Compassion I have been told so many times that I have the gift of compassion. This very well might be true, but I do not dwell on what my gifts are - I just continue to do what is front of me, and praise the LORD for the energy and desire to do whatever these things are that I do. I do know that I understand what it is like to have chronic pain because I have struggled with it. I can completely understand when I interact with a person who struggles with physical pain, especially chronic pain. Likewise, I can say that I do understand what it is like to have personal agonies because I have dealt with agonies. I know how isolating it is. I know how it feels when no one acknowledges you "because you might cry", and I know how it feels when someone does acknowledge my pain, and yes, I might cry - or not.
When well meaning people tend to point out that they feel I have the gift of compassion and it is important for them to do this, while they show me no compassion - I begin to think, "why don't you just begin to show some kind of care for others?" (I suppose I sometimes think in kind of a sassy way. Thankfully, I do not say these things out loud.) A reason some people may not take time to show compassion: Caring about other people does "cost" something. Mostly it costs time. It takes time to stop and realize someone is hurting. It takes time to listen to what they have to say. It takes time to console them. It takes time to remember them in prayer. In the past a sweet friend pored out her great sadnesses to me every time we spoke. I always listened, grieved with her, cried with her, prayed with her. She new all about my agonies so one day I called her to see if we could meet. I asked her if she wouldn't mind if I cried out to God about my agonies with her. I said I just needed a friend to sit with me. I wanted to give my beloved husband a break from always being the one with whom I cried. Unfortunately, she took no time in answering, but immediately said succinctly, "no". I was crushed. Compassion costs. We should be willing even though there is a cost. I understand it is a scary thing to reach out in compassion. That person might cry. That person who needs compassion might have something that is scary to talk about, scary to think about, something scary that might happen to you sometime. But you should reach out with compassion anyway. That person who is suffering in anguish for whatever reason needs a kind word, a smile, or prayer. They aren't waiting for that certain someone who has "the gift of compassion" to stop by. Those people with the gift of compassion are too busy to reach everyone! You know, I can be bad at reaching out to others also - even with just a smile which I withhold. I did this one day when I was being particularly grumpy on the inside, and I have regretted it ever since. I can say the wrong thing to people who are struggling. I mess up all the time, and I understand all about suffering! No matter what, these mess-ups don't stop me. I live in the LORD's strength and He keeps me going. He is always there with me so I can try again and again the next times. When I have had well meaning people say things which shock me concerning my agonies, I can give them great grace, because I mess up too. I have had well meaning people say to me, "I am so glad that isn't happening to me". "I could never handle this if it were happening to me." "You should get a hobby." (okay, a real mean person said this one to me) "We use your situation as a teaching example in our family." "God chose you because you can handle it." "You should just forget about [your people] and move on." "At least [your people] aren't dead." At other times there are friends who speak with me and they express their own sufferings. They go on and on as I listen (FYI: this is showing compassion to listen). After a while they realize they have shared all their pain, but to me, the one with the HUGE agonies. They are now completely mortified and apologize because they say, "Your pain is worse than my pain." One thing that I have learned all these years is that pain is pain. My agonies HURT and they never go away, only God softens them somehow so I can continue. But your agonies hurt also. Pain is pain. You are allowed to share them, and to share them with me. I can understand your pain and then I can point you to the One who can help you through it. One very beautiful thing is how God uses our pain; it is not wasted. Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." First, He uses it in us. We learn to draw closer to Him, to trust Him with our impossible agonies. I have said it before in another post how I have allowed my sufferings to draw me closer to the LORD God Almighty. They have been agonizing years, but they have been the best years as I have learned the LORD loves me so. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." Second, He uses our pain in others. Other people (Saved by God's grace and the unsaved) see we who are trusting God completely, and they wonder how we can do what we do - if only smile. Sometimes they realize it is the LORD, rarely they ask why, and other times they just wonder and perhaps the LORD works in them. Grief is a strange thing. It is long. It is isolating. It is emotional. It comes out in private. It comes out in public. It sneaks up on you. It is painful. It hurts. It is confusing. It is fearful. It is exhausting. It opens your eyes to the LORD. It gives you a new way to think and to live. It is cleansing. It is not a bad thing. It is just a thing that happens. It is a normal thing in this fallen world. Contemplate this:
"There is an appointed time for everything.
