Tag Archives: trial

A Closer Walk: Redeeming Lamentations and Grief

I have tread the stony paths of grief more than once in my life.

Can I confess, again?

I never saw any redeeming value in these paths until very recently. Grief to me was always something to be avoided at best, or impatiently endured; gutting it out at it’s worst. I wanted to move swiftly through it; to just get it over with and be done; focusing on the finish line while ignoring the journey itself.

I mean, who thinks pain has any redeeming good?

We are taught in our Western Culture to abhor grief.

Grief is seen as something with no redeeming value, and we treat it as if it were a freakish and unwelcome enemy, when actually the very opposite is true.

I know, how could grief be a friend?

I was first introduced to this idea when I read the allegory, Hinds Feet On High Places.

In Hurnnard’s story, the heroine, Little Miss “Much-Afraid” is longingly dreaming of leaving her home, The Valley of Humiliation, and going to the beautiful and majestic, High Places. She is a member of the Fearing Family, and her bullying and unkind relatives, torment her at their every opportunity, especially her cousin Craven-Fear.

Much-Afraid has recently given her heart to The Chief Shepherd, who mostly lives in the High Places, and Much-Afraid longs to go there to be with Him, but has little hope of ever making the difficult journey because her feet are crippled and she often stumbles.

She is convinced that visiting The High Places are only a distant and hopeless dream.

Well, I won’t spoil the story for you. If you haven’t read the book, suffice it to say, I recommend it highly. It uses wonderful imagery to portray many of the difficult realities in our discipleship journey.

Hinds Feet: Sorrow & SufferingI bring it up here, solely to make this point.

In the story, Much-Afraid finds the courage to ask the Shepherd to help her journey to The High Places, and He grants her request.

To make sure she gets there safely, He gives her two traveling companions: one named Sorrow, the other, named Suffering.

The first time I read the book I thought, “What! What kind of love it that?” She asks to go to The High Places so that she can be healed, and thereby transformed. And so, The Shepherd gives her these two “friends” Sorrow and Suffering?

(Friends?)

Most of us find this idea repulsive.

Recoiling in shock, or fear and anger, when we are introduced to these traveling companions with grief as our teacher?

Why would God do such a thing?

Perhaps, it is because we pray to be changed… transformed? To become more like Jesus?

So God agrees, takes us at our words, and answers our prayers.

Unexpectedly, we are introduced to “…the fellowship of His (Jesus) sufferings” and because we are, we wail and rail against a God, who would allow such painful things to happen to us!

So I’ll ask again, “Why do we believe these songs of lament will never be ours to sing?”

God gives us the truth via our Bibles; spells it out for us.

His unchanging and ultimate goal is to remake us into the image of His Son… by any means, at any cost.

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ALWAYS

Have I not told you the witness of two is true?

What does the 73rd psalm tell you? “…you are holding my right hand… my health fails; my spirits droop, yet, God remains! He is the strength of my heart.”

And My word in Isaiah 41?

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. [vs. 10]

Come, I see you struggling with doubt and fear.

You think, “I am alone.”

You are not. I AM here, with you.

Hinds Feet quoteNot for one second since all this began have you been alone. Although, I know, many times you felt as though you were.

Ah, those feelings of yours! They sometimes lead you a merry chase!

But I wouldn’t have you without them.

No, no! I want you to bring them with you when you come to Me. Always, but you lead the way… the feelings will follow.

Meanwhile, keep those lovely eyes… (Oh, those eyes!) Keep them on Me!

I AM present child. The difficulties, the heartbreak, will pass. I remain. Everything, every. thing. you are going through, is preparing you. Do not reject your teachers. Do not fear them.

redeeming sorrowI AM upholding you with My victorious right hand.

(I AM here little one.)

You may stumble…

You may even fall…

But I have your hand.

(Always.)

Even when it hurts.


a closer walkAnd this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; 

Philippians 3:10Philippians 3:10
English: World English Bible - WEB

10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death;

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A Closer Walk: Who Do You See In Your Mirror?

Who do you see in your mirror because how we see ourselves is crucial to advancing the Kingdom of God.

