“I was the lion” — When God doesn’t show up

“I was the lion” — When God doesn’t show up

If only God would show up…

… when we’re scared to death.
… when sickness hits.
… when our hearts are breaking.
… when ends won’t meet.
… when we’re alone.

… when everything is as wrong as it could possibly be.

DCF 1.0

From The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis:

“I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrifying idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, “You’re not – not something dead, are you? Oh please – please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!”

Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face.

“There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and – ”

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

_____

We are so confident in our judgments. We find it so easy to declare “good” and “bad,” “fortunate” and “unfortunate.” Yet we have no idea the painstaking precision with which our steps are guided.

Though all is dark, though we don’t feel His presence, He is here. He writes every word in the story of our lives — beautifully, sovereignly working good through all that our enemy intends for evil.

Romans828

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,

will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35, 37-39

What if the “lions” we cower from are all “One Lion”… One who is working for our good?

Will we trust Him?

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 10:35-11:1

Though it’s hard to recognize, He is showing up. He is working… for our good.

**In what “unfortunate” events have you seen God work in your life?

Reaching out of our inner circle: 4 things we can do to comfort the hurting in our extended community

Reaching out of our inner circle: 4 things we can do to comfort the hurting in our extended community

allsuffertogether

As I write this, we are all grieving the loss of life brought about by recent tornadoes.

In only a few days or weeks, there will likely be yet another heart-wrenching headline.

Our broken world, our temporary home, is full of tragedy.

We need only glance up from our busy lives for a second to spot someone who is hurting profoundly.

When we are relationally close to the one hurting, we most often find ourselves plunged into the valley along with them.

We may not know exactly what to do or say, but we are forced to face the pain head-on — acknowledge the situation and fumble our way along, trying to be the best friend we possibly can.

But what about the times we’re peripheral to the sorrow?

When we’re acquainted with the hurting individual,

but are unsure how involved they want us to be in their pain?

Or when their sad story is all we know of them so far?

Do we speak of it?

Or do we allow the “white elephant in the room” to swallow any words of encouragement… any words at all?

broken window

I’ve asked six friends to share more of their thoughts with us (as a sequel to “Friendship in the valley: 8 things our hurting friends want us to know).

Their journeys through pain allowed them to experience both the awkwardness and the blessings of suffering in their respective communities.

From them we’ve already gained insights for our inner-circle.

So, what would they say to us as we relate to the hurting in our extended community?

1. Acknowledge the issue.

Even in our pain, we know how uncomfortable the situation is. If we were in your position, we’d be at a loss for words as well.

But even more awkward than saying something is saying nothing.

“I’m so sorry” is music to our ears.

You don’t have to address the issue every time you see us, but the use of this simple phrase in one of our early interactions will put us at ease in your presence in the days ahead.

We don’t expect eloquence or profundity… just a sincere word of kindness.

2. Reach out in some small way.

Practical help will almost never fail to bless us: food, a gift card, or free childcare go a long way.

Notes of encouragement, the words “I’m praying for you,” a hug, or comforting Scriptures impact us more than you can imagine.

We see that you care when you offer to help, take us to coffee, or listen.

    Even if we do not take you up on your offer,

we will always value your gesture.

3. Think carefully before you speak to us or about us.

Be gentle, patient, kind, considerate.

Put yourself in our shoes.

Consider our privacy as you speak to others or use social media.

Be mindful of what we’ve gone through — don’t ask us to deliver a meal to a new mother if we’ve just lost a baby; don’t invite us to a watch a romantic comedy if we’ve just separated from a spouse.

A few moments of careful thought can spare us all a lot of discomfort.

4. Pray for us.

James516

Prayer extends hope like nothing else.

When you sincerely, fervently intercede on our behalf, our trembling faith grows.

As we suffer, we can’t help but wonder if God still sees and cares; but when we know another is also on their knees, we are strengthened.

