In His Keeping-For His Time

A couple of months ago I wrote concerning what to do when the jolt of the unexpected shows up unannounced. It can be a wild ride.  I wrote from a deep place in my heart because one of those out the blue situations had just shown up at my doorstep. I prepared myself to deal with it, focus on God to get through it, and then get through it.

However, I hit a snag. I expected something to fall into place on my time table, which surely was God’s time table. I discovered, once again, it isn’t. Again, I am struck with this truth: Waiting on God continues to be one of the hardest things I face in life. What have I felt? Irritated, frustrated, confused, fatigued. I find I’m not alone in this.

As I accept the reality of the situation I have a choice to make. I can stay in a place of desolation or entrust all to God knowing He loves me and He really will work it all out for good. I choose to let go of what I’m holding onto so He can do His deeper transforming work in me. That’s what I desire the most anyway.

I want to become more and more shaped into becoming the person God desires me to be, whole and complete.  The way to get there sometimes includes having to go through the turbulent waters in the trial of waiting.

At least forty years ago my husband and I were in a difficult place of ministry. My heart had been deeply wounded by some people I thought were friends. I remember thinking, “How long, Lord? How long will this heartache last?”

I happened to be visiting some relatives and came upon a book in their home written by Andrew Murray. If ever I’ve known that God was there to comfort me, it was then. These are the words that jumped off one of the pages of that book. These words renewed my hope for being strengthened, healed, and brought through.

First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here

By God’s appointment

In His keeping

Under His training

For His time.

Today I dug out my old Bible where I wrote those words many years ago. I needed them again. Maybe they’re for you, too.

What place of waiting does God have you in, today? How can you apply the words of Andrew Murray to your life, today?

We know that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). Oh, Father, help us to trust You and wait well.

Rhythm > Balance

We all know music will not be pleasing to the ear if a steady beat and rhythm are not established. The composer knows what tempo is right for his/her composition. They desire to draw you into to their music. When the rhythm fits the music and it flows in an ordered way, the music draws a person into it, bringing the listener delight.

There’s another kind of rhythm that brings delight to the soul and to our God. It’s called a Rule of Life. In Latin, rule, is “regula.” It refers to a trellis that supports a grapevine, for instance. The trellis supports and guides the vine so that it produces more fruit. This rhythmic pattern is actually a way of living that helps us further develop our inner life that brings more joy, sustenance, freedom, and peace.   A rule of life is not legalistic at all. Developing a rule of life is one of the most positive things you can do.

You often hear people say, “I need to get my life in balance.” Living life in rhythm is greater than balance. It’s virtually impossible to live a “balanced life”, but we can live in rhythm. You may be asking the question, “How do I do this?”

To begin, think about your deepest and best desires and longings. Do your habits, behaviors, and attitudes support those desires and longings? Do your habits, behaviors, and attitudes bring life and help you flourish? It’s important that these practices are life-giving. Too much of life is life-draining.

Second, think about what helps you grow into becoming more of the person you know God designed you to be. What are practices and habits that will develop you into that person? Remember the trellis metaphor, it supports and guides the plant so that it grows, flourishes, and thrives.

Next, keep this rule of life as simple as possible. It needs to be sustainable and life-giving to you. Like the trellis supporting the vine, the rule of life supports and guides you.

A rule of life enhances and is applicable to every area of life:  Spiritual, Emotional, Relational, Physical, etc. But for now, let’s first think of your spiritual life. What are some daily and weekly life-giving rhythms you could establish or enhance? Good daily rhythms could include times of silence, reading, maybe a walk or other exercise, ect. Weekly rhythms: church and life group attendance, coffee with a close friend, discipleship or accountability groups.  

Please understand: Having a rule of life is not about goal setting, New Year’s resolutions, or achieving something. It’s about knowing who you are in Christ and becoming who He designed you to be. It’s not about achieving but about becoming.

Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days, is of course how we spend our lives.” Our daily pattern of life matters and it shapes us.

Some questions to ponder:                                                

Does my current “rule of life” (my current way of living) draw me closer to God? Are my current daily habits transforming me into one who can genuinely reflect Jesus to others?  How would writing a rule of life help me to live life more abundantly? The exhausted life is not the abundant life.

