Meditation from Psalm 107. God is good and his mercy endures forever! I am redeemed! He is restoring my soul day by day. He meets me in grief. He rejoices with me. I praise His name. I can say, “Happy is the woman, who is forgiven!”
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
His mercy endures forever.
O that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
and for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
and fills the hungry soul with goodness,
O that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
and for His wonderful works to the children of men!
And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and declare His works with rejoicing.
O that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
and for His wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
and praise Him in the company of the elders.
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His mercy endures forever.
After the initial shock of my son’s death, I became inconvenient.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross finds acclaim for writing the most important book for caring for the dying, On Death and Dying. In her well researched book, she describes the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She is both right and wrong. If I were caring for the dying understanding these stages would be helpful. If I am caring for my friend whose child died, these stages do no good. There are no stages for the ones left living. No one grieves the same. Every loss is not the same.
I found that grief came in waves, easing some days, and crashing over me in overwhelming super waves on others.
Everyone around me wanted me to get to the finish line. They wanted the final stage according Ross, acceptance. I wearied them with my sadness. I wearied them with my insistence that not everyone could just get over it and move on. They were busy. My grief didn’t fit in with their schedule. God was doing big things at our church, and I was in the way. They didn’t have time to sit with me in my home as I wept.
I became inconvenient because when a close friend said something hurtful. I told her. Then I avoided her, if she didn’t acknowledge what she said was hurtful. Death had taken a cheese grater to my soul. I stood with my weeping and shredded soul as a friend said, “It is wrong to express anger at someone as long as those people are doing their best. It may hurt, but you have to see that their intentions are good. You are harsh.”
I was harsh. I was exhausted. I was despairing. I was inconsolable. I was wretched. I was desolate. I was confused. I was overwhelmed. I was angry. I was lamenting. I was terrified. I battled feelings of jealousy and envy. I was inconvenient.
I despaired wondering if the intensity of my pain would ever ease. Once, I stood staring at picture of myself on the wall, pondering, if I would ever smile like that again. A cloud settled around me, making it difficult to laugh easily or enjoy the good things still in my life. Getting out of bed, getting dressed, cleaning the house, and feeding my family became my victories for the day. I learned to celebrate each one, even if no one else did. I made room for the long road of grief. Never knowing when a “grief attack” like an anxiety attack would happen, I learned to ride the wave until it was over. I slowed down.
I learned that grief has no finish line. My reality is that my son’s ashes are in an urn, where they will be until they are buried with me in death. What I have found is a reconciliation. My old normal is gone. I couldn’t divorce myself from the reality of loss. One book I read said that losing a child is a “prolonged grief process.”
In A Necessary Grief, Larry Michael writes, “The grief may be immense for this loss (miscarriage). Even more, stillbirths are especially difficult…my heart went out to those parents who had placed such hope and longing for this child that was now taken from them. A great degree of sensitivity and compassion is needed for this situation.”
What I found is that God is more compassionate than I had ever imagined.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
And recovery of sight for the blind
To set the oppressed free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
I felt the poverty of my loss intensely. I felt imprisoned by others’ expectations. I felt blind to the goodness in my life. I felt oppressed by grief. But I did not understand the year of the Lord’s favor. How is this situation favor? Well, it wasn’t. Thankfully, I don’t have to sugar coat Christianity. The favor of God is not man centered. Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, the persecuted, and the insulted (Matthew 5: 3-12). Jesus never talks about earthly riches or desires as favor.
God in His compassion spoke gently to me and cleared up my confusion over the word “favor”. His favor is the gift of repentance, forgiveness, salvation, and His presence just to name a few.
Jesus demonstrates that those in grief are not an inconvenience to him. In the story of Martha and Mary (John 11), their questions, lamentations, and weeping were not troublesome or wearing. He joined with them, connecting with each Mary and Martha in her unique grief.
Jesus was on his way to raise Lazarus from the dead. Martha stopped him, and chastised him. She was harsh, blaming Jesus for Lazarus’s death. Jesus follows with a logical conversation because that is what she needed. She needed to remember that…
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
Martha becomes the second person in scripture to proclaim, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Although Jesus knew he was about to perform one of his greatest miracles, when he meets Mary, he isn’t hurried to the task of doing great things. He’s not too busy. She falls at his feet weeping. Deeply moved in his spirit and troubled, Jesus weeps with her.
Jesus spoke no words. He gave Mary the ministry of joining with her in grief.
How the letter “Y” creates heresy?
In women’s ministry today, I am hearing more and more good women leaders confuse
the words worth and worthy. I have been to different conferences, and listened to women that I respect tell the audience, “You are worthy.”
The #MeToo movement brought sexual abuse to the forefront. Jesus restores the dignity of women like myself who endured abuse. Some leaders have unintentionally confused worth, meaning value, with being worthy, which is based on merit. We must care for abused woman. We must understand the pain of being violated as an Image Bearer creates feelings of being worthless and shamed. We can teach that inherent in every soul is worth because God created her without compromising the truths of the gospel.
