I Still Grieve (But I Understand Grace)

‘Who gathered this flower?’ The gardener answered, ‘The Master.’ And his fellow servant held his peace.”

It was November 13th, in the year of our Lord 1999, was unlike any day I have ever experienced. A beating with a baseball bat would seem preferable. On this cold afternoon, hell was unleashed on my wife and me. What we encountered was soul-wrenching and profoundly tragic.

Perhaps a parent’s worst nightmare is the loss of a child. On this day we lost Elizabeth Grace. She was stillborn, which is rare these days– or so I have been told. She entered this world fully formed, a beautiful baby girl. Today, she would have been 24 years old, and maybe married, planning a family of her own?

“But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

2 Samuel 12:23, (When David’s newborn son died.)

Our loss was grievous, but we are not unique.

Plenty of families have suddenly lost a child. I can truly commiserate with them. Somehow we are connected in a perverse way. It seems like an exclusive club, that requires a secret handshake, or something. Suddenly without warning, you are thrown into personal chaos, and very little is remotely decipherable, even to a believer.

The book of Ecclesiastes that there is a definite “time to mourn.”  Matthew tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn.” He does go on to say. “for they shall be comforted.” This comfort is available for any who chooses to take it, but you can refuse it if you really want to.

Grief unites us all, but Jesus loves us infinitely.

I can’t imagine meeting life without his care and comfort. He has been outstandingly gracious to this family. Sure there was pain, but there was also tenderness and a kind grace. Still, sometimes it may have felt like a “kick in the head.” (But I assure you– it was grace.)

What I still can’t understand is simply this. What would it have cost God to allow Elisabeth to live? I mean, what ‘skin off His nose’ would’ve it taken to let her live? To this day I still have questions, but I have decided to trust. (I trust Him after all, to save my soul.)

Those who have suffered will comprehend and grasp, the noxious environment of grief and loss.

But we can only take what we are dealt. The sadness is there, but so is His comfort. Make no mistake, His love matches (and even exceeds) the pain and the loss of a child. Truly, God is wonderful and He is good.

I do know that He loves me, a weirdly rascalish, struggling disciple. He holds me close to His precious heart, and I will have no other gods except Him. I will not take up umbrage with Him on this. But I must believe that someday soon, I will truly and completely understand this.

Lynn and I celebrate her birthday every year.

 

Learning Pain. Ten Steps.

How do you handle the pain as a believer–the physical kind especially? What do you do when you want to curl up in a ball and just want to disappear? Please understand that pain isn’t in God’s original plan, it’s entered our world through human rebellion and sin. We who hurt must be aware of this.

Pain isn’t normal, but yet–it’s very much real. Too much. There are 10 things you really must consider right now.

First, I need to tell you this. There is pain that at times you can’t even imagine how you are going to handle another day. And the doctors have the audacity to tell you point blank, that you need to get used to it because it’s never going to get better. So now you must sort things out–as outside of a miracle, it’s only going to get worse.

Often there will be little help or counsel from other Christians. What do you do as a believer in Jesus? What will your discipleship look like now?

Here are ten thoughts that come to my mind. They’re not in any order, so don’t look for one.

One–Treat false humility as a worse disease than you’re facing physically. You’ll be very tempted to milk out your pain for all its worth. You’ll try to take advantage of others, and you’ll want to complain, and put yourself in the best possible light. But pain and ego were never meant to mix–especially as a disciple of Jesus. Renounce it now. Turn from it constantly. It will always be an issue, to one degree or another.

Two–Never find fault with God. He’s not to blame no matter what the evil one tells you. The Father loves you, and he will carry you all the way through this. Satan always tells lies. You must take a stand against him. Put on your armor! Super-glue Ephesians 6:19-18 into your thought life–and never let go!

Three–You can never lose track of eternity. My special verse is Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Please keep this front and center. It will help!

Four–You’ll start to learn to see others differently. There’ll always be another believer who has it worse. Think about them, and all that they must deal with. It helps a lot. Also, you’ll discover that your pain will be like new glasses for spiritual astigmatism. You’ll see things much clearer now.

