Monday, March 20, 2017

Spiritual Snack Food - Speak Gently



I found an old journal with this entry:

Photo by Jim Funston, Used with Permission
Proverbs 15 - so much about words and the power of words for good or evil.  Lord, change my heart so that my words heal rather than crush; bring wisdom rather than foolishness; speak truth softly with the gentle kiss of a butterfly rather than shatter like a sledge hammer; consult others for wisdom rather than pridefully refuse counsel; listen humbly to life giving rebukes rather than pridefully declaring my own righteousness; slowly respond after careful, thoughtful listening rather than focusing only on my own way; speak with firm gentleness to an angry person rather than responding with harsh,words that stir up more rage; withhold judgement until hearing all sides of a story rather than jumping to hurtful conclusions; share truth that builds bridges rather than half truths that create walls....

The crisis, chaos or conflict that spurred these thoughts - I wish I could remember.  But perhaps it's best not to.  Perhaps the circumstances don't matter today.  Just the truth of God's Word, spurring me on to remember, Listen carefully. Listen with a discerning heart.  Hear beyond the presentation. Speak gently.  Speak compassionately.  Speak truth fearlessly but with merciful justice when necessary.  Speak God's truth. When unable to reflect the heart of Jesus, be silent.  Where words are many, sin is not absent.

Nuggets from Proverbs 15 to tuck away in our hearts as spiritual snack food that can renew our energy when we are weary in choosing to speak gently, even if our words must be hard.
Proverbs 15
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  (v. 1)
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. (v. 2) 
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.  (v. 4)
The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.  (v. 7)
The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.  (v. 8)
A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.  (v. 12)
The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.  (v. 14)
A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but  a patient man calms a quarrel.  (v. 18)
Plans fall for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.  (v. 22)
A man finds joy in giving an apt reply - and how good is a timely word!  (v. 23)
The heart of the righteous weighs it answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.  (v. 28)
He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.  (v. 31)
He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.  (v. 32)
I  hope I remember to pull out these spiritual snacks when God presents me with an opportunity to be a channel of compassion to a specific person today.
In His grip,
Sharon

Originally published September, 2012

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Stop Talking!



            Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness. --Margaret Millar, Mystery Writer
            I especially enjoy breakfast out with Chuck because, fresh from a night’s sleep, our creative juices seem to flow and our conversation is energizing and refreshing.  But this morning, the voice of the woman in the booth next to us broke our concentration the way a chirping cricket demands attention or a barking dog fills the quiet morning or once noticed, a dripping faucet must be turned off.  She was talking when we sat down for breakfast and she was still talking 45 minutes later when we got up to leave.  Her companion, another woman, responded to her monologue with a periodic nod of her head and “hmmm….”  Most definitely a “monologue delivered in the presence of a witness.” We learned about the numerous church events she had planned and executed, from the foods served, how they were presented and tasted, the place card designs, the meeting agendas, the people who attended the meetings, the color scheme on the place cards, and then there was the program and how the program looked and the heated conversation with another committee member and the way the other committee members don’t do things the way she does, and, and, and, and….I get irritated just thinking about it!  Her voice droned and droned and droned…..

              Chuck could barely restrain himself from asking her to take a breath and give us all a break from the constant, boring hummmmmm….  I can typically ignore such an irritating person but this one burrowed under my skin.  Then a strange thing happened.  I began to review “conversations” where I was the main event.  A conversation that in reality was a monologue in the presence of a witness.  Why, oh why, do I talk too much and listen too little?
              Author Carole Mayhall’s journal entry included in her book, Words that Hurt, Words that Heal, gives me a clue to consider:
              I did it again, Lord,
                           And, I’m sorry.
              You have convicted me before about “name-dropping,” “place-dropping,” “knowledge-dropping.”  That wasn’t the problem this time, Lord.  In sharing around the table with a small group of dear Christians, I realized afterward there was an inner desire to impress.  Oh, I didn’t say anything I didn’t mean. We shared about You, Lord, and that was good.  But somewhere in my being, instead of sharing from an overflowing heart, I seemed to be sharing out of a need to impress by my “overflowing heart.”  Forgive me, Lord!  Help me to keep silent until You tell me to speak. (Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, page 78-79)
  Try as I might to focus on others in my conversations, rather than looking for opportunities to put self at the center, I fail again and again. In their wonderful book, Transformed: Life-Taker to Life-Giver, Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt challenge me to recognize that genuine transformation starts with the heart, a heart that is free because of submission to the Gospel. They quote Tim Keller's book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness


Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less . . . [It] means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.


