When someone we love passes on, we are left with a myriad of emotions….sorrow, regret, misery, disbelief, uncertainty, sometimes anger, sometimes relief that they are no longer bound by suffering. Often, we question “why” and we try to understand. The truth is that we may never really understand why God chooses the time that each life comes to an earthly end. His ways are not our ways. And so we are left….clinging to memories and wondering what to do next.
In my own recent loss and pain, I have found a way to move through the days and weeks and months. I ask myself….what did this person mean to my life? How did this person impact me and on what level? What did I learn from this person being a part of my journey? And when I ask that question, I am able to ponder on all the goodness and richness of life that God so generously gave me with the gift of those precious people whom I have lost. Oh what a blessing they were to me! What beautiful memories I get the joy of carrying in my heart! What tremendous ways they shaped my life and helped me become who I am today! What precious, beautiful gifts they were! When I realize all of this and put my thoughts on these facts instead of on my sorrows, I am able to feel the joy in my heart again. They joy for the pleasure of knowing them. The joy for the memories we shared. The joy for the tears we cried. The joy for the lessons of life.
Life is a string of comings and goings. People weave into our lives through biology, through circumstance, through God’s divine purpose. Some stay a great while with us and we create bonds that death cannot break. Others are fleeting, but bring laughter and joy to our hearts just the same. Whatever the case, the loss is great. Our hearts break. Our tears fall. We question why. But on the other side of the grief comes hope. Hope for a tomorrow with a little less pain in our hearts, hope for the joy and blessing of memories, and hope that we will one day meet again.
Thank you God that you bring hope through our despair, comfort through our pain, and joy through our mourning.
I said goodbye today….to one of the greatest men I ever knew. He was a man who loved me as his own since I was fifteen years old. He taught me much, laughed with me often, and cried with me when necessary. I feel so fortunate in this life to have two beautiful men I could call “Dad”. Two men who loved me….differently yet with the same degree of honesty. What a lucky girl I am!
I have said goodbye to both of them in the last few months. Life has dealt my heart a little more than the usual amount of pain this year. But there is joy to be found amidst the sorrow. As I looked around today and saw the love of my family, my heart filled with joy. As I listened to my children speak of their grandfather, I was filled with joy. As I watched the next generation laugh as they shared their memories, I was filled with joy. And as I ponder the generations to come, I know that joy will continue to fill my heart.
The joy of the Lord is greater than any sorrow. It surpasses all pain. It perseveres through every trial. The joy of the Lord is a gift that God bends down and gently places in our hands, we need only be willing to accept the gift.
Thank you Lord that joy trumps sorrow every time. That you for the sweet gift of family. Thank you for the precious opportunity of beautiful memories. Thank you that we are able to see the beauty that lies beyond our tears.
Some days are just crazy, and some days God just knows you need a little pick-me-up. Today was one of those days for me….too much to do and to little time to get it done in. (Actually that’s the story of my life, not just my day!). I felt like I was drowning in my “to do” list. When I get this way, I start to doubt myself and my abilities. The devil knows my insecurities and loves to attack me when I am stressed. I know I can’t be the only person he attacks like this.
I am right in the throes of this when I look down at my phone. I see that I have a message request from someone I don’t know. I check the message and God touches me right to the depths of my heart with the message I read. It was from a friend of my dad. My dad passed away exactly two months ago today. And at almost the exact time of the day as he passed, I got this message. This man had just found out on about my dad’s passing, and wanted to offer me his condolences. He also wanted me to know that every time he spoke with my dad, my dad told him how proud he was of me. Oh, how that blessed me! Every little girl wants to make her dad proud, right?
So you see, the devil may have been trying to make me feel bad about myself. But my God is mightier that that ole devil ever will be. He used the kind words of a stranger to remind me of who I am. He reminded me of a father’s love. He brought comfort to my weary heart. Thank you, Father, that you never leave us and that you know just what our heart needs and when it needs it.
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. (Psalm 119:75)
And God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (NIV)
Oh, how I love this verse and the promise it brings. God doesn’t just meet our needs. He meets them “according to his riches”. God’s riches are vast and beyond any measure we can imagine. He is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. He is the creator of the universe and everything in it. His riches are incomparable.
The word of God is not empty or wasted. If it has been put into our beautiful bible, it is there for a purpose. “According to his riches” is not an afterthought, or a way of making a sentence seem more interesting. It is a statement of truth that assures us that our Father in Heaven will meet our needs, and far exceed that. He will bestow upon us blessings in abundance, and goodness far beyond our imaginations. How fortunate we are to have a Father who is so in love with us, and has such a desire to see us blessed, cared for, and thriving.
Thank you Father, that you love us. Thank you that you know us. Thank you that you are aware of our needs, and that we need only to reach out and take your hand to have those needs met. Thank you that your awesome abundance flows into our lives and fills us with a richness that can only come from being blessed by you.
