Want What You’ve Got! (tears)

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I sat in my parked car on the driveway the other day with the cell phone held tight against my ear. On the other end was one of the most dear and gracious women I know, and when her tears began to flow, so did mine. It hurts to let go of our loved ones – to be the one left behind.

Later in the day, as I was loading up the car to make an after-school carpool run, I spotted my next door neighbor in his garage. I haven’t seen him outside for weeks – he’s quite ill and his daughter has moved in to care for him. I stopped to chat and couldn’t help but notice how tired and gaunt his face had become. He told me about the way his condition drains every ounce of energy. He said that most of the time he just wants to rest – to fall asleep and never wake up. His words made me sad and I remembered the tear-stained face of his daughter as she returned from a walk last week. It hurts to watch our loved ones suffer without a way to really ease their pain.

Family drama, broken relationships, fences in dire need of mending, lonely tears of hopelessness which threaten to end a life… From our jail cells to our hospital beds, it hurts to be a part of this desperately broken world.

Are we to want the tears, too? Because I’m pretty sure none of us can really Want What We’ve Got when what we’ve got is so far from the way we want things to be.

Tears betray our true condition. The Psalmist’s words resonate with us in the midst of our trials:

“I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights on the flood of my tears. My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears. The sockets of my eyes are black holes; nearly blind, I squint and grope.” (Psalm 6:6, 7 MSG)

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is filled with the desperate cries of our forefathers and mothers. No one wants to be lost, hurt, lonely, wounded, left for dead, homeless or abandoned, yet these are the days of our lives. If we believe in a good God and yet suffer calamity along with those who have no faith, why in the world should we Want What We’ve Got if what we’ve got only leads us to rivers of tears?

I have only one answer today, and you’re probably not going to like it. It may not be enough to satisfy your need to understand your suffering. I really wish there was more I could say… but the common denominator among the most tear-filled passages of scripture is that, while squinting and groping, we do the only thing we can do while gasping for air and battling to stay afloat… we cry out to God.

If tears are what you’ve got today, you have something to offer to the God who collects every tear in His bottle (Psalm 56:8) and records every pain in His book. Like it or not, our tears draw us toward God, and this may be the only way through the rainy season you find yourself in.

So scream out loud, shake your fists, cry your tears of anger and confusion! The God who longs for you to look His way is going to be there to meet you when you turn, and He can take whatever you can dish out in your struggle to Want What You’ve Got.

Daily Questions: What kinds of tears are you crying today – tears of disappointment? Anger? Frustration? Betrayal? Loss? If the only good thing about tears is that they position us to connect with the God who loves us, are you willing to reach past the hurt to the Healer? Read through the Psalms for proof that God is close to the brokenhearted (start with Psalm 34 & 42).

The Rescue (a PINK Tuesday post)

Save Me

Image by JamesReaFotos via Flickr

 

“The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.”   –John Stott

It’s been this way since time began.

 

The fact that you are still reading tells me that nothing has changed… SUFFERING a LOSS raises questions and doubts and fears and anger as it CHALLENGES our ability to cope and adapt and recover.

But the good news today is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You are not alone in your suffering.

You are not alone in your loss.

We don’t need to look beyond our own circle of friends & family to find others who are suffering losses, too. Our stories and their stories inevitably are marked by people, places, experiences and situations where what we once held dear is no longer ours to hold.

Consider the scriptures.

Story after story about people who not only experience the mountaintops, but the depths of grief as well:

Adam & Eve

Because of a choice that they made, they lost their fellowship with God AND their home in the Garden. Later in their story, they lose a son – or, perhaps they lost TWO sons – as the one killed the other in a fit of jealousy.

Joseph

The one with the coat. Lost his family at the hand of brothers who hated him. They sold him into slavery. Told his father he was dead. This same Joseph, trying to live a godly life as a slave, is falsely accused of sexual harassment by his boss’s wife and thrown into prison for years. NONE of these losses, by the way, were a result of Joseph’s choices. He had no say. They just happened TO him.

Job

Lost his children in one horrific accident. Lost his livelihood. Lost his health. All because of things going on around him that he had no control over. It wasn’t his fault.

David

KING David. The one we know as “a man after God’s own heart”. Lost his fellowship with the Lord, for a time, because of a series of bad choices that included sleeping with someone else’s wife and then having her husband murdered. David’s loss didn’t end there. Even though he married the woman he had gotten pregnant, she lost the baby. Lost a child. Another loss.

