Musing on Waves of Pain and Grief

 

Well, this morning learned of news that put my dad under a new intense wave of grief.  Janie’s beloved bird Vick died. My dad obviously is under a flood of grief and loss and pain.  Sitting hearing and praying this morning God impressed on me to reflect on the waves of pain and grief.  As praying and reflecting on my father’s pain as well as others in grief including: those spending today mourning the loss of David Wilkerson, those touched by the sudden lose of Darren Boogaard (former forward for the Minnesota Wild), a friend whose mother been informed of having breast cancer that spread, and unspoken others in world of pain; that each of us encounters varied waves of pain and grief.  We live in this fallen world. Many days and seasons are calm. Other times, pain and grief is overwhelming. God knows it all.  Yet, God gave us a picture of dealing with the storms and waves.  The pictures is of Jesus sleeping in the boat, at peace and content.  He is asleep for he knows the reality, the waves come and go. Now the disciples were so distraught they demanded Jesus do something, which He did to demonstrate God’s power. The storm and waves were stilled.  God is in control. 

The truth is we live in a world restricted by pain and loss.  It confines us. We have a lot of emotion around the times of pain and loss. In that storm, Jesus did indicate that it is our faith in who God is, our trust that He will see us through. All to often we easily focus on the waves.  In another picture, Peter walked on intense waves when focused on Jesus, and sunk when focused on waves.  So, God gives us an answer when we are overwhelmed and the waves appear to be that which will overwhelm and flood us. When the waters rise, when things seems to be at a point of drowning us, God is there. Cast our eyes to Him and His victory assured by the open grave.  For He is risen.

Storms are but a moment.  Stand firm in faith and endure. Looking to Jesus and looking ahead, to what is yet to come. These waves of pain and grief are but part of the preparation. We are to stand firm and endure in faith.  Pain and grief come but for a moment.  Embrace what God has before us, not to simply endure but to walking in transforming peace and joy that is found in knowledge of who God is and surrender in faith to his working through the waves of pain and grief. Sure, He could command them to stop, but doing so misses part of what God may have in store, for there is blessings and gifts in the waves of pain and grief. Meditate on God’s creation of the pearl. Something precious born out of one creatures initial irritation and pain. Now with those words said, God placed two Psalms on my heart. If you are in pain, please take time to read and thoughtfully meditate on the words and see what God has to say to you on this day while you are going through waves of pain and grief.

 

 

 

Psalms 42

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God;

for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from thelandofJordanand of Hermon, fromMountMizar.

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

 

Psalms 69

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. Of David. Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.

I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.

For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.

For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.

When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach.

When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.

Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!

You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you.

Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.

They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.

Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually.

Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them.

May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents.

For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.

Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you.

Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.

When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.

For God will saveZionand build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.

Joy Comes in the Mourning

Holy Week Musing: Preparation on the Path of Submission

Yesterday, my thoughts went to the confusion of those around Jesus as the event s of Holy Work enfolded leading to Jesus dying on the cross as payment for our sins.  He followed the path, step by step, surrendered to the Father’s will.  As already stated, to everyone but Jesus there was great confusion. However, God was working out His plan.  Prior to Jerusalem, and every step up to Passover and the betrayal the wheels were in motion.  Everything was falling into place.  Jesus with every action was preparing both His self and His disciples for what He knew was to come.  God prompted people to provide what was needed, from the colt, to the upper room and so on, God prepared and wheels were in motion.  God was at work, but it was not always recognized, expect by Jesus, who knew what was to occur. 

This is often the way in this life.  We do not recognize at the time what God is doing and how He is working.  How God set in motions things for Him to use us to carry out His plan.  Every day this is true, and when we walk and follow in submission to God’s plan, God works so that He is glorified and we are brought to further growth.  In this, we always have a choice.  Jesus at any moment could have turned away.  Every fiber of Jesus humanity wanted to turn from God’s way, to not take the cup of the suffering.  Yet, He maintained faithful. He resisted to the point of sweating blood.  It was not His divinity that enabled that, but His being dedicated to always do the Father’s will, whatever the cost, for God’s will and plan was the right way, there was no other that could redeem the fallen state of creation.  

So the question is for each of us, what do we do as we go along our varied paths in life, do we remain faithful, or to do me make the self-focused choices like Judas?  Each step on the path is another choice; choice upon choice upon choice.  And in the ever enfolding choices, when we follow God’s way, He prepares the steps before us, even when all appearances suggest otherwise.  And when we falter and stray, there is always the means to return, and God can and will meet us wherever we are at.

