I was feeling run down, sick, and/or extra tired last night after dinner so I decided to spend a little quality time in the tub with a book. (Oh, I was multi tasking–I was also “changing my hair color,” as my 7 year old said. Cause I like color!)
Anyway I bought this book 17 months ago (for just one cent!! score!) but it’s just been sitting in my reading pile, waiting. Although I enjoy reading, I just don’t often; its takes too much time. And if I get sucked into a book I can’t stop till it is finished, and that gets in the way of my sleeping.
But I thought the time was right for this book. It’s not long; I was able to read it all in one night.
Besides, I knew the basic story and I thought this might be helpful for me right now.
If you are familiar with my story, you may remember that this time of year is especially difficult for me. And every year I get to the beginning of February and I think that things are fine. Then we get close to the second week of February and I remember that there is a certain date coming up and I try to brush it off. “Oh, it’s fine, it wont bother me this year.”
And then that date comes up and it smacks me upside the head like a bag of bricks. It does bother me, every year. I thought I was handling this well but maybe I’m not, even now, nineteen years later.
So I thought I might be able to read this book last night. Who knows, maybe I just needed a good cry. And while I did enjoy the story, it’s the perspective in it that I needed more than anything.
The basic story is that the author’s wife unexpectedly died and later he remarries. It’s a common storyline and I’m sure that many people have a similar story. It’s my story too.
What’s unusual is the ways that the LORD comforted him during these hard times in their lives–throughout the cancer and financial worries and even losing his beloved wife.
About halfway through the book I knew I’d hit on something good, something I needed to remember. So I grabbed my highlighter marker, the one I’d gotten from my late father-in-law, yellow with a door in the base that twists to open a compartment with skinny post-it flags. I flagged four passages while reading last night and putting the baby to sleep.
And because I know I’m not the only one dealing with pain, disappointments, sorrows, etc., I thought I’d share them.
page 73: “Suddenly, I saw suffering as God’s way of removing life’s nonessentials in order to reveal what is true and lasting.”
No joke! After losing my loved ones, I hold those remaining a little more tightly and try to cherish the time we are given even more. I can ignore the sticky table and piled up laundry and junk covering the floor–if only for a few moments. These can be attended to later. My children, my husband, my siblings, close friends and family . . . I know they won’t be here forever.
page 91: “Late one night when I was putting Jack to bed, it occurred to me that the times of greatest growth in my life always had been times of intense difficulty and suffering. As I looked down at Jack’s tiny form in the moonlight, it pained me to think that he too would suffer someday. I wanted to hold him, shield him from the evil in the world and protect him from any harm. Those thoughts quickly evaporated as God reminded me in my spirit that He loved this child even more than I did.
“I wanted a godly son. And if what the Bible says is true, fire brings refined gold. I stayed up that evening, meditating on the relationship between those two truths . . .”
He goes on to tell of writing a song for his baby boy, a song about finding the LORD in brokenness, learning to stand and rise above the difficult circumstances in life.
Honestly, I struggle with this. I know so many people who are hurting, truly and terribly hurting right now. I wish I could make things easier for my loved ones. I wish life were not so difficult for them. I know they will be better people for what they go through, but I wish this would happen without the painful parts!
page 132-33: Isaiah 58:6-12: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. ‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.’ “
I know this isn’t very deep (I would love to study this passage in greater depth but can’t spend the time right now!) but I’ve heard it said that some people help others because it makes them feel better. Maybe this is part of this healing that is talked about here–part of God’s plan?
page 134, “As during Cydi’s cancer treatment years, pain again had stripped away the pretense in my life. I only wanted what was real and lasting: God. When I was weary and in pain, the only thing that brought me comfort was thoughts of Jesus and His mercy.”
When everything around me is falling apart, the things that I hold to closer are things of the LORD. I’ve found comfort in knowing that the LORD loves me, that He will make things OK in the end. That He is close to the brokenhearted.
Although sometimes my cynicism gets the best of me. I know I’m not alone. A song I found when pregnant with my littlest spoke so clearly about that for me. I’ll end with this tonight. I think it’s a beautiful way to bridge the gap between the tragedy and pain . . . and the hope and healing:
Hard to Get--by Rich Mullins
You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt
Do you remember when You lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did You forget about us after You had flown away
Well I memorized every word You said
Still I'm so scared, I'm holding my breath
While You're up there just playing hard to get
You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that's not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then
Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in Your sweat
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You're up there just playing hard to get?
And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know
Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get