on the inside.

While she rested awhile after the treatment, I looked out of the hospital window and wondered where God was in all of this.  How could people be celebrating the joyous season, how could I? The sweet whisper of the Spirit spoke to my heart, reminding me that Jesus came to the earth in human flesh for just such a reason as this, because of sin, sickness, and death.  He came to share in my humanity with all of its joys and sorrows. 

I am comforted to know the prophet Isaiah called Jesus a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with my grief (Isaiah 53).  While Jesus lived on this green and blue planet, He purposely clothed Himself in blood cells, nerve endings, human emotions and skin just like mine.  He subjected himself to life and death, to friendship and betrayal, to joy and sorrow.

And He did it all without sinning.  I cannot say the same.

This is what makes my Savior the Great High Priest that He is, the One who entered the inner sanctuary behind the curtain on my behalf; the One who lives to intercede for me, the One who runs to my cry when I am tempted, tried, and suffering.  (Hebrews 7:25, 6:19-20; 2:18)

Don’t we anticipate the days leading to Christmas as being joy-filled and happy?  It is just not so for countless fellow travelers on this road called life.   Even Mary the mother of Jesus, in the midst of her joyful moment of dedicating her precious baby at the temple, was given a grave prophecy by Simeon.   “A sword will pierce your soul, too,” he told Mary.

Sorrow is part of life just as much as happiness and joy and peace and celebrations.  The final Word on it all for me comes from Hebrews 13: 5b . . .

” . . . for He Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support.  I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake nor let you down, relax My hold on you — assuredly not!”   (Amplified Bible)

There is no greater assurance than that.  And no better reason to celebrate.

Empty?

I just have to make one more comment about Naomi’s homecoming to Bethlehem.  Her complaint about God reveals her deep emotion, her great sorrow for the past, and her hopeless view of her future.  Ruth 1:21 says,

“I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.”   

None of us can deny the truth of Naomi’s loss.  I cannot even imagine what she must have felt after having lost her husband and two beloved sons.  But examine her statement about being “empty.”

Close beside her stood Ruth, the daughter-in-law who had proclaimed her love and determined faithfulness at the beginning of the journey to Bethlehem.  Ruth had suffered loss herself.  She too experienced the death of her husband, and she was childless after years of marriage.  Her heart was broken like Naomi’s.  But it is apparent that she was in this thing with Naomi to the death.  As the story unfolds, we will see that Ruth is the source of Naomi’s life changing direction.  Naomi will be restored.  Her heart will be full again.

We can feel completely devastated, drained of our very lifeblood, and yes, empty after a tremendous loss.  It is normal to experience that kind of emotion.  But don’t miss the fact that God brings life from death.  He is the very source of Life and Resurrection.  If we stay too long in the empty, bitterness of our own pain, we may not see our own resurrection though it  stands as close as Ruth was to Naomi.

Lift your eyes from your weeping, dear sister.  No one denies you have a right to cry.  Just acknowledge that there is One standing close by you.  Consider Jesus.  Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.  There is still life in your future.  Look for the sunrise!

Someday I’ll understand

How are you doing with your Bible study in the book of Ruth?  Dealing with the losses in our lives can be tough work.

I’ve mulled over day one of Kelly Minter’s study guide a couple of times.  Thoughts are swirling.  Painful things surface to the top.  And one more time I pour out my heart to God.  Reading the study’s suggested scriptures, I identify with Job’s pain while he feels so forgotten by God.  I can see his life from the perspective of knowing how it will end.  And I want to tell him, “There is hope, Job.  There is a Redeemer!  God will make it clear, maybe not in your lifetime, but someday.  Your great trial will encourage me thousands of years later.” 

There is so much I do not understand.  So many questions I would like to ask.  Too much suffering I cannot explain away.  I imagine and I wonder if perhaps that great cloud of witnesses spoken about in Hebrews 12 would like to tell me, “There is hope, Peggy.  God will make it clear, maybe not in your lifetime, but someday.” 

And so I press on with the knowledge I do have:  

  • that God is faithful
  • that He is good
  • that there is a purpose in pain
  • that I may confidently approach His graceful throne and expect to receive mercy and grace enough
  • that my Redeemer lives and identifies with me
  • that my great High Priest runs to my cry (Hebrews 2:18, see below)

There is comfort in that knowledge.  And so I wait with hope that someday I will understand.

Hebrews 2:18 For because He Himself in His humanity has suffered in being tempted (tested, and tried), He is able (immediately) to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried and who therefore are being exposed to suffering.   (Amplified Bible, emphasis added)

Is there anyone out there?

