Psalms for Hope, Comfort and Peace

The book of Psalms is a favorite of mine because David and others bare their heart and soul to the Lord, but always end with praise and thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love. This week I turned to three passages to uplift, encourage and strengthen my soul. I hope they provide the same to you.

Note: Last summer I posted this inspirational blog because the world was in chaos. Cities were burning, many of us were living in isolation because of COVID, and I longed for peace. I revisited the blog today because I still need peace, hope, and comfort. The circumstances are different, but not as different as I hoped they would be. So, today I share three verses from the Book of Psalms that continue to bring hope, comfort, and peace to my aching heart.

The book of Psalms is a favorite of mine because David and others bare their heart and soul to the Lord, but always end with praise and thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love. This week I turned to three passages to uplift, encourage and strengthen my soul. I hope they provide the same to you.

 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope.

Psalm 130:5 

 This week I’ve prayed, “how long Lord? How long must we wait?”

The psalmist provides a path toward peace when he declares he waits for the Lord and hopes in His word. The Word breathes life into desolation, renews a withering soul, and nurtures our flickering hope.

Hope sustains, nurtures and increases our faith. When the situation seems impossible, hope never gives up. The psalmist doesn’t just say he waits, but that his soul waits. Hope transcends the physical and permeates our entire being. Hope takes us out of the temporal view and transports us to the eternal perspective.

Faith assures us that what we hope for will come to pass, but first we must have hope.  Hope is one thing that lifts my soul.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

The psalmist reminds us that God is bigger than tragedy, chaos, racism, hatred or fear. He heals, comforts and guides us through times like the present circumstances.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

In this verse. the psalmist provides insight into God’s character and role in our lives. First, God is our refuge. We can go to Him, hide in His arms until the storm passes. Second, He is our strength. When we are weak, tried or afraid, He renews us, comforts us and assures us the future is bright. Finally, God is a hands-on God. Right now, He seems distant, but the psalmist reminds us that He is “very present.” I’m not sure how we know He’s present when chaos continues day after day, but He is here.

His love never fails.

This is a time when another scripture takes on new significance, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Sometimes we must hang on to faith by a thread of hope that tells us, “He is here. He is my refuge and in Him I will find my strength.”

Psalms for Hope, Comfort and Peace

The book of Psalms is a favorite of mine because David and others bare their heart and soul to the Lord, but always end with praise and thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love. This week I turned to three passages to uplift, encourage and strengthen my soul. I hope they provide the same to you.

The book of Psalms is a favorite of mine because David and others bare their heart and soul to the Lord, but always end with praise and thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love. This week I turned to three passages to uplift, encourage and strengthen my soul. I hope they provide the same to you.

 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope.

Psalm 130:5 

 This week I’ve prayed, “how long Lord? How long must we wait?”

The psalmist provides a path toward peace when he declares he waits for the Lord and hopes in His word. The Word breathes life into desolation, renews a withering soul, and nurtures our flickering hope.

Hope sustains, nurtures and increases our faith. When the situation seems impossible, hope never gives up. The psalmist doesn’t just say he waits, but that his soul waits. Hope transcends the physical and permeates our entire being. Hope takes us out of the temporal view and transports us to the eternal perspective.

Faith assures us that what we hope for will come to pass, but first we must have hope.  Hope is one thing that lifts my soul.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

The psalmist reminds us that God is bigger than tragedy, chaos, racism, hatred or fear. He heals, comforts and guides us through times like the present circumstances.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

In this verse. the psalmist provides insight into God’s character and role in our lives. First, God is our refuge. We can go to Him, hide in His arms until the storm passes. Second, He is our strength. When we are weak, tried or afraid, He renews us, comforts us and assures us the future is bright. Finally, God is a hands-on God. Right now, He seems distant, but the psalmist reminds us that He is “very present.” I’m not sure how we know He’s present when chaos continues day after day, but He is here.

His love never fails.

