Ginger came through the door of the Boylston Home with a 14-year-old sullen look on her face. She slumped in a chair and glared at me and her social worker. I was amazed at how many 14-year-old girls we had come through the doors. Did you know that being 14 is a very difficult age especially for girls? The hormones are raging! They’re trying to figure out who they are separate from their families, and life is very difficult at that age! She had been brought in as an intervention between home and some other place where social services was going to place her. She was absolutely NOT happy about being there. As we talked our way through the initial interview, when I mentioned the fact that this was a home where we believe the Bible and where we attend church, she angrily protested that she wanted nothing to do with religion, that we were not going to make her believe our stuff.
I immediately agreed with her because Christianity is not just a religion, it is a way of life, it is an understanding of who Jesus is. Nobody can force true belief on anyone else! Only God can touch a heart and help them to see and understand their need for Him. Jesus does say “no man comes to the Father but by me (John 14:6).” We continued to talk and the social worker told her quite simply she had two choices, stay with us and comply for the three weeks or she got to go spend some time in a much more restrictive placement. She really did not want to go there so she grudgingly accepted the terms of staying with us.
We always gave a Bible to every girl who came through the doors, so we gave her one. She took it almost like it was going to bite her and set it on the table. As those three weeks progressed she would comment on and off about how stupid all this stuff was and that nobody was going to make her believe it. We quietly agreed with her, it wasn’t up to us and that we simply were giving her truth and information that she was fully responsible to choose to accept or reject on her own. The night before she left, she was packing up her things and I glanced into her room to see how things were going. She was nowhere near as angry as she had been when she first came in and she had settled into a routine and realized that we really did care about her and was actually somewhat upset about moving on. We chatted for a bit and then I left her room. When I went downstairs, Brittany, the house parent’s daughter, came up to me and said, “I’m really feeling led to give Ginger a Bible.”
I curiously replied, “Well that’s interesting because we already gave her one, but if you’re feeling that strongly about it then you go right ahead, maybe she’ll give it to somebody else.”
The next morning was a set for her goodbye party. Whenever a girl left the home, if we could anticipate her date and time of leaving, we took time to go around the table and talk about and encourage the characteristics that we had seen in her life, areas where she demonstrated solid character and growth and areas where we felt that she was gifted and could do things that would make a difference in the world. Most of the girls came to us completely crushed by life and we wanted them to leave knowing that they were specially created by God and could do great things for Him if they chose to follow Him. And we would usually give her some things to take with her.
Ginger was laughing and enjoying the party and opening the gifts. However, when she opened Brittany’s gift, her eyes grew wide, and she dropped it on the table like it was a snake and gasped, “I can’t believe this!” Brittany gently said, “Open the front cover, I wrote a little note in there for you.” She reached out with a trembling hand and opened the cover and looked inside and then snapped it shut immediately, staring almost wildly at Brittany and then at me, she exclaimed, “What in the world! I can’t believe this! This is just too freaky! This is like, Beyond unreasonable! What …….she trailed off, “I can’t hide it, How did you know?..
We were all completely baffled by her response and I asked, “Ginger? You’re going to have to explain yourself, what’s going on?”
She looked at us with this strange expression of disbelief and stammered, “I tore up the Bible you guys gave me last night and threw it in the trash because I told you I wasn’t going to believe this stuff and God’s not real and I certainly wasn’t going to take it with me!! And here it is in front of me completely intact!!! The exact same color and everything…. same style…the same Bible….that’s just beyond weird. What is even crazier is knowing that I tore that other one apart and then reading what Brittany wrote inside here is insane.”
I asked her what Brittany had written. She read, “A Bible that’s falling apart belongs to someone who is not.”
I could not help smiling as I thought about how God had made Himself and His Word powerfully real to her and every other person sitting at the table.
I asked, “Well Ginger, are you going to tear this one apart too?”
“No way!” she retorted “I can’t! This is too crazy! This is too real. I guess I need to take this a little bit more seriously than I did.”
I agreed with her, “Yes, God has gone out of His way to make sure that you knew that the Word of God could not be destroyed in your life and He has something He wants you to do with your life for Him will you read it now?” She promised she would.
God’s Word will stand forever. The Bible will prevail, and you can trust it. More importantly, I loved that all the other girls were sitting there watching what God had just done in her heart to help her realize that His Word is real, and He is real.
