When I was little, I remember a season where our home was somber. My Dad’s best friend had taken his life and my dad had to identify his body. Over the last decade, I’ve known two childhood friends, a cousin and several in our community who lost their lives to suicide. I hurt hard for these families, friends and their losses, however I do not understand the level of their loss. I can’t speak on their behalf. But as someone who attempted suicide, I can speak on that behalf. Today I live to see the goodness of God; and I testify to give Him credit in my comeback. God determined the day I would arrive and I trust God’s timing on the day I will go. It’s too big of a burden to be responsible for the coming and going of my life. I’m not my expert – because I’m not my Creator. No matter how deep the valley, how dark the sky, how slimy the pit, there are people who need me and you in their lives. We can not be replaced by anyone else. I love this verse about the preciousness of my life when Jesus promised, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have LIFE and have it abundantly.” Some of us may feel like our life has been stolen, but with Jesus, we CAN get it back. I hope this encourages someone today.
Sometimes, there are no words. I’m reminded of Job in the bible. In chapter 2, he’s in the middle of a total life-collapse. He’s lost everything. And although we often use this story to illustrate what his friends did wrong, I want to highlight something they did right. In Job 2:13 it says, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” Sometimes, someone you love will go through something and you don’t know what to say. Last year, I was getting my hair done at a salon when one of the stylist’s got a call that her father just committed suicide. Nobody knew what to say, and in this unexpected moment, no one knew what to do. I’ve walked through this tragedy before, and had just enough experience to know that sometimes there are no words. Like Job’s friends, we just need to be there with our bodies, not our mouths. I was led to the parking lot, where the stylist was on the ground in tears. I joined her there, put my arm around her, and spoke nothing. Words are wonderful, they can encourage, comfort and love. But sometimes, so can silence. If you are comforting someone right now, don’t be afraid to just be there. Your silence and presence is more than you know.
Awhile back, someone asked me to reach out to their adult child, who was in dire circumstances. My heartstrings broke because I’ve been a child who’s been there. I wanted to share the letter I sent (changing details to protect identity) because I thought if you’re going through dire circumstances, maybe this could be a tiny offering of encouragement…
I know it’s a difficult time, if I could pay money or be where you are and make it go away, I would have done so…yesterday. I’m not an expert on ____________ but I do know desperation. During 2009-2010, I was so desperate, some days I could only pray, “God, why?” But during that time, I learned things. One thing I learned is that when God is all we have left, we have everything we need. Like Job, you and I could lose our homes, our family, our health, but as a child of God, even in that loss, we do not lose God. He never leaves us and if we are still breathing, He is not done with us. During that hellatious season, I read Job. It was very comforting for me to know of a man who lost everything, but not forever. I don’t know what the outcome will be for your situation. But I want you to know that God knows. And so I avail myself to Him for you. I trust Him, that He has you, your circumstance, and your weary soul in his hands. And in the event that the outcome is not good, prepare your heart now, that God is still on his throne. That God is still good. Don’t give up even when you lose something or someone. In this season, remember the operative word, “season.” This bout of darkness is not forever. You weren’t in it a year ago, and you won’t be in it for years to come. It is a season. It has a start and a finish. And biblically that is an irrefutable truth. The bible says, “This too shall pass,” “Pain may come at night, but joy comes in the morning,” and “To everything there is a season.” I’m writing this to you on an airplane, so I’m also praying for you from 40,000 feet in the air. Maybe my prayers will have special impact cause I’m that much closer to heaven! Don’t give up. We’re in this together, Heather
I’ve heard it said, “Pray is the least you can do.” But I’d say it’s often (if not always) the most we can do. Let’s say there’s a family who has an addict who has stolen, manipulated, scared and hurt the family for years. Experts would say we don’t want to give them money, lest it feed their addiction. Boundaries would say not let them in your home, lest their addiction unleash in front of vulnerable family members. Love would say not give them what they need every time, lest we contribute to their enabling. Wisdom would say read books and seek counsel. But what if these options have been exhausted? What if these options made matters worse? What if the addict doens’t want you exercising these options? Then I’m inclined to conclude prayer IS STILL my option. Thereby, in this case, not being the least I can do, but the most. When we go to God and pray for someone, two things happen. One, we may be the ONLY one who is praying for them–making our prayer not just a privilege but a responsibility. Oh, that I would pray for others who ask me to like I’m the only one in the world who is! But two, prayer ushers the Savior of the World into a situation we can not save. It brings the sovereign to the broken. The Most High to the most low. It sets captives free. It breaks chains. I’ve seen this myself and the Bible tells me so. So next time someone says, “Just pray, it’s the least we can do.” Pray….but also join me in knowing it’s actually more.
Last year I read, “Abba’s Child,” by Brennan Manning. I gotta be honest, the title wasn’t sexy, but it came highly recommended, so I jumped in. In chapter 4, the author gave up a new term: “indiscriminate compassion.” To explain this, he used a metaphor: “is it possible for a rose to say, ‘I’ll offer my fragrance to good people but withhold it from bad people?'” Of course, the ultimate example of this, was Jesus hanging with indiscriminate compassion on a cross. There was no asterisk of names who were excluded from this. No one didn’t “make the cut.” No one was “too bad” to die for. I have been horribly judgmental of certain people and things, in past and present. Indiscriminate compassion doesn’t do this. It looks at ALL, the almost perfect, the grossly evil, and every person in between and when given the chance–has compassion. Our heart was not created to hold the weight of judgement for others. If it were, we would be God. Only God has perfect, equal distribution of judgement and pardon. When you think about it, we kinda get the easy job, to simply love indiscriminately, like the roses!