This is a time when another scripture takes on new significance, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Sometimes we must hang on to faith by a thread of hope that tells us, “He is here. He is my refuge and in Him I will find my strength.”

When Grief Erupts

“I have cried more and more intensely than I have in years. I have realized that the deep sorrow of grief will not be pushed away forever. Oh I tried by letting it bubble out for brief moments thinking, “I can do this.” Short blasts of tears predict the eruption to come. Body tremors warn of the pain within. Fatigue warns that all is not well in the soul. Then the deep sorrow and anguish of grief erupts.   The eruption will not stop until the depth of pain is released.

Note: My husband, John, died almost 8 years ago. I wrote this blog about a year after his passing. As I thought about what to share today, this piece resonated with me. I no longer experience intense eruptions of grief, but I do have moments of sadness. Reading this post again, reminded me of how far I’ve come. Perhaps my words will give someone else hope as they navigate grief.

During the months following John’s death, I took pride in the fact that I was not as distraught as those I read about in various articles or grief blogs. I was emotional, but I was not falling apart. I was tired, but I never felt like I could not get out of bed. I cried, but I never felt so sad I could not speak without crying. I successfully hid the intense emotion. In my mind, I was an expert on grief. I pushed through the hurt. I even taught a class on grief and loss. I convinced myself that I was not an emotional train wreck.

Grief erupts: When a volcano of despair blindsides you

The truth is for 8 months I pushed down every intense emotion that tried to bubble out of my soul by using old habits of coping. I found comfort in food. Food kept the intense sorrow locked inside. I ate when I was alone or when I was sad. Eventually, the volcano of despair could no longer be contained and grief erupted! I woke up as tired as when I went to bed. My body ached in places that had not ached for months. I struggled to get out of bed each day. My tears flowed like lava that cannot be contained.

“I have cried more and more intensely than I have in years. I have realized that the deep sorrow of grief will not be pushed away forever. Oh I tried by letting it bubble out for brief moments thinking, “I can do this.” Short blasts of tears predict the eruption to come. Body tremors warn of the pain within. Fatigue warns that all is not well in the soul. Then the deep sorrow and anguish of grief erupts.   The eruption will not stop until the depth of pain is released. The violent eruption exhausts my being. I grasp for something familiar to hold to. I cry, sob and my body trembles until I can cry no more. Then there is calm, but the sadness remains because the reality of the loss is now undeniable. The volcano is quiet for now, but I fear the rumbling within.”

Like a city in the path of the hot, volcanic river of fire, I could not ignore the pain.  I was forced to face it.  I was forced to accept it. I had no choice. I felt helpless and out of control, which led to anxiety and fear. I tried to manage the eruption without help but soon realized that led to more exhaustion and frustration. I realized my survival depended on yielding to the intensity of emotion. Doing so meant there were tasks I could not perform both personally and at work. I delegated tasks. I rescheduled tasks that could be rescheduled. I accepted that some tasks were left undone. When I needed to cry, I left the office or simply stayed home and worked when I could. Fortunately, my supervisor understood and helped me adjust my schedule to accommodate the onslaught of emotions.

Navigating the eruption

When grief erupts give yourself permission to experience it.

When you fall back into old patterns (and you probably will), have at least one person who will be honest with you. Someone who will point out negative coping. Someone who will direct you to healthy coping to get through the “moment” of stress.

When you begin to feel the exhaustion of grief rest. This may mean taking more breaks during your workday. You may need to take partial or full days off when the eruption is intense. When the exhaustion of grief erupts it invades every fiber of your being. When grief erupts you need to rest.

Find outlets that are healthy and work for you

In order to prevent “capping” the volcano with old behaviors, I wrote my thoughts in my journal. I talked to my counselor. Most importantly I prayed and read my favorite scriptures. I was not perfect in this effort but when I allowed Christ to enter the eruption, my soul was refreshed. My body was renewed. I could face the challenge of a new day.

