we live in the shadows.

Everything difficult indicates something more than our theory of life yet embraces.

-George MadDonald

For a very long time, I’ve tried to understand suffering.

I know I am not alone. God is questioned all the time.

The problem is, we cannot reconcile “God is good” or “God loves us” with the pain and suffering of humanity. So we either reject God entirely or we maintain a belief in him but steer clear of getting too close.

In trying to reconcile a good God and human suffering, I finally came to this conclusion: I believe God is who he says he is and even though there are some things I do not understand, there is a lot I do understand. Since I believe in God, then it will suffice that he knows more than I do.

That doesn’t mean we don’t feel a whole gamut of emotions when we are suffering.

It means we can stop the endless questioning, leaving us unsettled.

If I know one thing about God, it is that he doesn’t want us to feel unsettled. He is with us when we are suffering, giving us comfort and peace in ways we may not be readily aware of.

How often have you really thought about God, the creator of the universe and all things within, having a vantage point far surpassing our way of thinking?

It’s kind of like thinking about all of us on earth, being suspended in darkness. I don’t think we have words in our human language to describe the magnificent and staggering view God has over all creation, big and small.

We don’t have the language for understanding the why of suffering, either. We just know how it feels.

God sees the beginning and he sees the end.

We do not.

We know that for every action there is a positive and equal reaction.

One day, there will be a redemption of all things. This means a glorious and magnificent judgement on all the pain and suffering throughout mankind. God will make things new and right.

But for now, we live in the shadow of what we do not clearly see; what we do not understand.

Will you be okay with that?

shad

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he is not so far away ..

“But then I remember this means he is not so far away, and we’re not so far from him, and it makes me smile”.

Mary Katharine Hamm lost her husband in 2015. She was pregnant with her second child.

She recently wrote this article  I know will resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one.

After reading her story it occurred to me, no 2 personal experiences I have read about grieving are the same.

We who are grieving over a severe loss, walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, enveloped by the coldest, darkest place we’ve ever known. And yet, it  seems each of us finds glimmers of light along the way.  The smallest speck of light is the brightest because it is the darkest there, illuminating what we would not have seen otherwise.

 He is not so far away …

This thought brings a new feeling of comfort.

Heaven may be closer than we think.

lights

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a new year. another year.

A new year. Fresh start. New beginning. Clean slate. Hope. Optimistic. Plans.

For others- another year. Rocky start. Same old same old. Cluttered slate. Hopeless. Pessimistic. No plan.

Where do you fit?

Why do you fit there?

The cheery words of “Happy New Year” carries with it a misnomer for many, but really, for all of us.

When things are going great or as planned, we are happy.

When things are going wrong and unplanned, we are not.

Because we have emotions, we kind of blame God when we’re not happy.  Even though we know life is full of ups and downs, good and bad, we still expect God to come through for us and not let things make us too unhappy.

I mean, isn’t that part of “God loves you” and “has a wonderful plan for your life”?

When a building or bridge is constructed it has to be built on bedrock. We understand what will happen if the time is not taken to dig deep or the building will not be strong and sustain the elements.

When we are busy building our lives, there will be times to dig deep in order to stay strong and sustain the elements of unpredictability.

The bedrock of both happiness and unhappiness is this: joy.

 Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

I could research joy and relay everyone else’s experiences and opinions, but instead, I will give you my first hand experience of joy.

Joy is knowing God. Not knowing about him. Even Satan knows about God.

I know God in a way that connects with me. He knows how we tick and precisely how he needs to connect with us because we are all unique. When he does that, you find yourself loving God for doing this in such a caring, personal way.

We know God just like we know anyone in our lives – by spending time with them.

I’ve learned a lot about God through the Bible, but mostly, through the world around me.

Do we ever get tired of looking up into the deep, night sky, wrapping the earth in comfort at the end of a busy day? Stars so far away we can’t grasp the distance but when one “shoots” across the sky with a trail of glitter we make a wish.

Whether it’s giant snowflakes falling in a slow-motion hush, a caterpillar enclosing itself in a jeweled home – forming brightly patterned wings in secret, or how flowers seem to smile and make us smile back, the earth weaves a story of beauty and ugliness, good and evil.