1 Peter 1:24 The grass withers. The flower fades, but the Word of our God endures forever!
I have so many dear friends who are going through such deep waters right now. My heart aches for them as they deal with death and cancer and loss of other ones. it makes me thankful that I know the Incredible God of Comfort who has comforted me, (2 Cor 1) can comfort them. As believers we sorrow not as others, but we do sorrow. One of the greatest comforts to me when my father died was the verse, “Jesus wept.” We have an intercessor who knows our grief! He is touched with the feelings of our weaknesses and prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. Roms 8:26 And we weep with those who weep! Ecc. 3. We wonder why we, or those we consider dear, go through hard things. It is because when we are broken our light shines to others around us who need to see Jesus. His light then enters into their hurting places and gives them peace that passes understanding! My friends are doing this! Shining radiant lights of Christ in their broken places!
When I was a student at the NBBI, one Christmas my roommate gave me a Precious Moments bell as a gift. I loved that bell and I put it in a prominent place on my dresser. This cute little clown on a roller skate upside down just spoke of joy and for most of my life, I have had that interior sense of adventure. I love music, I love going to new places, I love experiencing new things, I love being with new people, I love the fun of friendship and adventure. One day when I wasn’t paying attention I was moving some things across my dresser too quickly and knocked that bell on the floor and it shattered into a thousand pieces. As I began to clean it up, getting ready to throw it away, I noticed the back piece had not broken. It was still intact, and it said, “Our life will always be in balance when we keep our eyes on Him.” I knew right then I needed to put that bell back together and keep it for the rest of my life. Like another Precious Moments figurine, it has a prominent place wherever I have lived because of the lessons that it taught me. First of all that we have to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross; despising the shame. (Heb 11:1) Being broken, we shine out the light that is inside of us much more effectively than we ever would when we aren’t broken. The light shines through all the cracks in our armor. Then people want to know what that light is inside. Doctors and nurses need Jesus too! Paul said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.” (Phil 3:10.) We all want the power of the resurrection. We do not want to embrace the fellowship of suffering! But things happen in us when we suffer. You don’t get to really know someone till you walk with them in pain and suffering! God in His faithfulness breaks us so that we are more effective in shining His glory and His light to the world than we would be if we kept our nice neat perfect life intact. We have to be willing to deal with brokenness and let it change us and the process that it takes for God to put us back together when our lives are shattered. When he’s done we might look at it and think it’s not perfect anymore but He has put it back together in a way that allows the light to shine for the world to see. “Most gladly, therefore, will I glory in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9-10) But let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God. But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy–acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:4, 15 AMP)
“Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. “Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock. The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level. Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord, We have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Lord, You will establish peace for us, Since You have also performed for us all our works. O Lord our God, other masters besides You have ruled us; But through You alone, we confess Your name. O Lord, they sought You in distress; They could only whisper a prayer..(Isaiah 26:2-4, 7-9, 12-13, 16 NASB)
This is a true story that happened probably 15 years ago. It is one I love being constantly reminded of and so I kept a visual.
When I was teaching in Greenville County, I taught students who had emotional struggles that made it difficult for them to learn. It took a great deal of emotional energy and spiritual courage to work with them every day and help them grow and learn. I often left my house at 6 in the morning and never got back to it till 7:30 or 8 at night. One thing I did learn early on was I had to leave school at school because with that kind of intense work you can’t take it home, so when you get home you choose to rest.
One particular day when I was especially exhausted I came home to find a problem on my front porch. I generally like most critters but there are some critters I’m not friends with….wood-boring wasps would be one of them. As I stood at my door getting ready to unlock it, I happened to glance up and saw this wasp nest that I have pictured here being built in the corner of my front porch. I looked at it and literally said, “Lord I’m exhausted, you said you would be my father, I need you to take care of that wasp nest. I’m too tired to even play with it and I just don’t have time to go buy wasp killer right now.”
I didn’t give it much thought. I just went in the house went about my business getting supper, went to bed, and slept. The next day I got up and took off for school, worked all day and came home again just as tired.
Out of curiosity I glanced up in that corner thinking I wonder…. and when I did, I saw this Giant spider….to this day I wish I had taken a picture of him….well he may have been a she… I didn’t get the pic…., but he/she was probably a solid half inch across just in the body, forget about the legs. He really was one of the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen in North America ( I have to say North America because I was born in Ethiopia…. we saw big spiders there.) As I stood there watching him I said.. “Really Lord? First the wasps and now a spider? Is my house going to be overtaken by insects?”