My worth to God does not mean that I am worthy!
The Gospel is Good News. Although, our sin makes us unworthy, Jesus died for us, while we were sinners. God’s love for us did not change because of our sin. Sin did not change our value in God’s eyes. He desired to redeem us, while we were unworthy.
We are not worthy, but we do have worth.
Many good people with great intentions want to free women from this bondage by adding a “y” to the end of the word worth.
You are worthy!
Now we enter heresy and further the weight of bondage. The broken and abused are not excluded from Romans 3:10-12 “There is no one righteous, not even one: there is no one who understand; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away. They have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, no not even one.”
This demonstrates that we have all sinned and so we cannot be worthy of God’s salvation. Our behavior here is the issue not our intrinsic worth.
Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Inherent in every soul is worth because God created it.
Worth is unmerited.
Genesis 1: 27 So God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female.
Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well.
Worth is untouchable. No one through word or deed can change a soul’s worth. We were all born to broken parents. One does not have to endure physical, sexual, or emotional abuse to feel worthless. Sin mars everyone’s sense of self-worth. Sin separates us from the Source of Worth, but when our dignity is broken we experience shame. Shame and guilt are not the same thing. Shame says, “There is something wrong with me.” Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” We all have guilt because we all have sin. Those of us battling shame feel like we were born worth less than others. We were born bad.
Say it with me…
My worth is untouchable.
God loves me. He redeemed me. Through Jesus Christ, He justifies and glorifies me!
Power is intoxicating. Always has been. Eve wanted to be like God knowing good and evil. Taking on a role that did not belong to her, she ate the forbidden fruit to find wisdom. Isn’t that what we want? We want to be in control of our lives in every way. She wanted exactly what we want, “to be like God.”
We are in control. If I keep a tight control over my house, I can control my children. If I love my husband, then he must love me back. I am in control of my life, knowing what is right and wrong. I have a strict code of do’s and don’ts. If I follow them, God is obligated to reward me with the desires of my heart. I’ve got my routine. I’ve got my goals.
Then life throws me a curve ball. That old hurt of a broken self-image roars to life.
That’s ok. I’ve got this. I just need to lose weight. I will try harder! I’ll come up with a better routine! I just need to focus more. It’s all the toxic people around me. I need a new job, house… husband. I need to get more involved in church, more prayer, more bible study, more responsibility!!!!!!
Many of us are in denial about our lust for power to control our lives and the people around us.
We find euphemisms to hide behind as we disable our feelings to keep up the image. We build walls around us, so that people can’t see the hurt. We are constantly drained of energy. We isolate ourselves to keep others from hurting us. We’ve been in pain for so long, relying on ourselves and our abilities.
In so much popular women’s ministry today, there is a voice that initially will sound right. I’ve been to a lot women’s conferences, where I was told I am worthy. I am beautiful. I am powerful. I’ve heard things like this,
“The arm of the Lord is not too short to deliver you, to provide for you, to vindicate you, to promote you. You’re about to see God take you where you couldn’t go on your own.”
“God’s not trying to take something from you; He’s trying to get something better to you. If you’ll trust Him and do what you know you need to do, you’ll come into a new level of your destiny.”
Who doesn’t want to be beautiful and worthy? Who doesn’t want a new level of destiny to be achieved by our good works? I want to be healed by the Presence of God without confession or repentance. A quick miracle, and my relationships are healed. I don’t have to admit that I was wrong. Forgiveness doesn’t cost me anything. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul warns us that there will be people who hold to a form religion but deny its power. If I alone am beautiful, worthy, and powerful. What do I do with Revelation 4:11?
“Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created.”
What do I do with Romans 7?
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I do not do the good I want to do…
We have to admit that we are powerless to control ourselves and our world. The first step into God’s presence is submission and repentance. No one gets to skip this step. We have to uncover ourselves by confessing we’ve been living for ourselves. We are weak. We are filled with all kinds unrighteousness. When Paul writes a list of possible sins, adultery, envy, and murder are listed right next to disputes, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, and disobedient to parents
God will not override our normal operating system.
He is compassionate, not wanting to humiliate us. Look at the story of Adam and Eve. After they sinned, they heard God walking in the garden, and hid themselves. God did not expose them. His presence alone didn’t heal them. He didn’t overwhelm them with his power. He gently called them to come out. Adam and Eve had to choose to come out from behind the bush of denial and admit they were powerless to resist evil. They chose to humble themselves. God loves us so much that he doesn’t want us to exhaust ourselves being powerful. He confronts us, so that we can stop hiding from Him and enjoy His presence.
Are we enjoying God’s presence? Or, are we still trying to be powerful, trying to control our world and the people in our world? Are we disabling our feelings? Then there is a stronghold there. Some of us blend Animism with our Christianity. If we say or do certain things, then God will respond in certain ways. If we tithe, God will bless us. If we pray, God will do what we ask. My flat tire this morning happened because I yelled at my child before school. I know a lady with a drawer full of fortunes from Chinese fortune cookies that thinks God is using them to speak directly to her. She leads a women’s ministry at a church. We ascribe spiritual significance to the material world. Essentially, we as Christians believe that we are powerful enough to control God and the world around us by human means. We’ve used Christian language to dress up our quest for power over our world.