So God’s got a sense of humor giving me this idea at 5am! But just wanted to offer what I’ve learned over the years about how to be happy, sick. Which I realize sounds contradictory, but it’s not! I’ve learned we have a choice with our joy: we can choose it or lose it. And that same choice applies when we are sick. Remember, Paul was in prison, in shackles, with open wounds, starving (i.e. sick) and he chose to sing happy songs! Here are 5 things…
1) Smile even when it hurts. We are sick on the inside, sick on the outside, but our smile rarely gets sick. So keep it on, as best you can. It sends good vibes to people around you and looks better than a pout. In Proverbs 15:13, the bible says your smile is a billboard of your happiness! And happiness is an antidote to sickness.
2) Be kind. It’s not the doctor, nurse, spouse, kid, co-worker, bestie or whoever else’s fault that we’re sick. Truthfully, if we have to pick a beef with anyone, it’s God! He’s sovereign and before it passes through our lives, it passes through his hands. Kindness doesn’t mean over-active friendliness. It’s just not being a jerk. Besides, in Proverbs 14:21, the bible says, “if you wanna be happy, be kind!” It’s a great chain: kindness leads to happiness, happiness leads to healthiness.
3) Sometimes say, “Sorry,” but always say, “Please,” and “Thank you.” I might get some push back on this, but sometimes it’s just nice to say sorry to the people who are tirelessly tending to you. It just lets them know you know. Always say, “Please,” and “Thank you.” Never omit them from your sick body! In Proverbs 16:24, the bible says, “kind words are GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH!” Maybe part of our healing is in our kind words!
4) Watch funny (decent!) stuff. It’s good to laugh when you’re sick. It gets your mind off your matters and your matters off your mind. AND it’s biblical! When I’ve been sick I watch reruns of Seinfeld, and movies like Dumb and Dumber. In Genesis 21:6, the bible says, “God’s brought me laughter and everyone who hears will laugh WITH me.” That verse says it all! Your happiness can become others.’
5) Read the Happiest Book on Earth: the Bible. People and things can entertain you, distract you, comfort you, but what do you have at 3am when neither are around and you’re potentially at your sickest? If you are IN God’s word you will always HAVE God’s word. Read God’s word and watch God’s words minister to you when you need it the most. The bible says in Romans 7:22, “my inner being delights in your Law.” BOOM!
Every week, our church (in partnership with God Behind Bars) goes to the Women’s Homestead Correctional Facility to put on a church service, and this week I got to go twice…[Pause] In 2008, while driving in the middle of a downpour, I saw a homeless man. I asked God to give me eyes to see hurting people the way He does. A dangerous prayer if He answers it. Praying that prayer meant volunteerring my heart and eyes to feel people’s pain without actually going through it. Compassion can be a bittersweet thing. [Unpause] So at the prison this week, I had to look away and bite my lip a few times to keep tears from falling. Make no mistake, for these women, justice was served when they were sentenced. My compassion wasn’t wrapped up in that. My compassion came from the circumstances they were born into they had no control over. My compassion was feeling in my joints and breath what confinement and captivity (in some cases, for good) must feel like. But it wasn’t all tears! I was also filled with insurmountable joy that I got to serve them. Yes, you read that right! There is a dimension to serving that we don’t discover until we do it for people who haven’t earned it. A powerful case-in-point would be Jesus when he washed the feet of his disciples (even the one who’d betray him). Additionally, my joy was found in being a part of a church that brings a message of eternal freedom to women who may never have earthly freedom. Romans 8:1 says, “Who Jesus sets free is free indeed.” These women may have a barricade around their lives, but many of us have barricades around our hearts. These women didn’t chose prison, per se, but many of us keep ourselves in a proverbial prison. Either way, it is in the name of Jesus that ALL of us can have freedom. A heart that is free to unleash itself in the reckless abandon of God’s love. I hope you know Him. After seeing joy in the faces of these prisoners this week, I can’t think of better proof!
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.” Luke 23:34 Yes, as Jesus hung on the cross, those who put him there gambled for his clothes. It seems preposterous. Who would eyewitness Jesus’ love in such a excrucatingly sacrificial way, and be distracted by gambling? But it isn’t preposterous. It happens all the time. Jesus is right in front of me and I “gamble” right in front of him. As Jesus draws near to me through the masterpiece of a rainbow, I’m too distracted complaining that it rained. As Jesus opens the doors to his House every weekend, I get distracted with “stuff” and don’t go. As Jesus patiently waits in my heart to have a conversation, I’m too distracted in other conversation with texts, tweets and snapchats. Maybe we aren’t witnessing Jesus on the cross, but we are still witnessing Jesus. He is on his throne in heaven and actively involved in your Earth. But are you distracted? I don’t know where you are. But I know where I have been. I lived my teen and college years being distracted with the proverbial gambling of partying…right in front of Jesus. But these days, when I think of being in front of Jesus, I desire eyes closed, arms high, heart open. (Brokeness will do that to you.) I know we don’t want to be like those gamblers at the cross who missed the greatest display of love FOR them, right IN FRONT of them. Jesus loves you SO HONKIN MUCH, don’t the devil of distraction rob you of that!