Help in the Battle

Grief is a fierce battle that no one should face alone. It is a battle that is often unprovoked and finds us unprepared for its magnitude, longevity and fatigue. We need help and God has called His people to be the soldiers that fight with others in the battle.

“Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I love the picture of God as the Compassionate Father. A loving Father who understands the broken heart.

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17

A “Daddy God” who wrap us in His embrace and wipes our tears.

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A sympathetic Father who binds our wounds and stores our tears to use as a mortar to bind the pieces of our scarred broken heart together again.

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8

mosaic heart
A merciful Father who also bears the scars of a broken heart on his hands, feet and sides. A Father who has also suffered and cried because of His great love for us.

Our Compassionate Father wants us to find peace, comfort and healing in Him,

Jehovah Rapha – the Lord our Healer!

He has given us an example of pouring Himself out, and lovingly bearing burdens that were not His own. We will never match His sacrifice, but He has given us the privilege of following His example in bearing one another’s burdens.

Perhaps the chaos and confusion of grief has left the broken-hearted questioning God and unable to find solace in their once secure, faith-driven life. They need to see Jesus right now, face-to-face on earth, through us. We must be His hands and feet and He has equipped us to do so. The verse in 2 Corinthians tells us that not only has God comforted us, but that we have a surplus. God’s comfort does not stop with us. He gives us an “overflow”, more than we need, so that we can pour it into the lives of others.

We cannot “fix” them by taking away the agony and pain, but we can put on the armor of God and join them in the battle. We can help carry their burdens and offer to be a healer of sorts. How?

Kenneth C Haugk offers some advice in Book 3 of his Journeying through Grief series. He uses an acronym. Healing people are:

H – Here for you when you need them.
E – Empathetic. People with empathy will do their best to understand and to let some of your pain touch them.
A – Accepting. They don’t judge you, try to change you, or tell you what you should do or how you should think or feel.
L – Listening. They really focus on what you have to say. They let you share your feelings and know how important it is for you to tell your story again and again.

So what does this look like in everyday life? The comfort that Paul speaks of in this scripture is not a feeble feeling of contentment, nor a numbing dose of grace that only dulls the pain, but it is a stiffening agent that fortifies the heart for battle. It relates to encouragement and help.

Be the “H” that is here for them. – Be willing to make time for them. Take care of their physical needs by offering practical help. Offer to go to the grocery store, mow their yard, babysit, run errands. Send them cards and occasional texts. Church can be particularly hard for those who are grieving. Offer to sit with them. Pray for them daily. Most of all, realize that the battle of grief is more than just a skirmish. It is a lifelong war. Don’t try to rush them. Grief has its own calendar. Offer yourself long past the funeral and the first year.

Be the “E” that is empathetic. You can never truly understand what the grieving person is going through. The grieving process is as individual as a fingerprint. “Grief is universal. At the same time it is extremely personal.” – Earl A. Grollman, Living When a Loved One Has Died. Follow their lead in what to say and when to say it. While platitudes are often spoken out of a well-meaning heart, you cannot be sure how the individual will receive them. Grief.com has a post titled 10 Best and Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief:

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief
1. I am so sorry for your loss.
2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.
4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…
6. I am always just a phone call away
7. Give a hug instead of saying something
8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you
9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything
10. Saying nothing, just be with the person

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young
2. He is in a better place
3. She brought this on herself
4. There is a reason for everything
5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now
6. You can have another child still
7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him
8. I know how you feel
9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go
10. Be strong

Be the “A” that is accepting. Everyone needs a place where they do not have to worry about putting on a fake smile, or holding back the tears and being cheerful. They need someone who doesn’t judge the way they grieve or even offer advice. They just need a place to be themselves, and know that they are not fighting the battle all alone.

Be the “L” that listens. This one is so important. So many times we think we have to have the right answers. We want to fill the gaps in the silence. Understand that sometimes words don’t help. All you need to do is listen with compassion. Once again, follow their lead. If they want your advice, they will ask for it. Allow them tell the stories over and over. Hold them when they cry. Cry with them. Talking is healing. It allows them to release some of the pain with each telling of their story.

Scripture offers another beautiful example of being hands of Christ in battle. In Exodus 17:8-16 God has successfully brought the unappreciative Israelites out of their wilderness experience under the leadership of Moses. They find themselves blindsided by an unprovoked battle with the wicked descendants of Esau, the Amalekites. This wasn’t a battle the Israelites could win on their own against such hostile heathens. As Joshua led the fight, Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. Moses elevated the staff of God which had signified God’s power throughout the dessert wandering.

“As long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tied, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” Exodus 17:11-13

God provided the victory over the battle, but he literally used Aaron and Hur as His hands to support his weary servant, Moses.