Sadly, we often miss what God is doing. Sometimes we learn what God intended after the fact, sometimes we just don’t “get it.”  Yet, God is who He is. He is the same God worked to ensure all that as needed was provided as Jesus approached the climax of the cross.  God worked the ways of death to bring life.  The reason being because of love, so that what was twisted can be restored and God’s love be made evident to all.  Yet, given all the God did through Jesus, we all still miss it. We all don’t get it.  For there is no words of man able to describe the height, depth, length, and width of God’s love and ways, for we cannot comprehend.  Yet, even in our not “getting it” God has, is, and will prepare us.  God not only is patient, but delights in preparing us and surprising us in ways of revealing His love that are beyond anything we could imagine.  He revealed His love in Jesus, in the events of Holy Week, and His working things  so that everything that was needed was provided, even if it made no sense. 

For all of this, the Holy week, the expectations, the confusion, the preparation, and so on all took place to reveal God’s passion for us, His deep and abiding love.  For while we are yet sinners, he took the initiative to suffer and die, so that all who respond and not reject God’s initiation, may be made right and free from the wrath that  a loving and Holy God has to carry out. 

In thinking about all of this, no that no matter where you are in life, God is still loving and initiating and active. God always is ahead of us. He knows us intimately. He knows the deepest pain, know why we make the choices we make.   He loves, and He prepares.  Even when we choose unfaithfulness, God is there, loving and working things to the good for those of us that love Him.   Without that love, without God active in our lives, there is no hope, and only survive.  Holy week, the cross, the tomb all demonstrate the reason for Hope, for God gave all He could so the way could be made for all. This way is found in Jesus alone, for there is no other that suffices.  God has, is, and will provide and prepare as we follow the path of surrender to Jesus and respond to Him with our love and submission. His love dictates no other way.

Musings on the Incarnation: God’s Divine Empathy

Lately God has brought to my mind a growing awareness of the depth of God’s empathy. Perhaps it is related to the gifts of empathy he has given me and the ongoing awareness of deepening levels of pain. As thinking about empathy and God in relation to this season where we celebrate the Incarnation, of God stepping down and taking on flesh, being God with us it cross my mind that the Incarnation really is a visible demonstration of God’s empathy. God became flesh, experienced life in a world twisted by sin and filled with pain and suffering. Jesus ultimately suffered greatly, dying a gruesome death in order to set us free and opening the door for God to be truly with us.  Emmanuel, God with us is all about divine empathy.

Divine empathy is a difficult concept to fully grasp for often times we fail to even grasp simple human empathy.  We have difficulty at times putting ourselves in the place of others.  Yet, God is constantly aware fully of others.  He knows our depth.  God daily is aware of the pain of all.  He knew from the moment of the first choice to go against His will the depth of pain, the twists it caused.  God is in constant awareness of the whole of pain. He is constantly filled with empathy. Then He took that empathy, came to earth and entered into the physical reality of the fallen and twisted world.  He moved beyond the emotional awareness to the physical experience. He does not just know of the pain, does not just feel the pain, but experienced the depth of the pain.  God’s awareness of the pain of sin, God’s empathy, really helps us understand even God’s wrath and actions that cause many to suggest wrath in inconsistent with love. Well if one begins to understand divine empathy the reason for divine justice and wrath is clear.  God is not capricious in His actions, there is purpose and that purpose pertains to the pain and twists caused being outside God’s will, plan, and order. 

Yet, even greater than understanding God’s wrath, is if we understand part of God’s character as divine empathy then we understand better the relational nature of the Holy God.  Personally, one of my struggles with God is truly entering and engaging God relationally.  God often has felt distant and far off.  Now there are certainly experiences in my life that helped shape that faulty perception but really grasping God as one who embodies true and pure empathy lets me grasp deeper the love and know that God is far beyond one that is distant.  He is always aware of every ounce of my pain and knows full well the pain of my own choices.  Each and every self-centered action is aware of.  In fact, God’s empathy stretches beyond humanity to the whole of Creation. He knows how it was twisted. He knows the pain of each living creature.  Divine empathy is beyond understanding.  And grasping God as divinely empathetic gives a grasp of His love and awakens me that there is not a moment, not a speck that God does not know and understand.  He knows my pains, my hurts, my pains, my fears intimately not just at the “awareness” left but also at experiential and felt level. 

Takes some time during this season of celebrating the incarnation and God’s carrying out His plan of salvation. His plan displayed divine empathy and enables God with us, enable God in us, and makes it so we can approach God, as no longer any barrier for the sin and pain and twist of actions outside of God’s will is more than He could bear in His Holy empathy for our sins cause God great pain.   God’s love and empathy and immeasurable, ever enduring.  Praise the Most Holy One who is beyond our ability to grasp, for who can measure the love of immeasurable empathy that bore all so that we may be made right.  Hallelujah!