We are reminded that “…the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)

A final thought…

As I spoke with these women, they (and I) were surprised at the details they remembered;

both the agonizing awkwardness of people who never said a word regarding the darkness they were in — who thought it was “none of their business”…

and then in contrast, the life-giving support of those who promised to pray or offered “a word fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11).

As ill-equipped or uneasy as we may feel, we are each capable of blessing the hurting person along our path today.

If we will allow the Holy Spirit to move us out of our comfort zone for moment, there’s no telling how He may choose to bless someone through us.

Reaching out of our inner circle: 4 things we can do to comfort the hurting in our extended community

Reaching out of our inner circle: 4 things we can do to comfort the hurting in our extended community

allsuffertogether

As I write this, we are all grieving the loss of life brought about by recent tornadoes.

In only a few days or weeks, there will likely be yet another heart-wrenching headline.

Our broken world, our temporary home, is full of tragedy.

We need only glance up from our busy lives for a second to spot someone who is hurting profoundly.

When we are relationally close to the one hurting, we most often find ourselves plunged into the valley along with them.

We may not know exactly what to do or say, but we are forced to face the pain head-on — acknowledge the situation and fumble our way along, trying to be the best friend we possibly can.

But what about the times we’re peripheral to the sorrow?

When we’re acquainted with the hurting individual,

but are unsure how involved they want us to be in their pain?

Or when their sad story is all we know of them so far?

Do we speak of it?

Or do we allow the “white elephant in the room” to swallow any words of encouragement… any words at all?

broken window

I’ve asked six friends to share more of their thoughts with us (as a sequel to “Friendship in the valley: 8 things our hurting friends want us to know).

Their journeys through pain allowed them to experience both the awkwardness and the blessings of suffering in their respective communities.

From them we’ve already gained insights for our inner-circle.

So, what would they say to us as we relate to the hurting in our extended community?

1. Acknowledge the issue.

Even in our pain, we know how uncomfortable the situation is. If we were in your position, we’d be at a loss for words as well.

But even more awkward than saying something is saying nothing.

“I’m so sorry” is music to our ears.

You don’t have to address the issue every time you see us, but the use of this simple phrase in one of our early interactions will put us at ease in your presence in the days ahead.

We don’t expect eloquence or profundity… just a sincere word of kindness.

2. Reach out in some small way.

Practical help will almost never fail to bless us: food, a gift card, or free childcare go a long way.

Notes of encouragement, the words “I’m praying for you,” a hug, or comforting Scriptures impact us more than you can imagine.

We see that you care when you offer to help, take us to coffee, or listen.

    Even if we do not take you up on your offer,

we will always value your gesture.

3. Think carefully before you speak to us or about us.

Be gentle, patient, kind, considerate.

Put yourself in our shoes.

Consider our privacy as you speak to others or use social media.

Be mindful of what we’ve gone through — don’t ask us to deliver a meal to a new mother if we’ve just lost a baby; don’t invite us to a watch a romantic comedy if we’ve just separated from a spouse.

A few moments of careful thought can spare us all a lot of discomfort.

4. Pray for us.

James516

Prayer extends hope like nothing else.

When you sincerely, fervently intercede on our behalf, our trembling faith grows.

As we suffer, we can’t help but wonder if God still sees and cares; but when we know another is also on their knees, we are strengthened.

We are reminded that “…the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)

A final thought…

As I spoke with these women, they (and I) were surprised at the details they remembered;

both the agonizing awkwardness of people who never said a word regarding the darkness they were in — who thought it was “none of their business”…

and then in contrast, the life-giving support of those who promised to pray or offered “a word fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11).

As ill-equipped or uneasy as we may feel, we are each capable of blessing the hurting person along our path today.

If we will allow the Holy Spirit to move us out of our comfort zone for moment, there’s no telling how He may choose to bless someone through us.

Friendship in the valley: 8 things our hurting friends want us to know

Friendship in the valley: 8 things our hurting friends want us to know

TwoAreBetterThanOne

I’ve experienced both.
There was a season of fear, confusion, hurt, and danger. My friends were out of reach, and I felt parched.