Battle of Amalek

Are you willing to help in the battle? Will you be a supporting hand for those weary with the battle fatigue of grief? Will you use the overflow of God’s comfort for you to help comfort others?

 

There is a light
in the world, a healing spirit,
more powerful than any darkness
we may encounter.
We sometimes lose
sight of this force,
when there is so much suffering,
too much pain.

Then suddenly,
the spirit will emerge
through the lives of
ordinary people who care
and answer in
extraordinary ways.

Mother Teresa

be the hands of God

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Yesterday

hebrews-13_8

Yesterday is an ambiguous word. It is easy to understand yesterday in terms of “the day preceding this day,” but what about in terms of “a short time ago”? In my temporal view, the day before this day really seemed no different than today. The routine remained much the same. The alarm woke me before I was ready. The kids were fed and delivered to school. Errands were run. Work was accomplished. The clock hands raced to the day’s end before I marked off everything on my “to do” list. And, I once again wiped tears from my eyes because my heart still weighed heavy with grief. But, if I step back and look at yesterday as a short time ago, my view changes. My life was profoundly different. I often find myself longing for that yesterday – a time when the chapters of my autobiography were being written according to my plans and dreams. A yesterday when we brought our firstborn home from the hospital and I was gripped with the magnitude of raising this tiny little person. A yesterday when at age three this precocious little boy asked me how gas got from the gas pedal through the engine to make the car go. A yesterday of little league, lemonade stands, astronaut dreams, school functions, and loud music. A yesterday of his goofy humor and kind heart. A yesterday of watching him grow and mature. But what am I to do with this yesterday?

Society seems to be in disagreement about the importance of yesterday. The pendulum of belief swings from one group that seems to think that yesterdays don’t matter, to a group on the other side who believe that today is shaped by yesterday. The first group chooses to live only in today, leaving yesterday behind because it no longer exists and can’t be recovered or changed. The latter group holds that yesterday is an invaluable teacher for today. John Wayne said, “Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday.” There is validity in both opinions. Yesterday is indeed over and cannot be retrieved. We all have unpleasant things that are best thrown off and left on the floor of yesterday rather than being lugged into today. Sometimes we cannot move forward because we allow the past to stalk us and hold us captive. We let the past create walls that box us in and make us blind to new opportunities. Yesterday doesn’t define us, but it certainly should shape us as we step into the days that follow. Abraham Lincoln said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” So, where does this leave me in this confusing realm of time? It leaves me with a desire to shift my perspective and look through the eternal lens of the Author of time. To allow my pendulum to swing in both directions so that its movement might drive my measurement of time to a more eternal context.

What is time anyway? We sit and stare at the clock on the wall as its hands chase one another in an endless circle, dictating what to do and when to stop doing it. The hands squeeze into one another, never fully stopping only to start their circling once more. The truth is that time is just a concept we use to measure minutes, hours, days, months and years. In our humanity, we watch a clock or flip pages on a calendar trying to understand this creation of God which marks the duration of life and which is measured by changes in the created order. But God set time in motion.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so.” Genesis 1:14-15

You see, our faithful, eternal Creator spoke yesterday into existence, walks beside you today, and reigns forever in heaven. And, while we see ourselves in the context of yesterday and today and the pain that grips us, our Father sees us in the context of forever.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

So let me look with my Father’s eyes at yesterday. Let me throw off the filthy rags of yesterday’s sins and struggles that encumber me, the guilt of “if only” and “what if”, and the memories that hold me captive, clouding my vision of hope and leaving me depressed. Let me continue to trust Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider who was faithful yesterday and whose steadfast love endures forever.

“For the LORD is good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:5

It all sounds good and easy, right? But how do I replace my clouded temporal lens with God’s eternal lens that glares with heaven’s radiance? My memories of yesterday leave me conflicted, each with a nature of its own that either brings tears or laughter, fears or joy. I’m caught in a perpetual struggle. On one hand, I cherish the wonderful things that happened in the 27 years that we had with Taylor. On the other hand, these recollections leave me feeling cheated and sometimes even victimized, robbed of the opportunity to create new memories. On one hand, I long for the sweet memories to surface in my dreams. On the other hand, I fear nightmares and dread knowing that I will wake and find my sweet dreams only that – a dream. With one hand I pen the memories on the paper of my journal, because on the other hand I fear that the sound of his voice, the feel of his embrace, his exuberance for life will fade from my memory with each passing day. With one hand I wipe the tears. With the other hand, I praise my God who gave me the gift of my son. Each day I don my boxing gloves in this sparring match with yesterday and I pursue a part of my healing that will allow me to cherish my memories without letting them control me.

