The Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4

Death seems to be everywhere this week. I have heard of several friends of friends whose too-short time on earth came to an end recently. Does it really matter if death was expected? I don’t think so. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that you’ve said your goodbyes and that you let him/her know how you felt.

Comfort also comes in knowing that this earthly goodbye is only temporary. As believers, we can count on eternal life.

“Jesus said to her ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'” ~ John 11:25

But we who remain are left to grieve for the empty places our loved ones leave in their passing. It’s only natural to miss a parent, a friend, a family member. Tears are nothing to be ashamed of; even Jesus wept (John 11:33).

What comfort can we give those who are mourning the loss of a loved one? Cry with them. Sit with them without spouting platitudes. Give hugs–liberally. Bring coffee. And above all, let those you love know–out loud, before it’s too late.

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die . . . A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4

And remember, this is just a season–one of many that make up the circle of life. This season of weeping and mourning shall pass. How do I know? I’ve been in my own valley of the shadow of death. I’ll share about it some other time, but just know for now that you are not alone in your grieving.

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Jehovah Jireh

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100Tonight during our church’s women’s Bible study, my friend Karen shared about the meaning of joy using four specific examples from Scripture. Although we don’t know each other well, I felt that each and every example–including the definition–were meant for me specifically at this point in my life. That’s a God thing, y’all!

Karen’s definition: “Joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives and that he will be there no matter what.”

The first thing I noticed was that joy does not equal happiness. The second thing I noticed is that joy is not dependent on our circumstances. The third thing I noticed is that God will be here for me no matter what and no matter who else is not in my life.

Because the examples that Karen shared seemed to parallel my current life so precisely, I want to share them briefly here.

1. Ruth. She left her family behind, as did I. She had no husband to provide for or protect her. Neither do I; I actually need protection from my ex. God orchestrated ahead of time for Boaz to advocate for her. God has used many unexpected people to help me over the past year and a half. The Hebrew word for provide is jireh. Just as God was Ruth’s Jehovah Jireh, so he is mine as well. The cool thing about that particular phrase–Jehovah Jireh–is that I already have it written on the memo board by my desk.

2. The widow and her cruse of oil. Elisha instructed the widow to use what she already had–oil–in a way that she could pay off her debts and still have enough money left over to live on. I also have talents and educational degrees that the Lord can, and I believe will, use for me to find a full-time job that will provide for my needs and for the needs of my children. Not only did three out of the five classes I was supposed to teach this semester fall through, but I have also not been receiving alimony for the past two months. Jehovah Jireh provided for the widow using the oil that she already had; I believe he will also provide for me financially.

3. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The Lord not only protected these godly men from being burned to a crisp, but he was also right there with them in the midst of the flames! If (since) the Lord can be present in a furnace, I believe he can be with me in the midst of a courtroom. I believe God can protect me from the flames of the enemy, no matter what form those flames take. It is ONLY through God’s strength that delivery comes! The Israelite men didn’t have fireproof suits. My ex-husband-induced panic attacks can only be overcome through the Lord’s strength.

4. Peter. He was thrown into prison, and the key was thrown away. He had no earthly hope of escaping, but that didn’t stop a group of Christians from praying fervently on his behalf. Imagine their surprise when, while they were praying, Peter knocked on the door–free!

Lord, I want to have this kind of belief and this kind of prayer life!!

My current life situation looks fairly hopeless, a lot like these four biblical examples began. Thank you, Karen, for sharing the hope and encouragement that I can have real JOY right now. It’s not about me. It’s about God and what he can do!

Who Do I Want To Be?

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Last night, I began my first official week alone in my new townhouse. First thought: panic! Second thought: I can do whatever I want! Third thought: Wait, what do I want?

Of course, I had to mention it on my favorite social media site, Facebook. I got quite a few supportive comments, but my friend Alice summed it up best: “You will always be mom, but this week you are YOU….now it’s time to find you.”

That got me thinking. Who am I really?

My mother’s comment was along the same lines: “Decide who you want to be and start aiming in that direction.” Ok, but who do I want to be?

A whole list of what and who I don’t want to be sprang to mind immediately, but as I started writing in my journal, a list to aim for appeared.

I want to be ~

  • strong
  • confident
  • independent
  • dependent on God
  • peaceful
  • happy
  • friendly
  • healthy
  • purposeful

The last one on the list was the hard one, though, because I’m not really sure what my purpose should be yet.

As I was talking to a friend today, I realized one thing that’s not on that list is rich or anything that has to do with money. And that’s ok! Other things in life are much more important.

So, what do y’all think? What am I missing? Am I headed in the right direction?

Why Not? The Better Question

dad's bookEver asked God why bad things happen? To you? To your loved ones? To a whole country? Me too. All the time. But sometimes I wonder if the better question would be, “Why not me?” 

God never promises us that we’ll be exempt from life’s hardships. In fact, he pretty much says the opposite. Many reasons exist, but let’s go with this for now:

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. . . . Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:11-12, 16

In our suffering, part of what God wants is for us to learn lessons about trusting him and living through pain. He also intends for us to use those lessons to help others who follow along behind us. What good is learning lessons about godliness if we keep them to ourselves?

In a country where more than half of marriages end in divorce, why should my family be exempt? I thought I did everything right, but maybe that’s not what I should be asking myself. The only thing that God has promised to me through this is that he will somehow, sometime, someway work this mess out to be a message for his glory and for my good.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18

Maybe instead of asking, “Why me?” we should instead be asking ourselves, “Why not me? How can God’s light shine through me during this time?” 

What do you think?

If you want to read more in depth about the whys of suffering and ugliness in our world, I highly recommend the book The Beauty of God for a Broken World: Reflections on the Goodness of the Bod of the Bible by Dr. John K. LaShell.

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