Years later, in the midst of new trials, friends were there, pouring life into my thirsty spirit. They were the hands and feet of Christ, bringing healing and sanity.

The apostle Paul has been there too:
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn — fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you…” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7a).

Because our world is so horribly broken, we have all heard pain in a friend’s voice:

“He’s leaving me.”

“It’s cancer.”

“I lost the baby.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“It’s an addiction.”

What do we say when our friend’s world is crumbling?

When we can’t fathom their pain?

It’s hard to enter in. We feel inadequate. The awkwardness immobilizes us.

But, we are the Body of Christ. Our friends need us to not only “rejoice with those who rejoice,” but also “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

I’ve walked through a few shadowy valleys, but some of my friends have been in places I can only imagine.

As I dialogued with six women about their seasons of darkness,

I gleaned eight insights on “friendship in the valley” from their comments.

Here’s what they want you to know…

1) Your emotional involvement makes all the difference.
We need a good listener more than anything. We know you have many other important things to do, but when you put them on hold to hear us out, we notice and are deeply grateful.

We are touched by the tears you shed with us; the way you feel and live the pain along with us.

We appreciate your sensitivity to what we need at a particular moment — your prayer for wisdom before you open your mouth to speak.

We want to talk about our troubles with you, but we also want you to feel free to talk about other things.

While judgmental and self-righteous words kill our spirits, we do welcome loving biblical counsel.

ComfortOneAnother

2) We will never forget the ways you help us.
Years after our crisis, we will remember that you helped us pack our bags, that you cleaned our house, that you cared for our kids, that you put away the baby clothes, that you helped us get out of bed.

We may resist your efforts to help at first, but we need you to be persistent.

3) Comparisons usually aren’t helpful.
It can be good for us to remember that we are not the only ones in the world suffering, but please be careful of unequal comparisons. A spouse who is perpetually sloppy is not the same thing as a spouse who is morally unfaithful. A child with the stomach flu is not on the same level as a child suffering the effects of chemo. Think twice before saying, “I know how you feel.”

4) We appreciate confidentiality.
We understand that you need the freedom to talk openly with your spouse, but beyond that, we hope you understand that our stories are private. If you want to share details with others, please check with us first. We need to be able to trust you.

5) We desperately need your prayers.
We want to be told that you’re praying for us, and we need that to be true. In our darkest moments, we long to know that someone is lifting us up before Heaven’s throne.

6) We are not “normal” right now.
We are grateful for “no-strings-attached” friendship. We’re not in a position to reciprocate every thoughtful thing you do for us. You may wonder why we forget to return calls, send thank you notes, or ask questions about your life. Sometimes we just can’t think straight and are in dire need of patience and grace.

7) It can be hard to ask for help.
Most of the time, we feel awkward asking you to give even more of yourself. We realize you have your own life and can’t always be there, but we appreciate every offer of help — each time you reach out.

8) We are learning that our hope is in the Lord.
As much as we love and appreciate you, we have to learn that you cannot be God. You have limitations.  At times, we may lean heavily on you, but we both need to learn that you can’t meet our every need. We are in the process of learning that His grace is sufficient.

Comfort

For another fascinating perspective on the healing that community brings, check out Mary DeMuth’s recent blog:
CommunityHealsStress

***Is there anything you would add to this list of insights? What have your friends done that have held you up during your stormy season? Please leave a comment below.

Friendship in the valley: 8 things our hurting friends want us to know

Friendship in the valley: 8 things our hurting friends want us to know

TwoAreBetterThanOne

I’ve experienced both.
There was a season of fear, confusion, hurt, and danger. My friends were out of reach, and I felt parched.

Years later, in the midst of new trials, friends were there, pouring life into my thirsty spirit. They were the hands and feet of Christ, bringing healing and sanity.

The apostle Paul has been there too:
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn — fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you…” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7a).

Because our world is so horribly broken, we have all heard pain in a friend’s voice:

“He’s leaving me.”

“It’s cancer.”

“I lost the baby.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“It’s an addiction.”