Remember: “A good rule can set us free to be our true and best selves. It is a working document, a kind of spiritual budget, not carved in stone but subject to regular review and revision. It should support us, but never constrict us.” Margaret Guenther

In my next blog, I’ll share more details about my Rule of Life and why it is so important to me. Living this way is one of the best things I’ve ever done!

Rest for Your Soul

 

There’s a study I was introduced to years ago called Journey to Freedom. The man who wrote it, Scott Real, knows we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups. He knows some of us can end up with addictions. The study couldn’t have a better title. Living in a place of daily freedom is a journey and it takes effort. But, oh, it’s worth staying the course.

I’ve done this study, personally, and now I’ve led Journey groups four times. I always discover new insights about myself as I put forth the effort to live in daily freedom. Many times what I learn is not from the book, but from the other participants. Something different about the format of this study is that we do an “emotions check-in”. This is not your ordinary way of opening up a study before delving into the material studied that week. But, it is where we need to begin each week in order to move forward into doing inner work that is not extrinsic, but intrinsic. Starting out this way doesn’t leave much room for hiding. No one is forced to share, but if the personal desire is for transformation, then individual sharing will happen.

Just a few days ago our group met. Attendance was low so there was more time for sharing about the emotions we were aware of and then to elaborate if desired. We use Chip Dodd’s emotions chart. He believes there eight core emotions: Hurt, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, loneliness, fear, gladness. It seemed one other participant and I had all eight emotions going on at the same time. I must admit it felt good to share what I was feeling in a safe and confidential place. And yes, I elaborated a bit.

This is a group where there is no fixing and advice giving. But, as one beautiful woman shared from her own life, I heard words I needed to hear yet again: Rest in God. It’s the antidote for anxiousness that comes from the core emotions of anger, guilt, shame, and sadness. I was feeling all of this that day.

So, I’ve rested in God. What does that look like for me?

  • I find a place of quiet space for at least 20 minutes each day. In that space I practice silence, solitude and stillness.
  • If I feel tension in my body, I focus on deep breathing. A physician’s wife many years ago told me what a cleansing breath that relaxes looks like: I inhale slowly from my diaphragm and slowly release that air. I should allow at least six seconds for that good exhale. I do this 3-6 times. My tension shows up in my shoulders. This helps relax them.
  • I express to God how much I love Him. I sense His amazing love for me in this place. He tells me I am Beloved. I make sure to not have any kind of distractions from technology during this time.
  • As much as is possible, I focus on enjoying the stillness with my constant companions: The Holy Trinity.

In this place I find strength, hope, calmness, and always Divine love that will carry me and change me more into becoming the woman God intends me to be. There’s no place I’d rather be during these moments than resting and abiding in that love.

“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence” Isaiah 30:15

What about you? Do you need to rest in quietness with Jesus? How much do you need that quiet rest in Him today? If this place of quiet is not something you make time for, would you be willing to begin with just 5 minutes a day? What would that look like? When would be your best time?

 

 

 

Celebrate Today

 

 

Two years ago today, we celebrated with family and friends the life of my fiery, bigger than life, beautiful red-headed sister, Kimberly. This service was not called a funeral. We never spoke of it in that way. It was a Celebration of Life service.  The burial took place during the morning hours, the Celebration in the afternoon.

We celebrated Kimberly’s life, but more than that, we celebrated the life of Jesus in her. He is the One who spoke life into her. He was her joy and her strength. We chose songs to sing that meant the most to her: The God of Angel Armies, Great Are You Lord, Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here, and No Longer Slaves to Fear. These are all songs related to the reasons we can celebrate life even when walking through dark shadowed times.

Kimberly focused on living bravely, in a celebratory fashion, so beautifully right up to the moment she left this earth. She is one that lived well and died well. I can’t help but think of the second verse of the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He (Jesus) did, this sinful world, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right, if I surrender to His will.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life.

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

What is the will of our Father God? He desires that we celebrate something about life every day. How do we do this?