Everything in us will resist admitting that we are powerless, especially, if we’ve been made to feel powerless.
We try, but we cannot draw a straight line from our good deeds to blessings or bad deeds to suffering. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes really good things happen.
Jeremiah cries out to us,
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.
God’s truth is that in Christ we are acceptable and chosen, and He has the power to heal us! What are we in denial about today? What are we trying to control or manipulate? Are we still struggling to admit we are powerless to save ourselves? Are still trying to be good enough to be accepted? Are we more focused on our self-worth than God? Is there a stronghold we need to face?
Getting off the school bus, she was sure to walk a few steps behind the group of pretty girls, not wanting them to notice her.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words kill.”
She knew her place.
As she crossed over to the other side of the tracks, she wondered what it would be like to own a new dress with a matching Jo-Jo bow.
Dressed in her brother’s hand-me-down jeans that never seemed to fit right, she walked on dreading the evening routine: help with little sister’s homework, get the house clean, make dinner, hope mom doesn’t get mad and yell, smile pretty, maybe dad will notice. Just maybe today her parents will acknowledge how hard she’s working for their approval.
We all long for significance. Desiring to be the one on top, we like to break society into classes. Although, in America these classes are more fluid, let us not be blind to ethnic, economic, and social barriers that we created to find value and significance at the expense of other image bearers. This man-made significance never satisfies our need.
We can mine the Bible for a rich treasure trove of truth. God has no favorites. He does not love the rich more, giving them more for their comfort. He does not love the poor less, causing them to suffer because of laziness. He doesn’t favor one skin tone over another. He doesn’t create girls to be taken advantage of by men. We live in a world broken by sin, plagued by suffering, and characterized by the strong taking from the weak, but this is not God’s desire.
The very sin that breaks our hearts and self-image broke Jesus Christ’s body on the cross!
Romans 2:11-11 but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, first for the Jew, then for the Greek. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the Law will also perish apart from the Law, and all who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.
“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.
Who shows no partiality to princes Nor regards the rich above the poor, For they all are the work of His hands?
Then Peter began to speak: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism,
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Absolutely not!
There are so many more verses!
The ground at the foot of the Cross is level. If I know this to be true, why do I still struggle to find significance in the world? Why do I still compare myself to others? Why aren’t others struggling like me with finances, self-worth, disobedient children… the list can go on and on. In short, a soft prosperity gospel has invaded the church. Some-where along the way, we began to believe that being co-heirs with Christ means that we should never suffer, but that God will give us every desire of our hearts. We missed the Bible’s message about suffering.
In Romans 8:17 Paul writes, “and if children, also heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Paul’s encouragement to us, is not that we won’t suffer, but suffering will never separate us from God’s love. We are called, justified, glorified. It’s not that we will never be afflicted, be anguished, be persecuted, be hungry, be naked, in danger, face the sword, or face death. These things do not separate us from His love.
The soft prosperity gospel says, “#BLESSED, #tooblessedtobestressed.”
You have to read this article. It may hurt, but repentance frees us! Grace covers us!
Before my son died, I didn’t even recognize how the soft prosperity gospel blinded me and my circle of friends. Its influence is so subtle. Like the author in the above article, I didn’t see it until my faith stopped making sense. I was #blessed, so why is all this happening. We were losing everything: Kai, house, job, friends, and church.
I faced the truth that God never promises to rescue us from the situations of earthly life that sin causes or the brokenness that follows. Even when we ask for forgiveness, we experience the earthly consequences of sin. Read King David’s story in 2 Samuel 12:10.
We naturally gravitate towards teachers that inspire and make us feel good about ourselves. We want to be told that we are basically OK. Yeah, bad things happened to us, but now we are powerful and we can tell our story! We are worthy and beautiful. We prefer a feel good self-empowerment gospel. After all, we want to be satisfied with our station life. We’ve worked hard to be significant or find significance in the bad things that have happened. We’ve exchanged the God of the Bible for therapeutic moralistic deism. Peter says, “For uttering bombastic empty words, they seduce, by fleshly desires and debauchery… They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.”
Jesus teaches that his kingdom is not of this world. To be first we must be the servant of all. The way that leads to destruction is broad. The road that leads to righteousness is straight and the gate is narrow. The righteous will be persecuted. Almost everything he teaches is the opposite of our natural inclinations, including suffering.
Peter writes, “but even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed” II Peter 3:14. Would we write #blessed after Herod chopped off John the Baptist’s head? What about Stephen who was stoned for preaching the gospel? Priscilla and Aquila started three churches, but were kicked out of their hometown. The Apostle Paul says that he was overwhelmed with fears on the inside and outside. Blessed?
The rain falls on the just and the unjust Matthew 5:45. All of us would like the right amount of rain at just the right time to fall for our greatest comfort. Some of us are poor, some of us have endured abuse, some of us are plagued by tragedy, and some of us have too many children, while others are infertile. How can we know who is loved?
