Thursday, March 30, 2017

Grieving #5: Rejoice in the LORD always

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."

When our agony first began I would walk the three miles around our little town every day.  I would spend much of that hour preaching God's Word to myself.  This Philippians 4 passage is one of them.

Rejoicing in the LORD always is significant.  I never really understood this until I was in agony.  The LORD held me up.  My normal life was falling all around me, and yet I was surviving and actually feeling a sense of calmness.  It was obvious to me that my great God was holding on to me tightly.   How could I not rejoice even amid my great sadness? 

A significant time for me personally: This was also the first time ever I truly believed that the LORD actually loved me.  I had not been thinking biblically all the years I was His child.  My incorrect thought was that God HAD to love me because His Word said so.  I also used to think that when I would be with Him in glory He would not even see me or acknowledge me because I was not important enough.  As my agony played out, even to this very day, I now completely know that the Almighty God dearly loves me - He has laid His hand upon me.

Psalm 139:5
"You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me."

No matter what our situations we can rejoice in Him.  You do not have to rejoice for what is happening, but rejoice for all that He is, and He does, and He will do.  He is our great God who dearly loves His children!

The LORD is near.  This reminds me that I am NEVER alone.  I may certainly feel alone, I may stress and become afraid, but then I will remember that the LORD is near me always. What great comfort this is to the wounded saint!

Psalm 40:1-3

"I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord."

Letting my gentle spirit be known.  Smiling: It is a simple thing, but it changes everything when you mean it.  You can mean it when the LORD is your strength.

Living in agonies:  One thing that changes is that the people you know may seem to think that even in your great traumas, you are doing just fine, because you choose to live for the LORD and actually smile.  This may mean that they believe you do not need any care and love and prayers - (which is not correct). 

At other times these same people may realize that you are choosing to smile, and to carry on even through your agonies, and they are encouraged and maybe even being taught what it is kind of like to more than survive because of the LORD when your world crashes around you.

Another thing is how the world sees you.  The world may not know you are hurting, but here you are, smiling, being kind, and blessing people by your gentle spirit.  They may not know how it is the LORD who is helping you to just breathe, let alone smile, but this doesn't matter.  You are letting your gentle spirit be known to a world who desperately needs the LORD, and you are glorifying Him by simply ~ allowing ~ yourself ~ to smile.

Wrong choices, a joy withheldOne day years ago... I remember that day as if it were yesterday because of my terrible wrong choice.  It was a Sunday, lunch time, and I was so grumpy and sad deep on the inside of me so that I let it "bleed" to my outside where I just didn't want to speak or smile at all. We were eating at a popular custard place which was packed with locals and travelers.  People were everywhere constantly, but I avoided any eye contact.  

Eventually this precious, sweet, little, braided girl walked back and forth by us.  My Beloved, living in agony also, pointed her out to me.  Yes, she was adorable, but I told myself not to smile.  The LORD had allowed this precious child to be seen, and yet, I refused to acknowledge her.  She looked right at me smiling, and I was choosing not to smile at a precious child.  As soon as that moment passed I regretted the joy I chose to withhold.  Never again! for I live for a Great God who made heaven and earth!  My Savior died for my sins, and it is my joy to glorify Him even when I am so sad!

Ways to cope when in agony:  Life is full of things which must be accomplished, and then other things we choose to do.  We MUST accomplish those certain things.  Keep your home running the best you can.  Your family is number one.  Grieving is exhausting, so use your energy on what is most important.  

"Extra-Curricular Things:"  Choose wisely what you do after these most important things.  You must think of the emotional tolls on yourself, but it is healthy for you to interact with others. The LORD will help you in each endeavor.  He is and He will be your strength. 

At first, I did "everything", eventually realizing it was too much for me, and that it was unhealthy emotionally for me.  Part of this, for me, was that I was trying not to allow my faith to be shipwrecked, and so I know I went overboard on choices. I am now very selective what I choose to do without avoiding all social things.

Be anxious for nothing.  Anxiousness is a big problem.  All of these things which cause us pain can make us literally freeze is fear.  The chaos can consume us, it can steal our time away, it can make our thinking become selfish and feed our self pity.

In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  When we try, and when we practice, and when we finally learn to turn to the LORD in all things, this is when we have learned a good habit of thinking about Him first and running to Him before too much time has elapsed.  

So give your anxiousness to the LORD, even if it must be given to Him over and over and over again and again...  