Ouch. Yet, also, an aha moment. Think of how much energy it takes to make sure the conversation always comes back to me.There is freedom in submission to the Gospel.            

God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we will listen twice as much as we speak.  The Bible says that where there are many words, sin is not absent.  The great philosopher, Will Rogers exhorted, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”  On that note, I will.
In His grip (thankfully!),
Sharon

PS I heartily recommend a study of 
 Transformed:Life-Taker to Life-Giver   by Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt. Every chapter included an "Aha!" moment for me in my own spiritual journey. It's a Bible study broken into small pieces that are like little sticks of dynamite, ready to explode in the reader's soul. 



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Treasure of Tears




Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people! Jeremiah 9:1

My newly divorced friend finished a description of her tumultuous marriage break up with these words, "I didn't know I had so many tears. Just when I think I've run out, something happens and they start all over again. Mostly I'm exhausted from crying. But sometimes they are cleansing and afterwards, I'm ready to face the next hard step."

Tears of grief and even despair - the tears themselves are a treasure in the darkness. I say that on the basis of the psalmist's prayer: 

Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? Psalm 56:8 KJV

In an article on the benefit of tears, Cathy McBride notes that she finds encouragement in seeing "that many of the Bible characters who developed the strongest faith wept openly. Joseph, Hannah, Paul, Peter, Mary Magdalene, and the prophets Ezra and Hezekiah." (Cathy McBride, "Blessed Are Those Who Weep," Today's Christian Woman, July-August 1987, 39)    ) And Jeremiah is sometimes called the weeping prophet.

I can completely relate to a a heart-wrenching scene recorded in 2 Samuel 18, when King David hears of the tragic death of his son:

 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said:  "My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you - O Absalom, my son, my son!" 
2 Samuel 18:33

People experiencing deep loss often can't adequately describe the black abyss of sorrow and despair. And my experience, though similar to yours, is not exactly the same as yours. Your relationship to your loved one or child is unique. Your response to his or her physical absence will reflect that uniqueness. There is no easy remedy for your broken heart. The journey is long and hard.

At first Chuck and i were afraid that if we surrendered to the soul grief, we would never stop crying. Chuck especially fought the assault of tears, because it took several days for him to physically recover. But resisting the tears was also exhausting, so he began to go to the cemetery, turn on loud worship music, and privately wail.


I chose to cry uncontrollably when the house was empty. I wondered if the neighbors could hear me. I warn friends and family of freshly bereaved people not to be frightened of sudden outbursts, often followed by exhaustion or laughter over a sweet memory.

In Keeper of the Springs, Ingrid Trobisch eloquently describes the role of tears in the grief journey:

Edith Schaeffer wrote, "Don't abort your afflictions." In other words, we do well to embrace the pain until the work is done. The human spirit in adversity can be a wondrous thing. Allow tears to flow. Scientists tell us they wash toxic chemicals form our bodies. Psychologists say they wash pain out of our hearts.

Tears are the price we pay for loving. Unless grief work is done, a person is kept from being fully alive.  "Blessed are those who mourn," the Bible says, "For they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). Mourning is never easy and lasts longer than most people expect . . . Crying buckets of tears is a journey. It takes us from where we were before loss to where we'll be once we've adapted to the changes loss brings. No one can measure when those days are over. It requires patience with ourselves and with those who insinuate we should hurry up and get over it. . . I believe patience is the continuous process of uncluttering what is inside you. When loss is sudden and violent, it is like a bomb exploded in your soul. Picking through the rubble takes time. It is like looking for all the broken pieces of your heart.Tears wash away ash and cleanse your sight, making the important things easier to see. Tears wash away the dust of the trivial, the toxic, the temporary. What remains is treasure. (Ingrid Trobisch, Keeper of the Springs (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1997), 67-68)

In my first months of grief much of what I was feeling can be described as despair.


