Senseless deaths. Wounds fester. Terrorists attack. Fingers point blame. The news channels sensationalize the bad and minimize the good and I wonder, where is hope? When life falls apart and I have no good words, what do I do? In order to know hope, I must walk through the suffering.
We can’t bypass it. We can’t go around it. Sometimes the only way through the suffering is to immerse ourselves in the suffering. And then call out all the fear and pain and lay it at God’s feet.
If we can read in the daytime that God promises to be with us, we must believe it when the darkness is so pervasive we cannot see our hand before us.
If he promises to be with us in the fire then we have to believe when the flames lick our skin and burn our hearts.
If he promises that nothing can separate us from his love then we have to believe him when the darkness closes in and God seems separate from us.
We must sit with him in our suffering. He’s there. He’s there when the world is trying to tell us that he’s not. I’ve chased peace and healing outside of my suffering because I didn’t believe God was right there in the middle of it. And when I leave my suffering, by refusing to acknowledge the pain I’m feeling, I leave God behind.
He’s always with us in our suffering and he wants to hear our hurts and disbelief. He wants us to rage at him because he wants our hearts and sometimes all that’s in our hearts is anger. This is lament.
The Psalms teach us to lament. The Psalms are full of how could you-s, and where are you-s, and why don’t you do something-s. But they’re also full of praises to God while still in the dark. They teach us to empty our hearts of the pain and then to fill our hearts up with reminders of God’s love and faithfulness. And this isn’t a one time experience, but it sometimes needs to be done minute by minute, hour by hour, or day by day.
Do you want hope in your suffering? Then enter into your suffering and feel the feelings that threaten to overwhelm you and then turn your lament into praise. Give words to your pain and then turn your heart to truth because what it true in the daytime is true in the nighttime.
He is a God of hope, of comfort, of peace and when my gaze is fixed on him, I don’t fret, worry, or grow anxious. Hope is Jesus. He is our hope in a fallen, decaying, dying world. I can believe in myself all I want, but when it comes right down to it, my effort is weak against the power in the name of Jesus. What if we wore the name of Jesus and felt the weight of the hope that is in his name rest on our shoulders?
But I don’t. I lie awake at night worrying a prayer, attempting to convince myself that I do trust God and my hope is in him. But my sleeplessness proves my struggle with hope.
Suffering. I’m afraid of it, but I’m learning to embrace it because I know that when I suffer, God gifts me with four things:
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10
God restores. He confirms. God strengthens and He establishes. And it all comes through our suffering.
God will restore what the locusts devour. He will confirm his truths in your heart. He is your strength. And he establishes you.
Enter into your suffering, not alone, but with him. He will carry you through and he will give you words to speak when your own are gone.
Because he is the wonder-doing God, he can turn the desert into streams, barrenness into beauty, and he can make a way of hope through our pain.
We only need to be still.
Deserts make me nervous because I can feel so lost and lonely. I search this way and that way, running here and there, but never finding what I’m looking for. I grow weaker and desperate. Panic wells up in my heart. I fear death.
Do you remember when you were a kid and what you should do if you got lost?
Stay where you are.
Let them find you.
And so it is with God. Sometimes he leads us into a desert and we wonder where he went, so we start searching for him and questioning his leading. But a desert place is a perfect place to be still.
Be still and know that he is God.
In the desert, our gimmicks and tricks for making sure all our plates stay spinning, don’t work. One by one they crumble to the ground. It’s in the desert place that we become aware of our need for God as each of our coping mechanisms dry up.
The desert place is a place to practice being still. I’ve found that in the desert place, I exert a lot more effort to do the things I normally do: prayer, church, volunteerism, parent, homeschool. Do I get frustrated when I’m in the desert? Absolutely!
But I’ve been to the desert enough times that I’m learning a new dependence on God and most importantly, how to still my soul.
When I still my soul, my eyes begin to see God working and moving. He draws me to himself when I let go of the distractions of life. He grows fruit in me. He makes my pain a door of hope.
“Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘you will call me, “my husband,” you will no longer call me, “my master.” Hosea 2:14-16
I have never regretted a desert experience. I’ve seen the phenomenon of how God turns my desert into an oasis and makes something so beautiful out of something so barren. The desert becomes a place of worship, a place to eagerly meet with God, and a place to be still and know him.
Be still and know that he is God today and follow him through the desert places. He will bring beauty to your barrenness.
Loss is a part of this life. This I know. I don’t go a day without hearing of a loss for someone somewhere. I often don’t know how to respond–sometimes the pain is too great. Sometimes the fear that it will happen to me will hold me tight in it’s grip and I will freeze.
I also know I will minimize my loss in the face of someone else’s greater loss because I want to respect those who have experienced greater losses than I.
However, I am learning it’s important to experience the pain of my own loss. Grief, however large or small, needs to be felt and experienced. A long, long time ago I lost a little one. I lost the promise of motherhood within a 12 hour period. I lost myself in the process.
Miscarriage is experienced by many, but many don’t talk about it. In a society where a baby is called a fetus and described as dispensable, those of us who have lost a baby through miscarriage don’t know where to turn and how much or if we can talk about the lost baby.
A hole was created in my heart and has now become a beautiful ache in my heart. The ache was born from the what if’s and if only’s and beauty was found within.
As difficult as the journey was up and through, it’s one I don’t regret taking. God used it to mold me and draw me closer to him and for that my heart is full.
I recently wrote a letter to my gone little lovely:
“Hello dearest love,
You were with me for such a short little time. You knew me better than I knew you. You heard my heartbeat before I could hear yours. You heard my voice and I never heard yours, but I want you to know your life became one of the greatest gifts I ever received.
How I grieved your loss. I grieved the first snuggle, the first smile, the first birthday, all the firsts that you and I never got to experience. I grieved barely getting to know you because you left after a short 10 weeks.
But lovely little one, your life had purpose. Your life had gain. It was because of your life that going deeper with God would be my lifelong journey.
Your life became the starting point for mine.
You see, I had known Jesus as my Savior for years. I had clung to the truth that God will never leave me. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt the truth that God loved me. But I was also trying to live my life for myself and giving him only part of me. I was one of those Sunday Christians and not an everyday Christian.
You changed that for me.
Because of your life…..
I was able to let go of the bitterness and resentment that had taken root in my heart.
I came to realize the depth of God’s grace to me.
I learned, again, that beauty comes from brokenness.
Because of your life I laid my plans on the altar of God’s plans.
It was not my plan to say an early good-bye. It was not my plan to always wonder if you had hazel eyes or blue, curly or straight hair, tall or short, or whether you were a boy or a girl. It was not my plan to lose you. It was my plan to keep you and to know you.
But God had a greater plan for your life. A plan to bring life to mine. I live with my wonderings and rather than be overcome by them I am overcome by the life your little life brought to my heart.
Thank-you for what you showed me about life. I will be forever grateful for you.
Wherever your heart is today, I am praying for you. Whatever loss your facing-whether it’s a miscarriage, a death of a friend, a loss of normal, or a loss of a relationship that you would know how deep God’s love for you is, even in the midst of your darkest and deepest days.
The journey up and through is doable. I hope you will say ‘yes’ to God and hold tight to his hand as he leads you onward, trusting him to bring you to life.