All of us! Jesus loved the whole world, and gave his life for all of us!
Revelation 3:20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he will me.”
The Lord has prepared a wedding feast for his Bride. He calls all to come and eat with him, making no accommodations for rich or poor, abused or abuser, skin color, young or old. He simply calls everyone to repentance, not wanting anyone to perish, but wanting all to be saved. He wants to walk with us through all of life’s moments. Earth is not Heaven!
The school shooting demonstrates how broken this world is. Although, at times in human history, we have been able to restrain man’s evil heart by cultural means, however, sin remained. Women were less than men. Racism in all its evil pride lurks in our hearts and institutions. Sure, the Greatest Generation sounds great on paper for some. We didn’t have mass murders in schools, but let’s not gloss over that every generation has tried to restrain evil and failed.
I can’t imagine the grief these parents will have to walk through. Remember, picture the parents, then remove all their bones, and tell them to walk. They can’t, but some-how grieving parents find a way to keep going. Have you ever noticed, there isn’t a name for grieving parents? We have orphans and widows and widowers, but there isn’t a word for grieving parents. For these parents and this community the devastation has just begun.
I think about the shooter and what has come out about his life. When is the church going to take back it’s God given mandate to care for the fatherless and stop relying solely on foster care. I remember reading a startling statistic that if every church came together, chose a family to support (financially, socially, etc.), and adopted one orphan, we wouldn’t have any need for orphanages. We are the royal priest hood. God’s chosen ambassadors to the world to make disciples. This mandate costs, but for some of us we don’t see ourselves as chosen for anything.
At first, thinking about what I have been through pales in comparison to Parkland, but whatever rejection and devastation we have endured is big to us. I am overwhelmed by God’s truth that He accepted me. I have been verbally abused and mocked by a caregiver that should have loved me. I have been physically abused by a boyfriend that said he wanted to marry me. I have been rejected by friends that said they stood with me, only to reject my grief. I have done destructive things to myself and others. We all have our sad stories of rejection and destruction, but when I think about what Jesus endured for us, it doesn’t compare.
I am accepted because He was rejected.
The Bible clearly records that before the creation of the world God knew that Jesus would have to be sacrificed to restore creation. I can’t imagine setting out to create something that I knew would fail me, but God loves us that much. He didn’t make us robots that had no choice but to mindlessly obey him. This opened the world up to all kinds of evil. Ever since Adam and Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit, humans have been destroying one another.
I was in a small group of believers that were seeking to be healed from past hurts. One of the believers said, “I don’t understand how God can be good, and sit back a let me as a little innocent child endure sexual abuse? I’m angry at God!” We sit back and ask how could God allow mass school shootings. When God allowed humans to choose Him, He allowed us to choose to sin against him and sin against one another. The truth is, we love being able to choose. We hate when others choose to be selfish and hurt us, but we don’t like being told what to do. Some would call this a conundrum.
On one hand we hate evil, but we seem to keep choosing to be evil.
Maybe some of us can’t identify with the example of childhood sexual abuse, but we are all devastated by another mass school shooting. And personally, we all have been rejected or made to feel worthless at one time or another.
The explosive thought I had is that God can relate to us. Jesus, who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather he humbled himself into the womb of a teenage girl. He became a baby, dependent on one of his creations to do everything for him. He took on flesh knowing that he would then humble himself again by becoming obedient to death on the cross. We skipped over that He knew that the very people he came to save would reject him. Oh, and one of his twelve closest friends would betray him, giving him up to be killed by the religious authorities.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-6
The punishment that brings us peace was on him. My favorite passage that I could quote at the end of every post is Ephesians 1:3-8. The key words in that passage are “in Him”. Our peace, forgiveness, acceptance, worth, everything begins and ends with “in Him”. In a culture that is “me” obsessed this doesn’t make any sense to us in the beginning. We seek to find ourselves and heal our self-image. In vain, we try harder to be better and achieve more. These things always leave us needing more. Some of us look at the drug addict without realizing that we can be just as addicted to acceptance by whatever means we are searching for it: religion, success, self-image, Christian service. Yes, we can even use the church to bolster our-self-image and worth. We are using religion or Christian service like some use success or drugs to feel acceptable or worthy.
We must face the truth that there is nothing that we can do or not do to be acceptable to God. There is nothing that can be done to us or for us that makes us worthy or worthless.
Our good works are like filthy rags. Unless our righteousness exceeds the most righteous person we know, we will not be accepted. Maybe now our pride is beginning to expand with all the times we did the right thing. However, it is impossible to go through this life without becoming angry or lusting for love from someone. Let’s face it, we can’t go through the normal crazy feelings of puberty without sinning. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus reveals the truth of our desperate situation. He demonstrates that man is unable to keep all of God’s law thereby making them unworthy.