You are not alone

When grief erupts remember you are not alone. You do not have to “fix this”. Remember Christ’s words, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. I have used that phrase with clients countless times. I sometimes forget the simplicity of this short scripture. Christ provides all we need for every situation, but we have to “come”, “knock”, “seek”, ask” (Matthew 7:7). I have spoken these words countless times to those I counsel, but I felt guilty applying them to myself. Sometimes, when the heat of the eruption was unbearable, the last thing I wanted to hear was a quote from the Bible. However, this was in fact, what I needed to hear. Only when I allowed the words to sink in was I able to receive. I surrendered pride and allowed Him to comfort me instead of turning to food. I surrendered fear of failure and allowed Him hold me as I cried. I surrendered control and allowed Him to guide me (sometimes through others) toward the peace of letting grief erupt. Letting go of the need to be strong and perfect freed me to “hear, ask, seek and receive” the peace Christ longs to give me. A peace that no bad habit can provide.

How are you manage the eruption of grief? What brings comfort to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Father’s Day-A Reflection

I just completed the draft of my memoir. Writing about my father brought the pain and sorrow to the surface once again. With Father’s Day approaching this weekend, I want to revisit a post I wrote two years ago. Perhaps my words will comfort other survivors who struggle with the celebrating Father’s Day.

Father’s Day is sometimes difficult for me. Most years I ignore the multitude of Father’s Day posts that fill my social media News Feed, but some years, the words of praise and love bring tears of sorrow and anger to my heart. I want to scream, “I don’t miss my Dad! I don’t have anything good to say about him!” Perhaps others who experienced abuse have similar thoughts on the day that honors fathers. The intensity of the emotion surprises me because I forgave my father years ago. Most likely the feelings resurfaced this year because I just completed the draft of my memoir. Writing about my father brought the pain and sorrow to the surface once again. With Father’s Day approaching this weekend, I want to revisit a post I wrote two years ago. Perhaps my words will comfort other survivors who struggle with the celebrating Father’s Day.

Forgiveness not Acceptance

My father stole my childhood and my innocence from me at a very young age. The abuse continued until I left home at age 18 to go to college. My father cared about only one thing-making certain I knew he was the only person who would “love me.” I was his property and his toy.

In his later years, my father was broken, disabled and senile. He never asked me to forgive him, but I did forgive him. I turned him over to God and let go of my need for revenge or retribution. The act of forgiveness came after I allowed myself to experience the anger, sadness, and loss of my childhood. Forgiving him did not mean I welcomed him back into my life. I did not.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, “I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you’re turning a central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before… slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”[1] As the years passed by, I saw my father turn into a shriveled, broken hellish creature who lost his grip on reality. I think there came a point when he relinquished his humanity for the pleasures of the flesh and he was lost for eternity. He died alone in a West Texas nursing home.

God was the consistent thread.

How do I celebrate Father’s Day with such a father? I always knew God was present in my life, but that may not be true for others. I am thankful for the prayers of many that kept me safe from death on more than one occasion. My father could not take away my faith. My heavenly father somehow always showed up when I needed Him most. I did not always understand God’s methods in my trials but looking back He was always there to save my life, direct my path or provide a comforting word. God’s actions modeled what my father should have done. He knew what I needed, and did His best to provide for me, not always in the way that I wanted or thought He should, but as a faithful parent. My journey was long and difficult, but the consistent element was the presence of God and Christ.

I believe I can celebrate Father’s Day because I do have a Heavenly Father who cares for me and loves me unconditionally. However, for some, celebrating this Hallmark holiday feels forced and uncomfortable. For others, the day triggers feelings of anger, fear, and resentment. For those individuals, I want you to know that it is okay not to celebrate a day that honors fathers. However, I invite you to consider the idea that there is a heavenly father who loves his children.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 86.

Psalms for Hope, Comfort and Peace

The book of Psalms is a favorite of mine because David and others bare their heart and soul to the Lord, but always end with praise and thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love. This week I turned to three passages to uplift, encourage and strengthen my soul. I hope they provide the same to you.