And then I stopped and watched more closely. Proverbs talks about going to the ant and watching the insects and learning from them. As I stood there and watched, I realized the spider had methodically built its web so that it completely encompassed and enclosed the wasp nest. That spider was after those nasty wasps. Up until that moment, I had not thought about the fact that spiders eat wasps. I learned something new that day! Within a couple of days all of the wasps were gone and with them, so was the spider. I took the nest down to keep as a reminder!
More importantly, I learned a lesson about God and His care for us. He really does command His little creatures to do what He wants them to do. It reminded me of a story I read once of a man who was in enemy territory somewhere in the world and he was trying to escape for his life and as he ran he saw a cave, so he ducked inside the cave hoping to elude his pursuers. As he lay there hunched in the corner gasping for air praying and begging God to spare his life, he noticed a spider building its web across the entrance. He immediately thought, “Well that’s pretty ridiculous how flimsy is a spider’s web? That’s not going to stop them from coming in to get me!”
But like me, he was too tired from running to do anything about it, so he laid there and watched the spider. If you’ve ever taken the time to watch a spider build its web it’s truly fascinating… I have.
But I digress,… several minutes later the enemy came running, saw the cave and started to come in to check and see if he was in there. But they immediately stopped when they saw the spider’s web and said: “he can’t be in there, he would have broken the web.” So they went on their way. He waited a long time and then was able to get out and escape and tell the rest of the world this amazing story.
Do you watch the little creatures around you? Do you know God has lessons He wants to teach you through them?
My lesson that day was that God truly does take care of his own, He knows our frame He remembers that we are dust Psalms 103:14. He is Our Redeemer our Father and husband as Isaiah 54 talks about. And He is the Good Shepherd who takes care of His sheep. Ps 23, John 15
What’s really sweet is that He cares about the little details of our lives as well as the big ones. I never would have thought He would have taken care of my wasps for me. but on that particular day, He truly understood how weary I was and how much I needed to know that He was going to take care of all of my needs. It reminds me what an incredibly patient caring loving Father we have!
“It’s yours really it is!”
“No I don’t believe you, I think you are wrong!” Those words still echo in my mind years later when I think of this story that happened in 1994. I remember the date because I have it written on the bottom of the figurine and who gave it to me.
In the years that I was working at Boylston Home, I had lots of adventures with the girls. All of them were wisdom developing experiences.
One spring afternoon Jada came bouncing in the door from school with a beautiful little Precious Moments figurine in her hands. She pranced up to me with a delighted look on her face and proceeded to hand me this little figure with joy. I said “thank you dear, but where did you get this?” My heart was already sinking because Jada was known for having slippery fingers and coming home with things that did not belong to her.
“It’s for you Miss Ruth! I got it for you!” She gushed happily, pushing the figurine into my hands.
I asked her again, “Where did you get this?”
“I got it at school, Miss Ruth. It’s for you! I got it for you!” She was not to be discouraged.
“Are you sure are you telling me the truth or Did you steal this from someone?” I was sure I was going to have to take her to someone again and make her give it back..
“No, no! I got it for you honestly I did.” She was starting to look a little crestfallen at my continued questioning.
“Jada, I’m sorry I can’t believe you. You’ve taken things from people before that weren’t yours and I’m afraid you might have stolen this too. I have to call your teacher and she going to tell me where you really got this from so you need to tell me now.”
She barely paused but firmly reassured me, “Yes, Miss Ruth, yes ! I know you like precious moments, so I got if for you honest!”
I walked away from her with a heavy heart knowing that she had probably stolen it wondering “how am I going to deal with this? I’ll try to give her the benefit of the doubt and I will call her teacher tomorrow.”
The next morning I called the teacher.
“Hello, Miss Smith? I’m sorry, I hate to bother you, but you know how we have this history of Jada taking things that don’t belong to her? Well, last night she came home with a Precious Moments figurine. It’s really cute and I have no idea where she got it from can you help me out?”
