A Comforting Grace . . . .

“It’s hard, but God is good.”  Those are the words I find myself repeating when a friend mentions the loss of my father. Some look at me quizzically and a silence lingers as they wait for me to offer more– that I know that he is in a better place (which I do.)  The problem is, when I say anything more I find myself battling unwanted tears welling up in my eyes. The odd thing is, until a week ago, I would have told you that I was, “Doing just fine.”

Christmas, 1953

Few of us escape seasons when we find ourselves battling emotions that appear to come out of nowhere.  To say that I have been surprised by grief is an understatement.  When I received word that Dad died, it was not unexpected. Dad’s health had been declining for several years, to the point where he was confined to a wheelchair the last time I saw him.  Living three thousand miles apart, my brother Norm has been extremely good to let me know about Dad’s overall health–the good days as well as his drastic decline three days prior to his death.  When I said goodbye to Dad last fall, I knew that it was likely the last time I would see him.  I was grateful Norm was there too . . . grateful to see Dad bask in the loving care he was receiving.

That Dad is in a better place is without question.  Yet, despite knowing this, I STILL MISS HIM.  I miss hearing his voice and seeing his face light up when I came into his room.  The one Scripture that truly speaks to the emotional loss I am presently experiencing is, “Jesus wept.”  (John 11:35)

It is a comforting grace to know that Jesus,
not only walked among us, but He wept for and with us. 

This especially resonates when we read about the death of Lazarus in John 11.  Jesus did not weep when He informed His disciples that Lazarus had died–in fact He initially told them Lazarus had fallen asleep. (verses 11-14)  It was not until Jesus saw Mary* and others around her grieving, that He was brought to tears:

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled . . . . Jesus wept.”
John 11:33, 35

We talk about this in the Counseling Room.  When we find ourselves on an emotional roller coaster after suffering a loss or when experiencing anxiety and/or depression, it is a comforting grace to know that God is not offended by our struggle.  In fact, when we find ourselves colliding with trouble, the Bible assures us that He has compassion on His people. (Matthew 14:14 and 20:34; Mark 6:34)

Yet God does not want us to remain spiritually frail.  During the twenty years I have been privileged to Counsel, I have repeatedly marveled at God’s faithfulness in transforming human brokenness into a loveliness and strength that is fully of Him.  The key to that transformation? Time after time it has consistently occurred in those who embrace the Authority of the Scripture as God’s Spirit has tended to each heart.  Jesus continues to call us to Himself, offering His Comforting Grace to all who seek Him:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
Matthew 11:28,29

Yes, I still miss my dad and trust that I will for some time.  In fact, as I have been able to identify the blessing of His Comforting Grace being worked out in my life right now, I give thanks to God for the sweetness of memories that can never be taken away.

All to His Glory!

 *The sister of Lazarus who would soon anoint Jesus’ feet with perfume and wipe them with her hair– John 12:3.

Solitary Leaning ~

I have learned to enjoy the solitary work of writing.  I never know the direction the process is going to take me and sometimes . . . this may sound a little weird but . . .  sometimes I feel like I am the little dot on an Etch-A-Sketch screen.  I usually start out with an idea or two, but as I get busy writing I many times hit a dead-end.  I struggle with many “false starts” as I back up, re-think the direction I want to go, and try again.  It can be very frustrating and sometimes even painful when I find myself banging my head against a wall of frustration wondering, “How on earth did I get here?!!”  It is then that I remember and turn back to quickly pray, “Lord . . . help! ”   Invariably, every post turns into a treasure hunt as I re-enter the writing process prayerfully seeking His perspective as I write.

Over time I have learned to recognize the value of prayer in solitude – what I refer to as “solitary leaning”– as the key piece that makes whatever we face truly meaningful and productive.

Life is hard; but God is good and ready to meet us at our point of need.  He calls us to enter intimate solitude with Him throughout Scripture.  I love how Psalm 100:3-5 takes our focus off ourselves as we lean into Him as “the sheep of His pasture”:

Know that the Lord is God.
    It is He who made us, and we are His;
    we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
    and His courts with praise;
    give thanks to Him and praise His name.
 For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
    His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Are you struggling with fear?  Do you doubt His goodness because of things you regret?  Have you suffered a recent loss that has taken your breath away?  God calls us in whatever state we are in to:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10)

To “be still, and know” is His call to solitary leaning.  It is an invitation to surrender fear and doubt and the pain of loss as we trust in Him.

In my last post, I wrote about the difference between loneliness and solitude.  The core of loneliness is rooted in our God-given yearning for companionship.  In Genesis 2:18 God made Eve for Adam because, “It’s not good for man to be alone.”  The problem with loneliness arises when we become increasingly self-focused in bitterness and despair and, in the end, abandon God.

The beautiful thing about solitude for Christians is that when we lean into Him through our prayers and look to the Scriptures, we discover a waiting Shepherd ready to meet us at our point of need.  That is what I love about the word-picture in Isaiah 30 that encourages us in our failures to solitary leaning on the Shepherd of our souls:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for Him!  (Verse 18)

Such solitary leaning is a necessity in our creativity as well as in facing trials, grieving losses and remembering above all else, His faithfulness.   I find working in my garden or curling up in a corner working on my Journey Notes to be special places to lean.  Sometimes I actually enjoy being alone in a crowd, when I can sit to the side of all of the activity and just take everything in.  How about you?  Do you have a favorite time or place that you find especially conducive to do some solitary leaning?

All to His Glory!


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