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

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Musing on the Passing Storms of Life

The storm this writer has been under has passed. My lungs are free and clear. My energy level has returned. So now to get back to doing the things God has stirred within me to do. One of which is writing this blog on a regular basis. So with the task of getting back on track and getting back to writing, a good starting point here is to start with reflecting on the nature and aftermath of storms in our life. God does direct us that we will face varied “storms” in life. Storms just happen. They are in essence part of the times of trials and testing in our life. Storms come of varied types and sizes but they all have impact. Storms impact us both during the time we are enduring the storm and in the aftermath of the storm. Now the number one question that comes to a persons mind when the trials and testing come is why does God allow this to happen? Now the basic answer to the questions is God is God and we are not as found in Job. Yet, God has given us more than that fact to understand the storms and trials of life. There are three key passages in scripture that help us to understand:

1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV) In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

James 1:2-4 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 5:1 – 5 (NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

So the basic principle is that the storms and trials and testing periods of our lives help us to grow and develop. Rain and storms are part of the life cycle of fruitfulness, the same in our lives. The storms and testing in life lead us into the process of ongoing purification. There are examples God has given us of this process. The making of a diamond for example is a prime example. Carbon is turned into a precious gem known as a diamond by the being exposed to ongoing pressure and heat. The same it is for us, we are brought from common to a glory reflecting God in the process of the pressures of life. Another example is the process of refining metal from impure to pure. The refinement process is again some form of pressure and heat to bring impurities out of the metal. God uses the storms in our life to bring us into greater likeness to him. Note it is not our work, but God at work in us through the storms and trials.

God works in us through what the storms or trials he allows us to experience. We are all tested in many ways. One preacher, Tom Shepard, has a sermon from Job about seven ways we are tested in storms. In examining what God was worked in my life and heart during the recent storms, I have found that there is a distinct revealing of my own limits that occur. Often times, during storms we can rely on our own strength to endure or keep from seeking help. It is a matter of self and pride and own strength. God wants us to turn to him and rest in faith. There is the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm found in Mark 4:35-40. The disciples reached their limit. They could not understand how Jesus could be at rest on the boat in the storm. They woke him up and he calmed the storm, but Jesus was perfectly content to rest through the storm. He asked the disciples why they had such little faith. So the storms and trials really show us how much we trust and depend on God regardless of appearances. God wants our focus on him. Previously, written on this blog is the article: Seven Principles for Transcending Suffering that points to ways we can grow in the midst of storm. The testing a storm brings also reveals the ways we fall short in those principles and move us to draw from the deeper. And ultimately, at the core of it all, it is about growing up more and more in God and reaching deeper relationship and maturity.

Ongoing trials

Well the announcement of getting back on track was really a bit premature.  The intent was there but the health was not.  The viral infection turned into my first ever experience with bronchitis.  The cough seems to have slowed only gradually but some energy has returned.  Currently reflecting on patience through affliction and the the need to look to and depend on God for strength just as need to rely on doctors for aid with what is needed to combat the cause of the infection.  The focus on patience is because the suffering and difficulty continue. It is an ongoing persistent suffering that can be very draining, but it to will come to an end. In this, in my mind I know that God is using this time to refine and build me up for what is ahead.  Yet, in the moment and the emotion it is difficult and many things suffer.  Yet, I know that God will show me and teach me what he wants me to learn in the midst.

SPRING MUSING: Time for Renewal and Preparation

    Well, the Spring season is well underway and some thoughts on Spring are well overdue. God did something profoundly amazing in creating the seasons. It is a blessing to live where the full experience of the change of seasons occurs. God has chosen the Spring as the time to enact his plan of salvation and give the gift of the Holy Spirit. When thinking about the season of Spring the words that come to mind are growth, new life, planting, cleaning, green, flowers, Robins, and change. God, being wonderfully creative has placed meaning in the seasons for us to learn personally, that can even help us in our personal and spiritual growth. In terms of personal growth, spring seasons of life are about moving into areas of change and growth. In moving into change and growth there are really two processes that are key elements to change and growth, RENEWAL and PREPARATION.