Five–Your walk will deepen. You will learn to be joyful when all you want to do is cry. The littlest things become a cause of great joy. God values your singing more now, especially when you’re singing out of excruciating pain. Your songs are now more precious to him. The Word, and worship music, seem to be more meaningful. Surround yourself with music (and preaching too) that builds you up.

Six–You will discover the art of blending pain into your discipleship. Sleepless nights become diving boards for prayer, reading, and worship. You’ll change and deepen, and that’s always good. There’s something that can only be burned into you by pain. Also, be open to brand new ways of ministry now. Look for doors to open up. They are maybe different than you think.

Seven–You’ll discover that there can be solace in medications and treatments. I know that this is something really practical, but a handful of Motrin or other pain meds will become a special delight and something to look forward to. Also, listen closely to your doctor and therapist. Pray for them, pray they’ll have special wisdom for your situation. (And let them know you are praying for them. They need your encouragement too.)

Eight–You start to see that you’ll never be able to do this alone (and man, do you know it). God is giving you a gift. He’s designed to connect this way with others. You’ll also start to see people less in terms of their giftedness or ‘rank’ and more in the light of what they’ve had to endure. As you begin to see pain and sorrow as special friends, they’ll often show you who your true brothers and sisters are. They may come from unexpected places.

Nine–You’ll understand the Father’s love in a new way. Like an old-style pharmacist, God carefully measures out exactly what we need. He never gives you a single ounce of medicine more than is necessary. He’s exceedingly careful and very conscientious. Trust him. All that happens to you has come through nail-pierced hands. He understands pain. He understands you.

Ten–You must learn to laugh again. Little things become a source of real joy. The smallest things will make you laugh again. (Weird, I know.) Get a joke book, that may help, especially when you get sour and withdrawn, and maybe even mean. “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom will leave you bone-tired” (Proverbs 17:22, MSG).

Definitely, this list is not complete. I apologize, there are many others that really should be added, but maybe this is a start. If I’m missing something fairly critical, let me know.

We must be aware that our pain allows us access to His ‘careful’ grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with special abilities. I’m serious. They are now our new ‘superpowers.’

(So, move over Batman!)

You must, you must learn to embrace your pain and your sorrows. They come to us at too high of a personal cost. Don’t waste them! They’re precious and far too valuable to neglect. Squeeze them and extract all that they can give.

Also–just one more (number 11?) Be easy on yourself. You’ll find that you’ve much to learn. And that’s ok. That’s very much ok.

Here’s a quote that has always sustained me. It’s really good to remember–

“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?'”

–John Newton

A good site is Joni Eareckson Tadas. She’s a believer who has suffered a great deal and has a ministry to the afflicted, Joniandfriends.org.

Also, brokenbelievers.com has an older teaching post that may help, check it out if you want to go deeper into this–“Suffering Intelligently.”

Does Sickness Bless You?

“A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years.”

John 5:5

(John 5:1-15)

That was a long time to be sick. It’s tough to be an invalid year after year. This passage may come to some who have been thus afflicted, and we may as well stop a minute to think through their case. Christian invalids have many comforts if they will but take them to their hearts.

God makes no mistakes in dealing with His children.

He knows in what school they will learn the best lessons, and in what experiences they will grow up.

It is the same in spiritual life. We have no power in ourselves to do Christ’s will, but as we begin to obey the needed grace is given. Young people often say that they are afraid to enter into a Christian life because they can not do what will be required. In their own strength, they cannot. Plain and simple. 

Human strength in itself is inadequate for life’s sore needs. But the young Christian who sets out in obedience to Christ, depending upon Him to open the path of duty, will never fail of needed help at the moment of need.

Richard Baxter gives us his take on this passage :

“How great mercy it was to live thirty-eight years under God’s wholesome discipline! O my God, I thank Thee for the like discipline of fifty-eight years; how safe life is this in comparison with full prosperity and pleasure!”

