This is the fourth / fifth weeks of this Bible study, Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy . (I wasn’t able to post last week.) This lesson, “How Can I Go On?” dealt with some big feelings: depression, loneliness, guilt, loneliness, and fear. (I guess you know which was biggest for me this time huh?)
This lesson started out with looking at Biblical examples of expressing grief (they use “grief” and “depression” interchangeably; really, though, they aren’t.) In Esther chapter 4 we have the traditional sackcloth-and-ashes-and-loud-weeping-and-wailing thing. I almost wish that kind of thing were still culturally appropriate. What is considered normal–having a little memorial service with some words and songs and a dinner afterwards–just seems so lacking.
The study asks if I allowed myself to be sad initially, and now. I was a bit taken back by the question. Of course I have! Are there really people who don’t?? But then again, it seems that people believe that we must not let our emotions show, that it’s a sign of weakness or something. But the more I think about it. . . . if God made us and if He made our emotions, shouldn’t we do something with them? Not that we should be overly emotional all the time; but there has to be some honesty here.
I was talking about this topic with a good friend whose husband is ill; she mentioned a friend who worked hard to keep her children from knowing that Mommy was sad (etc.) while her husband was deployed. It seems to me that this would be a gret opportunity to address these emotions that she and her children were feeling, rather than ignoring or denying them. My friend (whose husband is ill) talked about sharing her hard feelings and fears about her husband with her children, and it has been a growing time for them each–individually and as a family.
I just don’t like this idea that we must as christians only be sunshine and light. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Life can be quite painful at times. We have these big, difficult emotions and they need expression.
OK, off the soap box for now. 🙂
More verses of grief in the Bible:
Psalm 6:6 (KJV): “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.”
Psalm 6:6 (NIV): “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.”
This Psalm starts as a prayer for David to be delivered from God; it is a prayer for mercy. After this verse the focus turns to David’s enemies. I love the poetry of the swimming bed. I can relate to this a bit.
Psalm 56:8 (NIV): “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll– are they not in your record?” (OR: “put my tears in your wineskin“) This is a psalm of David, written when the Philistines had seized him in Gath. Very interesting too. Why would the LORD want to save our tears? Maybe there is value to them that we don’t realize.
Psalm 126:6 (NIV): “He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” This is a Psalm from the time when the Israelites had returned to their land from being captives.
In the KJV, it says: “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him].”
So, this Bible study asks what it means by “carrying seeds to sow” and “carrying sheaves.”
The word “precious” is meshek, meaning drawing or drawing up a trail of seed.
The word “seed” is zera, meaning seed or offspring. Hmm.
And the word “sheaves” is ‘alummah, meaning sheaf, sheaf of grain, something bound; figuratively, Israelites returning from captivity.
So, if you take it in its context, this is talking about how sorrowful the Israelites were to be leaving Israel and how joyous it was when there were allowed to return.
On a personal level? I’m not really sure. Is this saying that if we mourn or are sorrowful in pregnancy, then we will rejoice when we return with a “bundle” of joy? This was true for me three times; pregnancies have been difficult and I am relieved to have the baby born.
But that fourth pregnancy was a doozy; the difficulty of pregnancy did not end with a bundle of joy. Even worse, “getting pregnant” no longer means “having a baby.” 😦
The next question is, “What must we do to return with songs of joy?” The verse says that those who sow with tears reap with joy. Sowing with tears, sowing seeds despite the tears? Keeping on going even though life is hard?
The next section of the study deals with loneliness. This has been a very hard one for me. Initially, there were several close friends who were supportive and encouraging. By this time, five months later, just a few. 😦 I suppose I could reach out to them more, but I know they are struggling with their own difficulties and life too. I don’t want to over burden them. And honestly, I am tired and it is too much effort to try to reach out to people sometimes. I hate the phone and even simple emails are hard. (Shoot, I’m doing this Bible study two weeks late, okay?)
The study talks a lot about Luke 22, where Jesus is in agony in the garden and asks His disciples–His closest friends–to stay near him and pray. Of course, they fall asleep almost immediately. They were sitting near enough to Him that they could have heard His prayers and seen His tears, but they weren’t able to minister to Him. They were exhausted from sorrow, it says (verse 45.) In Matthew’s account (chapter 26) Jesus said that their spirits were willing but their flesh was weak.
There is a parallel, I guess, to reality. Our friends are close enough to see our grief and pain and could minister to us. But because of their weaknesses, they can’t. We also have a hard time ministering to friends who are hurting.
The study points out that Jesus often went by Himself to pray and that we can do the same.
The study asks “Have you allowed Christ to comfort you or have you sought the comfort of others instead?” Seriously? Do they really think we ought not to seek comfort from friends? I think think that idea is ridiculous. Both are needed.
At the same time, I have come to realize that my need for comfort is so great that my friends cannot fill it all. They can help in bits and pieces, yes, but we’re talking a Grand Canyon of pain and a thimble of comfort. The only One who can completely comfort me is the LORD.
The section on guilt didn’t do much for me, sadly. They listed the classic verses about guilt like Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)
And Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
Maybe I’ve just heard these verses so much they don’t do much for me. Maybe I’m just too tired to really dig into them or think about them. Maybe guilt isn’t too big of a deal for me right now. I don’t know.
The last section, about fear, touched on some interesting ideas. I do have more fears now than before miscarrying. Like I mentioned above, “being pregnant” no longer means “having a baby” in my mind. A friend had her baby shortly after I miscarried and when I told my boys that she was going to the hospital, my oldest asked, “Is the baby going to die?” See, there’s this whole reality that we never really had before. I was glad to tell him, the next day, that our friend and her newborn baby were fine. But it was an agonizing day for me, too.
The verses about fear are familiar and slightly comforting to me.
Isaiah 41:10 and 13 (NIV): “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” and “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” I really like the idea of the LORD holding my hand.
Psalm 23:4-5 (NIV): “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Romans 8:15 (NIV): “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.‘”
And the ever popular II Timothy 1:7 (NIV): “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
And these are just the tip of the iceberg as far as scriptures with the message of “do not fear.” I once heard a quote about the number of times “DO NOT FEAR” was found in the Bible and the number astounded me. (But I don’t remember now and I’m too lazy to google it.)
My question, then, is how does one “not fear”? When it’s a sunny day and there is enough money to cover the bills and everyone is healthy and well rested this is an easy thing. But when it’s cloudy and rainy or snowy and unexpected and scary stuff starts to happen. . . suddenly the bad stuff is more real and scary. I know that playing the “what if” game is a horrible habit to get into and that most of the things we fear will never come to pass. And yet, looking at the different scary possibilities can help if we use these ideas to do something different or plan as we can for them. I guess there needs to be a balance.
Or do we really just need to “turn it off?” This seems too much like sticking your fingers in your ears and closing your eyes tight “la la la la la” and hoping it all goes away.
One of the classic ways people are taught to not fear is to quote Bible verses. Like I said, there are a bunch to choose from! And yes, this does help me sometimes, but not always.
Next week: “I’ve Got To Get Better Soon.” Yea, verily. 🙂