Grief and Sorrow

THE LIFE WE NEVER EXPECTED

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Book Review by Debbie Huber

“The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children With Special Needs”

Knowing that I have a special interest and love for people with special needs, Kyle bought this book for me to read on my Kindle. As an occupational therapist I want to have a better understanding for the struggles of families with special needs. 

But this book is much more than what I expected. I believe that what the authors have to say will help all who read it have a better understanding of the goodness and dependability of God and His sovereignty over suffering. 

The authors, Andrew and Rachel Wilson, have two autistic children. The children were both meeting their normal developmental milestones until the age of three when their development started going in reverse. This is called regressive autism. Their challenges are many and they share their pain with raw honesty however this is not just a book about children with disabilities…

This is a book about God. 

I was expecting anecdotes about being parents of autistic children.  But in the midst of sharing difficulties and humor, the reader is pointed to the Gospel.  They share their journey to find that God is all sufficient through it all.

For example, the Wilson’s ongoing, earnest prayer is to get a full night’s sleep. That has not yet happened for them which is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. Andrew says that “I think the greatest single challenge to my prayer life has been the fact that so many prayers for sleep have gone unanswered.”  But he has learned that even when we do not know why God is not answering our prayer, we can still trust him and be thankful. 

Andrew was having a particularly frustrating and angry evening while praying for healing for his children and feeling that nothing was changing.  Not knowing where to go in prayer he started to pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

“I talked to God and meandered through parts of the Lord’s Prayer I had never seen that way before.  God heard me. I heard God.” He says, “I remember… that praying for healing and blessing at this point, after spending a while responding to God’s love, knowledge, glory, and beauty, meant that my prayers for the children were framed in a right attitude of trust and security, rather than a sofa-thumping anger and frustration.”

Their perspective of God’s grace is so encouraging.  Andrew and Rachel know that they have so much and deserve so little which brings them to a place of humility and gratitude. 

They have begun to notice even the smallest milestones or graces from God every day.  They have chosen to celebrate God’s grace in how much they have and how little they deserve so bitterness is rooted out and gratitude thrives. 

Sometimes we want to “redeem” the story, to write our own happy-ending, to glorify God in the way that WE think is best.  But God’s timing and His ways are often very different from ours. 

Rachel shares a lesson which stood out to me in a new way: 

“So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save.  The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker, and I’m not.  I am a character in God’s story, not the author of my own, and it is God’s responsibility to redeem all things, to make all things work together for good…(including)every single thing that the curse of sin has touched or tarnished.”

I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to love and trust our God more. 

THIS IS POWERFUL!

5 year old Levi has Down’s Syndrome. And that is the easiest of his physical difficulties. His adversities include four open heart surgeries (and counting).

This testimony by his dad, a student at Bethlehem Seminary, is powerful, perspective correcting, and encouraging!

“Drinking Deeply of the Tenderness of Christ” from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.

WHY DID I CRY?

tears

While reading CJ Mahaney’s tribute to Jerry Bridges I came upon CJ’s statement “I’m glad he’s in heaven”. Just reading those words made my eyes well up with tears. Why would that be so?

I am not a friend of Jerry Bridges. And this was not my first news of Jerry Bridge’s death. I had read several other tributes of his death. In fact, I had written a brief blog in recognition of his life and influence.

I was surprised myself that reading the simple words, “I’m glad he’s in heaven” affected me emotionally.

What was the reason?

Heaven is a real place, and God gives us a heart that longs to be there.

We are now in union with Christ, and we rejoice over this wondrous relationship that has its culmination waiting ahead of us.

I don’t have to know Jerry Bridges to be thankful that he is joyfully in heaven. And I can personally appreciate that CJ although grieved, also rejoices that his friend is with Christ.

Our emotions don’t prove that we are true believers, but being a true believer will cause the realities of Christ to reach deep into our hearts.