Sick-rooms should always be sacred places for believers, as we remember that God has summoned us there for some special work upon our souls. We must be very careful lest we miss the good He wants us to receive.

It’s only those who trust Christ and lie upon His bosom that is blessed by sickness.

“Too many invalids grow discontented, unhappy, sour, and fretful. Sickness oftentimes fails to do good to those who suffer. There are few experiences in which we so much need to be watchful over ourselves and prayerful toward God. Be sure to keep the sickness out of your heart, and keep Christ there with His love and peace.”

JR Miller

 

 

 

Invisible Pain

 

I posted this recently on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog. This post was inspired by a flare-up of my fibromyalgia. One of my fellow bloggers who has bipolar commented that the pain of bipolar is also a form of invisible pain. It occurred to me then that this is a perfect post for the encouragement of broken believers, many of whom struggle with some form of invisible pain, whether physical or mental pain.

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I didn’t want to write about fibromyalgia, but then I realized that sharing my struggles with this syndrome might help someone who also struggles with invisible pain.

When someone breaks a leg, suffers a severe burn, or is covered with cuts and bruises it is easy for people to see what is wrong and to sympathize. But the pain of fibromyalgia is invisible pain. From the outside, the person suffering from the pain of fibromyalgia looks just fine, and so people don’t understand what they are going through.

It is also an unpredictable pain with no easily determinable cause or trigger. One day you feel just fine and you wake up the next day feeling like you got run over by a freight train. I’ve gone for months feeling fine, with very little pain, then suddenly every muscle in my body aches, and certain movements cause sharp pains in my legs, arms, and neck.

I try to figure out why.

I’ve had doctors give me conflicting theories of what causes this pain, and I have read conflicting theories as well. One doctor told me it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Another has told me it is caused by what I eat, by an inability of my muscles to process sugar that results in toxins in my muscles.

Another suggested it is a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that stems from some early trauma. I had also read that there was a strong link between fibromyalgia and Epstein Bar Virus (or mononucleosis), which I had when I was in junior high. Finally, I have read that it is simply hereditary.

The pain of fibromyalgia is truly invisible.

There is no medical test that shows whether someone has fibromyalgia. There is a “tender point” test in which the doctor checks 18 designated tender points on the body and if 11 or more are tender to the touch a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made. But even that test is somewhat subjective.

All my life I have felt pain in circumstances where someone else thought I shouldn’t have felt pain. I can remember saying something hurt when I was a kid only to be told, “That didn’t hurt.” This summer I experienced pain from something that didn’t seem like it should hurt. I was at my cousin’s house in Houston and his granddaughter was playing with three pine cones. She kept handing them to me to play with, but the sharp points started to really hurt my hands. I said I didn’t want to play anymore because it made my hands hurt. My sister looked at me and asked, “Does that really hurt?”

Invisible pain. It’s difficult to cope with sometimes.

But I know that Jesus knows how I feel, and that gives me a great deal of comfort. Although the pain Jesus experienced when He was scourged, beaten, and crucified was quite visible, He experienced an invisible pain, too. He experienced the pain of having the sin of the world laid upon Him and of His Father turning away as He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (NIV).

If you struggle under the weight of invisible pain, take heart that you are not alone. Christ understands your suffering and your pain. You also have fellow Christians who understand what you are going through. The apostle Peter provided for us who suffer a wonderful encouragement in his first epistle:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 

1 Peter 5:6-11 (NIV).

Satan would love to devour us in our pain, to make us fall and cease to be of use in God’s kingdom. But if we cling to Jesus, and cast all of our fears and anxiety on Him, He will help us to defeat Satan’s plans.

If you are struggling with invisible pain and feeling like you are at your wit’s end, leave me a comment and I would love to pray for you. It would be a blessing to me to be able to ask our Lord to strengthen you and give you peace and comfort so that you might be enabled to stand firm in your faith. Would you do the same for me?

ysic, Linda K.

 

 

 

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