What do we say when our friend’s world is crumbling?

When we can’t fathom their pain?

It’s hard to enter in. We feel inadequate. The awkwardness immobilizes us.

But, we are the Body of Christ. Our friends need us to not only “rejoice with those who rejoice,” but also “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

I’ve walked through a few shadowy valleys, but some of my friends have been in places I can only imagine.

As I dialogued with six women about their seasons of darkness,

I gleaned eight insights on “friendship in the valley” from their comments.

Here’s what they want you to know…

1) Your emotional involvement makes all the difference.
We need a good listener more than anything. We know you have many other important things to do, but when you put them on hold to hear us out, we notice and are deeply grateful.

We are touched by the tears you shed with us; the way you feel and live the pain along with us.

We appreciate your sensitivity to what we need at a particular moment — your prayer for wisdom before you open your mouth to speak.

We want to talk about our troubles with you, but we also want you to feel free to talk about other things.

While judgmental and self-righteous words kill our spirits, we do welcome loving biblical counsel.

ComfortOneAnother

2) We will never forget the ways you help us.
Years after our crisis, we will remember that you helped us pack our bags, that you cleaned our house, that you cared for our kids, that you put away the baby clothes, that you helped us get out of bed.

We may resist your efforts to help at first, but we need you to be persistent.

3) Comparisons usually aren’t helpful.
It can be good for us to remember that we are not the only ones in the world suffering, but please be careful of unequal comparisons. A spouse who is perpetually sloppy is not the same thing as a spouse who is morally unfaithful. A child with the stomach flu is not on the same level as a child suffering the effects of chemo. Think twice before saying, “I know how you feel.”

4) We appreciate confidentiality.
We understand that you need the freedom to talk openly with your spouse, but beyond that, we hope you understand that our stories are private. If you want to share details with others, please check with us first. We need to be able to trust you.

5) We desperately need your prayers.
We want to be told that you’re praying for us, and we need that to be true. In our darkest moments, we long to know that someone is lifting us up before Heaven’s throne.

6) We are not “normal” right now.
We are grateful for “no-strings-attached” friendship. We’re not in a position to reciprocate every thoughtful thing you do for us. You may wonder why we forget to return calls, send thank you notes, or ask questions about your life. Sometimes we just can’t think straight and are in dire need of patience and grace.

7) It can be hard to ask for help.
Most of the time, we feel awkward asking you to give even more of yourself. We realize you have your own life and can’t always be there, but we appreciate every offer of help — each time you reach out.

8) We are learning that our hope is in the Lord.
As much as we love and appreciate you, we have to learn that you cannot be God. You have limitations.  At times, we may lean heavily on you, but we both need to learn that you can’t meet our every need. We are in the process of learning that His grace is sufficient.

Comfort

For another fascinating perspective on the healing that community brings, check out Mary DeMuth’s recent blog:
CommunityHealsStress

***Is there anything you would add to this list of insights? What have your friends done that have held you up during your stormy season? Please leave a comment below.

How can we help our hurting friends?

How can we help our hurting friends?

Prov17-17

We all know someone who is going through a hard time.

What are we going to do about it?

The answer probably depends on how well we know the person:

  • Close friends — We consider peering into the darkness with them.
  • Casual friends — We might pray for them, but decide someone else is better equipped to encourage them.
  • Acquaintances — We aren’t sure if they know that we know their troubles, so we try to ignore the “elephant” in the room.

Of course, those are generalizations, but we’ve got to admit we don’t always know how to relate to people who are struggling with serious, heavy issues.

Unfortunately, there really are a few wrong ways to relate to them. Ask Job about his friends.

In my next few blogs, I’ll share comments from my friends who have been in some deep, dark valleys. We’ll look at God’s Word as well as their experiences with friends to gain wisdom in our relationships.

As we talk about those closest to us, our casual friends, and even the people-from-church-that-we’ve-only-ever-said-hello-to, it’s my prayer that we’ll all be better equipped to bless and encourage all three categories of hurting friends.