The book of Psalms is a favorite of mine because David and others bare their heart and soul to the Lord, but always end with praise and thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love. This week I turned to three passages to uplift, encourage and strengthen my soul. I hope they provide the same to you.

 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope.

Psalm 130:5 

 This week I’ve prayed, “how long Lord? How long must we wait?”

The psalmist provides a path toward peace when he declares he waits for the Lord and hopes in His word. The Word breathes life into desolation, renews a withering soul, and nurtures our flickering hope.

Hope sustains, nurtures and increases our faith. When the situation seems impossible, hope never gives up. The psalmist doesn’t just say he waits, but that his soul waits. Hope transcends the physical and permeates our entire being. Hope takes us out of the temporal view and transports us to the eternal perspective.

Faith assures us that what we hope for will come to pass, but first we must have hope.  Hope is one thing that lifts my soul.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

The psalmist reminds us that God is bigger than tragedy, chaos, racism, hatred or fear. He heals, comforts and guides us through times like the present circumstances.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

In this verse. the psalmist provides insight into God’s character and role in our lives. First, God is our refuge. We can go to Him, hide in His arms until the storm passes. Second, He is our strength. When we are weak, tried or afraid, He renews us, comforts us and assures us the future is bright. Finally, God is a hands-on God. Right now, He seems distant, but the psalmist reminds us that He is “very present.” I’m not sure how we know He’s present when chaos continues day after day, but He is here.

His love never fails.

This is a time when another scripture takes on new significance, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Sometimes we must hang on to faith by a thread of hope that tells us, “He is here. He is my refuge and in Him I will find my strength.”

Sometimes the Honesty’s too Much

Sometimes when God touches me, the honesty seems too much.  Sometimes, I don’t want Him to see the “real me”.  The truth is He always sees the real me.

Today I finished the first revision of What Kind of Love is This: Finding God in the Darkness, a memoir of my journey to reclaim my identity.  The last words I typed, “See what God has done… He loves you,” reminded me of my struggle to trust God’s unconditional love. Those words also acknowledge how far I’ve come. Still, I occasionally struggle to understand the events of my life, but writing my story helped put some pieces together for me. As I thought about how to express my struggle, this blog, written a few years ago, seemed appropriate. My relationship with God continues to grow as I include Him in my daily life through prayer, study and simply being still. Perhaps my post will help you realize your beauty and value in the eyes of the Creator.

“Sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much.”

This 70’s hit by Dan Hill, conveys the struggle of feeling and expressing love.  When I looked up the words to the entire song, I realized that many of the lyrics could apply to God’s relationship with us and our relationship with Him. Sometimes when God touches me, His honesty seems too much.  Sometimes, I don’t want Him to see the “real me”.  The truth is He always sees the real me. When I let go of my pride, only then can I truly experience the Honesty of God’s touch.  Only then can I allow Him to hold me until my fear, pride, and pain subside.

Trapped within my truth

How many times have I cried out to God, “how could you let this happen?”  or “You can’t really want ME to do that, do you?” Sometimes I don’t wait for an answer and simply return to the safety of what I know.  I dismiss the still small voice as nothing more than a passing thought.  After all, I know me better than anyone.  Sometimes I argue with God as if He really doesn’t know what is best for me.  I stay trapped and immobile because I choose to stay trapped in “my truth”.  I don’t want to move out of the safety of the familiar and the comfortable.  I fight the honesty of God’s touch.  Until that moment when he brings me to my knees because my truth suffocates me.  Once on my knees, God’s presence pours over me with power, peace, and strength.  At that moment, all is well.  My mind tries to comprehend the touch but cannot.  His love surrounds me and I realize the “real me” is more than my thoughts, habits, and hurt.  The real me has been touched by God to be all He created me to be. His truth heals.  His truth reveals.  His truth brings peace.

