These regular My Forever Memories blogs are written with love to offer encouragement, help, hope and love through your personal journey of grieving your loved one.
On the same day this last week, one of my young cousins’ husband died and another dear friend was going through the year anniversary of her husband’s death. Having gone through the deep pain of a husband’s death almost 24 years ago, I knew some of what they were both facing. I so wanted to take away their pain, but I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t. Grief is one of the deepest parts of love—when our hearts wail out from having part of ourselves ripped away. When someone who was a very part of us has to leave, it is though we are critically wounded. There has to be a period of pain, recovery and healing where they were once so intermingled with our own soul. Though there is not much I can say or do to take that pain away; but I can love, pray and offer hope that one can heal and go forward on our own journey with You, Lord.
How wrong it would be of me to try to tell someone else not to feel the pain when there is no way around it. You did not even spare Jesus’ suffering, but turned it into good. How uncaring to not listen to their pain even if it might be uncomfortable for me. How thoughtless it would be to never mention their loved one’s name for fear it might cause them tears when they need to know others still remember their loved one. Let me never avoid a grieving person because of my own fear of what to say or do. Help me to simply stand by them, to offer a listening ear, to let them openly cry or laugh or voice any emotion—even if it seems irrational. Let me quietly let them go through their grief in their own personal way.
Father, there is no way any one single person can be there twenty-four hours a day as someone grieves for however long it takes. Life goes on and we all have to go on living. Yet I can gently keep pointing them to You—the one who never leaves us or forsakes us (even when those closest to us had to go.) Lord, through this intense suffering and personal loss, I pray they discover You in a new and more personal way than ever before. I know it happens through the heart-wrenching process of grieving. I am proof. Lord, I continue to pray that the books You helped me write (which are about to be released)—one for adults and one for children—will help others go through their personal journey of grief with hope as they look to You in the midst of their pain. Let them not fear as they hold Your hand as they travel through the shadow of the valley of death—for You are with them as they go through and find eternal hope and healing in You.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
“Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.’ Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.’” Matthew 26:38-39
“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13b
Father, I pray for __________ who is grieving…
Forgive me when I don’t know the full story. This morning, in so many words I told someone who had to ride out one of the recent hurricanes, that I was so glad they just lost power instead of their lives or their home. Then I was reminded the trauma that goes deeper than what appears on the outside. I should know that even though someone may look OK on the outside that things can be a whirlwind on the inside. After reading someone else’s post of the emotions that go on for quite a while after the storm has passed, I remembered what it was like when our home caught on fire. We were all physically unhurt. We didn’t lose all our possessions. Yet every little spark caused me to panic for months afterwards. I could smell the smoke long after it was cleaned. I had flashbacks of standing in the front yard with my family with no shoes, in our swimsuits thinking this was all we would have in the world as the fire raged. Everything in me wanted to stop the firemen from crawling into our burning home to save our material things and I wanted to yell, “It’s not worth your lives!”
How often do people look fine on the outside after a death of a loved one, during a traumatic illness, after a car accident or other traumatic event? I can’t help but think of all those who have gone through one of the recent disasters (hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes…) and know that even though they say they are fine, there is so much more going on deep within their souls. They may not even know yet how to express it or how it will alter their lives. We may care deeply about them, but we do not know the aftermath of these critical life experiences and how they will affect each individual person. Obviously, there are those who lost loved ones or all they had. It will take years to grieve and go on. Even the ones who look OK, will have to go through surprising emotions as they deal with the aftermath of what could have been; how to survive until food, gas, medical help and shelter get worked out; how to deal with the flashbacks, panic and uncertainty. Though we look upon the outward appearance to evaluate how someone is doing, we have no idea what goes on deep in the heart, mind and soul of a person.
But You do, Lord! There is absolutely nothing hidden from You. When no one else understands what we are going through…You know. When we can’t even figure out our thoughts and emotions…You know us better than anyone else ever could. Whether we look ok to others or not…You know what is going on. When it seems like no one could possibly know what we are going through…You know. When it seems there’s no way out of our circumstances…You invite us to hold on to You, the One who created, us, knows us, loves us and died on our behalf so we could never be separated from You. Whether it looks like a disaster to others or not, You are our shelter, our refuge, our Safe Place, our Provider, our Savior, our Counselor, our Guide through it all. And You completely know us and love us. Help others come to know, trust and love You during this time during and after the crisis. Real life is getting to know the One who KNOWS us!
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:26-27
“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O Lord.” Psalm 139:1-4
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13
Father, search me deeply and help me in ways no one else can….
All-Knowing Heavenly Father,
It takes holiness to hold back sometimes. I’m seeing that more and more as I get older. I certainly didn’t understand when I was young. When I was younger, it seemed everything revolved around me. When I wanted a certain toy or dress, I thought I should get it right then. It appeared to me that my parents were being cruel or unreasonable to say “No” to my current whim. As I became a parent, I had to learn to hold back on granting my children’s every wish or demand. I knew what was best for them in the long run. Their development of good character was far more important than giving them momentary satisfaction. What a reward for one of my grown sons (after becoming a dad and admitting he used to get mad at us) to come back and genuinely thank us for not letting him watch certain movies, go to uncertain parties or play games with unstable morals. The greatest reward is seeing his awesome character.
