Dark seasons come in all different shapes and sizes. As unique people we tend to cope in different ways, both good and bad. We tend to struggle at different times of the day or week. If you’re like me, I’ve long expected dark seasons to pass quicker than they actually do. I want to learn the lesson, grow in whatever it is, get over whatever the ailment and move on, and quickly. But God doesn’t work my way.
Often our discomfort with a topic (sex, rape, homosexuality, suicide, etc) can be misinterpreted as discomfort with the person. As believers, we can respond to difficult stories and hard conversations with compassion for the people who share them with us.
I don't know you. But I do know that while some families are planning their Mother's Day around church services and brunch gatherings, for some, there is no planning at all.
Children are a gift from God precisely because they are a heritage. Parenting is valuable because as one participates in the activity of it, it produces something of worth. Something that brings significance for both the parent and the child.
When something horrible happens, something that seems unfair or unexplainable, we grasp for meaning in our suffering. More than that we try to reconcile our experience with our conception of God. The problem is, if we don’t trust His character first and foremost over what we are able to see, we will demand that in all of our trials, He answer to us. This is sin.
When we face grief, the faith of Jesus is ready and waiting to help us through the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, providing the strength and comfort we need in God’s character, promises and gospel. So to understand how to grieve by faith, we should seek to grieve in the same way Jesus grieved while on earth.
He hated death. He hated pain. And it broke his heart. This story gives a beautiful picture of Jesus being fully God, yet totally human; his grieving was completely appropriate. It was 100% perfect.
My sorrow was the unexpected death of my infant son, Parker, who was stillborn after living 42 weeks in my womb. Then I imagined myself mustering praises to God from this posture in my current assignment of suffering. I saw myself with my face smashed against the dirt, struggling between breaths as I pursed my lips in praise, declaring the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord who had been our Refuge all of our days.
Scripture teaches us that suffering is one of God’s means (and I might argue, his primary means) of growing us in spiritual maturity. So how can we respond to suffering in a way that participates in that work of spiritual and physical life in us, rather than bringing about more pain and death?
For a while after my sister’s death, my family was silently labeled as “the family who had lost a child.” It was the badge we wore that made people talk softly around us and hug us too much. I hated it; but I couldn’t get away from it. When one of your earliest memories is of a baby-sized casket, it just changes you.
Untold numbers of potential, missional-city-dwellers are internalizing Amanda's murder as yet another sign that “the city” is not for them.
Yes, Amanda Blackburn’s death should move us; but it should move us toward action, not fear.
The first few months in my new home with our new calling were not shining moments. Things hit rock bottom when, in the course of one of our more spirited discussions, I laid the blame for my personal struggles squarely at the feet of our church plant.
The night he died it stormed. My wife and I were restless, weeping, and holding each other closely. I remember pleading with God in my distress, “Why didn’t you send these rains just a few hours earlier? He wouldn’t have been outside! This nightmare never would have happened! Why did you allow it to happen this way, God?!”
My unchangeable circumstances made my cries feel hollow.
"But I thought . . . " we say. And we're stopped short. Our breath is caught. And another dream didn't end well, but unwell things in us ended as a result.
The “happy Christian” means well but often only shares or responds out of their current perspective of God. The truth is, how someone views the Lord is evident by how they respond to another person in suffering or pain, or really, someone just having a bad day. However, when the “happy Christian” wants to force the good and faithful Lord upon a hurting circumstance, they aren’t doing God justice by providing the comfort that he truly offers those in pain.
The roller coaster of hoping and lamenting in times of waiting can really be exhausting. I deeply do not prefer waiting for God to open His hand to give me good things that I desire. In my current season, I am waiting on the Lord for a second child. I want to be hopeful and pray expectantly. But my hopes often seem to get too high, which I only realize when they crash down around me. If I’m being honest I am so tempted toward apathy during seasons of waiting. I want to avoid the whole emotional ordeal altogether.
This summer, the brothers and sisters of my congregation have gone through an unusual amount of physical suffering. Cancer, heart attack, strokes, sickle cell and death aggressively reared their truculent heads. One Sunday burdened by these ailments, the congregation joined hands across the aisle and bombarded heaven with desperate pleas of healing for particular individuals who were in digressing situations. Within two weeks, two people had died and a third was declared to be unrecoverable. It wasn’t long after that when a member asked me a sincere and relevant question: Should we have prayed for healing with so much boldness?
I wish I could have been there, but what comfort and joy to know that Jesus was there. He was holding my mother’s hand, reminding her of his faithful promises. He was preparing her heart and giving her spiritual eyes to see her true home. It has brought me peace to be reminded that my mother’s death wasn’t about my inability or failure to comfort or help her, but about His sufficiency and faithfulness to care for her.
Your heart grew sick
seeking your own answers.
But you, O Lord, reign sovereign over
all time; the destiny of all souls
remains held in your hands.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. Mothers are something to be celebrated, no doubt. Among the greatest blessings in my life are the amazing parents with whom God graced me. But Mother’s Day has been a major source of grief for me, flamboyantly flaunting all that I longed for and couldn’t have.