The thing about pain

The thing about pain is, it hangs over you. You carry it with you wherever you go. Sometimes it’s right out front. You can’t get out of bed. You can’t talk about anything else. You can’t think about anything else. Nothing can make you smile. You cry without extra cause. It’s just swelling over you and out of you and consuming you, no matter how hard you try (if you can try at all).

And sometimes it’s standing in the background. The awkward guest at a party — everyone sees him standing off to the side, not really doing much, but definitely there. At any silence in the conversation, at some little moment without warning, he shouts something. “Oh, right,” you think, “You’re still here.”

ps147Grief is like that. That permanent loss leaves a permanent pain that just always sort of hangs there. In the beginning everyone sees it, everyone mentions it, everyone tries to help carry it. But later it’s just yours. Sometimes you sort of overlook it — this picture on the wall that’s been there for years that you sometimes don’t even notice is part of the decor anymore. Sometimes it jumps out at you and you realize there was a lion just standing in the corner the whole time, and you kept walking past it. Sometimes it’s so heavy,  but you pretend you’re ignoring it because you don’t want to keep bothering everyone. But it’s heavy and it’s big and it’s weighing you down, and it won’t go away.
And you don’t know the solution. That’s the true worst part. Nothing will really fix it. “Is there anything I can do for you?” People ask. You have no idea. I just want you to know. I just want you to remember a few years from now that I have this weight. I just want you to carry this with me when it’s just there and there’s nothing to be “done”.

And the thing about pain is, until you’ve had your own, you don’t know what this feels like. Why is she still stuck on that? You think. That was years ago. It’s over now. She should be moving on by now. And, maybe worst of all, This isn’t that big of a deal. And then you get your own pain, and you grieve for how unsympathetic you were. You know of others with pain and you just want to walk up and say, “I know you’re dying inside right now! I know this is killing you. I know about the pain. I know.” 

The thing about Christ is, He always knew. He knew about the guy in the corner. He knew about the lion. He knew about the weight. He knew when no one else knew. He cared before anyone else could, and cared when no one did anymore. When you were wondering How can I bear this alone? How will I bear this at all? What will carry me through this? The answer was Christ. The solution when there are no solutions, is to take comfort and peace in Christ, and take it up again every day after.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

What’s so great about heaven

This is probably going to sound a little weird, but through my Christian life I have always lacked an excitement or interest in heaven. It’s not that I don’t care at all, but I’ve probably been overreacting to other things — the fact that many people become Christians just for the assurance of heaven (“fire insurance”); this vision I have of grumpy old men in church, trudging through life singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” and just waiting for the day we can get out of this place and away from these people and to our secret club in the sky. It often seems selfish to me — singing about all the rewards and benefits we’ll get. The Bible says a lot more about us spending eternity worshipping God. People should focus on that, I’d think smugly. It’s also maybe been a little difficult for me to get excited about — it feels so distant, and so abstract at times. All we seem to have are ideas, and lots of false ones (e.g. harps, and wings, and becoming all-knowing). I believe in heaven, I’m thankful for it, but I’ve never been one to dwell on it much.

heb13However, for some reason over the last few years, thoughts of heaven have started to force themselves on me. The ideas I read in scripture stick in my heart, and at just the right, healthy moments, they pop up. When we returned to America after our first few years overseas, for example, and I sadly realized we no longer fit in either place perfectly — my mind said, “You’re citizenship is in heaven.” Hm. I hadn’t really appreciated what that meant before.

I’m beginning to understand why people like to think, talk, and sing about heaven. I’m beginning to get what’s the big deal about it.

Imagine if this was all there was. Imagine if this was the best and the worst. You have these 80 years, give or take, and then – blackness. And what if you spent them in pain? In agony? What if you spend them childless? Cancerous? Homeless? And all that longing, all that aching, never had a hope. If it doesn’t get better now, it’ll never get better. If you don’t make this right, it’ll never be right.

Sometimes we feel like this is true. But for the follower of Christ, this is not true.

You do have hope.

Yes, you have hope that God will change your circumstances while on earth. He answers prayer and does amazing things. He has a plan for your life. But more than that — you have a standing hope and assurance that the end of the story is perfect. When you find your aching heart wondering, “When will this go away? When will this get better?” You have an answer: when I die or Christ returns, this will go away and get better. In heaven, it will be better.

Heaven is real, in time and place. It’s not just a nice idea. Your deepest longing will be fulfilled. Will you have the baby you didn’t have on earth? My understanding of scripture says probably not, but you will have your longing filled. Your aching will stop. Your joy will be full.

This is an amazing thought for us — most people and religions lack this concept (and all lack the assurance — some have the idea of a heaven, but don’t know if they’ll go there). My heart breaks for them. What a painfully hopeless life!

…That’s a tangent for another day. Today I want to encourage you to think about and grow your appreciation for heaven. We should have a balanced view — not living a life that is “so heavenly-minded that it’s no earthly good,” as I once heard a professor say. The Christian has heaven to look forward to, but a purpose to live on earth. Don’t check out yet. But if you’ve never allowed yourself to meditate on and accept the comforts of heaven, start opening your heart to it. Pray for a better understanding and a realistic hope.