At this point some of us are pulling out our salvation as a badge. But how do we live? What situations make us feel rejected? Where are gaining value? What makes us feel worth or worthless? What is the motivation for our good works? Why are we nice to people? Sometimes our motivation is to win the praise of men so that we feel good about who we are. There are too many situations where we wrongly use religion, success, or self-worth to go into detail about all of them.
I want to focus our attention on the Beginning and the End. Without being “in Him” we are unacceptable. We are on unworthy on our own. Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. God gave us Jesus as a sacrifice, the reparation for our unacceptable deeds, to be received by faith. This faith in the finished work of the cross makes us acceptable to God. Why do we continually struggle with feelings of being unaccepted or unworthy?
The first reason may be unconfessed sin. A sweet girl in my life submitted her will and life to God, but she thought she could make confession to God alone. She continued to struggle in self-doubt because she needed to make confession to the other people that she sinned against. James 5:13 says to confess our sins to one another so that we can be healed. Only fools mock at making amends for sin, but good will is found among the upright, Proverbs 14:9. When we make confession to the ones we’ve hurt, we begin repairing the relationship. When relationships are broken we feel rejection. Confession clears those feelings giving way for us to accept one another and we can feel God’s acceptance. The problem does not begin with God’s acceptance, our feelings are clouding God’s truth in our lives.
Secondly, we have a real adversary. The Evil One roams this earth looking for whom he may devour. Jesus calls him the Accuser of the Brethren. Do you feel accused? The difference between conviction and condemnation is found here. The Accuser of the Brethren will make you feel frightened, confused, obsessed, depressed, and rushed. The only way to beat him is to draw close to God and he will flee from you. How do we draw close to God? We know His truth. What makes you acceptable, JESUS. How are you forgiven, JESUS! It’s JESUS, JESUS, JESUS! Making confession to God and those we have hurt will combat all the nasty feelings that we feel when we are accused. We simply will not have anything for the Evil One to use.
Thirdly, holding on to past hurts that violated us as Image Bearers keeps us feeling worthless and shamed. At some point in our lives, we got the message that bad things would not have happened to me if I was worth more. This is a lie. When someone harms another person, they are selfishly taking what does not belong to them. This is another blog post to come, but God does not make different classes of people. We are all equally image bearers. The Bible contains a treasury of verses teaching that God does not have favorites. He does not make “throw away girls” and “good girls”. He creates every girl to be loved and cherished, imbuing each of us with value because He created us to belong to Him. I have felt like a “throw away girl.” I found freedom in declaring that the abuse I suffered is sin. I agreed with God (repented). I released the abuse and the abuser to be judge by God, therefore, I can stop judging myself as worth-less than the abuser or others who have not been abused. We are equal in God’s sight. We are “sheep that have gone astray each of us to our own way.” There is nothing in us that deserved to be harmed, rather, we each have free will. We can freely choose to follow God, or we can freely choose to harm others to fulfill our selfish desires. Abuse is about the abuser not the innocent. Now, we can face the aftermath of the abuse. Many of us begin to self-abuse. Hand in hand, repentance and forgiveness, we go back to my first point and ask God to forgive us because we have self-abused. We’ve damaged ourselves. We need to repair the relationship with ourselves.
Conviction is a good feeling leading us to grace. Condemnation makes us feel hopeless. We never enter a time of confession without Jesus’s grace. The price has been paid. We have no fear in uncovering our hurts or bad deeds before our God. Freedom is found in repentance. Holding on to our sin is like playing tug-of-war. As long as the people on each end of the rope are tugging, we are at war. We let go of our end of the rope by making confession and forgiving those who have hurt us. No matter how hard they may tug on their end, if we’ve released ours, the war is over. But until we have released the rope, we are still a prisoner of war. If this seems too difficult to do that’s because we must move from a place of power to confessing we are powerless.
When Kai died, the trauma of loss and grief overwhelmed me in torrents of pain and sadness. At times the pain grew so intense, it left me gasping for breath. I was drowning in sorrow. How could a God who says He loves me, let me go through this? Isn’t He all powerful? Isn’t He good? There’s no darkness in Him, right? My pain exposed my broken places. My conclusion was that God didn’t love me. I wasn’t one of the “chosen” because surely His “chosen” would be protected from such evil.
A friend was trying to encourage me. She said to pick something to remind me that God loves me. I did. I appropriated God’s rainbow of promise that He would never flood the world again to show His love for me. Now, I see my arrogance. The animists believe that they can manipulate their circumstances with the physical world. My world became more about a rainbow than faith in Jesus. Faith is believing without seeing. I’ve blogged about my devastation over my husband getting to see a rainbow, while I was in a meeting that emotionally I could barely sit through. The problem with “pick your thing” is the LORD created the rainbow for His purposes. The pink skies belong to Him and declare His glory, not His love for me. “Pick your thing” is man-centric. What happens to me when I desperately need reassurance of God’s love, and it’s storming? There’s no pink sky, no rainbows, and no prancing deer. Nature is what nature is.
Another friend encouraged me to “push through.” She kept saying, “Let go, let God.” “God’s got this!” I looked at her and said, “This is what you say to someone who can’t breathe?” She simply said yes and kept talking, saying how everyone needed me to push through because they needed me to be O.K. Even she needed me to be O.K. Although, she was trying to help, what she did was deny my pain. Frustrated and overwhelmed, I finally asked her to stop talking because she was hurting me. The next morning her husband told me to apologize to her for being harsh with her. Again, denying my pain in my time of need. Later, this couple condemned me for not grieving with them. Desperately, I tried to point out the duplicity of expecting me to start acting like the “old Matthea”, while exposing them to my grief. They just sat there saying “No. No. No.” Unfortunately, we were unable to resolve the break in relationship.
I cried out to the Lord in my anguish, believing in His power to heal, even if He didn’t love me. What I now know is that my grief journey followed a similar path of most. In the beginning, I was almost numb. I went through the motions of the funeral and trying to get back to my old life, but I couldn’t sleep. My lack of sleep alone could account for some of my anguish. Grieving is exhausting!
About a year before Kai died my spiritual mom passed away from cancer leaving dad and a bunch of new sisters to grieve together. Dad encouraged me to read Finding God by Dr. Larry Crabb. My dad met me in my devastation, my overwhelming loss. The closest I can come to describing the pain of losing my child is to picture the removal of every bone in your body. Now be your old self walking. You can’t!
Dr. Crabb met me too. Throughout the pages of his book he described my pain. He understood my fear that God didn’t love me. He identified with me in my anger and anguish. He asked me to grapple with whether or not God is good? He even helped me to understand my two friends. He writes in his book,
“Modern Christians are presented with two options for dealing with our lives: Either we can understand how our souls have been wounded and how to receive God’s healing nourishment, or we can obey God as a stern uninvolved father, and never tell him how bad we hurt. Either our hurt is the point, or it is no point at all. Either our needs matter more than anything else, or it is wrong even to mention them.
We need a third way of handling our lives- a way that combines a passionate sensitivity to our deepest struggles with a tender insistence that something matters more than how we feel. It is healthy to face the pain in our souls, to feel bad when others violate our dignity, to admit to ourselves how desperately we long to feel loved and valued and accepted as we are. But, in the middle of all this, we need to remember that the point of Christianity is not us, but God who cares for us.”
SO, I can’t quote the whole book, but I hope it intrigues you enough to read it.
God met me in my grief. As I trusted Him with my grief, He showed me that the reason why my friends hurt me so deeply was my expectations. I expected my friends to love me more than they loved themselves. We can’t expect that out of others; we are all broken people. They loved me the way they made sense of their hurts, and that didn’t work for me. I needed God. In my world there wasn’t a rainbow, and I couldn’t just push through the pain. Ignoring the pain felt like I was dishonoring Kai’s memory. He was a real person, who needed to be grieved, not forgotten.
God truly cares about our hurts, but the physical world that is broken by sin does not display His love for us. God knew that nothing in all of creation would be good enough to show His love. God sent himself to bring us back to himself. As I cried out to God to rescue me, He gently said, “I have. I gave you myself. I paid the price, so that you can enjoy my presence.” I realized I wanted God to protect me from everything that everyone else must endure because we still live in a world broken by sin. Our bodies fail. Our minds fail. Our emotions lie to us. Our friends fail. Parents fail. Children die. People hurt us. This world is broken that’s why Jesus reminds us that His kingdom is not of this world. I wanted His kingdom NOW. I’ve learned that there are some problems that will not be solved until heaven. When my friend looked at me and quoted the verse, “He gives beauty for ashes.” I no longer tried to be heard. I silently said in my heart, “Yes, He will, but right now, I literally have the ashes of my son in an urn. He hasn’t taken my ashes.” One day, I will stand with my son and worship the Risen Savior.
I have learned that I do not have to submit myself to the “fundamentalist who crushes the soul under proud obedience, and I don’t have to give into the illusion of life that honors the deadly virus of selfishness by calling it a different name. The first approach seems to imply that we pick ourselves up from where we have fallen by a mere act of will. The second defines our helpless condition as morally excusable and therefore values God’s help above his mercy.”
Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. What I missed is that I may have to face death. I may be in trouble. I will face hardship and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword. I may be delivered up as sheep to be slaughtered. Not because doesn’t love me, but because this world is broken. My Jesus has demonstrated his love for me that while I was still a sinner He died for me. I am an heir, co-heir with Christ, but I will indeed share in his sufferings in order that I may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17
Grief GOT HARD! So I stopped blogging for what… 3/4 years. I don’t know.
I’ve been thinking about starting again for a long time now. This journey of healing has been crazy. I will blog about the deep grief and recovery later, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve worked on a piece titled Unloved.
From my earliest memories, I felt unloved. I remember thinking maybe I was simply unlovable. There’s just something about me that people can’t love. When Kai died, I thought his death meant God didn’t love me. Feeling unloved is part of the fall. If you, like me, have felt unloved, you are NOT ALONE. We all seek to fill this void with everything except The One Who is Love.