I find it easy to see (and be discouraged) by the ways I don’t show my love for God. So it is good to take encouragement from each manifestation that reminds me that I do love God!

In CJ Mahaney’s tribute to Jerry Bridges, he includes this excerpt from Jerry’s book, The Gospel for Real Life. CJ commented, “As I read it, I cried. I think you will too”.

Our Homecoming

“What will it be like when we enter the presence of the Lord? Sometimes when I focus too much on my own shortcomings, of how often I have sinned against grace and against knowledge, of how little I have availed myself of all the blessings of God and opportunities that have come my way, I think I would like to somehow ‘just slip in the side door’ of heaven, unnoticed and consequently unwelcome. But that is because I do focus too much on myself and try to anticipate my welcome on the basis of my performance.

The apostle Peter, however, gives us an entirely different perspective in 2 Peter 1:10-11: ‘Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’” (pp.164–5).

EVERYONE IS IN A WHEELCHAIR

Kim Ordile

When Lou Ordile showed me this article written by his wife Kim, I immediately asked if I could share it with all of you, God has given her excellent insights through her significant struggles.

Kim and Lou along with their children, Joseph and Jessa have shown the power of God’s grace in the midst of life’s great difficulties. May their heart be our own!

Back in 2012 my health started to decline. 

Today the wheelchair is my reality. 

But this is not about me, for God has graciously reminded me that everyone feels like they are in a wheelchair:

The feeling that things are out of my control

Being pushed in directions I didn’t plan on going

The fear of going too fast or the frustration with going to slow

Heart ache due to broken dreams

Angry from having to live with limitations, consequences, boundaries and restrictions

Coping with changes that impact my identity, or who I thought I was

Anxiety that I might be rejected

A sense of pain, and the lack of comfort or contentment to make it go away

I have found the only way for me to resolve any of these feelings is on my knees before God.

God loves me and he loves you, and he longs to be in relationship with us.

Hard times cause our hearts to long for something deeper and real. This is found when we are in relationship with the God who created us. Accepting that Jesus is God’s Son and that he died and rose again to pay for our sin, is the way to God. 

God is the only One that can give us peace, a purpose, a true identity, contentment, and the security of being unconditionally loved. 

I pray that no matter what your wheelchair is – that you will receive God’s love for you. I have found his love to be true even in my wheelchair!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13  

Kim Ordile

I MISS YOU

This weekend I am with those who are grieving the death of a dear friend, Tom Beers.

This is one of those deeply felt losses which leave a ragged and gaping whole in your life.

This has been a season of losing people. Funerals have been far too frequent.

A year ago I wrote a poem from the perspective of believers losing a loved one in the Lord. If grief is touching your life, I hope these words are a balm of comfort.

I miss you

You were there, always

In warmth and knowing

How can I own this absence

Where do I put this sorrow

 

I know

you are not gone

But you are away

It seems so far

Yet memories are near

And your love is even closer

 

Life

had been full, for you were in it

Now a gaping space is here

It feels as if there is no way around it

I cannot find my way around it

Maybe for now there isn’t one

 

Thoughts

of you fall like rain, gentle and steady

Memories are like stands of autumn trees

       proud in their display

 Or summer fields fragrant in bloom

       gathered and shared

 

One day

you will no longer be far

This hurting is what will be distant

All will be healed

Not patched, but whole and new

New memories will flow, endlessly

 

Today

you know what angels sound like

You have seen the scars that made you  

       forever free

You have heard His voice

Heard Him say your name

 

I just took a breath

which means there is one less between

When you, me, He, we

Forever are in the center of all life is   

       meant to be

 

I miss you

because I love you

Because He loves me,

I only have to miss you for awhile

Kyle Huber 2013

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.08.14

A Joy Surpassing Our Struggles 

 James abruptly jumps into the deep end of the Christian life

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4)

James assumes we will “meet” trials and a “variety” of them

This is nothing new, in John 16:33 Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation”

If we are taught or expect that trials in this life can disappear, that is simply unbiblical