In what ways have your friends blessed you during hard times? Leave a comment below — I’d love more input for the upcoming blogs!

If you liked this post, you may be interested in Do You Need A Listening Ear?, What You Need to Know About Trauma, and When You’re Hurting.

When you’re hurting

I Peter 5:10

My dear friend,

I know I can’t possibly understand exactly what you’re going through, but I’ve tasted enough pain to feel at least a little of your heartache. Even that taste is overwhelming.

I long to solve your problems, to ease the pain, to un-do what has been done.

And I, like you, ask God why He would allow these things to happen in the first place.

When trivial things happen, like a flat tire right before an important meeting, I’m not happy, but I rationalize that perhaps God is sparing me from an accident. “Everything happens for a reason.” When I question annoying inconveniences, I don’t struggle for long to put things back into God’s sovereign hand. It’s easier to trust Him when the stakes aren’t so high.

There are some things though, that make no sense at all… things that, to me, could not possibly work out for the best.

Why are people imprisoned and tortured for their faith?
Why do moms of young children have to die?
How does an unfaithful spouse fit into God’s sovereign plan?
Why the debilitating disease after faithful service to the Lord?
Couldn’t the baby have lived?
Did the abuse have to happen?
Why suicide?

If I wish I could fix all that’s so ugly, horrible, and gut-wrenching, doesn’t God?

Even as I ask, I am reminded that God hates it all more than I do.

I am forced to look back and remember that it is the sin of all mankind, including me, that brought pain and suffering to our world.

And God does want to fix it.

Jesus, fully God and fully man, came to earth and suffered among us, dying an excruciating death with the weight of all our sins upon him.

Because he took our punishment upon himself, died, was buried, and rose again,

we are now offered forgiveness of sin and eternal life…

if we simply place our complete trust in Him.

The truth is, no matter how unbearable our lives are in the here and now,

we have the hope — the confident expectation — of eternity with Christ

where there will be no more tears, pain or sorrow.

How I long for that day… for myself, for you, for all who have trusted Jesus as Savior.

And so we wait…

I am familiar with waiting.

When we waited for our children to be adopted, we expected results in about six months. Six months turned into eighteen months. Then it was a year. Then two. Then five. By the time eight years had passed, and our dossier had been passed off to five different lawyers to no affect, I was utterly convinced nothing would ever change.

But then it did. Just when all hope was lost, everything changed. Heaven and earth moved — literally, and the wait ended.

I don’t know if your situation is going to change here on earth. I pray that it does.

And because God is a God of miracles, goodness, and love, your impossible situation can be transformed into a thing of great beauty. After all, that is the hope of Christ’s resurrection: miraculous life emerging from the bitterness of death.

Of course, complete healing cannot come until Heaven — the final resurrection.

I’ve been tempted at times to feel that Heaven is just too far away to bring any immediate comfort, but, our adoption journey and eight-year stay in Haiti was a powerful parable to me about the brevity of our time here on earth:

It may feel that nothing will ever change, that we are stuck in our misery forever.

But one of these days, we are going to be shocked to find ourselves on the other side of eternity.
We WILL finally get there.
Jesus WILL finally say, “Enough!” and we will be done with sin, Satan, and suffering.

How I love and cling to the promise of I Peter 5:10:

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.

It is for “a little while.” We will be restored.

Know this: As you suffer, you bless the heart of God, and you inspire me and others around you. We look at you and marvel at what God is doing in you.

Thank you for all the moments and days that you press on and stay faithful to the Lord in spite of the temptation to run away from your problems, seeking relief in any form.

Thank you for trusting God with your life and your yet-to-be-resolved story.

Thank you for your testimony of faith before “a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) both on earth and in heaven.

Watching you persevere increases our faith in Christ. We are seeing that His grace is indeed sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Also, know that the grace that has carried you to this point will not run out on you.

Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge… (Psalm 141:8)

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way… (Psalm 142:3)

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him… (2 Chronicles 16:9)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you… (Isaiah 51:10)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)