The key is living in the present. Living in the present embraces the truth that in each day there are moments to enjoy and even relish. The enemy of living present is living in the past. We do this by wishing things were still as they used to be. We long for those “good times.” But living in the past is dangerous because there were bad and hurtful things there, too. We can get stuck there wrestling with the “whys” and “what if’s”. Kimberly could have dwelled on many whys and what if’s, but she determined to live in the present.

So what kinds of things can I celebrate in the day I have? This is something I’m working hard on. How can I find those things? It’s about awareness. It’s an awareness that finds ways to celebrate the fact that I am alive and breathing. Kimberly never wanted to have to walk around toting a can of oxygen with an oxygen tube in her nose, but she surrendered to it beautifully and was she ever thankful!! She could breathe easier! She could still do life! She was tickled pink that the technician gave her enough tubing attached to the tank so she could walk all around the house. She rejoiced in how nice and kind that technician was in setting it all up in her house. She even said, “I’ve got to contact the company he works for and tell them what a great job he’s doing for people.”

I remember my father-in-law in his prayer before each evening meal saying, “Thank you, God, for this another beautiful day.” Is every day full of beauty? Well . . . maybe not, but, yes, there is much beauty around me every day. Sometimes I’ve just been unaware. Living in the present, even in the midst of pain, I’m discovering these things of beauty that I’d missed before and they are taking me to deeper sacred places in my own soul, in my relationship to God, and with others.

Sometimes it’s even seeing “old things” in a new way. As I experience delighting in seeing these new things and giving thanks to the One who gives good things to enjoy I’m beginning to celebrate life in ways I’d not known before. I’m more able to soak up and enjoy the goodness of the Lord and others in this place of joy. All of a sudden God creates in me a playful spirit full of gladness and freedom to be me as He truly intends.

What can you celebrate today? How are you going to celebrate?

Always Present-It Matters!

 

Tennessee has now been my home for 23 years. I was born in Texas and didn’t leave until I was 25, which means I’m still a Texas girl at heart. The saying “you can take a girl out of Texas, but can’t take Texas out of the girl” surely rings true for me. With family in Texas, I periodically make trips out there.

A couple of weeks ago I made a trip to Amarillo to spend some time with my dad. With no direct flight from Nashville, I had a layover in Dallas. As I checked in at the gate to board the plane, a very quick encounter with a friendly Southwest agent helped me experience the importance of a name. On that day, it was my name that had importance.

It was really a little thing, but it made me feel that I mattered. I was present, really present, in someone’s eyes who didn’t even know me. What did he do? He said my name. “Have a good flight, Kristi,” he said. This agent took the time to actually look at my name on my boarding pass, then look at me and actually say my name. In those brief moments, he was present. He did this for everyone when he scanned their boarding pass.

I couldn’t help but think of how God is always present with us. We matter to Him. He is always attentive to us. He knows our names. Isaiah 41:16 declares, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 43:1 proclaims, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” His presence – what a gift!

I also know that in order for spiritual growth to happen in me, I must be attentive to Him. And His desire is for me to also be attentive to others that are in my life, no matter how brief that encounter may be. Being fully present for each person in my path is a gift I can offer. Is this easy? Absolutely not! It’s so easy to be partially present with others and partially present with God. My mind easily drifts away to many other things. It can happen so quickly. I can be completely unaware.

There are many ways we can practice being present with God and with others. The first step to living fully in the moment with God, and with those precious ones he places in our lives, is discovering what distracts us from really being present. It’s a courageous and selfless act to place ourselves in the position of this kind of self-awareness. We may not like what we see. And, we may not want to put forth the effort it takes to embrace what we find. But, it is worth it. There’s great joy and inner peace to be found in this place. This is living out being a part of Christ’s Kingdom work here on Earth.

What are common distractions that keep you from being present with God and with others? What occasional distractions impact your life and throw you off track (out of presence)? Maybe some are yearly or seasonal. Name some of them. What can you learn through them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacred Moments Always Remembered

 

My mother had Alzheimer Disease for eight years. I live in Tennessee, Mother and Daddy in the Texas Panhandle. During her battle with this disease, I made trips to see her and Daddy once every three months. I wish I could have gone more often, but it’s a long way from Tennessee to Texas. Daddy’s a tough Texan who had the strength to take care of Mother at home until the very end. What a gift he was able to give her.