He understands How Hard I Try

Sometimes we try too hard to experience God.  The truth is God is everywhere.  He touches us every day.  I recall a time shortly after my husband, John, died when I commented to a friend, “I don’t feel God. I know He is there, but I don’t feel His presence.”  I tried hard to make the feeling of God’s presence real, but nothing worked.  Finally, one day as I drove to work, I saw streams of light piercing the clouds on the horizon.  I smiled through my tears as I felt the honesty of God’s touch for a moment.

I realized at that moment that God always wants to touch us.  I also realized that His touch comes in unexpected ways.  Sometimes it comes from a friend who calls at just the right moment to comfort or encourage us.  He touches us through worship when we feel Him through music.  Those passing thoughts that prompt us to be more than we think we can be are often God’s touch.

“Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So, Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[c] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31.

Like Peter, we have to get out of our “boat” of our expectations to experience God’s touch.  Once we step out of the boat, His hand will keep us above water if we stay connected to Him.

We don’t have to work hard to feel His presence, but we do have to ask, listen and respond when we feel the Honesty of God’s touch.

God is constantly reaching out to us.  His hand is always outstretched.  Our task is simply to grab hold of the hand and allow God to lead us from our “truth” to what He has in store for us.

 

 

He is Risen-Easter Rebooted

After reading a short article about the importance of remembering Easter long after Resurrection Sunday, I decided to write a poem about my experience this Easter.
We are the Church and this Easter reflected that truth through the service of those who risk their lives to care for others.

After reading a short article about the importance of remembering Easter long after Resurrection Sunday, I decided to write a poem about my experience this Easter. In the second stanza, I use the word “church” twice. In the first line, it begins with a lower case “c” but in the last line, the word is capitalized.  By changing the first letter, I hope to express the difference between the church as a building and the larger Church as the body of Christ. We are the Church and this Easter reflected that truth through the service of those who risk their lives to care for others.

He is Risen

I wait outside the empty tomb.

I wait to see Him once again.

I wait for Him to remove the gloom.

I wait for Him, in whom my hopes remain.

 

The church stands empty, silent and forlorn.

No pageants tell the tale. No choirs sing

Or lift their praises this resurrection morn.

In the Church, a new song begins to ring.

 

He is risen. He is alive and well.

He walks the streets and lends a hand.

He is risen. He is alive and well.

He wipes the tears and heals our land.

When Grief Erupts

“I have cried more and more intensely than I have in years. I have realized that the deep sorrow of grief will not be pushed away forever. Oh I tried by letting it bubble out for brief moments thinking, “I can do this.” Short blasts of tears predict the eruption to come. Body tremors warn of the pain within. Fatigue warns that all is not well in the soul. Then the deep sorrow and anguish of grief erupts.   The eruption will not stop until the depth of pain is released.

Note: My husband, John, died almost 7 years ago. I wrote this blog about a year after his passing. As I thought about what to share today, this piece resonated with me. I no longer experience intense eruptions of grief, but I do have moments of sadness. Reading this post again, reminded me of how far I’ve come. Perhaps my words will give someone else hope as they navigate grief.

During the months following John’s death, I took pride in the fact that I was not as distraught as those I read about in various articles or grief blogs. I was emotional, but I was not falling apart. I was tired, but I never felt like I could not get out of bed. I cried, but I never felt so sad I could not speak without crying. I successfully hid the intense emotion. In my mind, I was an expert on grief. I pushed through the hurt. I even taught a class on grief and loss. I convinced myself that I was not an emotional train wreck.

Grief erupts: When a volcano of despair blindsides you

The truth is for 8 months I pushed down every intense emotion that tried to bubble out of my soul by using old habits of coping. I found comfort in food. Food kept the intense sorrow locked inside. I ate when I was alone or when I was sad. Eventually, the volcano of despair could no longer be contained and grief erupted! I woke up as tired as when I went to bed. My body ached in places that had not ached for months. I struggled to get out of bed each day. My tears flowed like lava that cannot be contained.