“Yes Ruth, I would love to tell you what happened with that. Jada knows we have a prize box and a month-and-a-half ago I brought in that figurine and put some high points on it because it has value. Jada took one look at it and she said, “I know Miss Ruth loves Precious Moments, I’m going to earn that figurine for her!” She spent the entire month earning the points, by good behavior, by working hard, by doing everything that she was supposed to do and getting along with her classmates so she could “buy” that from the prize box for you. That figurine is really yours! I have been very proud of her effort and you can be as well!”
I wanted to crawl under the table where I was sitting. Not only had I misjudged this young girl. I had completely missed how deep her love was for me that she would sacrifice her earnings for an entire month, not tell me about it and not pick something for herself, but pick something to give to me! My mind immediately goes to a couple of different verses when I think about this situation. “No man knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person ” (I Corinthians 2:11). and 1 Corinthians 13 where it says “love keeps no record of past wrongs” and, “thinks no evil.”
When Jada came home from school that day I sat down with her and asked her forgiveness for thinking evil of her and wrapped her up in a hug thanking her for her incredible young sacrifice for me! Needless to say, that figurine has always had a prominent place everywhere I have lived and worked to remind me never ever to misjudge a student/child until I knew all the facts! Many times since then I’ve had other situations where, because I took the time to stop and ask all the questions, I was able to save those students the grief of being misjudged by an adult. In one case because I asked all the questions first and was willing to ask forgiveness of a student it saved another student’s life. But that’s a story for another chapter.
This is the first part of the chapter I wrote that is published in Endurance going the distance. If you want to read more feel free to order a copy of the book here. Endurance: going the distance from the valley to the mountain.
Hebrews 10:35-36 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great recompense of reward. For you have need of patience, so that after you have done the will of God you might receive the promise.
Ruth E. Meed BA MAT MS
I keenly remember the unusual extreme anxiety that gripped my chest. The unexplained pain in my back would not ease. The desperately itchy rash covering my body had not subsided with the doctor recommended medications. I was alone, pacing my house, praying, with no answers to handle the pain and itching. As I did, a sudden shock wave of electricity started to burn its way from my neck down through my left arm causing it to curl and stiffen up until I could not move it anymore. This searing sizzle continued down my left side to my leg which then also curled up, then across to the right leg which instantly froze. I collapsed into a chair because I could no longer move and all my muscles were tightening up to complete rigidity. I had just three fingers of my right hand still moving and I used them to dial 911. This began the story of the last seven years. I was getting no answers from the medical professionals. Two days later the paralysis happened again, this time my entire body froze for 20 mins. I was conscious but unable to move. Doctors varied from saying something was very seriously wrong with me to telling me I had a self-created mental problem. I had no answers, I had no hope medically. I was getting weaker and sicker and helplessly wondered if I was dying. I had to hope in God or give up and die.
I languished on the couch that next Sunday unable to do much of anything, let alone attend church. I turned on the radio to listen to a local church broadcast. The preacher said, “Today we’re going to talk about storms and how you can handle that storm, so let’s look at the life of Peter and his walk on the water.” (Matt 14:23-34) He spent the next 30 minutes talking about trusting God and how sometimes God puts us in a “boat” and sends us into the middle of a storm to show Himself strong. He also pointed out that even when we fail to trust Jesus, sinking like Peter, He still reaches out to help us the minute we ask Him. I felt in that moment like God in His kindness had reached down to personally encourage me.
When that broadcast finished, another service came on. This next pastor said, “Folks, I want you to turn in your Bibles to the passage in the New Testament about the storm on the Sea of Galilee and today we will discuss how we deal with storms by looking at Peter’s walk on the water…” I nearly gasped aloud realizing that My Loving Shepherd had providentially orchestrated both of those messages, one right after the other, to encourage me to trust Him when I had no answers.
After lunch, I listened to the morning service from my church. My pastor was reviewing what he had covered so far in Isaiah. He repeatedly rehearsed the theme of Isaiah ‘Trust ye in the Holy One of Israel alone, for He only is salvation.’” He related this concept to how we deal with troubles in our lives. “We can be distressed. Life can be full of questions and hard things, but we can always trust the hand of our Loving Father to guide us THROUGH them.” I lay there basking in the feeling of those healing Words washing over my soul. The almost palpable hug from God, assuring me He was walking with me, through these three messages from three different sources over four hours’ time, could not be mistaken. My Loving Lord in His Sovereignty had orchestrated that day’s programing to tell me that I could trust Him in this storm.