I was already in Texas with Mother and Daddy, three years ago, when she began her final decline with this cruel disease. God has gifts for us even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death with those we love. The gift He gave me was that I was there with them during her last days here.

Hospice came regularly. For two weeks they told us her final breath was imminent. God holds the key to life and to death. Only He knows why her lingering was as long as it was. I trust Him in His timing but those were rough days.

The morning of October 23, 2014, I got up about 6:00 and decided to go and sit with her while I spent my devotional time with God. It was one of those mornings I wasn’t sure where to read, but I landed in Psalm 119. It’s a long chapter! 175 verses!

I did something I’d never done before. I read it out loud. I sat awhile and read, I walked awhile and read, I prayed some of these verses over all of our loved ones. Even though her eyes were closed, I knew she heard me and was delighting in the Word of God as I.

The entirety of this Psalm is devoted to the praise and honoring of God’s Word. The room where Mother took her last breath became a sacred sanctuary. The aroma of Jesus filled that place because His presence and His word were with us. His Word gives comfort, gives strength, gives joy, gives hope, gives guidance, gives refreshment, gives wisdom.

Mother took her last breath as I finished reading this Psalm. It was a sacred place.

Every time we worship God in quiet stillness, in reading and meditating upon His Word, and in prayer the place is sacred. There is a blessed communion among Father and child. This Psalm is the place where my eyes will focus on all the October 23rds that are given me by my gracious loving heavenly father who knows my days, and knows your days, too.

Even though there is another sorrow in my life, which is deep and fresh with raw emotion – the loss of my sister – this Psalm tells me: “God’s unfailing love is my comfort. When I’m laid low in the dust, my life can be renewed.” We are told, “Your compassion is great, O Lord; renew my life according to your law”.

What can we all be sure of in our darkest moments? We can be sure that He sees, He knows, He cares, He soothes. And the way to receive these blessings and more is having a heart that hungers enough and loves Him enough to spend time, not only reading His Word, but immersed and consumed by His Word.

Melancholic Joy

 

 

This week marks the four month anniversary of the death of my sister, Kimberly. It’s hard to believe that it’s already a third of a year. I seemed to experience more melancholy last week than this week. It’s probably because I was remembering the days that led up to her death. On the anniversary day of this week I woke up feeling great serenity, until I went to Yoga.

Tuesday during my Yoga class I discovered something new in my life: a melancholic joy. That’s kind of an odd place to discover this, and yet as I think about it, it’s not odd at all.

I tried Yoga a few years ago and wasn’t too crazy about it. Some of the poses were strange and I couldn’t achieve many of the positions to which our instructor guided us. I saw nothing relaxing in it at all, so decided it wasn’t for me. The time of the class didn’t work very well in my schedule either, so that too affected my decision not to go back. It’s funny though, how we change and how God uses all kinds of ways to take care of us in areas where we are unaware.

My renewed interest in Yoga came because a friend in another city began attending a Restorative Yoga class. I became intrigued and quite curious again about Yoga when she told me of the many benefits she is receiving. By the time each class ends she knows her body has let go of an incredible amount of tension which can build up so quickly in just a week’s time. When a new Yoga class opened up at our church’s family ministry center, at an optimal hour for me, I knew it was time to try this type of workout again. I was open to anything that could take me to deeper places of serenity.

The types of stretching, interesting poses, and focus upon deep breathing all are important components of the de-stressing processes of Yoga, but for me, the best thing about this class is the relaxing and spiritual environment that presents itself each week. Of course, I know this wouldn’t be possible without the incredible instructor God beautifully placed to lead this class. It’s evident that the Spirit of God is leading through her. When we’re in the pose with our hands together she often says, “Lift your hands in prayer to God.” This place becomes a worship workout with directions like that. The music she chooses to play during our class connects me to the heart of God. That’s where it dawned on me that there is a place of rest and serenity that is a melancholic joy.