James gives us a wise perspective for all “trials” (v2)

How we think about trials should bring “joy” to us

This does not mean difficulties bring only joy (Matt 26:38 with Hebrews 12:1-2

The phrase “all joy” or “pure joy” means the highest joy

We have reason amidst our hurt and struggle to also have joy

This is not a ‘grin and bear it’ attitude, it is joy over what else is happening

God is active in our trials, they are not evidence that he distant or angry at us

God is in the center of our events and he is producing something (v3)

God is being perfect toward us, so that we may become “perfect” in him (v4)

Our natural perspective in difficulties is to think the best good is for them to go away!

However, Romans 8:22 compares our current “groaning” to the pains of childbirth

You want the pain to end, but not at the expense of that child

Struggles are real, but they are also temporary and purposeful

We have no promise that the trials of life will be removed or reduced

However, we do have promise that life in our trials can be more fruitful, contented and joyful

To trust God, means all things take on a God perspective

To love God, means all his ways are so worthy – we see them as praiseworthy

What do trials accomplish that is joyful? (vs 3-4)

1.  God uses trials to produce “steadfastness” in us

We are to “know” that difficulties “test” or prove our “faith” (v3)

Trials teach us that we cannot trust in ourselves or depend upon the world

These trials reveal that God is worth trusting and following

Trials help us see that walking with Christ is the one thing we must never neglect

  • Rather than accuse or doubt God, we keep worshipping Him
  • Rather than think obedience is not worth it, we know that submission to God is always our ‘true north’
  • Rather than get back at those who hurt us, we pursue God’s agenda for them
  • Rather than compromise to stop pain at any cost, we persist in whatever steps will honor God
  • Rather than wallow in self-pity , we rejoice that the Holy Spirit is transforming us
  • Rather than be examples of inconsistency, we become witnesses that the gospel is real!

2.  God uses trials to work toward our completion (v4)

“Perfect and complete” means we become all God purposed for us

“Lacking nothing” means there will be nothing left to add

Through trials, God is fulfilling the wonderful plans he has for us:

  • To be ‘like Christ’
  • To ‘love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength’
  • To live ‘filled with the Spirit’
  • To be mature disciple-makers

Just as birth pains have precious results, so do our labor pains

We don’t like struggle, yet for God’s covenant people, they are filled with graces

Peter repeats James in a way that exalts those graces  1 Peter 1:3-7

A joyful perspective sees: 

1.  God truly is all glorious

2.  God has a great heart for us     

3.  We have a wonderful eternity with him

What do you ‘see’ about God in your trials?

ALONE

Loneliness is a sorrow that exists in many forms. It may be that we are disconnected from meaningful relationships, lacking people to share in our life. We may feel that no one recognizes our burdens or understands our pain. In all loneliness there is a degree of isolation that cuts at us.

Everyone probably has some understanding of loneliness, yet for anyone who is in Christ it is impossible to be truly alone, because we have the intimacy of God’s trinitarian presence: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even though we are designed for relationship and community with other people, God is closer to us than anyone can be.

We have God’s actual presence. Lift you hand and wiggle your fingers in front of your eyes. God’s presence with you is a real as those fingers. More amazing is that the Holy Spirit literally dwells IN us. We can never go anywhere without God in all that He is, being part of what we are doing.

We have God’s attention. I can be in conversation with my wife and not even hear what she is saying. Yet we are always in God’s attention. Pick any moment and God is right then thinking about you.

We have God’s heart. The Father sent the Son to die, paying for the guilt of our sin so that we would be restored in our relationship with Him. In it’s deepest pain, loneliness is feeling as if our heart is in isolation. All the wondrous graces that flow out of the gospel are built upon the new reality that we are now “in Christ”.

We have God’s engagement. God is ever active in our lives. There is no such thing as detachment from God in the life of a true Christian. God’s work is woven throughout every event and each moment.