In scripture, the concept of memory of yesterdays is not limited to mental recall, but implies acting in accordance with what is remembered. It leads to action. We find this in Joshua 4:4-7 when Joshua instructed the representatives from each of the 12 tribes to carry a stone to the middle of the Jordan to serve as a sign to future generations of God’s faithfulness in carrying them through the water. In I Samuel 7, Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” These men of God knew that a visible reminder of God’s provision would help give hope to others.

In Psalm 42 the sons of Korah find themselves discouraged and depressed because they were in a place of exile.
3 “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your wav have gone over me. 8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life… 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Remembering God’s faithfulness before their exile, lead him to praise and rejoice because there was hope for the future.

Be intentional in looking for yesterday times that the Lord was faithful to you. Make an Ebenezer list of times God has provided for you and demonstrated His steadfast love for you. Keep it in a place where you will see it often. I keep mine in my Bible. Let the problems and pain of yesterday be lessons for today that encourage you rather than stalk you. Use the stones of yesterday – God’s provision, His mercy over sin, His triumph over struggle, lessons learned. Lug each one and carefully stack them upon one another building a tower. Let the tears that flow from your memories be the mortar that holds the stones together so that they will become a solid structure; a place of refuge and security in the current storm. Let it be a mighty fortress that elevates you to see above the fog to the God of hope. The sovereign God who knew what yesterday would bring. The God who sits on His heavenly throne forever, but who cares enough about your today to wipe your tears and lead you to tomorrow.

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform the destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.”

May God’s faithfulness yesterday give you the hope to trust him with the tears of today and the uncertainty of tomorrow.

“…Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come…” Revelation 1:4

 

Praying you find peace today in The God of Hope,

Kristi

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The Unchangeable God

My Life Has Changed, But God Has Not

 

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It is often said that grief comes in waves. It’s true I suppose, but seldom are they the gentle waves that lap at our feet as we wiggle our toes in the sand on the beach and daydream of our fairytale yesterday. Although over time the waves may subside so that their force doesn’t knock us off our feet, early in our grief voyage many waves strike with a violent, hurricane strength that threatens the integrity of even the sturdiest vessels. These waves swell from deep within the sea of life and often arise without warning. They are towering walls of water that are unavoidable and can leave us feeling battered, broken and hopeless. But, we have a firm foundation who remains unchanged by the storms of life. As Edward Mote penned in the much loved hymn The Solid Rock, “In every high and stormy gale, my anchor hold within the veil. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.” When these raging waters threaten to overtake your weary soul, drop your anchor into the sure Foundation that lies in the river of grace. Let your faith tether you to the hope found only in the Unchangeable God.

“We have this this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.”

Hebrew 6:19

Horatio Spafford was a wealthy Chicago lawyer. He was a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. He seemed to have everything good in life. He had a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, and a loving family. At the height of his success, he and his wife, Anna, lost their young son. Shortly thereafter, on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost all of Spafford’s real estate investments. In an effort to rest and recover from all the tragedy, the Spaffords scheduled a vacation to Europe. Horatio sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that the ship carrying his family had collide with another vessel. Anna narrowly escaped, but all four of his daughters drowned.

With a heart that weighed heavy in his chest, he boarded a ship that would take him to be with Anna in England. I cannot imagine the magnitude of such loss, yet when his boat came to the spot where the collision had taken the lives of his daughters Spafford penned the words to the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well (it is well),
With my soul (with my soul), It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou will whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Refrain

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so it is well with my soul.

Refrain

Horatio Spafford trusted his Anchor. Though his sorrow like sea billow rolled, he let peace like a river attend his soul. He was able to pen these words because he knew that though the course of his life had been irrevocably altered, he could trust The Unchangeable God.

How can we have this same trust? Who is this Unchangeable God? In Genesis, He is the breath of life. In Exodus, He is “I AM”. In Ruth, He is the kinsmen-redeemer. In Psalms, He is the morning song. In Isaiah, He is the Prince of Peace. In Hosea, He is forever faithful. In the gospels, He is God, Man and Messiah. In Corinthians, He is the power of love. In Thessalonians, He is our coming King. In Revelations He is the Alpha and Omega, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8

We live in temporal world that is in a constant state of flux. This can leave us confused, disappointed, and insecure. We don’t welcome most change and we certainly didn’t invite the change that occurred in our lives when our child died. It is a change beyond our reasoning, and it deeply affects every area of our being – psychologically, socially, spiritually, physically and mentally. Our emotions ride a roller coaster of helplessness, anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, sadness, and even, sometimes, relief and happiness. We now find it hard to relate to others and feel lonely. We wonder how God could have let such a thing happen. We can’t sleep, have headaches, lose or gain weight. We can’t concentrate and have trouble remembering things. We feel as though we are precariously perched on the peak of an abyss and that the slightest misstep will send us plummeting into an inescapable void. Now, more than ever, you need to secure yourself to the Unchangeable God and listen for His whisper of hope. Your life will never be the same. Your story now includes an unforeseen and unwelcome plot twist, but God is still God and forever will be. He has not changed.

