Loss: Who Will Fill This Hole?

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

Here I was again, facing a second devastating divorce, when my encourager said to me, “Consider the possibilities.” I was offended by her suggestion, as I considered all the terrible possibilities through the lenses of raw and familiar pain.

I wanted the pain to go away, but with a newborn, there was no escape. I had to walk through it head on, taste the pain until it dissolved, and remain strong for my daughter.

We are all familiar with loss in many different ways. Regardless of the source, there is a ripping of the soul. Although we incessantly ask “why” the real question is “how”. Even if you get an answer to the why, you still have a far more important decision ahead. How will I fill this hole?

Fillers come in many forms, from elicit vices to positive distractions. Excessive sweets, spending, travel and movies are socially acceptable fillers. Do not be deceived. All are forms of escapism that defer pain by temporarily masking it. The worst reality for many is a covering of old pain with new pain, never able to return to and address the original loss.

It is impossible for man to heal a broken heart. The only source of healing is the very hand of God.

Have you ever tried to fix something you did not create? As Creator, God knows your heart. He knew about your loss before it occurred. As Father, He felt your pain before you did. He is waiting for you to trust Him with it. Your only work in healing from loss is to take your two hands, pick up the ton of bricks once knows as your heart and drop it before God. The atoning blood at the foot of the cross will cover it more powerfully than your tears (Heb 10:22).

Our hope resides in knowing that “what is impossible with man is possible with God.” This hope provides the courage it takes to lay down the sutures and allow God to “bind up the broken hearted” (Isa 61:1).

If you trust God with the work of filling the hole in your heart, you are free to raise your eyes above the current loss and consider the possibilities. He will hold you through the waves of pain as He makes you whole, rebuilding you in preparation for new possibilities.

Do you need to transition from why to how?

How will you consider the possibilities?

Who needs to receive the gift of courage from you today?   ~Brandi

Picture Loss

picture loss

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

-2 Corinthians 1:3-4

He is With You

“But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out there tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!” 2 Chronicles 20:17, NLT. Italics mine.

Losing a friend can feel like torture. It pains me greatly especially when I have devoted myself completely to the relationship. The spiritual intimacy that once held a friendship together now breaks the hearts of two. What happened? What went wrong? Why now?

The ramifications that come with confrontations can produce huge losses. For that reason, I try to stay away from arguing or fighting with friends. Many times, I feel unprepared to deal with the casualties so I avoid it. Perhaps that’s my selfishness talking, but when it involves someone who I have come to love, I tend to shrink back hoping the crisis ahead will just disappear.

Consequently, I justify my thinking and I tell myself that if I create peace, then blessed am I, ‘cause Jesus said! Yet, deep inside I know, I have twisted God’s Word to make it fit into my life instead of it making me bend to do what He has called me to do.

Not too long ago a person once close to me decided to walk away from our friendship. Expectations had sneaked into our relationship and the unavoidable ensued. I knew the deep issue for both of us constituted a lack of trust, no grace and the inability to believe the best.

I had a choice to make. Leave it alone and pretend or stand firm and speak honestly. Truth has a way of always coming out and when it does, it either builds authenticity or destroys the superficial. The real test of any relationship involves truth—when you can sit and relate honestly with someone without fear. A friendship set on Jesus seldom moves when troubles come. If it shows up, you will always find yourself hand in hand on solid rock.

However, when you discover that your friendship stood on anything other than Christ, it’s just best to let God work. The fact is, God fights our battles and solves our relationship problems a whole lot better than we can. Therefore, we need to trust Him to work it all out. True friendships depend on Him and only on Him. And when His work dissipates a harmful relationship, we can rely on Him for healing. We can trust His sovereignty and faithfulness even when we hurt.

Scripture constantly tells us, “Don’t be afraid,” and “Don’t be discouraged.” Even when we face a seemingly impossible situation, we should take our positions and stand firm—fearless and confident. We may have huge losses in the end, but we know God has never lost a battle. No. He doesn’t lose battles.

What keeps you from letting God fight your battles for you? What do you fear? “Go out there tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” I promise, He will remain with you every step of the way.

~ Raquel

 

 

 

Is God a Giver or a Taker?

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)

When I think about loss, there is a sadness that comes over me.  I recently had a string of friends who lost their babies due to miscarriages or death after delivery.  Another friend recently lost her mother.  Then there are stories of people who have lost their friends or loved ones due to betrayal or hurt.  Loss is painful regardless of what form it is experienced.

It is easy when one is experiencing loss to feel like God is only a taker.  In the book of Job, God tested Job’s faith by allowing the enemy to inflict pain on him and take away his sons and daughters, servants and livestock.  Job was tempted to curse God but Job responded by saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)  Job chose to continue to worship and trust the Lord in the midst of his losses.  At the end of Job’s life, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.” (Job 42:12)  Loss was not the end of the story for Job.  God’s blessings were.