“I have cried more and more intensely than I have in years. I have realized that the deep sorrow of grief will not be pushed away forever. Oh I tried by letting it bubble out for brief moments thinking, “I can do this.” Short blasts of tears predict the eruption to come. Body tremors warn of the pain within. Fatigue warns that all is not well in the soul. Then the deep sorrow and anguish of grief erupts.   The eruption will not stop until the depth of pain is released. The violent eruption exhausts my being. I grasp for something familiar to hold to. I cry, sob and my body trembles until I can cry no more. Then there is calm, but the sadness remains because the reality of the loss is now undeniable. The volcano is quiet for now, but I fear the rumbling within.”

Like a city in the path of the hot, volcanic river of fire, I could not ignore the pain.  I was forced to face it.  I was forced to accept it. I had no choice. I felt helpless and out of control, which led to anxiety and fear. I tried to manage the eruption without help but soon realized that led to more exhaustion and frustration. I realized my survival depended on yielding to the intensity of emotion. Doing so meant there were tasks I could not perform both personally and at work. I delegated tasks. I rescheduled tasks that could be rescheduled. I accepted that some tasks were left undone. When I needed to cry, I left the office or simply stayed home and worked when I could. Fortunately, my supervisor understood and helped me adjust my schedule to accommodate the onslaught of emotions.

Navigating the eruption

When grief erupts give yourself permission to experience it.

When you fall back into old patterns (and you probably will), have at least one person who will be honest with you. Someone who will point out negative coping. Someone who will direct you to healthy coping to get through the “moment” of stress.

When you begin to feel the exhaustion of grief rest. This may mean taking more breaks during your workday. You may need to take partial or full days off when the eruption is intense. When the exhaustion of grief erupts it invades every fiber of your being. When grief erupts you need to rest.

Find outlets that are healthy and work for you

In order to prevent “capping” the volcano with old behaviors, I wrote my thoughts in my journal. I talked to my counselor. Most importantly I prayed and read my favorite scriptures. I was not perfect in this effort but when I allowed Christ to enter the eruption, my soul was refreshed. My body was renewed. I could face the challenge of a new day.

You are not alone

When grief erupts remember you are not alone. You do not have to “fix this”. Remember Christ’s words, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. I have used that phrase with clients countless times. I sometimes forget the simplicity of this short scripture. Christ provides all we need for every situation, but we have to “come”, “knock”, “seek”, ask” (Matthew 7:7). I have spoken these words countless times to those I counsel, but I felt guilty applying them to myself. Sometimes, when the heat of the eruption was unbearable, the last thing I wanted to hear was a quote from the Bible. However, this was in fact, what I needed to hear. Only when I allowed the words to sink in was I able to receive. I surrendered pride and allowed Him to comfort me instead of turning to food. I surrendered fear of failure and allowed Him hold me as I cried. I surrendered control and allowed Him to guide me (sometimes through others) toward the peace of letting grief erupt. Letting go of the need to be strong and perfect freed me to “hear, ask, seek and receive” the peace Christ longs to give me. A peace that no bad habit can provide.

How are you manage the eruption of grief? What brings comfort to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

What Kind of Love is This?

When I originally posted this blog, I had no idea that one year later, I would be writing my memoir about my journey to accept God’s, unconditional love. My relationship with my daughter played a critical role in my understanding of unconditional love and how God views His creation.

Understanding and accepting God’s unconditional love is difficult for survivors of childhood trauma. When I originally posted this blog, I had no idea that one year later, I would be writing my memoir about my journey to accept God’s, unconditional love. My relationship with my daughter played a critical role in my understanding of unconditional love and how God views His creation. This post takes on new meaning as I write about my years as a single parent trying to express love my child amid my own turmoil.

Grief: Bargaining with God

Grief is a strange thing. It is dynamic and strikes when I least expect it. I rarely think of upcoming anniversaries, but grief lurks in the shadows ready to surprise me when I see a memory pop up on Facebook or when I hear one of John’s favorite songs. The moments of grief don’t last long and I accept them as part of life. I miss John but would not wish him to come back because I know he is walking with God and enjoying conversations with the saints.