Elijah

The prophet. The one used by God to call down fire on a soaking wet altar, putting the competition in its place. Even Elijah suffered loss. Loss of hope. Loss of perspective. He suffered from depression. Depression that was undoubtedly linked to the death threats he had received from a very powerful woman. His choice? A chemical imbalance? Does it matter?! A loss nonetheless.

Finally, the Apostle Paul.

Wrote much of the New Testament. Spoke the message of Christ far and wide with boldness and passion. This hero of the faith found himself at the end of life, sitting in a cold prison cell, alone. Lonely. And he suffered from the loss of fellowship he had known – we know this because he wrote it in a letter to his friend, Timothy. We can read it in God’s Word.

What we ALSO read in God’s Word are words like these:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

(He must be really STRONG in ME – weakling that I am.)

And,

“In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart – I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

Our God makes it clear over and over again in scripture that He is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18).

He tends to our wounds.

He is our RESCUE.

But just in case words like these sound trite and churchy to you, know that God “keeps track of every toss & turn through the sleepless nights.” Each tear and ache is entered into His book (Ps. 56:8).

There’s a Hebrew custom – the jar of tears – have you heard of it? At funerals, a tiny jar is passed around and each mourner puts a teardrop into it. The jar of tears represents the hearts that are suffering the loss of the person who has died.

I believe that God not only keeps track of the tears we shed, but that His big heart breaks for us in our suffering. And there is nothing that we are feeling or have felt that He, through Jesus, hasn’t felt before.

God is ready to do something big for you today! He’s coming alongside you in your suffering, your grief, your loss…

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God uses our experiences to prepare and uniquely position us to come alongside others who are suffering, too. The heading over this section in the Message Bible is “THE RESCUE”.

He rescues us, and then He gives us the opportunity to extend that rescue to others.

I see a rescue in your future, my friend.

Maybe it’s yours to be HAD.

Maybe it’s in your power to GIVE.

Either way, we had better get busy. There is SAVING to be done (praise the Lord)!

 

the Betsy Candle

I’m preparing for a women’s retreat today.

It’s a rainy, chilly autumn day and so my mind has wandered from the task at hand to a snowy, chilly winter day… years ago.

My first retreat.

The first retreat I ever planned and led was in February 2006, and it was truly a labor of LOVE.

LOVE for the God who created me with gifts and called me to share them with others.

LOVE for the mountains and quiet time and camp.

LOVE for the women of my church home, whom I desperately missed, having moved away months before.

With only weeks to go before gathering my girlfriends together at camp, one of them was taken away.

Suddenly.

Unexpectedly.

Violently.

Tragically.

Still reeling from this inconceivable death-blow, we gathered as planned. 25 women arrived with broken hearts and lots and LOTS of emotional baggage.

We were…

ANGRY at God for allowing such horrific events to take place.

SORROWFUL for the loss of one who was wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend.

CONFUSED by an entire range of never-before-experienced emotions toward the one who took her life – our friend, too – her husband.

Sitting in a circle of chairs that Friday night, our faces betrayed the true state of our hearts. One chair was empty and it should NOT HAVE BEEN.

Betsy should have been here.

In the midst of us was a candle – we called it the Betsy Candle – and we lit it up not only with flame, but with the flames of our unanswered questions and unnamed emotions. Intended to represent what her presence in our lives had meant to us, the candle burned quietly among us all weekend.

A reminder of a woman of beauty.

A reminder of the unpredictable nature of this life.

And a reminder to us that sometimes there are no words to express the brokenness we feel inside.

The Betsy Candle was unobtrusive that weekend – it didn’t demand our attention.

Instead, its sweet fragrance drifted from room to room, bringing a smile to one of us here and surprising with a happy memory another one over there.

In quiet ways, the flickering flame of the Betsy Candle brought to life the words of Lamentations 3:22, 23, 26, & 32:

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

The Betsy Candle is long gone. I continued to burn it in my home for months after that first retreat, but the lesson is more clear today than ever before: Sometimes all we can do is to quietly wait.

Without words.

Without understanding.

Without a clue as to what to do next.

But WITH the compassionate, loving and faithful God whose presence burns steadily within us, and whose salvation is absolutely worth the wait.