It’s good the lights were low on Tuesday because my face got all scrunched up, my eyes became teary, and my nose sniffled with the closing music. The instrumental music that closed out our workout was Amazing Grace and Be Still My Soul. Later that afternoon while doing some things around the house, I tuned into my favorite Pandora station: Lullabye Radio. Two instrumental songs played: Amazing Grace and Be Still My Soul. I sobbed. I knew it wasn’t accidental that I was hearing those two songs again.

I thought, “God, why am I hearing both of those songs again?” It’s like He said, “It’s not the beauty of the melody that is bringing on the tears of melancholy, but there are some of the words of the songs I need to remind you of.” This phrase from Amazing Grace captured me, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun. We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.” From Be Still My Soul, I focused on, “Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide. Through thorny way leads to a joyful end.”

I experienced a melancholic joy because even in the sorrowful place of missing my sister, Kimberly, I was overcome with joy because God’s goodness and graciousness was all around me. I had only to open the eyes of my heart, soul, and body to see it. It is in that place that I choose to continue living.

I will continue loving the One who loved me before I was ever born. I will continue being on the look out every day for things to write down in my thankfulness journal that come from Him. I will continue deepening those relationships most dear to me and cultivate the new ones that God brings into my life. This community of family and friends brings incredible meaning to my life.

I will be comforted everyday in the hope that I will spend not only 10,000 years in the perfectly prepared Home awaiting me, but will stay there forever. It’s in that place that I can gaze on Jesus who redeemed me, my sister, my mother and all others who put their faith and trust in Him alone. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully… I Corinthians 13:12 The suffering of Jesus made possible the joy in sorrow I am now discovering which will one day be made perfect.

A Hoopla Worth Experiencing and Pondering

A lot of hoopla began at least a year ago in our town and surrounding area that I knew nothing about until about a month ago. I’m not a student of astronomy so I was unaware until recently that my town was in the path of the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. As this day got closer and closer, I thought this eclipse mania was over the top. But, I got my glasses, made sure all my family members got theirs and decided there was no way I was going to miss this “event”. This event didn’t cost me a dime. I had some of the best seats in the house! My front yard!

Those few moments were breathtaking as the moon passed between the sun and Earth. How I wish we all could have frozen those minutes of being awe-struck with a wonder we’d never seen before and may never see again. “All things are held together by Him”, Colossains1:17 took on new meaning for me. This fact connected to my heart in a new way through visually seeing this eclipse.

I noticed something else about that day. This was an event to celebrate and many people did it with others. We each viewed this spectacular site through our own special glasses but somehow it became even a deeper experience because we enjoyed it with one another in community. We heard squeals from children and shouts of excitement from teenagers and adults. And some of us just shouted from our insides. Some hailed science. Some praised the Creator.

My soul praised the great Creator God. He’s the One who spoke the world into place. He’s the One who made you and me. I must admit I felt tiny as I looked at the stunning sight of the eclipse. I am tiny when I compare it to the scope of the universe, and yet I’m not tiny and insignificant in the eyes of God. He sees me, He loves me, He knows my name. I matter to Him.

Some of us, like me, in the beginning entered into this “hoop-la” with a little bit of resistance. Some entered full throttle from the beginning, and some totally resisted. In fact, I observed one of those in the resistance category – a person full of fear and anxiousness. They were in eclipse-fear mode. Even though we were told there was nothing to fear, except stupidity by not wearing the correct eye protection, they couldn’t trust that all was going to be okay.

Everyday, not just unusual days like eclipse day, we are confronted with the question of living the day in peace, serenity, trust or living the day in tumultuous confusion, fear, and worry. There is only one way to live in the place of peace. This way is found in knowing the One who holds all things together. Just as scientists have studied astronomy for hundreds of years we must study our Creator God. When we study Him as He is revealed in Scripture we will come to understand that we don’t ever have to give ourselves over to the giant of fear that will eat us alive if we let it.

There are days of incredible joy and there are days of incredible pain that can come because of worry, fear, and sadness. I must admit that it’s in the days of pain and sorrow that I need to remind myself that He is holding me together and He will always hold me together no matter what.