The truth is that while we live on earth we are going to experience losses.  When sin entered the world, death entered.  However, just as loss was not the end of the story for Job it is not the end of the story for us.  God made a way for us to experience eternal life with Him by giving His only son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our sins through His death.  By acknowledging that Jesus is our savior, we can have the promise of eternal life with God.  This is the ultimate proof of the very nature of God – He is a giver, not a taker.

Beth Moore, a bible study teacher, posed this question in a recent study called “Inheritance”.  She asks, “In your heart of hearts… and in your darkest darks… what do you really think is God’s character… giver or taker?”  In our deepest and most painful loss, God is there and wants to give you something.  The very nature of God is He is a giver, not a taker.  Loss is not the end of the story.  God wants you to give Him your pain and trust Him in it.  Can you believe that God desires to give you something good in the  midst of your loss?

Edna Lee

Befriending Loss

“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”  Romans 8:20-21

I am unpacking boxes and sorting stuff as I make a move into a new place this week.  MOVING IS A PAIN! I blurt it out loud on numerous occasions when my back is hurting, I am unable to decide whether to throw out or keep something, and to top it off, I am lugging my clothes to the car and the blouses fall off the hangers.

I am keenly aware that moving is not only a pain in the rear in transporting things from one place to another. It’s also a pain in the heart. Being uprooted from a place where I’ve flourished, even when the change is embraced and anticipated, is unsettling.

I looked up the definition of loss: “Failure to keep or continue to have something.”

I count my losses in my move~ loss of my bearings about where the grocery store and cheaper gas station are located, loss of a quick visit to my mom who lives a couple miles away, loss of praying with a roomie who is dear to me, loss of a walk around the corner to a beautiful park and other location-specific experiences.

I am realizing loss always enters our stories. Whether changes in jobs, homes, relationships, finances, children, spouses, health. . . there’s usually special somethings or someones no longer accessible like before. Not that God doesn’t provide in good and beautiful ways in every season of life. He certainly can and does. I am eager to live in close proximity to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Hershey Park at my new place.

Loss feels so unnatural because we are not created to experience it. Walking with God in the garden, Adam and Eve originally resided in an eternal state of knowing God by sight and by their senses- possessing unbroken fellowship forever. Because sin and rebellion entered the world through the fall, we face loss when our circumstances disrupt us, our spiritual enemy targets us, and what we see flat out contradicts what we know to be true.

In this broken world, we are not able to keep the security and sense of knowing we are designed for. We will be disrupted, disappointed, and disillusioned. Losses remind us of the GAIN of the unfathomable hope we have: Continually knowing God face-to-face in eternity and savoring His glory with the other saints

In the mean time, how do you and I move through the losses of this life?

We befriend Loss when she enters our stories. We ask her to open our eyes to know God and those around us more deeply. We sit with her and grieve over what or who we lose. We listen to her as she beckons us to walk by faith and not by sight and to let go of what has been or could have been. We discover with her purpose in our pain. We hold her hand, smiling with her at the future because Our Heavenly Father embraces us in every season, struggle, and celebration.  ~Laura

The Most Important Prayer of Surrender

“Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, ‘My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?’” -Matt. 26:39 (The Message)

Fresh from celebrating Easter, I continue to ponder what it meant for Jesus to surrender to the Father and die for me.  As I look at Passion Week I meditate on the events of the Last Supper, Good Friday and then ultimately the Resurrection on Sunday. At times, however, I overlook Thursday evening– a glimpse into the anguish Jesus faced in the Garden of Gethsemane that long night. Jesus wrestled alone with what He was going to endure to save the world. He knew the cost and made an appeal to His Father. I hear him saying: “Father, I’ll do whatever you ask but is there another way? But regardless of your answer, I trust you completely. You are perfect and you know what is best.” Matthew’s account tells us He made this appeal three times.

While we will never have to face what Jesus had to, we are given opportunities to share in the sufferings of Christ when we go through painful trials (Phil. 3:10). In these moments we, like Christ, have a choice: to surrender to the divine plan of God or struggle to keep our heads above water in our own strength. The glory of Christ was His determination to submit to the Father’s will without having all the answers.  That’s true surrender–not knowing how everything is going to turn out and how you are going to get through, but trusting fully in God’s perfect plan.

The greatest moments of surrender in my Christian life have been those seasons when I haven’t known when the Lord would answer a prayer or how He would accomplish the seemingly impossible. These were long weeks which stretched into months and evolved into years.  It has been said that the hardest ingredient in suffering is often time.