In spite of these many realities of God’s presence we need to work at cultivating the awareness of that presence. Not because God is reticent to make Himself known, but because we live in the shallow world of physical sensations. Add to that is the fact  that we are easily distracted from God’s presence, because we are enraptured by attention to ourselves.

When we struggle to sense God’s presence, know that it is not the result of God’s heart toward us. The burden falls upon how we are receiving Him. Now this is a struggle we all have on many occasions. In the Bible we often read of godly people being discouraged by a sense of isolation from God. These are seasons we do not fully understand. But what we must grasp is that God is in fact near and we are not alone.

To deny God’s “nearness” is an enormous and perverse lie! It is an enormous lie, because God’s presence is real in so many ways. It is a perverse lie, because God has exercised the most extraordinary actions in universal history in order to be “Emmanuel” (God with us).

Today, glory in the blessedness that we can never, ever, be alone!


GOD WILL WIPE AWAY EVERY TEAR

Debbie Huber, Guest Blogger

Christmastime:  “the most wonderful time of the year”!  We do anticipate the excitement of hearts glowing “when loved ones are near”.  I am so blessed that my whole family will be home together at Christmas. 

But this Christmas, our hearts break for those who are living with immense sadness because they have been affected by the horrifying shooting in Connecticut.  There are others who do not have a home to wake up in on Christmas morning following Super Storm Sandy.  And there are so many in our families and in our church who are dealing with a life-threatening illness, or spending Christmas separated from a loved one because of death.

It is difficult to know how to respond in these situations.  We cannot shield our children from every tragedy.  What should our focus be with our children in the light of the suffering around us?

These tragedies at this time of year do shed light on the world’s biggest need.  We live in a broken world and we so desperately need a rescuer!  At Christmas we celebrate more than just a baby in a manger; we celebrate that our God condescended to be born as a baby and live a sinless life, then take the punishment for our sins that we deserve. 

And one day, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,” (Isaiah 25:8a)

I have found the following excerpt from the children’s Bible, “The Jesus Storybook Bible”, by Sally Lloyd-Jones to be helpful for me personally as well as for children.  She uses prophecies from Isaiah to beautifully focus on the hope that is the promise of Christmas.

“Now God let Isaiah know a secret.  God was going to mend His broken world. He showed Isaiah His secret rescue plan:  Operation ‘No More Tears!’….

 Dear Little Flock,

You’re all wandering away from me, like sheep in an open field. You have always been running away from me. And now you’re lost. You can’t find your way back.

But I can’t stop loving you. I will come to find you. So I am sending you a Shepherd to look after you and love you. To carry you home to me.

You’ve been stumbling around, like people in a dark room. But into the darkness, a bright Light will shine! It will chase away all the shadows, like sunshine.

A little baby will be born. A Royal Son.  His mommy will be a young girl who doesn’t have a husband. His name will be Emmanuel, which means “God has come to live with us.” He is one of King David’s children’s children’s children.

The Prince of Peace.

Yes, Someone is going to come and rescue you! But he won’t be who anyone expects.

He will be a King! But he won’t live in a palace. And he won’t have lots of money. He will be poor. And he will be a Servant. But this King will heal the whole world.

He will be a Hero! He will fight for his people, and rescue them from their enemies. But he won’t have big armies, and he won’t fight with swords.

He will make the blind see, he will make the lame leap like a deer!

He will make everything the way it was always meant to be.

But people will hate him, and they won’t listen to him. He will be like a Lamb – he will suffer and die.

It’s the Secret Rescue Plan we made – from before the beginning of the world!

It’s the only way to get you back.

But he won’t stay dead – I will make him alive again!

And, one day, when he comes back to rule forever, the mountains and trees will dance and sing for joy! The earth will shout out loud! His fame will fill the whole earth – as the waters cover the sea! Everything sad will come untrue. Even death is going to die! And he will wipe away every tear from every eye.

Yes, the Rescuer will come. Look for him. Watch for him. Wait for him. He will come!