He is the same in His creative, redemptive and protective power. From before creation He was God. As a babe in the manger, He was God. When He hung on the cross, He was God. When He rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven, He was God. He is the same God that holds the world in His hands and holds the keys to life and death. He is:

“the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” – James 1:17

“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.” – Psalm 102:25-27

He is the same in His personality – His might, wisdom, justice, goodness and love. He is the same in His plans. He is the same in His promises to save, supply and sustain. And, He is the same in His perfection. There is no need for Perfection to change.

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” – John 10:28

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

“Let us go forward, then, to the unchanging Saviour, through the changing things of time and sense; and we shall meet him soon in the glory, and he will be unchanged even there, as compassionate and loving to us when we shall get home to him, and see him in his splendor, as he was to his poor disciples when he himself had not where to lay his head and was a sufferer amongst them.” – Charles Spurgeon, “The Unchangeable Christ” sermon No. 2358 February 23, 1888

You have been shaken, but the Rock under you remains firm. Your heart hurts and your life will never be the same. But God…His heart has not and will not be altered. Lose yourself in the immensity of the Godhead. Nothing else has the power to comfort the soul and speak peace during grief.

The waves come, the storm rages, but we are not alone in this tempest. Our faith tethers us to an anchor of hope that is based on truth and the certainty of our salvation to steady our souls while we weather the present storms. Let your tears fall into the grace water that runs over our Anchor. Let these waters of peace be a sponge to your dry lips. Feel it trickle over you and then let it flow over you washing away the darkness. Let His waves of loves wash over you. His river of grace is more powerful than the tides of destruction that threaten.

Lam 3:22-24 “The steadfast love of the LORD never cease; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.”

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Time Is Not A Healer

Cardinal Matthew 5 4

  “Time heals all wounds” is perhaps the worst cliché used in grief. Just this week TODAY reported Bindi Irwin’s interview with Australia’s Sunday Style where she said she “could never fully accept it when people told her ‘time heals all wounds.’ Bindi went on to say, “There really isn’t a greater lie. It’s just not true. It’s like losing a part of your heart, and when you’ve lost that, you never get it back. Part of you will always be missing.”

What is “Time” anyway? We sit and stare at the clock on the wall as its hand chase one another in an endless circle, dictating what to do and when to stop doing it. The hands squeeze into one another, never fully stopping, and then start their circling once more. Time even seems to have its own contradictory language. “Time flies.” “Time stood still.” “Too much time on your hands.” “Not enough hours in the day.” In fact, in an attempt to help us understand its meaning, the dictionary has 64 entries for the elusive concept of time. Our finite minds simply cannot fully understand time. To a child waiting for Christmas, time drags its feet in slow motion. To the adult watching the anticipation in the same child, time seems to be racing at breakneck speed.

The truth is that time is just a concept we use to measure minutes, hours, days, months and years. In our humanity, we watch a clock or flip pages on a calendar trying to understand this creation of God which marks the duration of life and which is measured by changes in the created order. You see, time doesn’t heal. It only passes, and its passage is dictated by God according to His unfolding purposes. Some days this time will pass quickly with very little pain. Other days, it will seem to drag endlessly and the pain will cut deep. It is what we choose to do with time that affects our steps along this grief journey. Even when the perfect forever of Heaven seems so distant that you wonder how to make it through the now. Even when eternity seems veiled in the fog of today. Even when the grieving feels lonely because enough time seems to have passed to heal those around us while we still struggle silently. Even when time has taken the edge off the acute pain in an effort to protect our minds, but unexpected waves of grief still leave us battered. Even when today feels no different than yesterday. Even when the ache of the open wound of our heart’s loss is covered with a scar, yet is still missing a piece. Even then, choose to place your trust in our timeless Savior. Don’t just sit in the place of your pain and sorrow and wait for something to happen. Stand up and take a step toward the only Healer. Spend your time choosing to see Him through the pain.

Don’t look at the hands of the clock. Its fickle nature will only leave you feeling confused and conflicted. Instead, look to the Creator of Time who has no clock as we know it with a face of finite numbers or with hands that measure the passing of hours. Instead His face radiates glory and His hands reach out to embrace you and wipe away the tears that fall even after the passage of much time. He understands your scars because His hands bear scars also. These scars have your name on them and testify to His steadfast love for you which was firmly established before creation. Take His hand, walk with Him and fix your eyes on hope.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”     

Psalm 90:2

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