At one especially painful time in my journey with infertility a mental picture was brought to my mind. I saw myself hiking alone in a dark, barren valley.  As I trudged along I kept looking all around me desperately searching for a trail to lead me out to green pastures. I was so weary and lonely.

Over time, the Lord graciously began to change my perspective.  He showed me that the valley had a purpose. Part of His good plan for me at that time was keeping me in a hard place. He hadn’t forgotten about me. While it felt miserable, it was there where He showed me more of Himself. I was stumbling and He became my strength.  I learned to stop searching for a way out and surrender. So, I stopped on the trail and adjusted my gear. I tightened my hiking boots, strapped my backpack on better and refocused. I trusted God and believed in His timing to find the right trail, leading me out. But in the meantime, I needed to hike the trail in front of me and focus ahead on the Lord like Peter did on the water with Jesus (Matt. 14:22-23).

As I surrendered, something wonderful happened. My joy returned. My eyes were opened and I learned to wait with expectation and focus. I still wanted out but I had a different perspective.

What would’ve happened if Jesus had said no? What if He said, “I can’t do it. I won’t do it.” I can hardly think about that. Jesus changed the world forever when He surrendered. I pray we can have the same courage to say, “But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

~Courtney

The Final Surrender

Three days ago we celebrated Jesus’ victory over death and His opening wide the gates of heaven. We tried to linger with Him in Gethsemane on Thursday, and not hide our eyes when He was nailed to the cross on Friday. We sat by the tomb and we waited. On Sunday, we ran with the women, shouting: “He is not here! He is risen!”

Two weeks ago we buried my husband’s brother in the ground next to their father. We would have liked to linger longer with him as he battled cancer, but it was quick. We didn’t hide our eyes or our hearts when he got weak and jaundiced. On Sunday two weeks back, we sang from the pews: “It is well with my soul.” And it is. And we sang “I Cherish the Old Rugged Cross.” And we do. We finished with “Amazing Grace.” And it is, yes it is.

Death is the final surrender, isn’t it? Death rebuffs any thought that we have control. “Who can add a single hour to your life?” Death cannot be thwarted by time, by medicine, by family or friends. If that were the case, we would have saved Bill by giving him our time, the best medicine, our very breath.

Death, like suffering, is the great equalizer. We will all face it, and we will surrender. No one gets a pass on death. But we do choose if we will surrender to it. Bill embraced his diagnosis with great courage and care for those who loved him. That wasn’t always the case.

Addiction had robbed Bill of the generosity of spirit that comes with sobriety. His liquid master made him miserly and small, needing to protect what little peace he had. That’s the irony of addiction—it makes your world very small, though you think you’re bigger than life. That’s what happened to Bill anyway.

But by the time he got his diagnosis, something miraculous happened. Bill’s surrender to “a power greater than himself”– actually freed him from himself. The irony! Jesus met Bill in his addiction and taught him surrender. And in that freedom, Bill loved big.

Surrender to love changes everything. It’s why when we die (to anything—a dream, a hope), we learn to freely will what God wills. And that is resurrection power. When we will what God wills, we are free. Jesus is a good and generous master. We saw it in Technicolor in Bill’s surrender. And I will never be the same.

–Judy Lewis

When Surrendering Requires A Plan

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5 (NIV)

I’ve had moments in my life in which surrendering meant sobbing at my kitchen sink, snot across my face, hands in the air, saying, “I know you have this, God.” Okay, the hands in the air part isn’t true, but I’ve definitely had some very emotional surrenders in my life which left my dog cocking his head and whimpering at the sight of me.

But other times, surrendering has meant talking to God, and then developing a plan.
When I was in college, I was convicted about my TV habit (I swear I have more heinous sins than this in my past). First of all, I was watching shows that made me actually want the characters to have affairs. Who am I?! Second of all, days would lapse with my bible remaining closed while I gorged on trashy sitcoms.

In this case, surrendering my time to God didn’t need a lot of the theatrics I’m typically prone to. I needed God’s help, and I needed a daily surrender plan. So I poured my heart out to God, and decided that I would refrain from turning on the TV each day until I’d spent time in the Word.

And while after forming my plan, there were days when I neither read my bible nor sat in front of the television, eventually the extra time in the Word really changed my tastes, enabling me to fully surrender this worthless habit to God.

A year later when I met the man who would become my husband, I faced a whole new area in which to surrender to God. Y’all, my husband is really good-looking. And super smart. And totally hot when he plays the piano.

And I really wanted to make out with him.

But I also wanted to surrender to God’s call for purity, and I knew I couldn’t have both.
I needed a plan. I prayed (repeatedly) for God to give me strength, and then my future husband and I laid some ground rules concerning saving hanky-panky for our wedding day, the most beneficial being that we wouldn’t kiss if we were in the horizontal position.

See, surrendering to God’s will for my relationship meant I needed a daily surrender. And often for me, a daily surrender means I need safeguards in my life. Because people, I am weak on my own.

With that, are you having trouble surrendering an area of your life to God’s will? If so, I challenge you to keep praying, and to come up with a practical boundary or two to help you fully hand that bad boy over to the Lord.

And in the meantime, tell me your own surrender stories – the crying-at-the-kitchen-sink-with-hands-raised kinds and the I-need-a-plan-for-this-sucker ones as well. (And while we’re at it, if you’ve ever cried so hard you freaked your dog out, I’d love to hear that, too!) ~Christina

Sacred Story is honored to have Christina Ledbetter as a guest contributor this month. To hear more, visit Christina’s blog.

Never Surrender!

But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14–17 (NLT) (italics and bold mine)

I can still hear my professor’s commanding voice, “God’s Word is God’s will and God’s will is God’s Word. You either believe it or you don’t!” And in that moment something deep inside me changed forever. As a believer most of my life, I had misunderstood the importance of Scripture, until that day.  I came home that afternoon and picked up my old, tattered Bible. I held it in my hands, blew off the dust from it’s cover and prayed, “Father, this whole time…”

I now love the Word of God. I study it regularly, devouring its pages as much as I can. When it’s time to stop, my heart aches for more. I love it when my beliefs prove contrary to Scripture, because I know change will soon come. My pride revealed again!  Yet, this time I lean on God’s Word for guidance. I love God’s promises of forgiveness and unconditional love. Perhaps that is why I get so bent out of shape when people disregard Scripture.

It’s really the only time—the only time I don’t give in and surrender my belief about the Bible. Whenever someone gets passive about Scripture or they change it to make it fit their life as opposed to living their life by its standards, something inside me snaps. I get ready to fight for what I know to be holy. Not that God needs me to defend His Word. No, He speaks for Himself, but as I continue to understand the significant gift God gave me, I want to guard it with my words, my heart and my life.

How can we not? As it has given us comfort in times of hardships. It protects us from making foolish mistakes and even when we don’t fully understand the power of God’s Word, God still whispers, “I love you,” “You’re important to me,” “You matter.”

Be careful to never surrender the principles of the inspired Word of God. Read it for guidance. God’s Word is God’s will and God’s will for you is in His Word. Do you believe it? When’s the last time you read about His love for you? Remember He desires to encourage you, comfort you and prepare you for what He has called you to do.

`~Raquel

The Cross: My White Flag

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Almost every great war movie ends with a white flag raised by the defeated. The drum beats rise and the credits roll. The winners and losers are clearly defined and we’re inspired by the heroes who never quit.

The final battle scene between God and Satan at Golgotha ended with the raising of the sacrificial Lamb of God on the cross, the most torturous death known to man. But Jesus’ final cry of “It is finished” was no white flag at all. When He drew his last breath and gave up his spirit, an earthquake ripped through the land as the veil separating the Holy of Holies in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).

Jesus conquered sin and death that separated us from God. Satan’s plan to destroy the Son of Man was all part of the perfect plan to reconcile you and me as sons and daughters of the Most High God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). After Satan’s defeat, he turned his attention to the battle ground of your heart. He can’t destroy Jesus, but he can distract you from believing in Him.

Here’s how.

Life expects us to carry more than we were designed to carry alone. Yet, the world tells us “Quitters never win.” So we press on in our own strength, moving from failure to failure, sometimes fatefully interrupted by a futile victory. This is not the abundant life Jesus died to give you. Living the best you can with the knowledge of this earth is a distraction technique used by the enemy, the prince of this world (John 14:30). How could the best of this earth ever compete with the infinite knowledge of the Creator of everything in it?

When you accept the cross of Christ as eternal payment for your sins, the Holy Spirit of God takes up residency in your heart. You are never alone. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil 4:13). Satan’s plan over your life is defeated. This is why he works so hard to distract you from consuming the truth of the cross as your surrender to your own strength.

“When I am weak then I am strong.” What does it feel like to rest in weakness, knowing that you are actually becoming stronger in Him? It tastes like freedom. When I reach the end of my strength, I reach the end of me. I find myself free from my own will because I have none left.God allows this life to give you daily more than you can handle. He asks his faithful to go places we can’t go on our own. He allows us to traverse trials too great for us, but not for Him. All for His glory.

Life is sweetest at the point of surrender. Why wait until the point of failure for surrender? It takes courage to choose God’s strength before your own. Surrendering your own will for God’s will is not cowardice. It is courageous. What are you fighting in your own strength?   ~Brandi