That was August 2010. By January 2011, I could no longer walk, or balance myself. I could not think straight to read or write. Something was very wrong. The doctor told me there was nothing more she could do and to pray that my body would get better.
Misconceptions about Grief and some Biblical practical thoughts.
A dear friend who has suffered greatly and is now helping others like 2 Corinthians 1 tells us, to comfort, posed a question on FB this week. “What is the greatest misconception of grief that you have experienced?”
In a matter of minutes my mind came up with this list based on the things I have seen, read, heard and personally experienced. I only listed them there, so I want to take the time to develop the answers to each of these Biblically, hopefully for your encouragement and practical use. If enough people express interest I will work on developing a pamphlet that you can order from me.
These are listed as they came to mind so there really is nothing special about the order. The goal is to supply some key principles to consider when talking to others about their grief. It is likely not completely exhaustive, but it is a good place to start with the common things folks have encountered.
- People think they can determine how you grieve is based on how they do.
The Holy Spirit knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust (Ps 103:14) and because He knows us, He also knows how we handle suffering. If we look at how Jesus handled Mary and Martha in John 11: over the death of their brother, we see very quickly that He dealt with these two ladies differently based on their personalities. Martha was immediately questioning and talking so Jesus answered her according to her words. Mary was much quieter and Jesus wept with her in silence.
- People think they know how long you can grieve.
We know that Job’s friends sat for an entire week in Job 2 before they spoke “because they saw how deep his grief was,” and they only spoke after Job did. (how many of us would sit beside someone who was deeply suffering and not speak for an entire week?) Next, we see that God allowed that discussion to play out for 32 chapters before He said anything. Then He addressed both Job for his need to develop deeper trust AND his friends for their error in counseling a grieving person! I was listening to a sermon several years back on Elijah and his “depression.” (1 Kings 19) The speaker proceeded to talk about how Elijah was just on a “pity party” and needed to get up and get back in the battle. This preacher failed to consider some very important things that are noted in the passage. One was the marathon Elijah had just run in Chapter 18. He was utterly exhausted when he was attacked and threatened by Jezebel. That is when the devil is most likely to try to take us down. (note that he waited till Jesus was weak and hungry to come after him…Luke 4) More importantly he missed the key phrase where God gave Elijah food, let him rest, then fed him again with food that nourished him “for 40 days “(1 King 19.8). God knew how long Elijah needed to rest before he could get back to work. Even when the resting period was done and he was ready to move forward, God did not speak through storms and earthquakes, He spoke in a still small voice with questions. He never rebuked Elijah for his feeling of being alone, He let him speak and then when he was done saying his piece, God simply told him what he needed to do next. What is even more interesting to consider here is that Elijah was a very outspoken man, so it was surprising to see that when he needed encouragement, he did not get an outspoken rebuke from God. Instead he was given a very gentle question… We can think we are very sure how we need to address people, but we must be careful to ask questions to determine what we are really dealing with first!
- People think that your emotional scar is going to disappear/go away.
Emotional scars remain in the same way physical scars do. Like God has given us so many examples through Jesus ministry where he used physical things to demonstrate spiritual unseen things, God also gave us the physical scar to show us what we cannot see inside someone else’s heart. Scars do heal but the flesh never looks the same.
- People fail to see the deepness of the wound.
The verse I think of here is “This kind cometh not out but by prayer and fasting. Matt 17:21.” I do realize contextually Jesus was discussing why the disciples could not cast out a demon for a man. However, I think the principle applies where we need to consider that there may be harder things going on for a person grieving than we see and we need to be committing them to much more prayer.
- People fail to realize that some wounds take longer to drain and heal then others.
I had an experience at one point in my life that helped me learn this principle. I developed this terrible cyst on my back and it was in a place where I could not reach it or do anything to drain it myself. I tried to no avail but it needed to be opened in order to drain. I went to a medical friend. She did not want to hurt me so did nothing. I paid a doctor to look at it. She said “its not ready to be dealt with yet. ( it was 2 inches across and very painful.) I ended up at someone’s home who took the time to open and do the initial drain that took a couple of hours that day. Then the next days she did more and for days after it continued to drain till it finally healed and I have a permanent indent in a spot on my back from it. The multitude of applications this produced in my mind are another blog, but the main point here is that some people need more time to talk about, write about, process and work through their grief than others do. Puss needs to be gotten out folks. Some comes quick ,some takes much longer. I think there is a reason why we are exhorted to forbear with one another. (Eph 4:2)
- People think grief is a sin.
