anxiety, grief, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

The Loneliness in Suffering

The thing with trials is that they are compounded by loneliness. Many trials are so individualized that no one can fully share in the suffering with you. No one else feels exactly the same way you do. No one else responds the same way to similar events. No one else can bear the weight of feeling through the emotions that accompany your suffering. No one else can cry your tears. So even if you’re blessed enough to have someone’s arm around your shoulders during the tough times, you still have to walk through that dark valley alone.

No one else can cry your tears.

Sure, others have gone through similar trials, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re hurting right now. Having someone say, “I’ve been there; it sucks, but you’ll make it through,” is sometimes helpful. Even better, having someone just sitting beside you silently is comforting. But it’s not enough.

But Christ is enough. As the only fully divine AND fully human being, He understands what we’re going through in ways that no one else can. He was rejected, mocked, and put to death, which led to being separated from God the Father – the ultimate torture. That means He understands when our kids reject our values (which feels intensely personal). He understands when others offer empty platitudes that feel like mockery. He understands separation from the ones who matter most to us, whether by death or by divorce. Our souls crave this deep level of understanding when we are suffering.

Even better than just knowing that Jesus understands our sufferings like no one else does is the fact that He’s offered to switch burdens with us. Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) promises us rest if we can let go of the weights that are dragging us down:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Trust me, I know how hard it is to give my burden to Christ. It feels more like He’s prying my fingers open one by one and peeling that heartache back. But it’s worth it. You’ll feel better, I promise.

Leave me a comment with your prayer request, and I will spend time sharing your burden with the Lord. Sharing your heartaches with others who will share them with the One who understands will lighten your load. Try it.

divorce, grief

The Major Deal with a Minor Holiday

I love pizza even though the gluten in the crust and the lactose in the cheese usually make me feel sick. It’s a special treat nonetheless. But it’s not special enough to make up for the fact that it’s my Labor Day picnic-for-one meal. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a few slices of pizza.

So what’s the big deal about a not-always-so-big holiday? It highlights the fact that I’m alone. Again. Just let me wallow in the pit of loneliness for a little while without trying to get me to see the bright side of the situation. That strategy minimizes my feelings.

Everywhere I look on social media, pictures of families together on special outings crop up. My friends are with their families. Extended families are enjoying time together. The grocery store checkout lines are crowded with people buying last-minute bar-b-que items.

The real problem is that my family–the only family I have close by–is with their other family. They’re together, and I’m not. I don’t begrudge my children time with their father’s extended family. I don’t. Except maybe in a tiny way when it means knowing I’m not welcome in a place I used to be called daughter and sister.

While Labor Day might not seem as big a deal as, say, Christmas or Thanksgiving, I’m still sad at the loss of family traditions. And that’s what makes a minor holiday a major deal.

 

 

change, grief

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.

change, grief

They’re Just Things, Right?

packing china cabinet Only they’re not just things. They’re a piece of my life. They’re tied up with all sorts of happy family memories. As I sit here crying and packing up my grandmother’s china for long-term storage, I can’t help but remember all of the family dinners I attended and hosted. Dinners using fine china. Sometimes this particular set of fine china, sometimes other brands and styles.

I feel as if I’m packing away my holiday dinners, my family, and my gift of hostessing. I know in my head that my china is just going to be packed away for just a season. I know in my head that I will still have holiday dinners, my (smaller) family, and my gift of hostessing. But my heart has a hard time remembering that. My family and my friends tell me that this season of mourning will give way to a time of joy. One day my china will grace a beautiful table that’s surrounded by family and friends again. That will be my time for joy. My clock may be stuck at midnight, but I’m holding onto David’s promise:

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” ~ Psalm 30:5 (NIV)

Yes, I know my china is just stuff. I know it’s an earthly treasure, really I do. But my feeble heart sometimes ties my memories of earthly treasures to my heavenly treasures (Matthew 5:19-21).

So sometimes china plates are not really china plates. Sometimes china plates are dreams, and my dreams lay shattered like the crystal goblet that hit the ceramic tiles. So I’ll let the tears fall as I pack my china away, but I’ll try to hold onto the fact that it’s just for a season. A happier period is coming, with or without my china in its cabinet.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 (NIV)

 

grief

How Many Tears?

cryingDoes it take to fill an ocean? Does it take to forgive the unforgivable? To recover from cancer or a suicide scare? To grieve what will never be? To get over it?

How many tears before friends run out of Kleenexes and platitudes? Actually, I’ll take the tissues, but you can keep your platitudes. How many tears before the church gets flooded?

Just as there is no specified time limit on grief–so they say– I don’t think there should be a specified number of tears. I hope. I’ve spent nearly a year crying my way through Sunday services. Frankly, I’m tired of it. But every time I walk into church, my eyes begin to water.

I spent the first 6 or 7 months trying unsuccessfully to hide my tears. I alternated between fleeing to the restroom and hoping someone–anyone–would care enough to notice.

Then I went to a different church, but that’s a story for another post. When my eyes begin to well up, people I don’t even know surround me with their arms, prayers, and encouragement! It’s been healing.

People say I shouldn’t be embarrassed by my tears. But I am. Why? I’m not sure.

I thought I’d take a look at what God says about tears and crying. According to my trusty NIV Study Bible, there are 9 references to tear/s and 22 references to cry/cried. Twenty-seven is not a huge number; most of the cry/cried verses are talking about calling out to God for help in some situation as opposed to actual tears. But it’s enough to make me realize that God notices when my tears fall. He hears me when I cry, with or without actual words.

Nothing in Scripture seems to indicate that anyone’s tears will stop flowing before Heaven, so I should probably buy stock in Kleenex. John does promise in Revelation that Jesus Himself will wipe away our tears though. That’s a day I’m looking forward to!

In the interim, I’ll probably cry in church tomorrow. My friends may run out of tissues, and the church may overflow with tears, but that’s okay because the Savior hears my cries for healing, and the King of Kings will offer me something better than Kleenexes.

How many tears does it take? I think I should stop keeping track.