I struggled for years with the image of “conqueror” or “overcomer” because of my early experiences with abandonment. What my head knew, was frequently at odds, with what my heart felt.

cotton candy comfortIt’s all very well to talk about having boldness and courage to advance God’s Kingdom, but if you’re someone like me and your early years were punctuated with criticism, isolation, and rejection, not to mention a lopsided “fire-and-brimstone” presentation of who God is, it’s easy to fall prey to what I call the “cotton-candy-comfort” offered in many of our churches.

It Goes Something Like This…

If you just DO enough for God, if you just GIVE enough to God, if you just BELIEVE enough in God, or THANK Him enough, or whatever your particular brand of “enough” is, then your life will abound with sweet and painless blessings.

I swallowed that stuff for a good long distance until I discovered that it just isn’t Biblical!

The Bible speaks often of suffering and going through rough seas and dark places, and not just for the unbelieving, or the rebellious.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.”

Many very Godly people go through very dark stuff.

still I shall followRemember Joseph, alone, accused, and abandoned in a prison?

What about Gideon hiding in a winepress, or David hunted and hiding in a cave, or the Apostle Paul ignominiously hiding at the bottom of a laundry basket?

You can make fine speeches all day long about what you believe, or you can declare yourself silly with positive statements, but it is in the darkness of that winepress or dark cave, or at the bottom of that laundry basket where you meet a God who walks with us THROUGH trouble, not far away from it.

I have wrestled over and over again with the concepts of Godly brokenness versus worldly brokenness, and frankly, I believe The Church as a whole struggles with these images too.

You could talk to me about “Christ-in-me” all day long, but that overcoming-truth seldom made it from what my head heard, to what my heart felt, or my eyes saw in my mirror.

looking into my mirror

The Church’s mandate about loving others and boldly advancing the Kingdom gets preached regularly, and it should, but I believe the core reasons we Christians so often fail to carry this through in our day-to-day lives is because a lot of us still carry the cumbersome baggage from a distorted Kingdom-self-image.

That Guilt Gets Translated To Our Intimacy Issues With Our Heavenly Father

Such had been my case.

I was seven years old when my Mother decided to forsake family in search of her longing to be seen as “a professional woman.” Predominantly raised by a father who had extremely exacting standards (that I often failed to live up to) I believed that my failures were letting him down, and that guilt became deeply engraved in how I saw myself.

I was raised by two very broken people who struggled all of their lives with their own defective self-images which meant I came to the conclusion early in my adulthood that God was impossible to please.

Therefore, why even try?

God was perfect. I was not. End of story.

Seeing myself as “a reject” in my mirror had become normal.

Now, here I was sitting in my own personal ash pile with my life in ruins, thus confirming once again my faulty-self as an utter failure, and an unworthy outcast of His Love.

I suppose that’s why God’s tenderness made me so uncomfortable. A critical demanding God I could deal with, but this “Abba-Father” who wanted to come close and get intimately loving and transparent with me, with all my messy issues? No way! It was way too touchy-feely for me.

And so, I kept pushing God away.

But what about our deal?

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YOU ARE BREAKING MY HEART!

Let’s talk about this mindset of yours.

Yes, mindset, because for reasons that are yours alone you refuse to give it up in spite of what I tell you.

Listen to Me again Mighty One.

To Him I am flawless

You are not rejected by Me.

You are not My outcast.

I will never throw you away!

Why do you dwell on the past deeds of others this way?

Why do you keep returning to this pigsty for just one more roll in the mud?

Jesus robes us

I have dressed you in snow-white robes of My righteousness.

I have covered ALL (Yes, all.) of your sins and failures with the red, pure blood of My Son’s heart.

I want you to stop this now because you are breaking My heart. I know your past. I know what others in your past have said and done to you. But, what about Me? What about what I have done for you?

Enough dearest—it is enough.

You are Mine not theirs. Mine!

I decide what you are to be called.

(I decide.)

I have chosen you

Do you hear Me?

Good!

Then listen again and wrap your heart in this truth.

Wash your mindset with righteous words.

Build a new image for your mirror—one that stands on—My love.

You are not an outcast!

I have chosen you and will not throw you away.

a closer walk“But as for you, …you are mine, my chosen ones; for I have chosen you and will not throw you away.”

Isaiah 41:8-9Isaiah 41:8-9
English: World English Bible - WEB

8 But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend, 9 you whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners of it, and said to you, You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you away;

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