Once again, tragedy abounds in the Land of the Free. While many of us were tucking our little ones into bed with a prayer and a kiss, or snuggled up next to the one we love watching a movie, others were running for their lives. People were being pushed and trampled as terrified concert-goers struggled to escape the steady stream of bullets raining down from a hotel window. I have listened to news reports and eye witness reports. I have been astounded by crude comments that have been posted via social media. I am so burdened by the loss that is being felt by so many, yet my heart fills with pride in fellow man when I read the countless stories of bravery that came about through the chaos.
I wonder at the evil that exists in our world today. Satan is on a rampage. He is having a field day with the citizens of planet Earth, and diligence and caution need to be a prominent part of our days. While we are spending time being diligent and cautious, let us not forget to also keep our eyes fixed on the Light, as that Light is the only thing that can overcome the darkness of the world we find ourselves in. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
Despite this unexplainable tragedy, there is evidence of goodness among the mess. The bravery of first responders, the love and compassion of one stranger to another, the unity that comes in tragedy. God is evident, even among the suffering. His presence has reached down to comfort aching hearts and to encourage the discouraged. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed spirit. (Psalm 34:18) His love has caused one stranger to offer his life for another. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) So as our country digs its way out of yet another place of fear and sorrow, may we all look towards the light of our Heavenly Father who comforts those who mourn and brings hope to the hopeless. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10) And let us seek unity, not only in times of tragedy, but in moments of joy as well.
Tragedy has spoken to America again. It has whispered its words of fear and sorrow, anger and unbelief, and has filled our minds and hearts with sadness. But tragedy has also spoken words of hope, shouts of love, and declarations of comfort. On one night, song turned into screaming. But we serve a loving God who will take our screams of fear and turn them into songs of praise. Tragedy may speak, but God has the final word.
Of all my household chores, laundry is one of my least favorites. Trying to sort through the mountains of dirty clothes that come from my big brood leaves me exhausted. And then there are the stains. I am always looking for the stains.
Sometimes there are huge, messy stains that need extra shots of stain remover and a lot of soaking. Other times the stains are a little less severe, and a quick squirt of spot remover takes them right out. Often the stains are so insignificant that they go unnoticed by my searching eye, yet come right out with only the laundry soap to attack them. With the various degrees of staining comes various degrees of removal needed.
Isn’t that the way our sin can be? Sometimes our sins are big and messy. They require a lot of change on our part, and a tremendous amount of grace. We scrub and we soak, intent on ridding ourselves of those messy places. We strive for cleansing and a feeling of refreshing. Other times, our sins are a little less severe in nature. Those are the things that we can change with a thought or a quick action. They still require the grace, but the severity of our guilt and shame doesn’t compare to those big, nasty messes. And then there are those hidden sins. The ones that might not be noticed by human eye. The ones that only we know about. These are the sins we acknowledge to no one else. These are the messes we take before the Lord in secret. We tend to judge ourselves based on the severity of our sin. In our minds it is okay to assume that some sin doesn’t hold the same level of importance as other sin. We justify why certain sins are “okay”, while others are not.
The truth is that sin is sin. We are all equal at the foot of the cross. We have all sinned. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23). The beauty is that we have a God who has an abundant supply of grace just waiting for us. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10).
God’s grace removes our sin from us. Jesus’ death in the cross is the ultimate stain remover. Through his sacrifice and his blood shed for us, we can be like my clean laundry….spotless and stain free.
I have been reading Jennie Allen’s newest book PROVEN. It has got me to thinking about what really fills me, what makes me feel value and self-worth. Like many who might read this, I have struggled at times with feelings of self-doubt and a lack of esteem. I have viewed myself as having little value, and I have compared myself to others. And all that has ever gotten me is discontent. It hasn’t left me feeling valuable or worthy, and it hasn’t filled that empty space inside. According to Jennie Allen, “Jesus is the only thing that we pursue that doesn’t leave us more empty.”
Jesus is just what we need when our tank needs a fill up. He gets into that empty space and fills it to overflowing with His love, His grace, His compassion, and His strength. Through this, we get a sense of worth. We realize WHO we are when we understand WHOSE we are. We gain our sense of value when we understand what it means to be “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We also get an understanding of the simple fact that we don’t always have to be perfect…in fact we never will be. It is okay to be weak. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Oh, how marvelous it is to know that my moments of weakness are okay.
When Jesus fills our tank, we also have those times of strength, those times when we feel as if we can conquer anything that comes our way. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). Have you ever felt so full of the Holy Spirit that you could do anything? If only we could feel that way ALL the time. There is just nothing better than having that God-confidence that allows you to try something you never thought you would try, or to step out of your comfort zone and let God use you in a way you never imagined. Our sense of self-worth rises when we let Jesus work in our lives.
I don’t know about you, but I want to feel valuable and worthy. I want to remember WHOSE I am, and let that give me the boldness and the confidence to step out of my little box and venture out into the new things He has for me. I want His confidence to pour out upon me and lift me to new heights. God has something wonderful planned for my life. He has something awesome and amazing planned for yours. Let’s keep our tanks filled so that we don’t miss a single opportunity that God has for us.