Cry out to Him.  He already knows all about each of us, but cry out to Him, and let Him know your anxiousness.  And when you can't even express it, He understands our groans which are so very deep inside. When we come to Him our relationship with Him grows and grows.  Speak with Him about your troubles and then for your thankfulness of Him in your life.

Romans 8:26-27
"...the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding is not something we can make happen.  It is the LORD, and it is Him working in us.  When we come to Him and lay our selves before Him, we will experience His marvelous peace.  

The LORD will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Continue to go to Him always.  He loves His own.

See also: Grieving #1,   #2,    #3,    #4

Monday, March 13, 2017

Grieving #4: I do not want to be shipwrecked!

1 Timothy 1:15-20 
"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, 
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,
among whom I am foremost of all. 

Yet for this reason 
I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, 
Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience 
as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, 
the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son,
in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, 
that by them you fight the good fight,
keeping faith and a good conscience, 
which some have rejected 
and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.

Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander,
whom I have handed over to Satan, 
so that they will be taught not to blaspheme."

Sixteen years ago a storm was brewing and we knew it.  Through no fault of our own our life was falling all around us.  

We knew the LORD was with us even though everything was crashing, and then that very certain day came where we never, could ever have believed would happen.

It did, though, and one of my first thoughts was, 

'this can't last, but never the less, I will not allow this to shipwreck my faith.'

Grief is a strange thing.

In absolute disbelief of what was happening around me I trusted God.  My life was crashing around me, but I knew the LORD was with me, and that He would carry me through this valley.  

What I did not know was that this valley would last so very, very long.

I was not then, and I am not now a super Christian.  I do believe that the LORD was giving me, and He is still giving me His strength.  It is through Him that my first thought was to trust Him wholeheartedly.  It is through Him that I continue to this day even though my agonies could paralyze me in my fears.  I also believe He shelters me from the brunt of the agony most of the time.  Left to my own devises I would be in a closet since that certain day.

You may be reading this and your sorrows have been lasting a week, or you could have had your agonies for a life time.  No matter how long it has been, you should know that I grieve with you.  One day or a life time, your agony is painful.  Don't discount it because it is not like my agony or like someone else's pain.  

*The LORD sees you, He hears you.*

Sometime after our great grief began, I read a devotion which helped me.  The topic was sadness and grief.  It spoke of sufferings and how this is part of real life.  

We can't pretend our pain isn't happening. The best news is that the LORD uses our sufferings for good in us and in others if we allow Him to do so.  We need to run to Him in the good and the bad.  We need to trust in Him even if we do not see anything change, even if we never see any change.

The devotion suggested that we allow ourselves to grieve for a certain amount of time and then choose to get up even if we are still sad, continuing to do what ever is next like a "normal person" would do, knowing the LORD is our strength.  

Now, I know grief, and some days the struggling is all day long, maybe longer.  How can we get away from it when it is all around us, it is in our heads, and it hangs on us like heavy wet clothing?  I personally would say that I could be like the previous statement all the time, like  literally staying in my closet for my whole life.  

The solution is who we are in Christ.  Our sufferings can certainly be overwhelming and we do need time to let it out, to vent it, but we must remember that we have a great Almighty God who dearly loves us.  We may have the most painful agony, but when we have Jesus as our Savior we have everything!  His compassions surround us, He gives us strength and wisdom to overcome even if it is moment by moment.  He doesn't say, 'get up and be Super Christian!'  No! He doesn't ever say this because we can't accomplish it!  We are to come to Him for His strength!

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

How beautiful is He is Word!  It expresses such truth!  In grief we are heavy-ladened and weary.  Who else but Jesus would be so humble and so gentle with us in our broken state? We can find such compassion in His Word.

Give yourself some mercy. 

If you are overwhelmed, then allow yourself a ~10 to 20 minute time to grieve. Be flexible not rigid with the time. Spend your time grieving, but do it with the LORD. Make it a time of talking with Him about your sadness at that moment, and then give it to Him as you transition to getting up to continue your day.  Lay your burdens with Him and get up to do next things for Him.

Humanly, it would be easy to say, "I deserve to be sad, I really do deserve to have people feel sorry for me, I am sad so I do not have to do anything...", but we aren't just human if we are His children!  We were bought with a price!  We have a Savior who rose from the dead! We are not alone! We can get up even through tears and we can do next things even in our pain because of Him!

Grief can shipwreck your faith if you allow it.  Grief is strong, but the LORD is stronger!  

We can overcome our grief even if it never goes away, because of our great God.  Live your life for Jesus and He will shine through you. When you live your life for the LORD the world notices. The LORD uses our suffering for good when the world takes notice.   Our testimony shines for Him even when we are unaware it this. 

