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.
Most of us in America are named because our parent’s like the sound of the name, it’s a family name, or it’s a popular name. What I love about many other cultures is that most people know what there name means. In the Bible God’s name is significant. We are even familiar with some of them. Abba means Daddy, Jehova Jira the Provider, El Shaddai, God Almighty. God proved himself to be the “God Who Sees Beforehand.”
Kai Marshall, being the fifth child and fourth boy of a family, where all the children’s first names start with hard K sound and the middle name starts with an M, not many names are left. Coming up with a name for him was not easy. As if that wasn’t enough, he was conceived during very difficult times for our family.
Determined to celebrate that the Lord granted my request for another child, I searched for a meaningful name. During the Young Adults Bible study in Philippians 4, I was reminded of the Greek word for Rejoice, Chairo (said with a hard K). Jon and I played with it for a while. I told one of my friends, and she looked at me without missing a beat and says, “Chairo… You’re going to name him after the capital of Egypt?” Um…No.
My spiritual dad from Hawaii says, “Name him after my Hawaiian name. David is Kawika.” So, we started looking at Hawaiian names, and came across Kai meaning water. But this is the time of relativism, and things mean what you want them to mean, right? We took Chairo and shortened it to Kai, reminding us to rejoice no matter the circumstances.
Sunday morning, June 22, the puzzle pieces came together. As we sat, in our grief, trying to see through the tears, I heard my friend’s voice from that Young Adult Bible study say, “Maybe we don’t have peace because we’re praying, but we’re not being thankful.” Philippians 4:4-7 overwhelmed my soul. How do I have peace when I am so broken? How do I breath? How do I rejoice? How does my heart not become bitter and angry? How…How…HOW LORD DO I HOLD ON TO YOU?
Lift one hand to the Lord in prayer. Taking all your petitions and worries and griefs to the Lord in pray. Don’t leave one thought or feeling or worry hidden from His presence. Cry out to Him in the anguish of your soul. Lift up the other hand in thanksgiving. One steady theme has emerged for me in my reading of the scriptures. It’s like God has grabbed my face and said, “LOOK at Me. Worship Me. Hope in Me.” When I begin to view my life with eternity in mind the present sufferings are becoming smaller because I can see the Glory of the Cross. I can be thankful that MY GOD IS BIGGER than anything that I face. Thankfulness that God sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood!
It’s amazing that the very verses that have brought me hope and peace are the very verses that I found Kai’s name.
Chairo in the Lord always. I will say it again Kai!
Before I opened my eyes this morning, thoughts of inadequacy and anguish and grieve assaulted me. I would like to credit some evil demon or even Satan himself, but the more likely story is that my flesh was attacking itself. My neural pathways are so programed to devalue self that only the grace of Jesus and the truth of who He is can change me. I understand that some women sin in the opposite way by elevating themselves above others. Both are sin.
The only way to combat sin is with Jesus. It matters not that the suffering that you are called to endure is different than mine. The remedy is the same. Romans 8:18 has been an anchor for me. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Paul just says sufferings. Can we suffer because of our own sin? Yes. Do we suffer because some one sins against us? Yes. Do we suffer what is common to man (death, sickness, war etc.)? Yes.
The struggle is this. Will I focus my eyes on the suffering, or will I focus my eyes on Jesus? Will I sit in darkness, or will I let the light of truth shine in me? God made him who had no sin to be sin for me, so that in him I might become the righteousness of God. Oh, how truth should change the way I think!
In the days after I delivered Kai darkness pressed on me from every side. The stillness and quiet of the night became a living nightmare. My will to choose to believe the Lord exercised my faith. I’d like to say that it was easy, but it wasn’t.
I wrote this to my friends and family on June 21, “To all who are grieving with us, please remember the promise. God does not promise us that sickness will not come, that death will not happen, that all manner of tribulation or tragedy will not come to us. He only promises us that “blessed are they that mourn because they will be comforted.” He promises His children that He will never leave them nor forsake them. Please make a covenant with me that you will not play the “what if game”. Identify the lie that this wouldn’t have happened if… But claim the promise that God will bring comfort. I may have to yell it, but today I will claim His promises. Know that you are loved and appreciated!”
Let me tell you how much easier it is to write it than live it. In the moment it’s a 5K for your faith. I started on the path. Many of God’s truths are working themselves out in my life.
The lies we tell ourselves hinder our faith and chain us to selfishness. So often when tragedy knocks on our door, we point to ourselves. The conversation we have within either elevates our ego to self righteousness or tears us down, devaluing our ego. Both are equally prideful and self worship.
What lies do you tell yourself? Do you crush yourself under the weight of self righteousness? Here is truth. Galatians 5 says, “4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
I have a tendency to tear down and devalue myself. My past chains tell me that I’m just not good enough. The voice in my head says, “You didn’t… You sinned this way… You’re not…” The lie I have to identify is that I’m still trying to justify myself by the law, which I can never do. I have sinned. I can never be righteous. But what the law was powerless to do God did by sending Jesus.
The opposite crushes and blinds by elevating and overvaluing. If you hear the lie that you can be justified by the law, then you have fallen from grace and obligated to keep the whole law. The only man to be able to do that was Jesus, and he was sacrificed to be an offering for sin to satisfy the wrath of God. You have set yourself up as a god.
When tragedy knocks on your door, the most important thing to do is to identify lies? The only way to do that is to know God. Ask Him today to break the chain of selfishness and pride.
June 20, 2014 started out beautiful. Excitement filled the air as we put the infant carrier in the van, loaded our four other children in to take them to summer camp. Plagued by intermittent contractions for two days, I knew today would be the day. We would go to the doctor, and she would send us to the hospital to welcome our fourth boy into our arms.
My husband and I sat waiting for the doctor, sharing our laughter. Then the most terrible thing I could even imagine happened. There was no heart beat. An ultrasound confirmed Kai had died in my womb. Many things ran through my mind quickly. The most important at the time was caring for my whole family. My children were anxiously awaiting another brother. They had packed. They had prepared.
Back in the van. God spoke quietly to my heart. Decide. “Decide, this moment, will you let me be God in this moment? Or will you allow your heart to harden, and allow the root of anger and bitterness fertile ground?”
Will you believe in the God who commands even the winds and the waves? This thought of Even this… is expanded in this blog post.
In that moment I said yes. God began to unfold His truths in my life. The phrase common to man brought comfort. Although, devastating, I was walking a well worn path of many woman before me. What was common to woman was happening to me.
No where in the Bible could I find a promise that said, “Because you have done everything right and obeyed all God’s laws, you are safe from what you find most terrifying.” What I did find was Matthew 5:3-12.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In the kingdom of God what is up is down. What is down is up. In every single verse the human mind says the exact opposite of what God promises. Now don’t get me wrong. Did I say that you will leap for joy and be giddy in grief? Not at first. God said to me, “In your grief, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are blessed.”
Do you need to remind yourself to view your situation through God’s perspective not man’s? Your situation is different, but pain is pain. Grief is grief. In this moment, trust God. Don’t worry about the next one until it comes.