Grief

Today a close friend of mine is at her dad’s funeral, so if you’d like to pray for her as you read, that would be brilliant.

I thought I’d write something on grief, even though I feel quite unqualified to. I haven’t grieved the loss of a parent or sibling, but my uncle’s death at 57 from cancer affected me deeply. We’re told in Psalm 34:18 that God is close to the broken-hearted, and He did feel particularly close at that time. A Bible-verse that jumped out at me was Romans 8:28: “In everything God works for the good of those who love Him.” When I trained to volunteer on the chaplaincy team at my local hospital, we were told not to quote this to a grieving person. I must be odd then, but I found it a real comfort that because God loved me, He would bring some good out of my family’s tragedy.

So, my positive message to anyone who’s grieving? You’re not without a Comforter. When Jesus knew His death was imminent, He tried to prepare His friends by promising them another Helper, who would be with them forever – the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). God is three persons rolled into one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He wants to be close to you and put His Spirit in you, so you’ll have someone there to give you the exact comfort you need in your situation.

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A Lesson from Louisiana

I don’t often write a blog-post about a blog-post, but I read this and it touched me deeply.

Karina is from Louisiana, where they’ve had the flooding recently. Her home was affected and some furniture lost; her car was damaged, and not only that, her church has multiple campuses, three of which also flooded. Phew! And then she said she was single, with no close family. The enormity of the whole situation really hit me.

I’m privileged to have family nearby. If anything happened to my flat, I’m sure they’d have me to stay in a heartbeat. Karina hasn’t got that, but she has her church, and she has the Lord. Here are some quotes from her post:
“I have experienced the goodness and faithfulness of God unlike ever before”.
“I have felt His presence”.
“I will grieve because my possessions were valuable, but I won’t value them above the Lord”.

I went to church a day or so after reading this. During the worship-time, I could not stop thinking about it. I didn’t feel like singing; sometimes I don’t. That time for me is a time to be close to God, which sometimes means asking Him questions and seeking to get His take on things. I understand we all go through trials, but someone who’s so devoted having to lose so much … I kept wondering why the sovereign God – the One with everything under His control – would allow that to happen, until Jeremiah 29:11 (my favourite verse) came into my head. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I felt God say: “It hasn’t harmed her spirit,” and I realised He was right. She may have lost a lot in the natural, but in spite of that, she’s still able to say that God is good; she’s able to be close to Him, and choose to put Him first in her life. I think Karina’s a pretty special person – a reminder to us all to keep our spirits strong, whatever we might have to go through.

If she can say God is good, so can we.

Joy in the Midst

Today is December 17th. 10 years ago, my church-family had just eaten a Christmas dinner. I came back home, but that light-and-fluffy Christmas feeling was the last thing on my mind. I was thinking about Christmas 2004 – a special one because my uncle and his family came for lunch. 6 months later, after a battle with cancer, my uncle was gone. 17 December was exactly 6 months after he died, and I sat there wondering what comfort I could offer his family. That was the day I wrote this song:
Last thing at night, Christmas Eve;
Excited children unable to sleep,
But she is rememb’ring Christmas last year,
Spent with an uncle no longer here:
She’s filled with love and compassion,
As she thinks of a card with a missing name –
A boy fatherless, a new widow,
And what can she find to give them?
The words of her pastor ring in her ears, spoken in these last weeks,
About joy in the midst of unhappiness; that’s what she wants them to know:
A joy that comes from peace with God, and peace with God only because
In the small town of Bethlehem, a Saviour was born to us.

Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Goodwill to men, on whom His favour rests:
Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Hope to the weary, bereaved, and distressed
.

You may be sat, listening,
Wond’ring why someone would write such a song,
But someday you may be in the same place,
Pond’ring a loved one you cannot embrace:
I hope – with love and compassion –
That even though things can’t be the same,
The truth of Christmas – the baby in the manger –
Will take on a sweeter meaning:
The words of the Bible will ring in your ears; tell you afresh of God’s love,
Healer of hearts and the Bread of Life; that’s who I want you to know:
The One who brings us peace with God, and peace with God only because
In the small town of Bethlehem, a Saviour was born to us.

Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Goodwill to men, on whom His favour rests:
Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Hope to the weary, bereaved, and distressed
.