It is a drastic word, but on one level it can be a good place for a child of God to be. Despair means to lose all hope or confidence. For me to despair meant that I recognized my inability to fix my broken heart. Despair drove me to the heart of God, because human resources were worthless. . . .

The writer of Hebrews reminded me there is only one place to go when in despair

 In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus. Hebrews 2:8b-9a

A friend reminded me of this simple truth when she gave us a plaque that reads:

 You never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.

The black blanket of despair is the perfect backdrop for the glow of Christ's love. Tears of despair drove me to the foot of the cross where I cried, out, "O God, if you do not meet me in the darkness, I will not survive. You must come to me. You must!" It was in the midnight darkness I learned to whisper, "But I see Jesus."
 Tears of despair slowly opened my eyes to the sufficiency of Jesus.*

In His grip,
Sharon

For more Help and Hope, check out the  Grief Resources

*Treasures in Darkness, Phillipsburg, PA., Presbyterian & Reformed, pages 100-103, Reprinted with Permission
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Warrior Women - Help and Hope



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There are times in each of our lives when we need someone ahead of us in the journey, someone we can turn to with questions, confusion, hurts, disappointments and even our tears. Sometimes we don't even know what to say or how to describe our feelings or we're too embarrassed to or ashamed to even reach out. 
In this inspirational Warrior Woman series, you will meet women who know what that feels like.
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These are stories from the hearts of women engaged in warfare and they don't want anyone on the same battlefield to feel alone. Some of them battle publicly, many privately. 

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None of these women see themselves as extraordinary. They don't consider themselves warriors. Yet each one had to make hard decisions when faced with unexpected calamity, pain inflicted by others, terrifying diagnoses, shattered dreams or consequences because of their own choices. These women ultimately chose life, to push their behavior through a worldview that requires dying to self when everything inside cries out for other pathways. When asked how they face the struggles of each day, they mention weapons that are similar. These Warrior Women are guides for those coming behind them. They are calling back that you can face fear, broken places, rejection, addiction, disease, loss that feels unbearable, grief, and other dark times with courage, determination, grit and hope. 


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In the next few months we will be interviewing more women who have and are facing enormous life crises with courage, strength, and determination to experience all that God has for them in this life. Their stories will inspire listeners to "keep on keeping on" in their own life journeys.

As you are introduced to "new friends" through this series, we hope you will share these resources with friends and through social media. Take time to browse through the entire Help and Hope Audio Library where you will find numerous resources that address life crises that are often experienced in isolation.






Please let us know what impact these stories have on your life (markinc@markinc.org). Check back often for new stories (www.markinc.org). Better yet, SUBSCRIBE to the Help and Hope series podcast to be alerted every time we launch a new resource.

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Do you know a Warrior Woman whose story needs to be told? What is your story? Please share those stories with me via markinc@markinc.org.

In His grip,
Sharon

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Grief and the Risk Taking Heart - Updated



Grief doesn't start when someone dies. Grief happens when any kind of loss slams a person into a wall, turns a life upside down, shatters dreams. We all know someone who is hurting, but often miss the treasures of going into the dark abyss of grief with them because we're scared or don't know what to do. It's risky. Grieving people sometimes strike out at the person nearest them. We are sometimes crazy! But we need someone willing to take the risk of being hurt in order to help us limp through the dark places. I repost this blog with hopes the message will encourage someone to walk in the darkness with a broken friend.

Originally Posted November 2, 2015

Grief and the Risk Taking Heart

A child  is gone.
Family and friends struggle to reconcile God's love with His sovereignty. We are on holy ground as we go into the darkness with them. Though it is excruciating to go back into the abyss of sorrow, we go willingly for too many reasons to count. We desperately needed someone like us when our son, Mark and his friend, Kelly, died in a car accident. Someone who had lived in the foreign Land of Grief who could show us the way, give us hope. Our desperation for hope hid the sacrifice these precious grieving parents made in order to answer God's call to comfort us with the same comfort He had given to them.
We go also because to be with a broken-hearted person who is a daughter or son of our King is to be on holy ground. God promises He is very near to the broken-hearted. Yes, He is always with each of His children, but in some way we can't explain, He is nearer to those who cry out for His touch when their hearts are breaking.
In the darkest night of our souls, my sister, Jane Anne, came along side of me in a way that kept the light of Christ burning. I hated for her to see the ugly, oozing sores of grief that covered my soul. But she would not let me hide. God inspired her to express in words how she viewed this calling. I included this piece in my book, Treasures of Encouragement, Women Helping Women in the Church. If God is calling you to go into the dark abyss of grief with a friend, whether it is grief over death or any other loss, I hope Jane Anne's perspective opens your mind and heart to the realization that you are on holy ground where you will discover riches stored in secret places, designed to help turn your heart toward Him.