Through the years, I’ve struggled with seeing those I care about in pain. At times, it’s been my husband, children, grandchildren or people who are grieving a death or a loss that has rocked their world. I just want to take away their suffering. But You have shown me the eternal value of holding back. If I tried to fix it, they might gain momentary relief…but if I hold back and simply stand with them in the pain and let You fix it in all Your holiness- there will be eternal results. You, Lord, are the only One who can see the whole picture. You, alone know the good which will come from holding back. That is why it is always better for me to wait upon You and Your perfect ways.
It is comforting to know that it must have been hard for You to hold back when Your Son Jesus struggled in the garden, was falsely accused, condemned to die an unjust death, whipped beyond recognition and hung on a cross to die. It was all part of Your plan to give us eternal life. It was part of Your plan since the very beginning. I can’t imagine the holy love it took for You to hold back when Jesus cried out in forsaken agony on the cross. He died alone without You for our sakes so we would never have to live without You. It would have been easy for You to take the cup from Him; to relieve His pain and suffering…yet You held back. You knew what His death and resurrection would mean to each of us. Father, help me hold back when it is part of Your plan …but let me hold nothing back when it comes to worshipping, loving, obeying and following You!
“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. ‘Abba, Father,’ He said, ‘everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.’” Mark 14:35-36
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “my God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mathew 27:45
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
Most Holy Father, thank You for holding back when I ask for the wrong thing like…
I love the way You placed Jesus in a family. You chose to send Him to a sweet young girl who was only betrothed but not married yet. You knew Your Son would need a mother who could care for him, encourage and understand Him better than anyone else on earth- to the best of her understanding. You knew Mary’s willing heart and gave her that special place to carry Your Son and stand with Him from birth to the cross. You needed a special man who would step in to raise Jesus, knowing this baby was not of his own flesh and blood. Though you understood his initial hesitation, You always knew Joseph would answer Your call to be Your Son’s earthly stepdad! You knew You could trust Joseph to provide and protect Your own Son. It was all part of Your plan to place Your eternal Son in an earthly family.
I love watching how You place people in families- both biological and otherwise! I have witnessed how You placed children in my family through birth, marriage and many other amazing creative ways. Now, I get to watch You place other people in my children’s families in lots of ways. Recently, You placed three little siblings in my son and daughter-in-law’s lives to transform a childless couple into an instant family of five! These kids might have been forever separated had it not been for their willingness to gather these children into their family. They are willing to give up their own freedom to care for these children as their own. You still use Your own willing children to draw the lonely and needy into Your family!
More than that, You sent Jesus who was willing to be born in humble human form as a needy baby; to live and grow up in this dark and challenging world; to take on all our sin (though He was the only one holy and pure) so He could willingly die on the cross and rise again- all to gather us back into Your family! Many may feel lonely and isolated this Christmas due to death, grief, loss, separation or even the awful wounds of being abandoned or kicked out of a family. Father, thank You for sending Jesus to bring us home to You. No one can ever separate us from Your love! Because of Jesus Christ, we are part of Your eternal family!
“Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds- His name is the Lord- and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:4-6a
“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:11-13
“How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
Prayer Prompt- Father, thank You for putting me in a family…
Today I am writing the next-to-the -last chapter of a book I thought was ready to be written 20 years ago…but Your timing is always so much better than mine! You might have given me the vision twenty years ago, but there’s much more You planned to happen before the words could be written. Although I’m writing it, I feel like You are the true author, Lord. You just write in lives instead of on pages. If I would have tried to write this book earlier, it would have been me trying to push my words through. Now, it flows out and I’m surprised at what is written down. I know how Mother Theresa felt when she once said, “I am but a little pencil in the hand of God.”
The title of this book will be MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU. If it was written too soon, I would have concentrated on the story my first husband and I went through as he endured a traumatic terminal illness and all the incredible things that happened as we faced life and death together. It would have been a memory book of our intertwined lives and the way You worked in them. Then I began a 20 year journey of helping others through grief as they faced the death of their loved ones. I realized our story was not the only lives You work through. If I had written this book even then, it would have been too soon. I would have added helpful information that has helped so many others through the deepest part of their grief. However, You knew it wasn’t ready yet.
Through the years, You have placed a deep compassion in my spirit for those who are heart-broken at the death of a loved one. How I longed to help them. I can share my experiences and all the proven ways that help grievers through that dark valley of the shadow of death, but I know the only One who can truly help them is You. They each need to express their story, memories, loss, and cries. In this book, they will read parts of my story and will find practical ideas that will really help; but this book will also be written by the griever. What started out as a memory book of my first husband, along with helpful ideas, will also be written by the griever as they share memories of their loved one. As they tell their own story of the deep void from the relationship they are grieving, they will discover (as I have) You are with them and will never ever leave them. The true story is still being authored. It is the never-ending love story You have for us that transcends death and brings eternal life. It goes far beyond what any book can contain.
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down. I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
“We write this to make our joy complete.” 1 John1:4
Heavenly Father, show me how to live out Your word in my life so I may be in the Book of Life…