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Finding God in the Midst of Pain

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Lord these past few days. My mornings begin with the One Year Book of Hope I mentioned several days ago. I have been looking for answers, and for the most part, finding them. A couple of days ago I impulsively tore out one of the pages to send to my daughter. Commonsense would dictate that I lay the page down on my printer to make a copy, but the urgency of my desire precluded rationality. A good thing; It turned out the verse on the opposite side of the page was what she needed to hear.

After delving into God’s word each morning, I pray. Yes, I have spent time down on my knees, crying out to God in anguish, but there have also been those moments of the bowed head, and the prayers of thanksgiving.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of a small boy who has touched so many lives. Thank you for the beautiful daughter who has demonstrated a tremendous strength in the face of adversity. Thank you for the man who has become another son. Thank you for the grand-daughter whose eyes search mine as she asks the hard questions, and the younger grandson whose hand I have gladly held throughout the last two and a half years. Thank you for the beautiful baby girl who chortles with delight at the antics of her siblings. Thank you, Lord, for the man I loved who now waits in Heaven to welcome Jacob home.

“Perhaps you should put your book manuscript aside for the time being,” a good friend suggested. Instead, each morning I have pulled it out and wondered at the ease of the words I am writing. Refined By Fire is the working title of the book detailing my first year of grieving. In delving into my journal and blog postings from that year it is obvious how God worked in me through the pain of loss. It helps me now to read the words I’d written in the midst of grief because then I can believe that my daughter and son-in-law will make it through what is ahead of them.

C.S. Lewis wrote “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I am in awe of the words my daughter posts as updates on my grandson’s Facebook page. Despite all she has gone through, no, perhaps because of it, I have watched her grow in faith. As the mother of a child with a chronic illness that became a terminal one, she walks tall in the Lord. She is a witness of God’s glory and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” I wasn’t sure how to respond to this platitude posted on my Facebook wall last year after David died, so I didn’t respond at all. My friend, Beth did, however.

“There is no Bible verse that says that. That is a man-made saying. How else does God get us to fall to our knees in front of him?”

Working on a book that chronicles those early days of grieving while we face yet more grief has become a balm for my soul. Yesterday I came across these words I had written;

“The first time I realized just how comforting music could be was the morning of David’s funeral when I started my vehicle and Matt Redmon’s “You Never Let Go” began playing. “Oh, no you never let go. Through the highs and through the lows.” I pulled a notepad out of my purse and wrote those words down. “Through the highs and through the lows…” 

I had never felt lower in my life. Nor had I ever felt closer to God.”            

“Look for God in all this,” a friend wrote recently. “Watch for him.” I don’t have to look far. My daughter Rachel took me to a concert at our county fair where the Sidewalk Prophets were playing. The lead vocalist, David Frey, spoke to the crowd in between songs. When he mentioned “Darth Vader” at one point, I turned to look at Rachel. She looked as confused as I was; the reference didn’t quite fit in with the rest of what he was saying. I felt a small spark ignite inside of me. Jacob is obsessed with the Star Wars movies. The singer had gotten my attention. One could argue that the odds of what he said next in a large crowd would certainly apply to someone there, but there are many other words he could have chosen. Instead, what he said was “Maybe you are about to lose someone you love.” My tears began flowing, unabashed. Shortly after that, the woman ahead of us who’d been sitting with two daughters for the entire concert was joined by two sons, one who looked to be approximately eight years old. As the mother casually slung her arm around his shoulders, I couldn’t help but envy the obvious good health of her children. At that precise moment, the boy turned his head and looked at me and I saw that he had the same brown eyes of our Jacob, of my David.

“Watch for him in all this,” my friend had advised.

I see Him.

cancer, Jacob

God’s Promise to Jacob

I was disappointed when I arrived a few minutes late to the Cedar Falls Writer’s Group last Saturday. I’d wanted to tell the group about Jacob’s cancer before the meeting began so we could concentrate on him during the opening devotion. Marcia already had her Bible open and it seemed rude to interrupt so I remained quiet, and closed my eyes. It was difficult to concentrate when she read the first verse, but my breath caught in my throat and my eyes flew open when I heard Jacob’s name in the next verse. My chest filled with tears and I could barely breathe. I don’t know Marcia well yet, and she couldn’t know about OUR Jacob yet, could she? As far as I knew, only one woman in the group knew about Jacob; I’d told Kristi in an e-mail the day before. After a couple more Bible verses, including the one where Job faces trials in his life, Marcia read the devotion she’d written, and it was as if she was speaking directly to me, and to Jacob’s family. Later in the meeting, I had my chance to ask for prayers for Jacob, Elizabeth, and Ben, and the shocked looks on everyone’s faces and the pooling of tears in the eyes of the mothers and grandmothers in that room led me to believe that, other than Kristi, no one else had known about my dear little grandson. I could not talk about it much; I did not want to start crying in front of this group I am still new to, although I know they would have been comforting and supportive. I did not get a chance to talk to Marcia herself. Later, I e-mailed a friend from the group and asked her what Bible verses Marcia had read. This morning, Jean’s reply led me to Genesis 28:10-17

What does it mean, then, that of all the Bible verses to choose from, Marcia had chosen the very Bible verse known as “Jacob’s Ladder” for her devotion that day? Pure coincidence? Dumb luck? There are those who would explain it that way, but I know better. Marcia prays and asks for God’s guidance in her choice of Bible verse and devotion topic.

God knew there would be someone in that room who would need to hear those words to Jacob; “I am with you and will watch over you everywhere you go.”

And that, my dear friends, is how God works through others.

Genesis 28:10-17

New International Version (NIV)

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”