Jesus is the Saviour,
And I would encourage you – while you have time –
To meet Him, love Him, cling to Him;
Don’t be robbed of your joy.

* * *

Bonnie’s OneWordAdvent focus for this week is joy, and that’s what I want to pass on to you: That you can be going through the most awful of circumstances, you can be in the most unhappy place, but you can still have the joy of knowing you’re right with God – of knowing that this Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day, came into the world to bridge the gap between you and a holy God, so that you could know Him personally. That’s something to be joyful about (whether it’s a loud celebratory kind of joy or a quieter, more reflective one), so I wish you a joyful, Christ-filled Christmas.

Today’s Thoughts

The dimly-lit room was full, standing-room only.  I was numb to the anger I would feel several minutes later, when we said our goodbyes to the vicar.  I tried to suppress it by telling some joke, but the church had brought her in to conduct this service; why hadn’t she done a better job?  “We commend to You Your servant …”  It was just as if she had changed the name on a prewritten script.  For all I knew, the silence could be full of unanswered questions:  “But he wasn’t His servant.  How does God feel about someone who wants the benefits of believing in Him, but hasn’t served Him all their life?”  I wanted her to acknowledge these and offer some hope – to mention the thief on the cross – the one who came to Jesus in his last moments and Jesus comforted him with the words, ‘Today you will be with Me in paradise’, but there was no mention of him.  I don’t recall any comfort being given, or any passage from the Bible for us to think over afterwards.

 

As the service drew to a close, we all listened.  The song was familiar, my sadness fresh.  It seemed wrong somehow that the only thing which moved me, which captured for me the life of this man we were supposedly remembering, was a popular song.  The words seemed so appropriate to one of his daughters especially.

 

“Every generation blames the one before,

“And all of their frustrations come beating on your door” reminds me of her.

 

“I wasn’t there that morning, when my father passed away;

“I didn’t get to tell him all the things I had to say.”  Probably more than one person in the room could have gone along with that.

 

“I think I caught his spirit, later that same year;

“I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s new-born tears.”  Just days after his death he became a great granddad, and within the year he’d be a granddad again.  I don’t know whether his granddaughter has any of his features, but he’s not forgotten, and today always brings thoughts of a very special uncle.

31 Days of Song: “Jesus Saves”

Today I wanted to include a song by Jeremy Camp, so I could tell you about his book “I Still Believe”.  It came out on Kindle in January and if my Kindle software still worked (which it hasn’t for over a year), I’d buy it straightaway and start reading.

It talks about his first wife (Melissa) and how, after their honeymoon, they found out she had just a few months to live.  I don’t know how I would have coped with that in my early 20s, but here’s what impressed me.  Jeremy was sitting with Melissa after she died and felt God saying:  “I want you to worship Me”, so he picked up his guitar and worshipped.  It reminds me so much of Job in the Bible the day he lost his ten children (Job 1:20-21) – how he praised his God who gave and took away.  He worshipped too.

I think anyone who chooses to do that is someone with real integrity, who deserves respect.  I haven’t heard many of Jeremy’s songs, but I do like this one.  Jesus saves!  He’s there to save us from a life of bitterness and bring us into God’s good plan for us.  Will you be a part of letting the whole world know His name?

Godsends in our Hospitals

On Saturday, just before midnight, I had the radio on.  I heard an interview with a man whose 12-year-old boy was killed in the Warrington bombings.  Whether it’s been 2 years or 20, talking about your son’s death must be an ordeal and he handled it so well; I’m sure I wasn’t the only one touched by it, but one thing I noticed that wasn’t commented on was the role of hospital chaplaincy.

 

He spoke of the surgeon who told them:  “Your son may not survive the night.  Now if you’ll excuse me …” and left them alone in the room.  Then the next day, after the chaplain gave them coffee and biscuits, he went to see Tim.  The contrast really hit me:  A surgeon – so busy with other duties that he didn’t have time to talk, and a chaplain – prepared to have coffee with the parents of a wounded child, and come alongside them in their grief.

 

The NHS talk about cutting hospital chaplains, but this to me is proof that they shouldn’t.  I’m thankful for the way the hospital chaplain and his team helped one of my friends when she was in hospital back last year, and I’m sure that patients and their relatives need the emotional and spiritual support as much as the medical care.