First, let’s examine the process of RENEWAL. In terms of this process there are really two key elements, Re-invigoration and Purification. Regarding Re-invigoration, it is really describes what happens in the spring. Things go from being dormant to bustling with new life. Trees bud, animals come out of hibernation, birds return from migration, flowers bloom, and things turn from brown to green. Two words really describe this coming to life of spring re-invigoration and that is being revived and inspired.

    Revival is a word used a lot but really catches the essence of the re-invigoration that comes with spring. Revival is about reawakening what has lied dormant. In our personal and spiritual life, we can reach a point where recognize that the talents and gifts we have were not being utilized. Perhaps there has been a period of quietness and withdrawal and areas that once seemed dull becomes quickened and renewed. The revival of spring is something that happens in the due course of time, it is not about going anywhere to stir up what has been quiet, rather it is about reawakening. Now with any period of revival, while that which is dormant becomes animated, there is also that which is new that springs to life.

The newness springing to life is really the essence of inspiration. In terms our personal and spiritual life, what often happens that while skills, gifts, and talents that have been unused become quickened back to use, often the ways that they are used can take on a different flavor or shade. Perhaps even new gifts, talents, or skills are discovered. Ideas and thoughts can come about where to go. Dreams, goals and visions are readily brought forth with the inspiration of spring. It is important to note that no real re-invigoration can be complete without the second element of renewal.

The second element of renewal really goes hand in hand with re-invigoration and in terms of our spiritual and personal development can even lead to moving into a spring phase of growth. Purification is really a key process that occurs within the spring. We even have a term for this purification: SPRING CLEANING. The purification process really has three actions involved: removal of debris, refurbishing the broken, and refining the dirty. Removal of debris is a key action because there is often things dealt with in other seasons still have remnants that need to be dealt with and eliminated. Spring is also a time when things that have been broken can be fixed and rebuilt. Spring also is a time for simply refining areas of life that need more work and polish to the point where there true essence and beauty shine. Unfortunately when we think of purification, we think of the garbage in our lives that need to be changed, the things we need to repent from, and certainly those actions and choices are key components but also is necessary to bring areas of our life into proper alignment and honed to their best condition.

The process of Renewal does not happen in a vacuum for at the same time the process of PREPARATION begins. Renewal really has to do with your own life and the changes happening within, whereas, Preparation is all about what is needed to be fruitful and productive. It is a time certainly where ideas, plans, and goals can be set. In other words, a direction for the activities related to the production of summer season and the harvest of falls season need to take place. The first action of preparation really related to “tilling the soil.” This action is all about identifying the potential areas for growth and doing work to prepare for planting of seeds. In other words, once a direction is picked the tasks that need to happen need to be identified and engaged in before you can even think about attempting to move in any direction. If there is not the early work done in terms of making sure you are headed in the right direction. Forms of tilling the ground really include prayer and time seeking God’s word and even the advice of others. The actions really describe the breaking of soil and spreading of fertilizer that is part and parcel to tilling the soil. If you head in a direction without any of those elements, the ground really will not be properly prepared to allow for full production and the optimum harvest.

Once proper tilling has been done then the time comes to plant the seeds. Planting the seeds is all about exploring the possibilities and trying varied directions to see what be the direction to bring forth the appropriate harvest. This phase of preparation even involves really thinking out the steps needed to allow the seeds to come to fruition after being planted. In our lives, it may seem that the planting of seeds really is what the spring season is about, but it is really the last action to be taken. Yet, even though it is the last action, it is also vitally important. There is no harvest if no seeds are planted. In our spiritual and personal life, if we are not active and intentional in choosing the proper course we can be less then productive.

Granted, God can and does bring about fruitful harvests regardless of our efficacy in terms of the spring, yet if we hold back at all we can miss out on things God has in store for us, if we but follow the direction He leads. The real success of Renewal and Preparation comes when we seek not our own efforts and plans but work on and through the areas God leads us toward, rather than our own thoughts.

In closing, please take time to consider what season of growth you are in and ask God to direct your steps. If you are in a spring period of growth with newness on the horizon and filled with much hope, submit this season to God and ask for direction as to what steps of Renewal and Preparation God is asking of you. If you don’t know what season your life is in, ask God to reveal it to you. If you are feeling like you have been through a long winter and wondering when spring will really come, start by seeking God and asking God to bring you renewal and prepare you for what He has ahead for you.