Blind Sided by Grief

August 23, 2019, was the sixth anniversary of John’s death. We shared life for nearly eight years and I fully expected to grow old with him.

Grief is a strange thing. It is dynamic and strikes when I least expect it. I rarely think of upcoming anniversaries, but grief lurks in the shadows ready to surprise me when I see a memory pop up on Facebook or when I hear one of John’s favorite songs. The moments of grief don’t last long and I accept them as part of life. I miss John but would not wish him to come back because I know he is walking with God and enjoying conversations with the saints.

John showed me unconditional love, and I have missed his presence as I write my story. His smile and his encouragement helped me believe in myself. He was not perfect, and neither was I, but I always knew that he loved me. As I recalled those early months following his death, I found this blog. I wrote it about one year after John’s death, but the words still resonate with me. Remembering the ways, I coped with grief in those early days helped me this year when grief surprised me.

 “Why?” becomes a bargaining tool

John often sent texts that began with “Howzit?” He wanted to know how my day was going and let me know that he was awake. I miss that phrase; I miss his simple words of care and humor that turned even the most difficult day into a pleasant one. I could not understand why God would take those moments of joy from me. I wondered how I would survive without him.

Asking “why?” became my bargaining tool. I cannot count the times I asked that question.  I asked God but received no response.  As a result, I spent many days creating reasons that made sense to me and creating scenarios that would make the outcome different. My list of “What if…” was long and complicated. I told myself that if I knew “why,” I would feel less guilty and could let go of the self-blame.

Learning to change my focus

With time, I accepted that I would never know why John died so young, but not without a long intense struggle. Moving on from bargaining required me to stop asking why.  Once I stopped asking why I recalled the things John taught me. I recalled the life he lived. I remembered things he shared with me that helped me heal and become the person I am. I can’t change the events of the day John died, but I can change what I focus on.

John once told me that it is more important to focus on how God brings you out of a painful experience than to focus on the experience. Remembering this helped me stop asking why John left me and begin focusing on sharing how he affected my life and my family.

This is not your fault

I don’t know how many times I have told someone who is in the midst of grief, “this is not your fault.” During the stage of asking why and bargaining for the answer to the unanswerable, I remembered my words and silently told myself, “this is not your fault.” When we face the loss of a loved one, remembering that their death is not our fault can help move us beyond blame to healing. When you focus on the life lived by your loved one can help you move beyond the exhausting task of bargaining to change the unchangeable events surrounding the loss of your loved one.

The disciple’s grief 

I imagine that the disciples asked “Why?” many times during the days after the crucifixion. Even though Christ told them what was to come, the followers did not understand they only had a short time left with their beloved leader, much less that he would be back. To His friends and disciples, the grief was real. These men and women lost the greatest companion they had ever known.

The promise that he would come back or even the promise that he was going to prepare a place for them did not ease their grief. They were in pain. They were afraid. They probably asked “Why did He let this happen? What could I have done to prevent it?” Perhaps they wondered how they could minister to others when their grief was so intense. I wonder if like me they struggled with thoughts they must deny their intense pain so those who looked to them for guidance would not lose faith. I imagine that hearing someone quote what Christ told them at the last supper resulted in a mixture of anger confusion and doubt. After all, they walked with Christ every day.

They wanted to know “Why did He leave us?”

Christ knew exactly what His future would be. He also knew nothing his disciples said or did would change the outcome. However, the disciples did not immediately understand or accept His purpose would continue without Christ’s physical presence.

Christ provides a comforter

Christ rose from the dead and then ascended to heaven, which though altogether different from death, still left the disciples on their own. The disciples finally understood Christ’s purpose and began sharing their experiences with the world. Christ gave them His Spirit, the comforter, to empower them in this mission. They stopped asking why He had to leave and started sharing who he was.

As followers of Christ, we have that same Spirit within us, a comforter in our deepest grief.  While the answer to “Why?” may not always come, the Spirit can empower you to change your focus and move past bargaining to embracing all that your loved one added to your life.

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