And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?
I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men
with which to occupy themselves.
He has made everything appropriate in its time.
He has also set eternity in their heart,
yet so that man will not find out the work which God
has done from the beginning even to the end.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice
and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man
who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor
—it is the gift of God.
I know that everything God does will remain forever;
there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it,
for God has so worked that men should fear Him.
That which is has been already
and that which will be has already been,
for God seeks what has passed by."
So many of these verses can be spoken of, and thought of in the complicatedness of grief.
The LORD is with us. He is with us when we rejoice, and He is with us in our grief. He is our strength, and He is our comfort.
Sometimes I find myself contemplating, what am I doing? I mean, really, what on earth am I doing?! This season when these thoughts came to me once again, I began to think of the act of grieving. What it is, what is it like, what does it look like, and how can I actually explain it? Difficult. When you begin to think about the act of grieving you must begin to articulate in your mind what makes you, yourself grieve and all that goes with it. Life is tough enough without bringing all these feelings out in the open. So I decided it will become a process for me to write about grief, mainly, because I have no time to sit and write it all out at one time. Also, It certainly seems too huge an emotional roller coaster for me, so I will write more than once on this subject. For me: Less stressful and less taxing. I began Blogging sometime after the Watchman's Bagpipes began. There were two reasons: The first reason was to help my husband by the further interaction with the women who had their apologetic questions answered by him, but they still desired to communicate. The second reason was that I have always felt the "church" body - sometimes - doesn't know how to come alongside each other in life's traumas. Somehow we have forgotten how to do this, or perhaps, it has always been this way. I am a "nobody", but I have lived in agony with the LORD's strength, and so I began to write to encourage other sisters in Christ. In general, I have lived a wonderful life. I have had sorrows, and I have had great joys. I have also experienced such great joys, even through the tears, and amid the worst of agonies. How do I explain to a sister in Christ (or a "wanna be*") how I have done this? How do I explain how you can live, continue in life, and then even more than survive with just trusting the LORD among the chaos? It seems impossible. It can even sound "callous" to a sister living in agony. How can they ever understand His peace which He freely gives us, unless they have actually experienced His peace? I know that for me, before my great agony way over a decade ago, I didn't understand it. I loved the LORD with all my heart, but I didn't understand His peace. I now know that I had never actually given my troubles to Him. I suppose I always "held" them tightly to myself as if I could handle it. I had never truly felt His marvelous peace in life's troubles.
Praise God! I am thankful the LORD wove into my life two separate, precious women who were going through their own great agonies almost 2 decades ago. I lived and prayed for them in their situations. I "watched from the outside" as they would be completely frantic for prayers in the morning, and hours later they would be as calm as could be even though nothing had changed in their situations. At the time I thought, that their behavior was so strange. The LORD was teaching me, but I didn't understand. This was my first experience at seeing a sister in Christ living in His marvelous peace among their life's chaos, but I still did not understand until that one day when I had "nothing" in my agonies, and this is when I realized it was only the LORD who could help. So when I am counseling a sister, I begin by saying, "you may not understand this until you truly give your agony over to the LORD, and then continue to give it to Him over and over. This is when you will begin to experience the LORD's precious peace which passes all understanding amid your agonies." At this time I know that they are most probably thinking, "what??" Philippians 4:4-7 "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This scripture was the first one I clung to as I first really, truly gave my agonies to the LORD God Almighty, in 2001. :o) I would say it, and I would explain it verse by verse to myself as I would say it. I would walk around our little town's outskirts saying this for the hour it took to walk all the way home. I would then say it in my own words and explain to myself why I will rejoice, how I could let my gentle spirit be known, why I knew the LORD was near and what that really meant to me! I would tell myself not to be anxious even though chaos reigned in my situation. I would tell myself how to do this by trusting Him, talking with Him, and thanking Him for never ever leaving me! I spent this time preaching to myself and realizing that this precious peace of God which I had never relied on, I had never counted on, I had never known I could have, was now mine. It was a beautiful new beginning of loving the LORD more and more! My testimony continues to be "written" as time marches on, but I always end it with: "This has been the worst 'more-than-a-decade' of my life, but it has been the best 'more-than-a-decade' because I have drawn closer and closer to the LORD than I ever have been before, and isn't this what we desire most of all?" My agonies have only become worse, but the LORD has held me tight. I have only drawn closer and closer to Him all these years now, trusting Him more and more. You can have this, too. The LORD freely gives! * A "wanna be Christian" is a person who is curious about our faith in Jesus our Savior, but they just don't really get it yet. They see it in you, they desire it for themselves, but they don't understand at that point yet. So I call them "wanna bees" and pray for them. :o)
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4 What one of us hasn't faced fright and fear head-on by softly quoting the twenty-third Psalm? We repeat those old familiar verses time and again to soothe our souls and break the suffocating grip of fear. I'm particularly fond of the fourth verse. "Even though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." The psalmist doesn't focus his attention on the dark valley, and he's not distracted by the shadows. He sees through the valley, past the darkness, and looks with confidence toward the other side. The dark valley is a place to go through, not a place to stay in. Are you in the middle of a dark valley? It could be a bad financial report. Perhaps you just discovered drug abuse in your family. Your son is to be sent overseas. You are facing two weeks of bed rest. Your reputation has been stained by gossip. It may look dark and gloomy right now, but please remember that God does not intend for you to stay in those shadows. The valley He has led you into is the same valley out of which He will lead you. You will, by His grace, go through it. There is, thanks to our Shepherd, a smile on the other side. Lead me, Shepherd, through the dark times. I promise to follow You closely and to stay on the path, to remember that Your rod is with me and Your staff is there to comfort and guide. Thank You for that little word, "through" in this beautiful psalm... I trust that You will lead me to the other side of the dark times to safety, rest, peace, and joy. Blessings, Joni and Friends Diamonds in the Dust, February 7 By Joni Eareckson Tada
MY FAITH HAS FOUND A RESTING PLACE My faith has found a resting place, Not in device nor creed. I trust the ever-living One; His wounds for me shall plead. I need no other argument, I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me. Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubt; A sinful soul, I come to Him; He'll never cast me out. I need no other argument, I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me. My heart is leaning on the Word- The written Word of God; Salvation by my Savior's Name; Salvation through His blood. I need no other argument, I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me. My Great Physician heals the sick, The lost He came to save. For me His precious blood He shed; For me His life He gave. I need no other argument, I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me. * See "My Faith has found a resting place 2" devotional.
Psalm 139 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
When we are the LORD's child He holds us in His hand. His hand is safety to us. " 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ " Isaiah 41:10 "For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.’ " Isaiah 41:13 I once heard the analogy of a small child walking with his father holding his tiny hand. As it is with little ones, this child lost his steps, but the father held on and the child's little feet flailed in the air until they came to the pavement again, all the time safe in his earthly father''s hand. "Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;" Isaiah49:16a The LORD holds us, even when we are struggling in all our ways, He never lets go. "Our feet may be flailing", but He is there with us, holding us, being with us, helping us as we continue to walk in Him. "Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me." Psalm 139:10 Praises to His name!
Explanations by Joni Eareckson Tada "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." Isaiah 46:4
Warren Wiersbe once said, "Nothing is harder to heal than a broken heart shattered by experiences that seem so meaningless. But God's people don't live on explanations; God's people live on His promises."
A grocery list of biblical reasons explaining the whys and wherefores behind suffering doesn't always help when you're hurting. What does help are the promises of God. Even though God's promises are usually devoid of standard explanations and don't always detail the blueprint behind His plan, they do point to the loving character of our good and kind Lord.
Take Isaiah 46:4. Even for someone bent over with old age and arthritis, God's explanation is simple and powerful, "I am He, I am He who will sustain you." God wants us to understand that He alone is the source of help and hope. God owes us no explanations. He did enough explaining on the cross to show that His love is sufficient to meet every need.
Look again at our verse for the day. In one short sentence, God promises that He will rescue, carry, and sustain you. How? At least six times, God uses the personal pronoun to point to Himself. His promises are signed, sealed, and delivered on the basis of who He is. And He is faithful. He is loving. He rescues you and carries you. It's a promise.