The Risk-Taking Heart
by Jane Anne Wilson
I donned the unbecoming yellow paper gown and cap and put on my rubber gloves and mask as I prepared to enter the patient's room. The effects of her disease were repulsive, and I avoided the room until her needs required my attention. Raw, open sores penetrated to the bone. Involuntary nervous responses resulted in embarrassing outbursts of unpredictable emotions.
Pain permeated the room, giving a suffocating feeling to anyone who entered. The windows and glass door mocked the patient, allowing her to see a world she could not join. This patient was incapable of caring for herself in any way. Isolation always seemed ironic to me. In other cases, we put on sterile gloves to protect the patient from our germs, but isolation cases require full garb to protect us from the patient's disease. It was always risky to treat these patients. Why take it? I experienced a strange phenomenon when I chose to take that risk. Somehow I felt more alive to be in touch with such intense pain. I felt real. Of course, I took precautions and could always take off my protective layer and go back into the routine life that my patient longed to experience once again.
This patient, though drenched with disease, had a strange pull on me. I was always glad, after I began to care for her, that I could be the one to help. Once I was there, I wondered why I avoided that room so much. Perhaps it was not knowing what state I would find her in that caused my apprehension.
The key to the treatment was convincing the patient that she would get better (though no one would blame her for not believing it). All the research showed that recovery required patient confidence that it would happen. This confidence would enable the patient to participate in her treatment, speeding the healing process. I needed to give her hope.
I went into the sick room once again and began the treatment. Very little healing had taken place and I could see that the disease was progressing. As I went about my care for the patient, trying to convince her with words that she would recover, the cumbersome isolation garb hampered me. The patient was suffering because of my inability to fully function, and she looked at me with frustration in her eyes. I was causing more pain!
For a moment I stopped, our eyes met, and I finally realized what she could not express. No, she would not ask me to put myself at risk, but she wouldn't believe my encouraging words either. I stared beyond her eyes as time stood still. Then, without a word, I removed the gloves, mask and cumbersome paper gown. For the first time a glimmer of hope appeared in her eyes. At that moment we both began to believe that her disease - grief - would be conquered. (Treasures of Encouragement, Women Helping Women in the Church, pages 185 - 186, P & R Publishing, used with permission)


In His grip,
Sharon


 For more Help and Hope visit www.markinc.org


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Loves Me, Loves me Not?



In case you were disappointed with Valentines Day......Chuck hates Valentine's Day. As soon as the marketing gurus launch their onslaught of commercials designed to create deep guilt for every man who doesn't buy his love a diamond ring, heart shaped necklace or sexy lingerie, Chuck warns me not to expect anything. After all, according to him, he doesn't need anyone to tell him how to express his love for me. He does that every day by the way he treats me. True.
My husband is a romantic and I have lots of stories I could tell about how he has demonstrated his love in surprising ways over the years. In ways that are so much better than a Valentine's Day Card that he has to buy because of marketing pressure. Yet, I brought preconceived ideas about Valentines Day into our marriage. When I was growing up, on the morning of February 14, I would sometimes wake up to find a small heart shaped box of candy outside my bedroom door.
My mother always said it was from my father but sometimes there would be an extra gift that only a mom would think to buy for her daughter. As a young wife, I tried not to let the commercialism of February love raise my expectations of my husband but I wasn't really content to let the holiday go. One year I decided I could still create Valentines Day traditions with our children without seeming to insult Chuck for his lack of recognition of this unashamed attempt by our culture to get us to spend billions of dollars on cards, candy, jewelry and roses.