Just knowing “HE IS” is really all any of us need for today.

Today I will remind myself that the awesomeness of God is something I can rejoice in everyday no matter what. I will remember to be still and know He is God.

Just knowing “HE IS” is all I need for today

Hope or HOPE!

For the past three months it seems like the word hope has shown up over and over in my life.  It has come from different places in the Bible where I just happened to be reading. It has also appeared in secular books I’ve read. And then Sunday the worship leader read Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope.” I thought it rather strange that he read that scripture since it wasn’t the passage the preacher would be focusing on in his sermon. It was a word for me. I’ve think lately I have tried to run away from leaning into the word hope because of the grief in my life and possibly because it’s a word I overuse. We use this word for all types of wishes and desires. We want something to happen. Recently these are some things I said or thought:

  • I hope I get enough sleep.
  • I hope I can find that receipt.
  • I hope I can find my fit-bit.
  • I hope the new recipe I tried turns out.
  • I hope there’s time to get everything done that needs to get done.

When I look at this list I can’t help but ask myself the question, “Do I feel anxiety every time I use the word hope in these situations?” The truth is, probably so. Yes, I pray in many of these instances, but there’s a lack of peace when I don’t get a positive yes to what I’m hoping for. These types of hopes are wishful thinking. These are not earth-shattering things, but I do allow these things which are really minor to bring disruption to my soul. These aren’t bad desires. These things can seem small, but are still worthy of praying about. Then, there are majorly serious things in my life that I have hoped for. Many of these hopes have been fulfilled. I’ve been happy because of them. I give God thanks for them.

But, one of my hopes wasn’t fulfilled. The disease of cancer invaded my sister’s body 5 ½ years ago. Cancer took her life on the morning of May 26. My hope, her hope, hundreds of others’ hopes – prayers prayed in faith didn’t receive what we hoped for. It didn’t turn out like “we” wanted. God in His goodness has been blasting out this word HOPE for a reason. God in His goodness wants me to take a good look at what this Biblical HOPE really means.

“Rejoice and exult in hope…” (Romans 12:12) What kind of hope is it that I can rejoice in? Can this kind of hope help me to not get bent out of shape over the “little things” that might not go my way? Can this kind of hope carry me through grief when my heart is broken? Absolutely and emphatically, YES! Hope is tied to something that I hope will happen in the future. Most things I hope for have some uncertainty in them. Biblical HOPE is a hope of certainty. It is based upon the Word and Character of God. There are some things I KNOW are true for today and therefore are true for tomorrow. What are they?

  • I am never alone. Jesus is always with me. “And lo I am with you always.” Matthew 28: 20
  • I don’t have to stay in a place of discouragement. God says, “I will strengthen you, I will help you.” Isaiah 4:11
  • God will lift me out of the pit, Psalm 40:2
  • God will turn my mourning into dancing, Psalm 30:11
  • God will use my pain to bring Him glory and to develop maturity of character in me, Romans 5:2-5
  • I have the gift of eternal life in Heaven awaiting me. I will see Jesus face to face and experience living with Him forever! I will see my sister again! 1 John 5:13
  • I am perfectly loved by God and will always be perfectly loved by Him. Nothing will ever separate me from this perfect unconditional love. Romans 8:31

God is my HOPE and He never fails. I can rejoice even in my pain, even through my tears, even in my waiting because I have attached myself to the God of sure, secure hope. This rejoicing is not based on how I feel; it is based on knowing who God is and what He freely and lovingly gives me. These gifts are never given because of my performance, but because of my faith and trust in Christ and His love for me.

I had a text from Kimberly the day before I flew out to see her, three days before her death. She wrote these words, “It’s been another PERFECT DAY WITH JESUS, and Annalena (her grandbaby)! I’m doing fine! In recliner resting.” She understood what Biblical, Christian hope is and she was doing FINE! She knew she was secure in Jesus and she was satisfied.

Joy and satisfaction and peace can be found only through anchoring our whole self to Jesus, who is our Hope for today, tomorrow, and always. As a friend said to me just this morning, “How can we live without hope!” Because of Jesus and what His death, burial, and resurrection means, we don’t have to! He’s our hope of Glory!