Lord, I don't survive because You roll out in front of me the blueprint behind my painful experiences. I don't live on reasons why. I live on Your promises. Draw me to them today and help me to lean on Your loving faithfulness. This will be enough. Blessings, Joni and Friends Diamonds in the Dust, Januaury 28 * PRAISES and GLORY to GOD!
Exchange the Meaning “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.’ Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” Exodus 14:15-16; 17:9 When God parted the Red Sea, He told Moses to “raise your staff.” After the glorious miracle occurred, Moses was careful to refer to it as “the staff of God.” It was just an ordinary stick of wood, but when the LORD chose it for His tool, the staff took on new ownership and meaning. God can exchange the tragic meaning behind accidents or injuries for something new and positive. The cross is a good example. What was once a symbol of torture and pain now represents hope and salvation. My wheelchair, which once signified tragedy and confinement, is the very thing that now gives me freedom and mobility. When God uses for His glory the most ordinary things ---- such as a staff, or a cross, or a wheel chair --- He gives each one unique and special meaning. What are the symbols of tragedy in your life? A crutch? Or hearing aide? Where you live? Your appearance or abilities? God can exchange the meaning of the heartbreak for something hopeful and positive. God did it at the Cross, and He can do it for you. Father, I present to You today the disappointing things in my life that hold sad or tragic meaning. Turn my darkness into light. Exchange the sadness for hope. Let me see these things as symbols of Your loving and sovereign touch. I will praise You, for You are the God who turns weeping into joy. Joni Eareckson Tada, Diamonds in the Dust, January 4.
Snoopy doesn't have to know anything theologically, but the LORD desires His children to know Him through His Word. Let's get busy! 1 Peter 1:13-16 "...prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 3:15 "...sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you..." Deuteronomy 6 "...These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates..."
The writer explains his former thoughts of this hymn and then researches: "...Carl Gustaf Boberg, a Swedish pastor, editor, and member of the Swedish parliament, was out walking one day when a severe wind began to blow and suddenly, a fierce, crashing thunderstorm came out of nowhere. After the storm passed, he gazed out over the beauty of the landscape and the calm, clear bay. Then he heard a church bell in the distance and the chirping of the birds around him. He must have sensed the power of God in that storm much the way the writer of Psalm 29 did when he wrote: "The God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.” And with the sudden calmness and peace at the end of the storm, the words to a poem began to form in his mind.... ...One of the world’s greatest hymns had a very long and difficult beginning until it was copyrighted and published by Dr. Cyrus Nelson of Gospel Light Publications, and sung, by George Beverly Shea, at Billy Graham’s London Crusade of 1954.... ...In nearly every listing of the greatest hymns ever written, the number one hymn is almost always Amazing Grace. But, How Great Thou Art, is consistently ranked as number two -" **This part is so significant: "-probably because, sadly, number one has, in many publications, become so adulterated by politically correct language that is not offensive to the egocentric sensitivities of the unregenerate masses. For example, the phrase, “…that saved a wretch like me,” has been changed to, “…that saved and set me free.” Apparently, most people, today, have a hard time agreeing with God about their wretchedness. Amazing Grace is the secular world’s favorite hymn; it can be safely sung without any acknowledgment of sin or any reference to a specific deity. And besides, it sounds good when played on the bagpipes at funerals..." **well, this is true. Mr. Petersen ends concerning this hymn: [it] "...is truly one of the world’s most magnificent Hymns of praise to the awesome power of our great God, and our hope in His soon return. And right between those two themes, is the incredible Gospel message of verse three: “And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in, that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.” Praise the LORD! --------------------- How Great Thou Art Oh Lord my God When I in awesome wonder Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made I see the stars I hear the rolling thunder Thy power throughout The universe displayed Then sings my soul My Savior, God, to Thee How great thou art How great thou art Then sings my soul My Savior, God, to Thee How great Thou art How great Thou art And when I think of God, His son not sparing, Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing He bled and died to take away my sin Then sings my soul My Savior, God, to Thee How great thou art How great thou art Then sings my soul My Savior, God, to Thee How great Thou art How great Thou art When Christ shall come With shout of acclamation And take me home What joy shall fill my heart* Then I shall bow With humble adoration And then proclaim My God How great Thou art Then sings my soul My Savior, God, to Thee How great Thou art How great Thou art Then sings my soul My Savior, God, to Thee How great Thou art How great Thou art