Those Who Mourn

July 7, 2022

Here’s something weird that happened to me today. I have a sweet 90-year-old neighbor who wants to have her windows cleaned. She gave me a flier a few weeks ago for someone she was hoping would do the job. I made a call and what I thought was an appointment. Nobody showed up. I called the number on the flier again today. Short version: the guy who answered told me he was busy, that I should wash the windows for her myself, and then hung up on me. So, yes, weird. And, for a few too many moments, insulting and upsetting. Fortunately, I remembered that people sometimes have bad days, and I let it go.

A few hours later, I got a text that a dear friend had that very morning passed away too young and too fast. Now I’m the one having a rough day. But I don’t look any different. If I stub my toe, I’m probably going to break out in sobs. If I have to wait in a long line, I will probably look impatient. And if someone wants to have a deep conversation with me, there’s a good chance they’ll wonder why my face shows such obvious distraction. They won’t know unless I tell them.

  • If you’re having a rough day, please be willing to tell those who love you or who need to know so that they’ll understand what’s going on inside your head.
  • If someone treats you roughly, please be willing to make allowances, since you don’t know what may be going on inside that person’s head.

My grandchildren have been learning to list the fruit of the spirit, creating a perfect opportunity for me to review and remember that list as well:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-Control

If you’d asked me to name them a month ago, I would have gotten about seven out of nine. The two I think I would have missed were goodness and gentleness. Those are the subtle ones, ones that are all about how we treat others, and the ones I urge you to consider today. Please, go about your day today with goodness and gentleness, letting the rough edges of those around you become beacons of need. We have the Holy Spirit within us, equipping us to make allowances, even when they seem undeserved. We may never know the full story…

Photo credit: Fa Barboza via Unsplash.com

America

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I asked friends what they’d like for me to write about in the coming year. (It’s not too late for you to weigh in on that!) Here’s what one dear friend told me,

Brenda, I’d love to get encouragement on the situation in America. As believers we know God is in control but at the same time it can be disheartening.

Of course, she made the most important point right there in her comment: God is in control. Some have dubbed 2020 the worst year in history. I have to question that. What about world wars? Bombs dropping overhead so often that adults headed for bomb shelters on a regular basis, having already sent their kids off to a safer place? What about illness before antibiotics, or surgery before antiseptic? What about living—right now—in a place where your only source of water is a three mile walk away, and full of deadly contamination at that? (And if you Google “Worst Year in History,” you’ll get all sorts of depressing descriptions of the past.)

We have not just lived through the worst year in history. And, if Steve were writing this, I expect he could convince you, far better than I, that there have been many worse years, politically and otherwise, in America’s history.

So, my first point of encouragement is this: God has gotten us through worse.

Ah, but you might say, “People died in those bombings, and from the lack of clean water and good medical care.” Yes, that’s true. It is a fallen and painful world. I hate that. And I hate the hate I’m seeing, something also far from new. Did you go to a high school like mine where race wars began under the bleachers at the football games?

But, my second point is this: This is not our home, and there is little hope for any of us who forget that. (Cue Steven Curtis Chapman, a man who knows what heartache is, here). In pain or in comfort, we have to remember that we are not home yet. We are here to glorify God and to serve those he puts in our path. Sometimes we’re better at that in times of hardship.

Better in times of hardship. Don’t you wish we could ignore that fact? I’ll bet plenty of Bible heroes would have preferred a different path than the one God gave them. But not in retrospect. Paul and Esther and Joseph and Jesus knew God used what they would not have chosen. Ditto Corrie Ten Boom and Jim Elliot and, well, you get the picture. Even if our lives were to change into something awful, we might well be right where we belong.

Malbie Davenport Babcock wrote, “This is my Father’s world. Oh, let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), said “Believe God’s Word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it isn’t that Rock that ebbs and flows—but your sea.”

Our sea may look pretty stormy right now, but we stand on the Solid Rock, our only source of encouragement. Truth be told, that is enough.