Joy Out of Despair

A while back I had the joy of leading my Bible study group since our leader was out of town. The lesson was from 1 Samuel 1. Many of us who were brought up in church are quite familiar with the story of Hannah. She was barren, prayed for a son, and God answered. Many times in our study we spend most of the time focusing on the main character of the story. Usually this would be Hannah. In reality, however, the primary character is God. In my study, I focused on the character of God and how he responds to someone in great distress and need.

This story takes place in a time when polygamy was the norm. This was not God’s perfect plan, but the culture embraced it. And, it always made life messy for everyone. Hannah’s husband had two wives. The other wife, Peninnah, had children, Hannah had none. It appears that Peninnah’s main goal in life was to make life miserable, even unbearable for Hannah. She wanted to crush her.

The Message, I Samuel 1:6, reveals the true environment for Hannah, “But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year.” All of this finally took its toll on Hannah. She stopped eating. She was despondent. She wept. She was crushed. At least she felt crushed. But, she wasn’t.

She went to the sanctuary of the Lord and she cried out to God in prayer. “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.” (v 10, NIV) I read this verse in 13 translations and this is what I found about her emotional and physical condition:

  • She was in deep anguish
  • She was in bitterness of soul
  • She was deeply hurt
  • She was crushed in soul
  • She was in great distress
  • She was resentful
  • She was sad
  • She cried bitterly
  • She was brokenhearted
  • She was bold enough to ask for something big.

This was severe hurting and she did severe crying! She was in excruciating emotional pain. She came as she was. She was even vulnerable enough for Eli, the priest to see her in this condition. She was desperate. She was broken. What did God do? He heard, He comforted, He restored, He understood, He answered. He blessed. He restored her physically and emotionally. Verse 18, 19 says, “She went on her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord.”

Four weeks ago I found myself in the midst of all the emotions that Hannah experienced. My despair was different from hers, but every bit as intense. My sister died. She lost her battle with cancer. Kimberly was 6 years younger than me and what joy came to my life when she was born! We loved each other deeply. We valued this special relationship and honored each other in ways that allowed us to nurture one another in the good times of life and in the bad times of life. We mothered each other, we were best friends, we were blood sisters, but more than that, we were soul sisters. We understood each other. We could be real with each other. We accepted each other even though we were very different.

SO many gifts received through this amazing woman! My loss is deep. My hurt is deep. My grief is deep.

I am greatly blessed to have family and friends who understand this deep agony. None of them have the attitude of, “Get over it.” They let me talk. They let me feel. They let me cry. They check on me. They pray for me. Oh, how this helps! God is using so many to help me walk this journey.

Even though these precious ones are helping me walk this journey, I know that no one can comfort me in those deepest places where the deepest pain resides in my soul like Jesus. He knows every little thing about me. He knows what each pain is connected to. He has perfect understanding of all the inward workings of my heart and soul. He knows how to give me the comfort, restoration and healing that needs to ultimately come. He is present. I must be aware of that Holy Presence and spend lots of time resting in that place.

What are the results of going to God in our brokenness, pain, and desperation? What happens when we come to him with sobs of grief and hurt and pure honesty? It takes us to a deeper place of knowing God. It takes us to a deeper place of trusting God. It takes us to a place of humility. It takes us to a deeper place of surrender. It takes us to a deeper place of worship. It takes us to a place of hope and healing.

We are always welcomed into God’s presence just as we are. These words penned by David Crowder in the song “Come As You Are” express this place so well.

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been
Come broken-hearted, let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.

There’s joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal.

My sister found Heaven’s perfect joy and healing when she took her final breath here on Earth and went safely Home to live forever with her Beloved Jesus. For us still here, we can be assured that mourning doesn’t last forever. It is for a season. There is an ebb and flow to this time of suffering. The time of tears will be further and further apart. I have faith and hope because of the Words of Life that I find in the promises of scripture and because of the One I’ve put my trust in.

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” David’s words in Psalm 30:11-12. These are words for me . . . and perhaps for you today!