Joy is part of the beauty. It is light and buoyant. It pushes back the heavy darkness and reveals enough light to show there is a way through pain. We push it away at times but it still rests lightly near us, waiting for our invitation.

Joy is a steady light. Not too bright. Not too dim. Not too hot. Not too cold.

Happiness is bright and then it dims.

Happiness is hot and then leaves us cold.

Happiness plays with our emotions if we don’t have joy holding it up.

Joy accepts. Not necessarily without questions or happy feelings, but safely moored during a storm, safe inside, with steady, peaceful, contentment.

No matter what, let this be a “Joyful New Year”!

bridge

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where were the angels?

Many of us believe in angels.

More commonly, angels intervening in a situation and saving someone from danger or death.

Car accidents, a house fire, or a bullet that just missed the heart, to name a few.

In the recent church shooting which murdered 27 people on a Sunday morning, at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the question may arise, where were the angels?

The truth is, angels are not always protecting or saving people from death, are they? Which in turn, we equate God is not always protecting or saving people from death.

Otherwise, everyone, certainly the devoted Christian, would be protected.

At least that’s how our mind might work.

I have always felt badly for those left behind after a tragedy because the consensus of angels getting the credit for a miracle (sent by God, of course). It could make those who lost their loved one think they weren’t good enough, they didn’t pray enough, they didn’t have enough faith, or that God does not care about them or love them.

Those can be very painful thoughts. Thoughts that some carry throughout their lifetime.

Thoughts that are not true.

When I lost my oldest son at 24 years old, I wondered, where were the angels? 

Even though there will always be a part of my heart that feels like it is not beating, I had to come to terms with my faith or I would have wanted to die, too. A mother wants to know her kids are safe and where they are. When your child dies, no matter how old he or she is, you cannot fix it.  I was suspended in a place unknown and unfamiliar.

I had to figure some things out. If I had stayed focused with the lack of angelic protection for my son, I would have been miserable all these years. Faith is believing what you cannot tangibly see and I had to either believe God’s promises were true or not in order to go on.

Today more than ever, people “believe God” for healing and miracles. Sermons are preached of doing greater works than Jesus and  faith that moves mountains. People even pray for God to dispatch angels.

How did suffering people throughout the centuries view this message? What did they do when this was not so prevalent as it is today? People who did not have all the bells and whistles, entitlements, access to one-click purchases, retirement funds, and more?

I think they embraced what the bible says, they “longed for a better place, that is, a heavenly one”.

On a good day, do we long for that better place?

How about on a bad day?

I believe in prayer. I think we should pray for healing and miracles and everything else that is good. I don’t believe we should sit back and settle.

If we have attributed angelic intervention to our circumstances (ultimately God’s intervention), we have to remember others do not have this same experience.

What they do have is something else I believe is valid and important to understand. It is rarely not shared with the testimonies of answered prayer, especially those with the acknowledgment of angelic activity. I mean, who wants to say what is not so wonderful to hear? Give me the answered prayer. The miracle.

The angels.

Early on after Christopher’s death, I felt God in a way I had never felt before. Yes, I did stop eating on purpose. Yes, I did end up having anxiety attacks and needed medication.

But, God was showing me so much that brought comfort in a way that I think only those who have experienced immense suffering and grief understand.

Angels don’t just rescue us from physical danger.

They are sent by God as ministering spirits, just as God sent one to strengthen Jesus as he was suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion.

Had I not walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I would not have known what it was like to not fear. I would not have experienced the comfort of God’s rod and staff. I would not have gotten stronger without God leading me to green pastures and still waters and eventually, seeing my soul restored.

People who have been to this valley have seen God in a way others have not. In the bible, Job suffered unimaginably in this valley, and at the end he said, I’ve heard of You [God] but now my eyes have seen you. 

It is true, today, even the most devoted Christian can be caught up with here and now. God made us to live with eternity always within our view. When we don’t, we are missing something vital to the Christian life. Something that keeps us steady, anchored, and accepting of things gone wrong.

Living with an eternal view keeps things in perspective.

And perspective is exactly what we need when we ask, where were the angels?

Church Shooting Texas

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for you.

There are people who do not go to church.

Some have been hurt.

Some see hypocrisy.

Some don’t believe in God.

So many reasons.

So many experiences.

And God cares about them all.