A Brief History of Fear

The corona virus is taking lives. Is it also taking your peace? It’s so easy to forget that God is in control, and that, no matter how hard life might get, He will carry us through.

I want to share the edited version of a list someone shared with me. I’m posting it here, not to make light of the virus, not to suggest we abandon caution or cease to prepare, and certainly not to diminish our prayers. I offer it to make this point:

There is no such thing as a “safe world.” Or, seen in another way, though the eyes of Christ, we are always safe. There will, until the end of time, be disease and injury and hardship. But there need not ever be despair.

These are some of the threats that have come into our lives in the last 20 years:

  • 2001 Anthrax
  • 2002 West Nile Virus
  • 2003 SARS
  • 2005 Bird Flu
  • 2006 E. Coli
  • 2009 Swine Flu
  • 2014 Ebola
  • 2019 Measles

I’ve left out war and political woes, mass shootings, terrorist threats and economic declines. Each of us could add our own personal traumas to the list as well. But we are here. We are under our Lord’s umbrella. We don’t need to fear illness or even death. And most, if not all, of you reading this will weather the latest storm with little harm.

So, please pray. Prepare, and be prudent. But be at peace and do your best to share that peace with those around you who might be prone to panic. Never forget how much He loves us!

I was having a hard day…

New sorrows and illnesses had cropped up to plague people I love, and I was aching for them…with them…about them. I’d been there before—even written about that dark place in earlier essays. And, because the world is a fallen place, I expect to be back there again someday. I’m better now, not completely pain-free, but better. What I want to do today, though, is share what my thoughts were, what I journaled as a letter to my readers, at the time.


Dear Friend,

I am in pain over the sorrows and illnesses of those I love. I am walking beneath a dark cloud.

Do I know that this will pass? Yes, I’m sure of that. In fact, by the time I post this, my aching heart will probably be on the mend. The sorrows that assault me today may not have ended. Not all the illnesses I mourn will be over. In fact some of those maladies may have taken lives I love by then. But I know that I will reach a place of cheer once more, taking the ick of the world in better stride than I do today.

Do I see that my blessings still abound even now? Absolutely. It would be inappropriate to list them here, as we all have different buckets of blessings and are far too prone to compare. I see my gifts, though, and I’m thankful for them.

Am I immobilized by grief? No. In fact, had you been in my living room this morning, you would have seen an almost ridiculous moment of multitasking when I was working out, listening to worship music, and weeping all at the same time.

But here is what the Lord is reminding me of today (me, the author of so many blogs and books about being happy). The Bible quotes Jesus as saying, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And I mourn today. I know my God is great and loving and has a perfect plan, yet I am sad. And it’s okay to be sad. I need to allow myself that sadness, even as I recognize the undercurrent of trust beneath it. The Bible does not say, “Blessed are those who, when faced with hardship or grief, learn to ignore it and keep right on smiling.”

I’ve learned the hard way that grief is exhausting. It can fog the mind and, I truly believe, weaken the immune system. So, I will also procrastinate today and try to find a few pockets of rest where I had planned on productivity.

Why do I write all this to you today? Because perhaps you are sad today as well. Or maybe one of those, “How can the world be so messed up?” days is about to bowl you over as it did me. Don’t let anyone tell you that your grief means you will always be sad, or that you have weak faith, or that you would be fine if you would only trust God and count your blessings. (And please, don’t say those things to anybody else who is hurting.)

Stop. Just stop for a moment and look at pain with me. It’s here to stay in this broken world. We will have moments when it is, thankfully, off in the distance. We will also have times when it is front and center. We never face it alone, but face it we do. The Holy Comforter is not asking you to ignore it or discount it, but rather to let Him comfort you in the midst of it. Ache, but realize that you can ache within His presence.

Breath. Cry freely and without guilt. Rest. Wait. Trust beyond your feelings. And know that I have been there too.

Write me if you’d like to “talk”.

With joy I’m not really feeling right now,

Brenda

Photo by Drew Hays @drew_hays via Unsplash.com