Jesus Wept (John 11:32) Nuff said!!
- People forget about God’s condemnation of Job’s friends for not speaking right about Him and why God had done what He had done. Job 42:7
- People don’t know how to answer so say nothing or tell you to stop talking.
Saying nothing is not bad. Just being there in presence and silence can be very comforting. Even Job’s friends recognized that Job 2:13 and they visually looked for the clues to see that Job was suffering.
In reference to telling you to stop talking about your grief. I will develop more in another post about the concept of biblical processing versus venting. Biblical processing in short drains puss and helps to heal a wound. Venting with no desire to understand change or grow is different. The Psalms are replete with examples of anger and frustration expressed, that in the end always turned to a desire to see and understand and rest in the Lord in a new way. That is Biblical processing. Venting is self focused and not intent on growth.
- Often People don’t realize that the loss (of an arm to use the physical visual) cannot be just “gotten over.” Life has to be approached completely differently. You simply cannot do the things you did before that same way.
This is simply practical understanding. When you lose a limb you have to learn how to compensate without it. You are never the same but that does not mean you have to be useless. The same is true with a loss. You are never the same and you do have to learn to compensate. When Paul went through things he talked about experiencing some level of trauma/trial as shown by how he was physically weak. 1 Cor 2:3, 2 Cor 12:-10. Yet even in his weakness Paul realized he could be strong because that is when the Holy Spirit stepped in to empower him. People need time to figure out how to deal with and create a new “normal.”
- The first year is not always the worst year. The second and following can be more so because all the support the first year goes away in the years later when things happen that still hit you hard. My twin was cleaning a cupboard in the years after my dad’s death and pulled a box of Sugar Crisp out and started weeping. ( and then very quickly laughing because of the absurdity of crying over a box of cereal) It was dad’s favorite cereal. You can’t plan for those things! They just happen and you have to recognize the grief, work through it to move on. I was driving on a highway 10 years after my dad’s death and a truck rolled by with the phrase “jack of all trades.” on the side of it. I immediately started sobbing because my dad was capable of fixing anything completely!
- Many forget the admonition of Prov 18:13. You cannot answer till you fully hear or you are a fool.
People need to be willing to ask the right questions before they make quick statements.
- Some forget the principle of 2 Cor 1. We comfort how God has comforted us. We cannot help someone else if we have not embraced our own suffering before God and learned how He really comforts. The bible also says the reason the Holy Spirit is our Great High Priest is because He was touched with the feelings of our weakness! Heb 4:15
- People forget 2 key principles in Phil 3
Verse :10 Paul says he wants to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. We all want the power of His resurrection. We do not readily embrace the fellowship of His suffering!
Verse 13 says “forgetting those things which are behind.” The context of what Paul is discussing here is that he is forgetting all his accolades, all he did well, and he is pressing TOWARD suffering for Christ. So those who try to quote this verse as the reason to just “get over” suffering are, in fact, misquoting scripture.
- People forget 2 Cor 12:9 we are strong when we are WEAK and God is strong in us. Suffering and loss absolutely weakens us! But in it, as we embrace our loving Savior, He strengthens us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- In this culture people think weeping is weakness. John 11:35 negates that. Jesus was not weak!
- The claim that “Time heals all wounds.” Time does heal but it does not make scars go away. Just because a scar is not visible does not mean it is not there. I can’t see your mind but I know you have one. I can’t see the cancer that ravages someone’s body but it is still there and has to be dealt with. Emotional scars are also there and like a physical scar, if it is bumped or scraped will peel and sometimes reopen, so emotional wounds can be reopened when bumped.
- Some people think you are manipulating and having a pity party when in fact you are truly confused and need time and help to process the grief.