1 John 4:8 … God is love.
Leah is the most famous unloved women. Her story with her husband, Jacob, is recorded in Genesis 29-33. Jacob is a scoundrel, deceiver, and thief, but chosen by God. He is fleeing for his life after conniving with his mother to steal the firstborn’s blessing. Prince Charming, he was not. In Jacob’s mad dash out the house, his mother commanded him to hide out with her brother Laban.
Jacob obeys his mom. On his way to Laban’s house, he meets Laban’s second daughter, Rachel. Infatuation infects Jacob; he was in lust. To move the story along, Jacob meets Laban, and agrees to work for his uncle. His uncle wants to pay him and asks his price. Jacob wants to marry Rachel because she is beautiful, but Leah, the older sister, had “weak eyes”. Scholars have written quite a bit about what this means, and not all of them agree. However, we can assume that her eyes were unattractive and were mentioned as a detriment to her looks in contrast to her sister’s “beautiful form.” Jacob works for seven years to earn Rachel.
“Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to
make love to her.” Jacob said to Laban. Genesis 29:21
-There’s nothing I can say about that.-
Laban calls everyone together for a marriage feast. That night he sends Leah into the marriage tent instead of Rachel, and Jacob seals the marriage. He wakes up the next morning angry at Laban for the trickery, but Laban says, “Our custom is for the oldest to be married first and then the youngest. Work another seven years and I will give you Rachel.” Jacob agrees. He finishes out the first week-long honey moon with Leah, and then Rachel was given to Jacob. The Bible is not specific, but it reads as if Leah got one week before she had to share her husband with her sister. Then, “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.”
Leah gives birth to three sons. Each time she believes that her husband will love her and become attached to her. The first son is named Reuben likely because it sounds like the Hebrew word for he has seen my misery. Then comes Simeon which sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew word for one who hears. The last one is named Levi which sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew word for attached. Although in each of these names Leah is struggling to understand God as the one who sees her misery and the one who hears her, her focus is still Jacob.
Tragically, we are all like Leah. We seek love from other people who are looking to us to love them. The deadly cycle of needy broken people needing needy broken people is born. We insist that there must be a way to find love and make life work by affection, achievement, acceptance, affirmation, addiction… the list is very long. Eventually, we realize that no one or thing provides us the love we need.
What are we to do? Counseling is an option. It is good to help identify the traumatic events that left us vulnerable to victimhood. However, Christian counseling too often encourages us to get in touch with those feelings of being unlovable, and uses the love of Jesus to overcome them. Some may even tell us to pick our “thing” that shows us that God loves us. I’ve heard of everything from pink skies to picturesque deer feeding in a field (mine was a rainbow). The Suffering Savior is reduced to an inspiring symbol that helps us realize our worth. Would Jesus go through being mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed, so that we can develop a good self-image? We look to God, not to find Him, but to use him! We are exploiting Jesus!
The power of the cross lies in the undivorceable marriage of repentance and restoration.
We can face the evil traumatic events in our lives that produced the feelings of being unloved in us. Let us repent, meaning that we will declare those events as evil and sinful. We agree with the Lord! For us they are under the blood! The perpetrator now owns his/her sin, not us! We are now responsible for the selfish acts that we did in our quest to be loved. We are not worthy of this amazing gift of forgiveness.
“We all like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to our own way;
And the LORD has laid on him the
Iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
This is the beauty of the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross. While we were sinners, God demonstrated his love for us by sending Jesus to die for us. Sometimes I feel ugly because I was behaving ugly! I know the nasty feelings of jealousy and envy, and I feel worthless. I don’t feel beautiful when anger and strife are having their way with my words. We know that we are not always worthy and beautiful, so I’m not going to trick myself into feeling worthy and beautiful. The Cross of Jesus frees me from these unfair expectations. Read Romans 7 and 8. It frees you too.
Let’s go back to Leah’s story. She again conceives and gives birth to a fourth son, but this time she declares, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Then she stopped having children. Praise and love flow over us, when we realize how unworthy we are for God’s amazing love! There is nothing in us and there is nothing that we can do or not do to make God love us any more or less than He does. Jacob’s dysfunctional family displays God’s grace that is available to each of our dysfunctional families.
Isn’t He Beautiful?
In the middle of darkness my hope remains. I have come to identify with Noah. Imagine what the atmosphere was like to wake up day after day in the ark, a giant coffin covered in black tar floating on the waves of a world wide flood with no land or sun in sight. Bone deep darkness. Imagine the fierce storm with thunder, lightning, and maddening rain. My tears have come in violent storms, tossing my soul from side to side. Noah faced an unknown future. What was happening had never happened before in human history, much less Noah’s life.
I’ve written before that I’m walking a very familiar road to women, but I feel as if I’m in the ark with patchy sun, no land in sight, and a torrent of tears. Desperately, I prayed asking God for a rainbow just as He gave to Noah. A physical promise that He has not abandoned me. For 3 weeks I begged my Father, asking like the woman in Matthew 15:21-28, through her constant asking, moved Jesus to heal her daughter. I shared with my husband my request, and that’s where my story begins. Most share their moments of victory, but here is my moment of defeat…and I mean defeat. (Said loud and in the best southern voice you can muster.)
