Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
John 14: 27
“Dark hours come to us all; and if we have no firm cable to a peace that can pass unbroken through their murky gloom, we shall be in a state of continual dread…Let nothing come to you which you shall not instantly hand over to Him – all petty worries, all crushing difficulties, all inability to believe.”
F. B. Meyer
Today’s Study Text:
“Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.”
1 Kings 17: 17
“The Test of the Home-Life Part 2
“Be not hasty to offer advice to those who are bowed down with a weight of trouble. There is a sacredness in grief which demands our reverence; the very habitation of a mourner must be approached with awe.”
Pastor and Teacher
How would I define the word “grief”?
Other than the death of someone you dearly love, what other events in “home-life” can cause deep grief?
“I measure every grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if it weighs like mine –
Or has an easier size.”
“Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us.”
As our study text for today tells us, after some time of Elijah and the widow following a daily routine in their “home-life,” the widow’s son took ill, to the point where we are told “there was no more breath in him.” He died -- leaving not only a grief-stricken widow, but a childless mother, too!
If the widow hadn’t suffered enough, she found herself totally alone in the world with only a man from a foreign country living on the roof of her house. For those of you who are women, please try and put yourself in the position of the widow. Or possibly, you have or are in her situation. You may have lost your husband and lost a child, too. How do you think you would feel? What would be your emotional response? Now, let me go one step further. In working, in-depth on the study of the word “grief,” I found that it doesn’t just apply to the emotions associated with death. Grief is also connected in old times with the word, “gravitas” which means heavy and weighty -- the feeling of grief certainly can be. Grief can also be associated with anything that leaves us in mental anguish -- and this isn’t just death. It can be the loss of a relationship or a wall that divides family members so they don’t understand or speak to one another.
This is why, as I was praying over the thoughts I wanted to share with you today regarding “home-life” and the resulting emotion of grief that inflicts damage on us everyday, no matter how strong we think we are or how devoted a Christian we are, grief can be tough to deal with. Now please, don’t get me wrong, I believe that through Christ and with our heavenly Father’s presence in our lives every day, what is a bitter place of sorrow can be transformed. However, what if we as God’s daughters and sons became healing conduits, not only allowing God to work at His pace in our lives where grief has left its corrosive scar, but then with our hearts open to doing nothing but spreading love, we were able to reach out to those who were hurting, too. I’ll ask you, “What if we followed Elijah’s example and began by loving the foreigner, the Baal-worshipper, the poor, the outcast and those who society deems unworthy?” What a great place to start!
As a Christian, I’m ashamed by behavior that doesn’t reflect the love God has poured out upon me. What a tremendous opportunity we have to spread healing to a grieving world. And this is why I wanted to broaden today’s devotional thoughts to reflect not only the mourning and sorrow which takes place when someone dies, but also when a parent or spouse finds a child or their beloved in the clutches of drug addiction. Or when the wall of separation in a family becomes so thick, you end up feeling totally alone, like precious Ellen C. who wrote me last week.
During my study, I read some words penned by Kate Braestrup who lost her husband, a Maine State Trooper, in a car accident. She was widowed with four young children, between the ages of 3 and 9. From this experience, she opened her life to assisting law enforcement as a chaplain and she shares this insight in helping others deal with what we call grief: “Ah, I smiled. I’m not here to keep you from freaking out. I’m here to be with you while you freak out, or grieve or laugh or suffer or sing. It is a ministry of presence. It is showing up with a loving heart.”
As I read these words, I thought of the way Jesus, when on earth, handled with tenderness those who were hurting the most, those I call “Life’s grievers.” How about the woman who bled for twelve years -- a total society outcast. A woman whose religion banished her from even entering the place of worship.
And then there was the tax collector, Zaccheus. Who would want to be around this guy? To say he didn’t have a friend in the world would be an understatement. Without a doubt, he was grieving for a lost life -- a lonely existence. How could he ever undo the tangled knot of his life? Do you think he was one of “life’s grievers”? You bet he was -- and then Jesus said, “Not any more. The tangles are made straight for I’m going to come to your house today and give you some healing medicine for that toxic sorrow that’s eating you alive!”
Jesus didn’t heal the “grievers” He met by giving them a slap on the back and a “just pull yourselves up by the bootstraps” pep-talk. No! Sometimes all He did was listen, which is exactly what happened when He took a three day walk to Tyre and Sidon to visit another Phoenician widow whose daughter was ill. Because He loved and He listened. This got me to thinking about the words of Rabbi Harold Kushner whose son, Aaron, at the age of fourteen died of progeria, a disease which prematurely ages the body. I choose to share his advice because as one who experienced the affects of grief, he knows first-hand how insensitive certain individuals can be:
“At some of the darkest moments in my life, some people I thought of as friends deserted me -- some because they cared about me and it hurt them to see me in pain; others because I reminded them of their own vulnerability; and that was more than they could handle. But real friends overcame their discomfort and came to sit with me. If they had not words to make me feel better, they sat in silence (much better than saying, ‘You’ll get over it,’ or ‘it’s not so bad; others have it worse’) and I loved them for it.”
So often, in the “home-life,” it is easy to say to those around us, whose response to life’s challenges may be different than our own, “Just snap out of it!” But as author Doug Manning observes, “Grieving is as natural as crying when you are hurt, sleeping when you are tired or sneezing when your nose itches. It is nature’s way of healing a broken heart.” Who are we to judge another on how quickly or slowly their healing process should be.
I appreciate the thought expressed by Maria Boudling who reminds those who call themselves Christians that, “to regard grief as somehow unworthy of a Christian…is to forget the example of Christ who was so often ‘moved with compassion,’ who wept at His loss of Lazarus and prayed the longer in His agony. We cannot short-circuit human processes; we have to give the experience time to come home to us before it can become a motive for hope and a promise of fuller life.”
Whether grieving is the result of the loss of a child, as with the widow of Zarephath, may we learn from the loving kindness of Elijah who provided this sorrowful lady with the ministry of his presence, which was what she needed most in her painful time of heartbreak. As someone once said, “It is best if we treat everyone as if their heart is breaking, because it probably is.”
What a way for us to reflect not only our Father’s love but to give those who have never met Him, a glimpse of His glorious healing heart.
“Father, thank You for knowing I cannot bear this grief alone. Others try but they cannot keep my faith from stumbling; Only You can carry me gently through the days and nights.”
“Come, ye disconsolale, where’er you languish,
Come at the shrine of God, fervently kneel:
Here bring your wounded hearts,
Here tell your anguish –
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”
Published in Sacred Songs, 1816
“O God, I cry, I do not want to do this.
O God, I must give myself up to grief.
I am forced to wait for grief to do its work.
To help me bear what I cannot bear;
To trust that when the awful grief is done,
And a more gentle heartache settles in
Through grace, I will be made a new creation,
the fruit of sorrow.”
Mrs. Shirley Bynum Smith
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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