Carefully asked questions and NOT making assumptions are incredibly important here! If someone says essentially, “I am just having a pity party and leave me alone,” that is one thing, but if someone is genuinely confused in the process of deep grief, they need to be more carefully helped and allowed to process their questions and confusion. Jesus let Martha speak her piece and then answered her. God let Job speak his piece so we all have a clear picture of his areas of confusion and anger etc. Then He answered him with lots of carefully worded questions. 1 Cor 2:11 says that no man knows the spirit of a man except that man. and only when someone states that they will choose to use their grief as a crutch or pity party can you address them this way. Most people who are grieving are genuinely gasping for air trying to survive until they learn a new normal. It is incredibly easy to stand outside of someone else’s sorrow and pass judgment. God gives grace for each person’s sorrow and He times their healing just like some folks get over cancer and others die from the exact same form. We do have to pass through the valley of Baca (suffering) and make pools of hope for those who come behind Ps 84:6 But no one can be the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life. Our job is to listen and ask them what God is showing/teaching them. Or gently ask them what they understand about what a particular verse means. Ps 54-56 are helpful places to start.
- People forget that grief is a process not just a moment.
Refer back to my comments earlier about how God handled Elijah and Job. and # 17 we do need to work the process. I have seen information that talks about anywhere from 5 to 15 stages of grief. The bottom line is that grief is a process and people have to work through the process at the pace God sets for them and we need to learn the things God wants us to learn but we have to do this on God’s time table not man’s.
- People Misquote verses like “forgetting what is behind and pressing forward.” (see number 13) The context of that is Paul forgetting his accomplishments and pressing toward the fellowship of Jesus suffering…
- Fellowship is not an instafix. Fellowship means time spent with a fellow in his ship. Ships riding in storms can’t just go dock at the landing. They have to wait for the storm to subside before it is safe to dock!
- People forget that the skin heals faster than the tissue underneath. My brother had open heart surgery. I tore my baby toe nearly off. I can tell you that the skin heals but the tissue underneath needs more time. I started walking on my foot too soon and reopened the wound because the muscles etc. were not healed under the skin. This is true in loss and grief as well. Deeper grief takes longer to heal.
- People forget that there are many ways to express grief beyond what they are comfortable with. Some need writing, drawing, talking, hiking, quietness, to name a few.
- Some People think because you grew up in a Christian home and can quote half the Bible that you know how to deal with grief and don’t need their extended help and understanding. And you should be able to just get over it and be full of joy because we are supposed to rejoice in our trials like James 1 says.
While we know the truth of something, we cannot anticipate all the things we will do when we experience it. When you learned to drive a car, you took the paper test but you did not know a thing about pushing the brake or gas at the right time or how much till you got behind the wheel, or how hard to stop or start or how fast to go around corners, or how to maneuver to parallel park. You must experience and work the process and so it is with grief. When I first drove, I ran into a brick wall on a motor bike because I did not know how to turn or hit the brake right. Now that I have driven over 500,000 miles in all kinds of weather and several types of cars /bikes, with various transmissions and axles, there are things about driving I don’t even think about. But I had to learn. In the days, weeks and months following my dad’s death I could hardly get through an hour with out gasping back sobs. Now 18 years later I can still be caught off guard by a comment someone makes but it does not feel like the “brick wall” of those early days because I have learned how to gently apply the breaks in my mind and redirect after the initial shock of emotion subsides. Dad is part of who I am, that will NEVER go away. I have learned how to embrace that while continuing with my life but that took time and understanding from those around me.
Knowledge puffs up. Experience teaches you (1 Cor 13.) You gain wisdom through the things God allows in your life. God does say He tests us to see if we will follow Him (2 Chron 32:31, Ps 11:4; 26:2; 139:23; Jer 17:10; 1 Pet 4:12) and in the case of Paul He said he would see the great things he would suffer for Jesus sake.(Acts 9:16) Suffering is part of life and we can have joy in the sorrow but the Bible does say too, that the whole creation travails in pain waiting for the adoption of our bodies. (Roms 8:22) We do feel pain physically and emotionally. Roms 8:26 says the Holy Spirit helps our weaknesses with groanings that cannot be uttered.
From personal experience I can tell you that you can experience an unusual peace and joy at the same time that tears are streaming down your face (or ripping your soul) with deep grief. It is a crazy mix of emotions that is not unbiblical or ungodly. It is the natural process of grief.
“Counting something all joy” like James 1 says, is a thought in the mind first (the word count is a mental process here) it is not instantly an emotion. The emotion takes time to follow.
These truths can be gently shared in small doses when someone is ready for them but they are not the first things to say when someone is gasping for air in a tidal wave of emotion.
Feel free to comment and if needed let me know things you think I should add.