We do not have to live a shipwrecked faith when we have the LORD. When we allow the LORD into all aspects of our lives we can smile at the future with strength and honor as our clothing.

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future."
Proverbs 31:25

We glorify God when we choose to allow Him to lift our heads.  

"You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me."
Psalm 3:3-5

Ready for Spring

Here in the midwest our snow today is the perfect snow for shoveling, snowblowing, snowman making and snowball making. 
This may be our last snow, hopefully! because we are ready for spring.

One week from Spring and it snows

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Grieving #3: The only thing we need is Jesus!

I have been contemplating grieving these last months, while experiencing it for decades.  

Grief is long and drawn out.  

It can go away and then jump out when you do not expect it to do so.   

It can hang on you all day long and everyday, and yet, you can choose to smile and have the desire to carry on with normal life because you live in the LORD’s strength even in your agonies.

It is a special joy to think how a wounded person in such grief can continue because of the LORD’s hand.  He is marvelous and awesome in how He loves and cares for us.

Psalm 139:5 NIV states our safety in Him in a sewing terms which I love:  

"You hem me in behind and before,
    and You lay Your hand upon me."

Thank you, LORD!

Sometimes the Church Body at large does not know how to walk alongside with others who hurt, but it is a precious balm from the LORD when those in the Body can understand and know how to show compassion and care for those who are in agony.  

Church leadership can help or hinder those who suffer.  One thing we have learned with hard knocks is that we can not, and will not stay at a church where the leadership "plays church", when they have lost their first love.  (Revelations 2:1-7) 

The last biblically solid assembly we attended for more than a decade had loving people, and seemingly loving leadership. Towards the end of our attendance there the leadership chose to take the congregation into a different direction with an unbiblical mindset not allowing for anyone who wasn't on board with their new direction. We saw it all from the inner workings of the leadership and could no longer fight to save what this precious Body use to be before the LORD.  It was time to leave.  We could no longer stay and watch them "play church".*
Thank you to Pulpit and Pen who has an excellent post, 3/10/17, Why the Church Doesn't Need More Coffee Bars.  This is a poignant account of a family in agony and why "playing church" should not be the main thing in the Christian Body of Believers:

As this precious wife and mother struggled to hold her family's life together while her beloved husband suffered and recently went to be with the LORD, she shares what we as Believers truly desire and what we desperately need in a Church Body.

Here the wife shares about the poignant conversations she and her husband had as he slipped away from this fallen world. She says he didn't speak about the ridiculous church's frivolities, instead:

"He talked about Jesus.  He quoted scriptures.  He reminded me of sermons we had heard.  And in the middle of the night he sang songs of praise and worship to God and he spent his time praying.  Because nothing a church does to strategize to bring in members helps you in the time of the storm.  It is only Jesus."

As the Church at large seems to concern themselves with frivolous and unbiblical nonsense some of this precious wive's thoughts were:

"...I am thinking that my strength comes solely from God...

...I am thinking how desperate I need Jesus..."

"...I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable...And when I go to church I desperately want to hear the Word of God..."

"I want to see how Jesus has changed a person's life.

I want to see the power of prayer.

I want to see how the Word of God can be applied to one's life.

I want to see how Jesus can help the hurting.

I want to see how Jesus can heal the sick.

I want to see how the broken heart was restored.

I want to see how the mourners were comforted. 

I want to see how lives were restored..."

Pulpit and Pen ends with:

"The church does not need anymore coffee bars.  They don't need the lighting. They don't need the concerts...

...Tell a person how God has changed your life.  Show them the love of God through your actions.  Demonstrate how God helped you through the darkest of storms.

Church leaders, remember that you are not just trying to attract the hip and the cool to your church. 

You are reaching widows. You are reaching children who don’t have a parent. You are reaching someone battling with a disease. You are reaching a person going through a divorce. You are reaching a businessman who thinks they have all that they need. You are reaching the hurting. 

And the only thing they need is Jesus."

Please read this powerful post full of excerpts from young wife, Kimberli Lira. Praying for her and her family! The LORD hears our cries!
Psalm 139:1-6  NAS
"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."

* Thankful to have found a Bible Believing Body again.

Monday, March 6, 2017

He cares about your pain

1 Peter 5:6-11
"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, 
that He may exalt you at the proper time,
casting all your anxiety on Him, 

because He cares for you.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, 
prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that 
the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished 
by your brethren who are in the world.
After you have suffered for a little while, 

the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, 
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen."