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A Mourner’s Thoughts On Sickness, Sorrow, Pain And Death – Scott Sauls

Scott Sauls, Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, a man well acquainted with ministering to the sick, sorrowful, those in pain and those grieving or living in anticipation of death, opens God’s Word and reveals important scriptural truths about suffering. This post has the power to equip the Saints as well as offering much needed validation to the suffering. Click on the link in red below to read Pastor Sauls’ article.

” Let all who have ears give heed to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.” ~ Revelation 3:22 (Weymouth New Testament)

Source: A Mourner’s Thoughts On Sickness, Sorrow, Pain And Death – Scott Sauls

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief, Links

 

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Neurosis

borderline-personality-disorderIt’s 11:40 a.m.

Gracen has not yet made her daily morning call signaling her desire for help from her bed. She’s been routinely waking up around 9:30 this summer. I try not to worry, not to be paranoid; but it’s been like this since Cole died. I refuse to be ruled by fear—fear that I will find her “sleeping”—in the biblical sense. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

A prayer, a plea, escapes my mental captivity. (2 Corinthians 10:5) I quickly turn my mind to something else – anything else that will hold off the anxious thoughts, the mental images of what I might find should I open her door. I’ll give her till noon to call. She might have stayed up late reading. Twenty minutes of distraction to avoid feeding my fears; acting on my paranoia.

I distinctly remember having a conversation with my friend and colleague, Judy, when Bethany was just a baby. I don’t remember the conversation word for word but I recall the gist of it. I’d asked her what the point was in entering Bethany’s room to see if she was still breathing in her crib. What could I do at that point? Judy responded that I could administer CPR, that it might not be too late. A wise response.

I think, even then, though, that I had begun to expect the worst. That I was resigned to the things I could not change. And that mentality carries forward to this day. Experience has done nothing but reinforce it.

I can just imagine the response of the choose joy contingent. I must have hope, I must think positively. . . It’s been 2 1/2 years, why can’t you get over this? (Or maybe that’s my own conscious condemning me). I’ve been infected with the cultural message that if I just do this or that I can get beyond this. But as I discussed in my recent post, Trust, Works & Supernatural Power, my analytical mind also realizes that I need the Holy Spirit’s intervention in order to heal. Maybe I can overcome without His help, but honestly refusing to work through my pain won’t lead to healing. And in the long run it’s more hurtful than helpful.

So why would I share my personal neurosis with all of you? What is my motivation?, I ask myself. Am I just seeking pity?

Oh, heck no!

There’s a small but hurting population of loss parents out there who grapple daily with fears for their surviving children, for their spouse. Individuals for whom an unanswered text or phone call or a late arrival without explanation incites anxiety far greater than the average person would experience.

For those men and women, a post like this validates their own fears. I can’t begin to tell you the enormous relief a loss parent experiences when someone says, “I feel that way too” because it doesn’t happen very often. More often than not, their very real fears are dismissed. No one wants to believe that it could happen again. That God would be so cruel as to allow you to lose another child. But every loss parent knows it could happen and David and I are living proof. That’s not to say that God is cruel, but that line of thinking is an all too common belief, even among Christians.

So yes, I want to validate the feelings of every loss parent I encounter.

Validation leads to healing.

And for those of you who haven’t experienced such a devastating loss, maybe this post will give you a glimpse into the mentality of a loss parent. Maybe you will not be so quick to jump in and remind a brokenhearted parent that they must have hope or shouldn’t think the way they do. Maybe instead you will gift them with understanding. Maybe the words that will tumble out of your mouth will be, “I can certainly understand your fears” or even, “I think I’d feel the same way.” Maybe you will be wise enough to stop right there; to fight back the urge to tack on, “But, . . . “, because pretty much anything that follows that word, but, will invalidate and dismiss any understanding the bereaved might have derived. Tacking on that one word, but, is a bait and switch. What appears to be understanding and compassion, is revealed to be admonishment and rebuke; criticism and judgment. It’s cruel yet offered with the kindest of intentions. It reflects ignorance or an unwillingness to imagine how those words might feel if you stood in the shoes of the bereaved.

Grief is all about feelings.

Processing feelings.

Grief is not an intellectual pursuit.

C.S. Lewis said in his book, A Grief Observed, “Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.” “Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less?” He went on to say, “Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?” And then, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

What are you most afraid of? How do you feel when someone implies your fears are unmerited or little more than paranoia?

Never forget that you have the luxury of walking away—whether you feel your words were a helpful encouragement or woefully inadequate. You. Walk. Away.

The bereaved do not.

There is no escape but there are moments of relief.  Moments when the burden is lifted as a friend or even a stranger yokes up with the wounded and hurting by sharing and validating their feelings—strengthening the bereaved for the moment when the burden once again settles onto their shoulders alone.

11:49 a.m.

My cell phone rings.

The display reads, Sugar Shaker Boxx, and sweet relief surges through me followed quickly by a bit of dread. I rise, bracing myself for the sight of the wheelchair that stands sentinel beside Gracen’s bed. Bracing myself for the tasks no mother ever wants to accept their grown child needs help with.

I put on a smile and adapt a sedately cheerful persona (Gracen is not a morning person) and I open her bedroom door.

Another day has begun.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2016 in Grief

 

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To Love is to be Vulnerable – C.S. Lewis

 

1 John 4:16b “God is love”

Ever considered that God’s heart is just as vulnerable as ours are?

Partial lyrics:
“Love, how many times can a heart break?
Love, how much weight can a soul take?
Love, I don’t know where you ran off to
But love, love, love, I still believe in you.
Yeah, I still believe in you.
I still believe that you’ll come knocking on my door
When I least expect you to
You give me something I can hold
You pull me through, cuz that’s what you do,
That’s what you do love
Yeah, that’s what you do love”

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2016 in Faith, Links, Music

 

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Conversations with Melanie – Part 3

 

images (16)A fellow bereaved parent and blogger, Melanie, recently asked me if I still struggle with feeling God’s love. The question came in response to a post I published several months ago entitled, “Uncovering Unknown Issues of the Heart”. Yesterday I posted Melanie’s response assuming our conversation had ended. But Melanie and I have bonded over our desire to process our grief while simultaneously making sense of the faith that has come to sustain and define us. The foundations of our faith have not been shaken, but we still wrestle with elements of our faith. And so, our conversation continued. I’ve pretty much cut it down to the parts of theological significance. I hope our struggle to understand the God we love, the One True God, might help someone else who is struggling to make sense of their faith in light of circumstances that cast doubt on what they’ve always believed to be true about the God of Abraham, Jacob and Issac. So, here we go again . . .

Melanie:  I don’t remember if I replied again to you in that conversation, but I need to tell you that your words really touched a deep place in need of healing in my spirit. I think that I have continued to feel that I am somehow responsible for my son’s death. Isn’t that ridiculous? Maybe it’s easier to blame myself than to keep wrestling with the intersection of God’s will, human choice and the goodness and love of the Father.

Job had not sinned when Satan targeted him. And God’s purpose was not to teach Job a lesson but to show Satan that His servants would continue to serve Him in spite of suffering and loss.

Janet:  Melanie, thanks as always for your kind words as they encourage me as I wrestle with my own demons (so to speak) in this process of refinement. And while it’s patently untrue than you are responsible for Dominic’s death it’s not “ridiculous” that you might feel as if you are – it’s just one of those bizarre and entirely normal ways the human mind wrestles with the unacceptable in life.

Maybe this sounds a bit crazy, but I think it’s one of the ways believer’s cope with anger with God. We are afraid to be mad at Him and yet buried beneath our beliefs about His love and good plans lurks this anger we are either unaware of or we are too afraid to address. It’s easier – less frightening – to assume responsibility (or blame) ourselves than it is to open that locked box in our hearts that hides our deepest fears about God and confront those fears.

It’s transference, plain and simple (in my completely uneducated opinion). But listen to what C.S. Lewis said in “A Grief Observed”,

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

So this is what God’s really like – yikes! But God not only is capable of dealing with those frightening fears about His character and the way He works, He is forcing the lid on that locked box open and demanding that we confront those fears so that He can dispel our faulty misconceptions. Those misconceptions hold us at arms length from Him and hinder the spread of the gospel to the lost because they besmirch His character and His innate holiness.

Melanie:  I often refer back to Lewis’ book because it is so honest and challenging.

Something we have discussed around our table is the fact that we humans are not equipped or even capable of comprehending God in His fullness and majesty. “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts”… So we create shortcuts, paradigms and analogies that serve pretty well when things are going OK but fail miserably when they aren’t.

And often our faith communities are uncomfortable with questions or simply don’t provide space and time to ask them. (When teaching a SS lesson-how many teachers invite real questions?) I get it–who wants to stand in front of a classroom and admit you just don’t know?

But we who have experienced great pain must confront and decide. Who is this God we claim to serve and follow? What does love really look like? Can we learn to live with unanswered questions?

Janet:  Exactly! It’s not disrespectful and it’s not heretical. “Come let us reason together!” It’s required if we wish to have a relationship with the Lord that has deep roots and bears fruit. I don’t want to be the cursed fig tree.

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree – Mark 11:12-14

12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

What on earth does it mean when I say that I don’t want to be the cursed fig tree?

The fig tree is a symbolic reference to the nation of Israel.  The story of the cursed fig tree is told in both the gospel of Matthew and Mark and according to the Biblical accounts occurred the week before Christ’s death on the cross.  Christ is welcomed to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and hailed as Messiah in an event known as The Triumphal Entry. Jerusalem is overrun by worshipers coming to celebrate Passover. By comparing the accounts in Matthew and Mark we find Jesus returning to Jerusalem the next day when He encounters the fig tree. The fruit on fig trees appear before the leaves. So, it was a reasonable expectation that a fig tree with leaves would also have fruit; regardless of the season. Even so, why curse a fruitless tree? Matthew and Mark also tell us that after cursing the fig tree Jesus continued on to Jerusalem where he proceeded to cleanse the Temple of the money changers. The next day, as Jesus and the disciples again return to Jerusalem, they pass the cursed fig tree and find it withered.

Still confused?  Gotquestions.org explains the significance of both the cursed fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple as follows:

“Jesus had just arrived at Jerusalem amid great fanfare and great expectations, but then proceeds to cleanse the Temple and curse the barren fig tree. Both had significance as to the spiritual condition of Israel. With His cleansing of the Temple and His criticism of the worship that was going on there (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17), Jesus was effectively denouncing Israel’s worship of God. With the cursing of the fig tree, He was symbolically denouncing Israel as a nation and, in a sense, even denouncing unfruitful “Christians” (that is, people who profess to be Christian but have no evidence of a relationship with Christ).”

“The presence of a fruitful fig tree was considered to be a symbol of blessing and prosperity for the nation of Israel. Likewise, the absence or death of a fig tree would symbolize judgment and rejection. Symbolically, the fig tree represented the spiritual deadness of Israel, who while very religious outwardly with all the sacrifices and ceremonies, were spiritually barren because of their sins. By cleansing the Temple and cursing the fig tree, causing it to whither and die, Jesus was pronouncing His coming judgment of Israel and demonstrating His power to carry it out. It also teaches the principle that religious profession and observance are not enough to guarantee salvation, unless there is the fruit of genuine salvation evidenced in the life of the person. James would later echo this truth when he wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), not just give an appearance of religiosity. God judges fruitlessness, and expects that those who have a relationship with Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5-8).”

I don’t want to be an unfruitful Christian.  I will wrestle, I will struggle, I will confront, and I may pout and complain and whine and moan along the way, but I’ve come too far, been through too much to quit now!  I hope you feel the same way.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief, Links

 

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Conversations with Melanie – Part 1

Conversations with Melanie – Part 1

A fellow bereaved parent and blogger, Melanie, recently sent me the following question in regards to “Uncovering Unknown Issues of the Heart,  which I posted several months ago, “Janet, do you still have this struggle between needing to “feel” God and intellectually accepting truth about Him?”

 

It might help if you read the article first, but it’s certainly not necessary.

Uncovering Unknown Issues of the Heart

I think this is one of those seriously painful issues every Christian entertains when the bottom of their world drops out.  And I am a painfully average Christian!  My answer to Melanie’s question follows; although I’ve edited it, corrected misspelled words, etc., and as any true writer is prone to do, added to and reworded parts of it.

Yes, I still struggle with feeling God’s love for me as opposed to just believing He loves me. I am no longer desperate to feel His love – some of that is due to pharmaceutical help and some of it’s due to the inability to maintain that kind of emotional energy over an extended period of time.  But, yes, I still struggle to feel God’s love.  However, my perspective has changed a bit in the last few months.

Just as I love my husband and daughter, I realize that I don’t always “feel” a rush of love for them every time I see them. And as you no doubt have experienced yourself with your own families, sometimes how I do feel is less than loving. Life happens. Petty frustrations and unmet expectations result in less than loving feelings, but when their safety is threatened, or someone harms them emotionally, my response is clearly indicative of intense and passionate love for them.

There are times you tell your children “no” and they just can’t understand why. Somehow, this child that you labored over, nursed and nourished, clothed and nurtured, still doubts that you have their best interest at heart.  Instead they think you don’t trust them or don’t want them to have fun. Their minds are so clouded by what they want that they can’t comprehend a reasonable and logical argument explaining the reasoning behind your response.  In most instances, the conversation deteriorates from that point on as anger and attitude surface.   I, then, find myself frustrated and sometimes resentful for being perceived as the bad guy. Parenting is hard.

As embarrassing as this is to admit, I think I respond the exact same way my children do when God says no or closes a door – not that His response to my reaction is frustration and resentment.  But honestly, just like my children, I want what I want when I want it, how I want it, and I don’t want anyone telling me that what I want isn’t best for me.

Just the other day I asked myself exactly what I expect God to do to make me “feel” His love?

I can’t make my husband feel happy or sad or loved at will. I can try but some days, for whatever reason, the things that normally make him laugh or feel loved just don’t result in the usual emotional response. Emotions are a response to some stimuli. It’s pretty unreasonable of me to demand that God provide that stimuli on demand, but isn’t that what I’ve been trying to do? Even if He did, some days it just wouldn’t work. I’d be too distracted, afraid, or whatever for that stimuli to generate the hoped for response.  C.S. Lewis said in A Grief Observed, “The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”  Could it be that in my desperation to “feel” God’s love, I can’t quiet myself enough to hear His still small voice?

Woman Unwrapping a GiftI think I’m starting to understand that the only thing I can do is ask God to help me recognize and experience His love for me. I can ask God to help me not only accept His love, like a gift wrapped package and to receive it by opening the gift but also to open my heart so I value the gift as it was intended.  And that last point is critical.  Have you ever received a gift and been disappointed because it wasn’t what you hoped for or maybe you wondered, “What am I supposed to do with this?”  In order to grasp God’s love and care I need to be able to comprehend and fully appreciate the value of the gift given.  Sometimes it’s only in retrospect that we understand and appreciate a gift.

If I can’t learn to recognize God’s loving overtures or become increasingly confident His love for me regardless of how I feel, I can imagine only two possible ways God might satisfy my demand to make me feel His love.  One, I can surrender myself to become a robot in His hand, which He never wanted, hence the gift/curse of free will, or two, I can require God to answer to me (which is absurd but bear with me a minute).   This is how that idea might play out:  Janet needs to feel love, therefore God needs to give Janet ‘xyz’ or ‘abc’ to stimulate the feeling of love she “needs” to feel.  In this way, I, Janet, the creation am dictating to my creator, God, how to satisfy me. It’s not only presumptuous but you can fast forward to the logical conclusion that all God would succeed in doing is creating a spoiled, entitled and demanding child who felt no love for Him in return because a demand/fulfillment or demand/resentment cycle would have quickly been established.  An entirely unsatisfying relationship, I dare say, based solely upon manipulation.

There’s a dynamic in a relationship with an unseen God that simply doesn’t exist in any other relationship I’ve ever been part of.  That dynamic is, of course, the fact that I can’t see or touch God Almighty.  My relationship with Him requires far more faith and trust than any earthly relationship I will ever have.  To put that in perspective allow me to use a human relationship to make a point.

I’ve been married to my husband, David, for twenty-eight years.  I see, touch and speak to him every day.  I love my husband and I know he loves me.  Even so, relationships ebb and flow.  There are periods of time in which we are emotionally closer than others.  In the twenty-eight years we’ve been married have I ever doubted my husbands love for me?  Yes, more than once in fact.  If I can see, touch and speak to this man every day and still manage to suffer through periods of time where I can’t feel his love for me, in spite of the fact that he is a good man with a servant’s heart, why should I be surprised that I can’t always feel God’s love for me?  Why should I expect to feel God’s love for me all the time?

falling-in-love-with-same-personI guess I’m concluding that I need to humble myself and ask Him to help me experience the love I know, without a doubt, He has for me.  I also need His help receiving His love because there is no earthly relationship that truly offers completely unconditional love and acceptance.   I have experienced my parents and husband’s attempts to love me unconditionally, however, their example, will always fall short. We’re human, we all have expectations and unfortunately those expectations color our interaction with others either through spoken word or subtle body language, attitudes and actions. Only God offers unconditional love.

I need to realize that all my earthly experience with love has been flawed.  I don’t have a pure worldly example of what true unconditional love looks like.  So how can I possibly compare the way I perceive God’s love for me and decide if it measures up?   Personal experience has taught me that at some point, in some way, love will let me down.  Unfortunately, I think life has taught me to expect that God will let me down too, and sometimes my circumstances seem to scream that He has.  It’s not true but people see what they expect to see, myself included.  And perception and reality are often two very different things.  The problem is that we can’t always recognize the difference.

Christians encounter so many different situations but regardless of the specific stressor many of the same emotional responses are generated and our response to those emotions is complicated by our faith and trying to lean on and trust God while simultaneously dealing with feelings of abandonment and betrayal or as if in the grand scheme of things His plans supersede our individual value to Him.  It often feels as if we are but pawns in the pursuit of the lost, and that the wounds we suffer along the way are somehow acceptable, unintended consequences.  I think we feel that way because that’s what we actually see played out before our eyes in the world around us – it’s how humans act, but not how God acts.  I swear the hardest part of grieving is trying to reconcile my real world experience with God because He is holy and we have no visible representation of what holy really looks like when played out on the world’s stage.

This I do know because the Bible says it’s true, we are not expendable or deemed more or less valuable than any other Saint or sinner in God’s eyes.  He does not operate on the philosophy that the ends justify the means.  The Bible clearly states that God is love – everything about who He is and how He works is the living embodiment of love.

God-is-love

1_corinthians_13_4_8_by_yods-d4r0d511 Corinthians 13 tells us exactly what that looks like.  You can substitute “God” or a personal pronoun for love in those verses and it reads something like this:  God is patient and kind.  He is not proud, rude or self-serving.  He is not easily angered.  He does not delight in evil [as the wicked do].  God always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. God never fails. 

Since we only see glimpses of God’s innate character (displayed through lives being transformed (sanctified) by the Holy Spirit in fellow believers) and never see a fully sanctified believer we are tempted to believe that God behaves like humans do.  It is a struggle to see Him filtered through the words on the pages of our Bibles.  But even as Satan whispers his lies, your fear-filled heart is wrestling to cling to your faith in spite of and also because of your circumstances and you, like everyone else, become all too aware of your brokenness, exhaustion and most of all your absolute ineptitude.  It’s frustrating, horrifying, discouraging and frightening and we all end up doubting and questioning because God made us insufficient in our own power.  And all those feeling are magnified by the knowledge that His ways are not our ways and that sometimes He allows the absolute unacceptable in our lives and we are terrified of that possibility, especially if we’ve experienced it in the past.

Ultimately, it’s clear that my desperate desire to feel God’s love on demand was in fact an unrealistic expectation.  God’s plan is best.  I don’t want to be a robot and He doesn’t want to control me.  He wants me to choose to love Him just as He choose to love me.  I want a mature love relationship with Him not the relationship of a temperamental toddler and an adult.   In moments of desperation, I need to quiet myself, or in the event that I can’t manage that in my own efforts, allow God to quiet me, so that I can actually hear His voice speaking to me, reassuring me of not only His presence, but of His unfailing love as well.   I also need to remind myself that just as my human emotions for others ebb and flow, my ability to feel God’s love will do the same.  It’s not reasonable to feel that heady kind of infatuation for or from God every moment of every day.

images (11)Furthermore, I must remember that because I have no plainly visible example of pure unconditional love, only God’s Word and the Holy Spirit can help me recognize and comprehend the reality of His unfailing love. God does not love me like anyone else loves me.  He loves me better than anyone else has ever loved me and ever will love me.  And yes, because I can’t see and touch God here on earth, I have to discipline myself to trust that what His word says is true, that He does love me with an everlasting love.  Love is commitment and love is an emotional response to stimuli.  When I can’t feel that emotional response I have to have faith that God’s commitment to love me will not fail me.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Faith, Grief, Links, Music

 

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To Love is to be Vulnerable – C.S. Lewis

1 John 4:16b “God is love”

Ever considered that God’s heart is just as vulnerable as ours are?

Partial lyrics:
“Love, how many times can a heart break?
Love, how much weight can a soul take?
Love, I don’t know where you ran off to
But love, love, love, I still believe in you.
Yeah, I still believe in you.
I still believe that you’ll come knocking on my door
When I least expect you to
You give me something I can hold
You pull me through, cuz that’s what you do,
That’s what you do love
Yeah, that’s what you do love”

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Faith, Links, Music

 

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Reflections on Grief: The Rubik’s Cube & Heart to Heart with C.S. Lewis

(Facebook Post 8/31/15)

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– The Rubik’s Cube –

I wish I could wrap my arms around all these facts and feelings. Enclose them in one space and then squish them together into a small square and sit them on a shelf so that I was not consumed by them all the time. If I could form them into a Rubik’s Cube I could take down and turn and examine each fact, each feeling individually, line them up in order, make some kind of sense out of them, control them. But I can’t and it leaves me feeling so frustrated, so antsy. I imagine it feels like a meth addict tweaking. It’s so relentless; so, so, so, I don’t even know.

unknown (2) – Heart to Heart with C.S. Lewis –

I think I am struggling to voice what C.S. Lewis already said so very well in “A Grief Observed”. C.S. Lewis said some controversial things in that book. I guess because he was speaking of his own thoughts and feelings and comparing them to what he knew or thought he knew about God. Regardless, when a well-respected Christian says something we often embrace it without thought based on his reputation and standing alone. Yet if I say virtually the same thing, I feel as if eyebrows will go up and scripture will be quoted in order to correct my heretical thinking. Maybe my own inner eyebrow is rising, my own inner mind spouting well worn scriptures back to my heartbroken other half – my internal split personality alive and well and taking me to task.

So I’ve summarized, in my own words, some of Lewis’s quotes – it actually took me three summaries for the first quote alone. My thoughts are numbered and placed beneath the quote they reflect. Some of the summaries are things I’ve fleshed out in my own mind and was surprised to discover he had already said something very similar. Others are things I’ve not encountered and maybe never will, but I recognized the truth of them and put them in my own words as I understood them. All this is my attempt to fashion my own internal Rubic’s Cube of reason for my hearts unreasonable demand for control – for closure – for meaning and purpose – for peace.

“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.”

1. I can find comfort in the truth that my children fulfilled their God ordained purpose in life – no matter how short it was.

2. I can take comfort in the spiritual changes suffering will manifest.

3. I will not find maternal comfort – I must accept and understand I will never find comfort for my separation from my children. Never.

“I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache and about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

4. An unanticipated truth about grief is that “I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” I can’t say it any better than he did.

“For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?”

“But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?”

“How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”

5. Grief is made up of phases that you go through repeatedly. You don’t work through one and advance to the next but instead maybe make a step forward and later find out you really didn’t take a step forward at all and begin again without any idea of how long the entire process will last.

“It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”

6. It doesn’t matter how well you yourself or others perceive you to be coping with your grief. It will continue until it’s done.

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.”
“Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less?

7. We might try to conquer the overload of feelings with thought, but that logical understanding will not prevent you from feeling the intense emotions grief generates. There is no way to avoid the feelings.

“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”

8. Grief changes you. You may heal from the searing pain, but in the end you will be forever changed. You cannot return to the person you were. You have been irrevocably altered in fundamental ways, if not outwardly apparent then inwardly scarred.

“Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?”

9. We all wonder if the ways we try to cope with our grief are completely vain – that instead we will simply have to endure it.

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”

“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

10. When we desperately need God we often feel abandoned.

“Nothing will shake a man-or at any rate a man like me-out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”

11. Introspective people fear that the only way they learn the lessons God wants to teach them is through suffering.

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand. Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions ‘on the further shore,’ pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! ‘Things on this side are not so different after all.’ There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.”

12. Those who grieve don’t want to hear about the consolation faith provides. In the midst of our heartache we find consolation non-existent, we simply want what was lost restored.

“. . . for the greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress.”

13. Deep love results in deep grief. Great faith results in fierce attacks from Satan.

“And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”

“I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense. It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object. Now their target is gone. I keep on through habit fitting an arrow to the string, then I remember and have to lay the bow down.”

14. Grief feels like continuous waiting for what comes next. It leaves one on constantly alert, unable to relax, with endless, repetitive emptiness stretching before you.

“What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

15. God’s plans are for our eternal good and may be terribly painful in this earthly world in which we reside.

“Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can’t escape. Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable. And how or why did such a reality blossom (or fester) here and there into the terrible phenomenon called consciousness? Why did it produce things like us who can see it and, seeing it, recoil in loathing? Who (stranger still) want to see it and take pains to find it out, even when no need compels them and even though the sight of it makes an incurable ulcer in their hearts? People like H. herself, who would have truth at any price.”

16. The grieving often dig for every minute detail in regards to the events that surrounded the death of their loved one from the grisly details of how it happened to how people heard the news, responded and what they did as a result. We want to know it all regardless of how much it hurts.

“Bridge-players tell me there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously’. Apparently it’s like that. Your bid – for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world.”

17. The loss of a close loved one elevates what you believe about God, heaven and hell to a level of supreme importance. Suddenly what others have told you is no longer good enough. You must determine for yourself what you believe.

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

18. We fear we might learn something about God we find unacceptable.

“An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”

19. We are absolutely unprepared for the way others respond to us after the death of a loved one. Some people avoid you, some want to know all the details so they can either gossip about you or feel as if they are part of the inner circle. The grief-stricken make others uncomfortable.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Books, Faith, Grief

 

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