Our second week of Bible study was a tender night.  We imagined the scene as Ruth and Naomi packed up all their worldly goods, left Moab and began walking toward Bethlehem.   Were they fearful?   Did the loads they carried become heavy the farther they traveled?  Did they become weary, tired, and wonder if they would ever get there?  The closer Naomi got to Bethlehme, did she think of all she had lost during her years in Moab?  And how would she explain to the towns folk at home who she was now?  Did she wonder why?  Why has this happened to me?  Why has God done this?  And did she wonder, “Is there anyone out there?”

The first song on Kelly Minter’s companion CD Loss, Love & Legacy asks the same question, “Is there anyone out there?”  I’ve wondered it myself.  Haven’t we all?  When the frustrations of life pile up on us, when trouble comes unexpectedly, when the journey is hard, when we are so devastated that we fall in a puddle on the floor – we wonder if there is anyone out there.

The truth is there is Someone – Someone who walks every rocky path with us, One who is our companion all along each thorny road.  He is familiar with the way because He has walked before us.  “In this world you shall have tribulation,” He said.  “Don’t be afriad.  I have overcome the world.”  He has already been there and has won the victory over it all.  He will go with you.  Yes, there is Somebody out there.  His names is Jesus.

  Kelly Minter CD Image of Loss, Love & Legacy CD

There’s no place like home

I went with my family to the Newport Aquarium on Friday, taking a day off from the office. The grandchildren enjoyed their first home-school field trip. None of us had been to the aquarium, and we were excited to get there and see the penguin parade at 10:15. The rest of the day was spent exploring the life that exists in the seas, the lakes, and the rivers of this planet. I was amazed at the variety of their sizes, colors, functions, and habitats. My personal favorites were the tiny neon blue fish that seemed to glow in the tank. One granddaughter said she’d like to have them in her room for a night-light. 

As I considered the God who created all of these amazing creatures, my thoughts went to our first Ruth Bible study class this week. I couldn’t help thinking of the women who entered the upper room, each one so different in looks, personality, gifts and talents, their habitats, and their journeys. Each woman is unique and made special according to God’s design and pattern. And they add a beauty to their world simply by being who God made them to be. As they filled out papers, paid for their books, and found their places at the tables, their treble-pitch chatter with each other was music to this piano teacher’s ears. And so we began our journey with Ruth and Naomi. 

This week we study and think about two journeys, the one Naomi took from Bethlehem to Moab and her return journey back to Bethlehem. Her circumstances are quite different, and she is a different woman because of how life has happened to her.

One thing caught my attention about the preparation for the return journey. Chapter 1, verses 6 and 7 read,

 ” . . . Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there . . . she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.” (emphasis mine).

Naomi still considered Bethlehem in the land of Judah her home though she’d lived in Moab for at least 10 years. Moab was just “the place she’d been living,” but it wasn’t home. Sometimes we find ourselves in a place where we are just living, just putting in our time, just making it through each day. But it isn’t home.

I have been there, in a place I was just living, and I longed desperately to go home.  How about you?  Perhaps we should look around at where we are and how we got here.  Home beckons us.  The Father of all calls us back.  For home is where He is, the secret place of the Most High, the sheltered shadow of the Almighty, the place of obedience to His will where He reveals Himself to us.

There’s no place like home.

Beginning the journey

On Wednesday, September 15, a group of us women from Little Flock begin a journey with Ruth and Naomi, Old Testament characters who will be our companions for several weeks.  Their lives will reflect our own, in spite of the thousands of years that separate us.  We will gather in an upper room and open our Bibles.  Hopefully we will also open our hearts to one another.  Some parts of the journey may be hard.  Afterall, the Word is sharper than a two-edged sword.  Opening old wounds can be painful, but it is the only way for healing to be complete. 

The dear sisters who meet for Bible study will be old friends and new soon-to-be-friends.  I will learn to love them all and pray for them.  I will look joyfully for them each week as we climb the stairs to the upper room.   I hope we smile and laugh.  I hope we share our insights from the study each week.  I even hope we shed a few tears along the way.  Tears are therapy.  But mostly, I hope we find spending time with Jesus each day is our vital necessity, something we simply cannot do without. 

Our study guide is by Kelly Minter, Ruth: Loss, Love, Legacy.  I love her writings and her songs already.  She has much to tell, and we will learn by taking this trip together.    

Ruth, Loss, Love, Legacy

Tomorrow we prepare for the journey.  We set our eyes toward the goal.  We will examine legacy.  What will we leave behind for others when we are gone?  That, my dear sister, is the question to ponder.  Selah (pause and think about it)!