You may have heard “there is no perfect church”. This is true. But it is not an excuse.

It is often said in situations of conflict so those who have been hurt will realize things happen and the Bible encourages us to forgive, turn the other cheek, pursue peace, guard against division, and basically, let it go.

I agree and I have personally found peace in every situation, whether resolved or not.

Yet, I believe we should be very careful to examine our motives if we are in a conflict and we know we have hurt people with our words or actions. If the burden is quickly placed on the recipient of that hurt to just move on, it may be cause to take a step back.

There are scriptures telling us to be humble, bear one another’s burdens, and serve one another … all wrapped up in fervent love.

This love we should have is defined by the love God showed to the world through placing himself between us and the deadly consequences of sin separating us from God forever.

This is huge. And if we find ourselves getting off track, not always loving the way God wants us to, I think we are in big trouble.

And so, the Church, the people, should be representatives of this love which is immersed in gentleness and humility.

We do this because we love God and aren’t we the light to the world?

It’s not about our ability to move mountains, prophecy, and understand all mysteries.

It’s not about giving everything to the poor or dying a martyr.

All things that would get the world’s attention.

It is only about love. Are we humbling ourselves and allowing God to clean up our oh-so-easily-straying-heart?

Jesus humbled himself when he loved the world through his death.

If we are not humble, do we really love?

And are we growing and maturing into that perfect Church?

It’s interesting how much the world will expect from the Church. That’s because there is something unspoken, yet powerful that speaks to the world.

We must get it right.

glow

Photo credit: Foter.com

 

 

 

shadows.

God has a way of hiding in the shadows.

We have a way of stumbling along in the dark until He steps out of them.

It happens in a moment. But when it does, when He steps out and again declares “Let there be light,” the clouds part and our souls’ dark alleys and cluttered corners glow with understanding, hope, and faith. In that moment, if only for that moment, we can see.

And we realize that He’s been there all along.

It’s just that we will see Him in a different light.

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remembering.

Tomorrow will be 12 years.

Christopher heard the call and was loyal and committed to the purpose and destiny he heard all of his life. Yet, the mixture of his zealous personality (do it right or don’t do it at all), and the certainty of purpose and assurance of destiny, fought with his tender heart.

With the tendency of feeling disqualified, it became too much.

I’ve been writing here for awhile now, with the purpose of being a small but steady light telling of God’s care during tragedy. I have not written solely about suicide, but the heartache of suffering in all its shapes and sizes.

I cannot speak to every heartache, but I do know the One who can.

I’m just a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. And when you are hurting, you are begging for answers.

But we don’t always get answers, do we?

Some say, how could a God of love allow pain? I say isn’t it amazing how a God of love will comfort us in the pain.

It’s always been easy for me to see the big picture and not get lost in the details. That said, I have often found strength learning of the suffering which has come to mankind since the beginning of time.

There is a bigger picture. One that is difficult if not impossible for humanity to grasp. Try as we may, though, we form intellectual opinions based on what we see or understand, not realizing (or accepting) that just as the immensity of the universe cannot be understood in our finite minds, we will not understand why we suffer.

God’s ways are not ours. And in this I find comfort. Because it tells me someone is in charge of all this.

He has the answers.

The Bible speaks of the great cloud of witnesses” who surround us – those who spur us on to continue with perseverance  the path marked out for us. Men and women who faced intense adversity: ” … they were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated …”

We can continue with world history and current events which reveal so much pain and suffering, along with many, many who have endured and persevered, because they have grabbed hold of something bigger than themselves.

I do not want to minimize pain by sounding trivial in the conclusions I have come to.  But even in my worst first moments of receiving the news, suffocating and pulling me down into an abyss of hopelessness and despair, I found a brief moment to catch my breath and see the big picture of human suffering. Looking back, this was God pulling back the curtain to show me a truth that would help sustain me.

I was not alone. Countless others have faced this and more. God wasn’t picking on just me. He wasn’t punishing me. He wasn’t rejecting me.

Pain will isolate us, particularly from God. It, like death, is an enemy. An enemy that God will deal with one day when he wipes away every tear and there will be no more sorrow or death.

This is truth.

The truth sets us free from the limitations of how we see things.

And so we wait.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? 

chris-peru

 

Christopher Moulton

November 30, 1981 – September 26, 2005