 Loves me, loves me not . . .
I covered a shoe box with construction paper, cut out hearts and a slit in the top for mail. I gave our children dime store Valentines Day cards to address to each of their siblings, mommy and daddy. I carefully followed instructions for making a heart-shaped cake and set the table with china and candles. I put on my best spiritual face that this display had nothing to do with guilting my young husband into giving me a gift. What should have been a Hallmark Card moment ended up in disaster. The two older kids fought over who got the most cards, the two babies were cranky, the cake crumbled because it was still warm when I iced it and my sweet, romantic husband didn't think my motives were quite pure! I have a feeling that deep inside I really was trying to make him feel guilty......

Loves me not?
At the first sign of the Valentines Day commercialism, Chuck still makes his speech in which he declares he will not bow to commercial pressure. Yet somehow we always end up doing something special on February 14 and last year we even exchanged funny cards - but absolutely not in the name of Valentines Day! This year, roses . . .

Loves me?
What does love look like to you? Is it always wrapped up in the gift of a card, jewelry, perfume, sexy lingerie? Or is it better displayed when someone takes out the trash, picks up the dirty clothes, clears the table and cleans up the kitchen, makes the bed, surprises you with your favorite ice cream for no reason at all, lets you pick out the chick flick instead of the war movie, would rather watch the Super Bowl with you than his buddies, sends a card thanking you for your friendship, says "let's order out" or just sits by your side when you're grieving?

Definitely loves me.....
I have a drawer full of cards from Chuck that I cherish. I love finding the cards I have sent to Chuck tucked away in his dresser or saved in a folder of his important papers. Each one reminds us of a moment in time that is forever seared on our hearts and that makes them priceless. I treasure the times Chuck has surprised me with a special gift, a uniquely crafted piece of jewelry, a surprise evening out. Yet without the daily and mundane consistent demonstrations of love that transform a relationship into a majestic lasting friendship these gifts would be worthless baubles. I know this because I have friends whose Valentine's Day cards, precious gems, furs and material possessions cover hearts longing for genuine love and respect from their spouses.

What does love look like to you? Valentine's Day can be fun and a special opportunity to express love. But be careful about making that the sum total of your day.  Instead of hanging your hopes on one kind of demonstration, look for love in the mundane, the dailiness of life and you may be surprised to recognize that the marketing Valentine's Day gurus don't have it quite right.

In His Grip,
Sharon

(Originally Posted At : February 3, 2009 12:21 AM | Posted By : Sharon Betters)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Honest Grief


I've lost so much, precious loved ones, my mother, sister and now my daughter. Is there more loss to come?  I'm afraid. Every cell in my body hurts. I can't think straight. My heart pounds. I am trying to hang on to my faith, but what if it isn't true? Because frankly, just the idea of believing that God loves me in the middle of this grief taunts me. Is He sovereign? In control? Does He really love me? Then why, why, why?

My friend's cries pulled me back to those early years after Mark's death. The anguish in her voice, face, eyes, words was almost too much to bear because I knew the reality of the deep sorrow. She was me. I was her.  There are still days I wonder, I hope, that the foundation of my faith, the Bible, is true.

Like my friend, I desperately searched for answers, bought and read every book I could find on grief, taking hope from those ahead of me in this journey, who expressed confidence that God is sovereign and I could trust Him. But on those long days, weeks, months, years that the tears wouldn't stop, the ache in my chest wouldn't break, I questioned God's love, the reality of His presence, the truth of His Word. What if it wasn't true? What if there is no heaven? What if this is all there is? What if there really is no purpose in any of my life?

You don't have to lose a child to ask these questions, do you?

Shortly after the birth of our third child, Daniel, in the dark quiet of early morning, I rocked him, looking out a window over the dark skies of Philadelphia and a wave of despair and sadness washed over me. Thoughts foreign to my heart pushed to the surface. "What if there is no God? What if what I believe isn't true?" These questions terrified me because they brought into question the very foundation of my life. If these building blocks were destroyed, what purpose did I have, did any of us have? How could I have brought a child into such a dark, hopeless world?