Below are a few things (of many!) scripture says we have to look forward to in heaven. Would you take the time to appreciate what they really mean for you, in real life, today?

A citizenship and belonging – But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” -Philippians 3:20

A glorified, healed body – “…Jesus Christ, who will transform four lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” -Philippians 3:21

A beautiful, permanent home to live in – “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” -John 14:1-2

Endlessly worshipping the Lamb with all believers from all times and places – See Revelation 5:9-13

Comfort for your pain and mourning – He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

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Who is going to heaven? Not the good people or those who had hard lives or deaths. Not the well-meaning, well-liked, or hopeful. If you read this post and love the idea of heaven but have any doubt that you’ll definitely be going there, I would love to chat with you more on the subject. Please message me using the “Contact” button at the top of the page. 

Throwback Thursday: The Sweetness of Sorrow

I know I keep mentioning this book, but that’s only because it’s amazing and ya’ll have to read it. I am still in Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering and highlighting like every word.

At the end of each chapter he includes a testimony — a true story, relative to the chapter’s point, as told by someone who walked a certain trial. It’s a touching end to each message. I just finished one about a man who has ALS and his wife, and the awful trial it has been for them. I read the final quote by her and ran over to post about it, it is just so perfect!

ps119Just the other day my husband and I were at lunch with one of his closest friends and his wife. As we shared with them about our long, painful trial with infertility, we started testifying of how sweet this time has been, as strange as that sounds. We praised the Lord before them for how much this has grown our marriage, sanctified us, and brought us closer to Christ every day. We actually ended by wishing for them that they would be so blessed as to have a trial soon as well. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but I’ve learned (and scripture supports it) that there is probably no better way to grow in Christ and closer to the Father. As much as this trial breaks my heart and aches our spirits, I am so grateful for what it has done in our lives.

I was blessed to hear this woman echo my thoughts:

“We have found meaning, purpose, joy, growth, and wholeness in our loss. How much I would have missed if I had opted out of this season. God has had so much to give me in the midst of it. I see how intense sorrow and intense sweetness are mingled together. The depth and richness of life has come in suffering. How much I have learned and how much sweeter Jesus is to me now.”

If you don’t believe me or her, maybe Peter’s inspired words will convince you:

peter
Click to enlarge.

Reposted from: December 26, 2013

The bud may have a bitter taste but sweet will be the flower

We sang this song in small group this morning, and I’ve been thinking of it all day. My husband and I have always liked it, but it wasn’t until we sang it today that I really focused on the weight of the words. It’s another perfect trial song. I invite you to read the words and listen to the sweet hymn.

Also, my husband was leading worship and shared about how the original writer of the words had a hard life and went insane, and what saved him was finding Christ. What an amazing testimony, and it only adds to the richness of the words. The man’s name is William Cowper, and he was alive in the 1700s. You might want to read more about him.

Here are the lyrics, followed by the song… I bolded the words that really touched my heart.

God Moves

VERSE 1
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in His dark and hidden mines
With never-failing skill
He fashions all His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

CHORUS 1
So God we trust in You 
O God we trust in You 

VERSE 2
O fearful saints new courage take 
The clouds that you now dread 
Are big with mercy and will break 
In blessings on your head. 
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace,
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

CHORUS 2
So God we trust in You 
O God we trust in You 
When tears are great 
And comforts few 
We hope in mercies ever new;
We trust in You. 

VERSE 3
God’s purposes will ripen fast 
Unfolding every hour; 
The bud may have a bitter taste 
But sweet will be the flower. 
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain.

*You can buy this song and album here: Sovereign Grace Music

Psalm 23 – He leads me beside still waters and restores my soul

Psalm 23

If you feel anxiety about entering the new year in the midst of your trial, this one is for you.

I’ve been thinking of Psalm 23 lately. It probably gets overlooked a lot because it’s really famous and everyone has heard it so much, but I’ve started realizing how many amazing truths it holds that apply to our trial.

  • God cares for us, so there is nothing we want or need (v.1)
  • He leads us to calmness and cares for us, He restores us in our weariness, and all for His glory(v.2-3)
  • Even in our darkest times, He is with us so we don’t have to be afraid; He comforts us (v.4)
  • He blesses us abundantly and defends us (v.5)
  • He will bless us, His sheep, and will give believers eternal life (v.6)

Play the audio below… it has piano accompaniment with a reading of Psalm 23. You may want to read along or close your eyes and just soak in the words anew. I hope you can gain a new appreciation for this ancient poem.

A useful practice, which I recommended in my post about Psalm 33, is to choose a Psalm to add to your normal Bible time, and read the same one every day for a week (or longer, if you wish). This helps me to really catch everything in the Psalm, appreciating each part and be able meditate on it more thoroughly. You may want to do that this week with Psalm 23.

valley