I promise.”

WHAT DO WE SAY ABOUT THE UNSPEAKABLE?

Newtown, Connecticut. Those two words no longer bring to mind thoughts of an ordinary American town. Now they haunt us through a grotesque human tragedy.

How do we process these unimaginable events that have become all too vivid in our minds? There is much to sort through as individuals and as a nation, but in these days we grieve and pray.

What I will present today are a couple thoughts to help lead where we go from here.

We can never make sense of great evil

Oh, we can and should find connections, but there was nothing logical in what Adam Lanza did or thought. Evil corrupted his heart and cast out reason.

As time goes on we may understand early threads that charted his dark course. But there is a vital lesson that should leap out at us. Sin should always be greatly feared.

It is too easy to think the path Adam took has nothing remotely in common with our sins. Yes, the degree of his sin is rare, although not as rare as we think – unspeakable things are committed every minute of the day – but the reality that sin always corrupts and always destroys what God made good is a graphic reality we face every day.

Fear sin, immediately and always. When we hate our sin in its early beginnings, it can never mature to darker forms.

No has been more pained than God

God created each individual whose life was taken. God has eternally known each parent, family member and friend whose heart has been ripped apart. God had good desires for Adam, which he spurned and then trampled.

The heart wrenching sights, sounds and feelings that have seared the waking hearts of hundreds if not thousands never leave the attention of God who does not sleep.

So many questions quickly come to us: Where was God? Why didn’t God ….? Surely these or similar questions have tugged at or even shouted in your minds. We simply cannot understand those “whys”, we can only trust Who.

If your response is to say, you could never again trust a God who didn’t stop this horror; recognize the only way for God to stop all human horrors, is to destroy all human sinners.

There is an answer that we have been given. God has an eternal answer for the sorrows of our world. The answer is Jesus Christ, who entered this world in order to die for sinners. By taking the just punishment our sins deserve, Jesus made it possible for us to be reconciled to God with unbreakable bonds. By his death and resurrection Jesus conquered sin, death and evil.

When will we see the consummation of this victory? When God rids the world of all sin and establishes His Kingdom which will never be touched by sorrow. On the day when as the Bible tells us:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

For many of us, the initial response to the unfolding of this horror, was to pull our children near and hold them tight, whispering to them of our love. The heart of your Heavenly Father holds more love than ours. He reaches out to draw you near. His arms are strong to hold you, they ache to hold you. And His voice whispers of love that will “never fail”. In this moment He assures us again, I will never leave or forsake you – I will never let you go.

 

WHAT TO DO WITH PAIN

In his excellent book “Lost in the Middle”, Paul Tripp discusses what we should do with our pain. He is referring to the pain of disappointment, failure, aging, suffering and loss.

Listen to your pain. It is telling you something that you need to hear. Here are some of the things your pain is announcing to you:

1. You live in a fallen world

2. Your suffering is not okay

3. You are not alone

4. There is something better to come

Our pain is very real and part of that reality is that we will not fully escape pain while we live in this rebellious world. However pain does have a purpose and it has an end.

As you experience pain, be reminded about the reason for it which is sin’s entrance into the world. Make sure your finger of accusation is pointed at rebellion against God and never at God himself. For if all creatures had obeyed God, pain and sorrow would be unknown experiences. Our experience with pain should convince us that sin is always our enemy.

Just as importantly keep in mind that this world is a transitory experience for us. God has promised another experience – another life coming where pain will never gain entrance. It is easy to allow our hopes and dreams to center around what we can have in this world, but those hopes will be disappointed in some measure. Change your day dreaming to a coming reality that is worth the investment of our thoughts; that is guaranteed to take place; and is not that far off.

And since you do know something about pain, you are well equipped to have empathy for the many people who are in pain around you. Hurting people are a vast mission field; people who need our attention, our understanding, our love, our prayers and our testimony.

Let’s use our pain well