I was twenty-seven years old and I decided that if Billy Graham believed the Bible was true, then so would I. I know, that's kind of pathetic! But I was too afraid to take on the challenge of questioning my faith.

Grief didn't give me that choice.  Our youngest child's death threw everything I believed into the refiner's fire and if I wanted to experience purpose and joy again, I had to allow sorrow and anguish do its work. Grief is a hard taskmaster and I have learned that the only way to survive its lashes is to transparently confront the challenge to reconcile God's love with His sovereignty.

Another bereaved mother further along in this journey encouraged me to be honest with God, to pound on His chest, to understand that He invites my questions, that He is not afraid of my struggles.  For it is in the darkness of this frightening place that my understanding of God's love would grow deep and wide. Her words didn't make sense, God's love didn't compute in the depth of my insane grief, but I decided to follow her counsel.  I discovered that the Bible is filled with people who transparently and honestly communicated every emotion to their God.  Our Father in heaven seems to applaud such honesty in his rebuke to Job's friends in Job 42:7-8 when he declares to Eliphaz, one of Job's comforters:

Job will ask me not to treat you as you deserve for speaking such nonsense about me, and not being honest with me as Job has. (The Message)

Every morning I met with God, I asked Jesus to open my eyes and heart to truth that would put my shattered heart back together. I wrote out my sometimes heretical thoughts in my journal, then read a Psalm, a Proverb, the daily devotional in My Utmost for His Highest and Streams in the Desert. And I waited for God to speak, to respond to my emotional tirades and to comfort me in the darkness. Sometimes He did. Other times all I heard was silence. This journey, the cries of the Psalmist and Hebrews 10:19 - 25 pushed me into a deeper understanding of what it means to pound on God's chest.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:19-25

Here I see an invitation to come with confidence into God's presence, to pound on His chest with my questions, doubts, wails of anguish. He promises He will not reject me but rather pull me into His lap, hold me, comfort me with His truth,  reminding me of the gift of His Son, Jesus, the greatest love gift. Spending time in His Word reminds me of the hope that has guided me throughout my life. The Bible reminds me that He cannot lie, His promises are reliable. And then I see that time with Him will eventually lead me to offering others the same help and hope that He has given to me. Scriptures acted as medicine for my soul, but friends, that medicine was not an overnight fix. sometimes I felt a moment of relief, but grief is long term, a chronic sorrow. It is not one and done. I had to take it for years, and when I skip taking it, my soul reacts badly.

A friend of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, once said, "The woman who has no experiences in the dark has no secrets to share in the light." Shortly after the death of our son, Mark, this statement challenged me with a choice. Would I accept midnight sorrow as an opportunity for God to reveal his secrets of the darkness? Or would I refuse to open my eyes and hands to treasures designed to turn my heart toward him?

I will give you treasures in the darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you will know I am the Lord your God, the One Who calls you by name.  Isaiah 45:2-3

 In time, desperation to understand my heavenly Father and experience his power drove me to place my hope in what I know about Him, not in what I do not know.  This was not a once and for all choice, but rather daily, moment by moment. I began to more clearly experience the treasures in the darkness and riches stored in secret places, each one designed to remind me that He calls me by name, and help turn my heart toward my God.

Learning to see when the lights went out took me back to the foundations of my faith, where I unpacked each belief and examined it through the grid of God's Word. I needed to know that what I had believed and taught for more than twenty-five years was absolute truth. For years and through tear-filled eyes, I searched for God's presence everywhere and in every event. No detail was insignificant. It still isn't.

I am revisiting these early grief years because several of my friends are experiencing excruciating sorrow and loss. Their shattered hearts remind me that there are many who live each day, trying to make sense out of this broken world, but afraid to admit their own struggles to reconcile God's love with His sovereignty. I write to encourage you to lean into the pain, honestly grieve, pound on your Father's chest, expect Him to hold you tightly in His grip because of Jesus. The journey is hard and long. But don't give up. Keep running to His Word and ask Him to give you treasures in the darkness to help turn your heart toward Him.

In His grip with you,

Sharon

For more on Honest Grief, check out:



Treasures in Darkness, A Grieving Mother Shares Her Heart


For more Help and Hope, Free Resources that transparently address many life crises visit MARKINC.org
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