Sitting in a meeting that I didn’t want to join, I received a text. “Here’s your rainbow. ”
And bless his heart, my sobbing response was, “That’s not my rainbow, it’s yours!” God sent my husband a rainbow, not me!!! I was able to keep control through the meeting and to my van before the storm of tears broke.
“Why does God hate me?” ran around my mind screaming… Have you been there? Devastated… defeat attached himself to me. I couldn’t see the Son. I was drowning.
In grief, there isn’t much anyone can say that can encourage you. I went to sleep that night with one thought, I don’t want to give up, but let me reveal to you that I had no great promise to hold on to. No Word from the Lord. No dramatic feeling of I can go on.
Have you been here? I felt abandoned. Alone. Broken. That night I wasn’t sure what to even do next. The only thing I could do was put one foot in front of the other and keep walking. I’m not even sure if I was Trusting. I just didn’t turn back. My faith became like my breathing. Sometimes I forget to breath, and my autonomic system says, “Breath. Breath noW. BREATHE NOW!.” And finally, I will gasp and suck in air. I keep believing, just not as easily as I once did.
I leave you with this. Sometimes beautiful isn’t always pretty. James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who persevered under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” I am so thankful that there are no qualifiers with “having stood the test”. Or I’d be in trouble. Some days are great! Some days, I find myself in the battle to believe. Believe that God wants to love me.
I’ve struggled with this post. Writing and re-writing, still not able to express what I‘m feeling. This life has taught me that everyone has a story. Most stories lead us to ask, “Why does God allow suffering?” I’ve been asking that for over a year now, and I want to share a thought. Well, not just the last year, if I’m honest, I have not led a charmed life. More on that later, but for now it’s surviving grief.
This time a year ago I conceived Kai, during a time of great trouble. September was the beginning of an episode where I watched my entire life be shaken and torn. My husband took a stand that led to a few influential people in our church asking for his resignation. Wow! That sentence makes it seem easy. It wasn’t. Three months of meeting after meeting where 3 or sometimes 4 men held the rest hostage. The only way forward was severing, cutting off, throwing away Jon’s ministry. Many have faced cut backs and lay offs these days, and they know the torturous stress these times bring. What about the house? Should we sell it now? Should we uproot and leave or wait on the Lord? Every day brought new stress and more false accusations. We stood, silent, waiting.
Meanwhile, I was watching my spiritual mom waste away from cancer. Visiting her once a week for a little while, I learned to empty a chest tube that relieved the build up of fluid on her lungs. She became like a child, needing constant attention. In those last days, I saw one of the strongest Christians I know have to moment by moment claim that truth of scripture as she faced death.
After burying one of the most significant women in my life, we returned to yet another meeting, another grilling session. My husband walked into his meeting. Me, 2 months pregnant, we faced the loss of our whole lives. 5 years of work gone. Our first house bought a mere 8 months ago, gone. Our community gone. Kids’ school gone. My job gone. What about health insurance? What about the baby? That meeting gave way to a final meeting of the entire church to decide our fate. Pain. Unadulterated pain.
We lived through it. Beaten, but we lived, waiting for the fall out. So many hurting lives because forgiveness is hard for humans to do. I wanted to give up. I wanted to leave. Escape to some quiet place, where I could heal. But that’s never been my calling. Stand up. Keep going. No time to stop.
All I wanted to do was sit on my front porch and enjoy my roses while holding my blessing. The little blessing that kept me holding on. My little Kai. I can not describe the devastation of holding him in death, and still my soul refused to die.
Why? Because all of creation groans under the weight of sin. Sin is still present and active today. Whether Believer or not we feel the effects: war, sickness, famine,… death. Here I sit with death in my very arms. My flesh failed. I have an empty cradle. Is every war the fault of the those who die? No. Is every sickness inflicted because it is deserved? No. Is every death the fault of the mommy who holds her child in her arms? No. No. No. In every situation, we cry out, “Save us! Save us!” And a loving Savior says, “I have.”
Remember, Jesus stepped out of heaven, submitting himself to a criminal’s death. Death on the cross, the electric chair of the ancient world. Jesus did that to save our souls, not set up a kingdom on earth for us. Jesus’ closest followers the Disciples missed it too. They wanted him to throw off Roman occupation, and set himself up as king. But Jesus came for a greater work. He came to bring salvation to the whole world, and because of that we wait with the Lord as he does not delay His promise, but is patient, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. Until Jesus comes again all of humanity will continue to suffer death, war, sickness…etc.
How does this help me? I grieve like the women in all generations before me who have lost, but Jesus is still with me. Yes, I have wept, wailed, with my tears soaked the rug in the bathroom where my knees gave way in the pain of my loss. My heart is in pieces, but God still loves me. Who can separate me from this love? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No. Not death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present, not things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I didn’t die that day. Hope remains.