On listening to God and knowing when it’s time to stop asking for more

For all of you who have been praying for us in our infertility struggles I have a story to tell you (before you get too excited  this is not a lead in to a  pregnancy announcement).

 

My one year old daughter was swaddled and snoozing, I was home from work after anther 16 hour day, at my desk, head in my hands, praying the evening prayer service at The Trinity Mission, Exhausted, I was mostly reciting the words trying to get my heart in sync with.

And then the room changed.

 

God was there.  There was no bright light or angels singing but a heaviness descended over me. I was absorbed in peace that felt full and continued to get fuller as I sat.  There was no audible voice but in my heart I heard these words,

 

“I’ll give you a full household. . . but not of your own children.”

 

And that was it.

 

No amount of longing or reaching could make that peace stay, it lifted and I finished my prayer wondering if I had made up the whole thing.

 

Sometimes when I share this story, others think it means we should adopt. At night I worry that it means my daughter will die. But when the words came they didn’t feel like a command or a warning. They just felt like God’s presence.

 

Over the past three years I have hated those words. I’ve convinced myself that I misheard or was delusional.

And at the same time, I have loved them. They assure me that God is with me, that I am seen and known and loved and through them my grief is far more bearable (I’ll add that I do believe that God could still give us another child, far be it from me know the extent of His plans for me, all I know is that these are the words He has given me and my sense after He spoke them was that we wouldn’t have more children.)

 

This week I read this by an Orthodox Saint,

We shouldn’t ask God to release us from something, from an illness, for example, or to solve our problems, but we should ask for strength and support from Him to bear what we have to bear. Just as He knocks discretely at the door of our soul, so we should ask discretely for what we desire and if the Lord does not respond, we should cease to ask. When God does not give us something that we ask for insistently, then He has His reasons. God, too, has His ‘secrets.’ Since we believe in His good providence, since we believe that He knows everything about our lives and that He always desires what is good, why should we not trust Him?

Let us pray naturally and gently, without forcing ourself and without passion. We know that past present and future are all known, ‘open and laid bare’ before God. As Saint Paul says, ‘Before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to His eyes.’ We should not insist; such persistence does harm instead of good. We shouldn’t continue relentlessly in order to acquire what we want; rather we should leave all things to the will of God.

 

And then over the past few months on our Liturgy of Life reading group  has been reading and writing about grief and suffering in the life of the Christian.  In my own family we have been  singing and meditating on the psalms, lately these words have been constant on my lips.

Here my prayer O Lord give ear to my cry for mercy.

In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness.

Enter not into judgement with your servant;

For no one living is righteous before you;

For the enemy has pursued my soul,

he has crushed my life to the ground.

He has made me to dwell in dark places

like those long dead.

So my spirit grows faint within me.

My heart within me is desolate.

 

In desolation I’ve been revisiting God’s words over me.  And today I am ready for a new prayer, a prayer I’ve never prayed in all these years. Today I stand with open hands, my heart longs for more children, but in longs for Christ more. Today I take my eyes off of the, “not of your own children,” and remember that God always words for my best. Today I remember the first part of his words to me.

Today I pray for a full household, whatever that could mean.

 

gratitude

 

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Please don’t tell me to “Just give it to Jesus”

 

Please don't tell me to "Just give it to Jesus." Thoughts on Suffering and Faith. Liturgy of Life. liturgyoflife.com
Bo Bartlet’s Assignation

 

It’s true, I believe that all things come from God and all things hold together in Him.

I believe that in Him is perfect peace and that in the midst of agony we can find ourselves secure in Him.

 

It isn’t that “Just give it to Jesus,” is totally wrong. In our Christian walk we may have powerful experiences of  peace and rejuvenation as we surrender to the will of God.  But there is also a misunderstanding in the church that if we just pray hard enough or if we just surrender sincerely enough we will certainly be cured of our illness and our pain will definitely cease.

We forget that our Jesus wept tears of blood, He was beaten and crucified, He felt real pain and He continues to bear the scars of His suffering.

When we cry to God He is often silent and our burdens remain. Yet in those moments He is present, He sits with us, as we bleed, and vomit and scream and die. He is with us through suffering and because of Him we can endure it, but He is not our escape from it (we will look a lot deeper into this idea in our future books, please join us in a couple weeks when we start The Problem of Pain and then for Silence).

.    .    .

This week we wind up the Liturgy of Life Reading Group’s first book of the year, A Grief Observed. We have read of Lewis’ turmoil as he struggles through the loss of his wife and he doubts about the goodness of God.

 

Here in this last chapter we find Lewis still grieving  but at the same time he has found his way back to God and has a growing peace about his ongoing relationship with his deceased wife.

 

“Grief,” he says, “is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend can reveal a totally new landscape.”

 

He goes on to say,

 

The notes have been about myself, and about H., and about God. In that order. The order and the proportions exactly what they ought not to have been. And I see that I have nowhere fallen into that mode of thinking about either which we call praising them. Yet that would have been best for me. Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it. Praise in due order; of Him as giver, of her as the gift. Don’t we in praise somehow enjoy what we praise, however far we are from it?

Lewis describes peace found through suffering, and hope in a resurrected God. But he is also clear, there is no shortcut.  It is through suffering that he got there.

If today you grieve, or fear, or seek answers from God that are not coming, you are not alone.  You are as Christ was on the cross.  You are as every single one of us will be at some moment in our life. You don’t need to give it to Jesus, He has it.

Just as God was sovereign when the savior of the world was crucified, Christ remains with us as we suffer.  You will find Him, just keep standing, and know that He is standing with you.

 

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are currently reading A Grief Observed. We would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book.


An apology for every stupid thing I’ve said to someone grieving Thoughts on C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed

The first time I sat down with a family to explain a terminal diagnosis I felt my whole body trembling with the weight of the conversation. My voice stuttered, I felt faint. I can’t remember a word I said, only the despairing dark eyes staring back at me.

 

I am sorry for every time I let my fear take priority over your grief.

 

After several months of these  conversations I had learned to navigate them outside of my emotions.  I could gather the family, do introductions, make small talk and then squint, take a deep breath,  and calmly deliver the bad news.  I’d answer questions and then leave, pick up a package of peanut M&M’s, and move on to my next patient.

 

I am sorry for every time I faced a grieving soul as a robot.

 

Now as a mother the pain of the world is amplified. Sometimes my own helplessness gets the best of me and I can not quiet the impulse to do something.   I send a sappy note, talk too softly, my eyes too wide, and deliver a thoughtless cliche that probably feels like a punch in the chest to the grieving heart.

 

I am sorry for every time that I met grief with arrogance.

 

Right now we are reading C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed in the Liturgy of Life Reading group.  In it he describes interactions with his colleagues after the death of his wife.

“An odd byproduct 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 a bar as quickly as they decently can.”

 

Living among the dying is hard, yet it is a task we are all called to.  Everyone we know will die and yet caring for the grieving remains elusively difficult.

 

Death exposes our deepest fears.  We have no control.  All of the preparation and intelligence in the world can’t make it any easier.   Death dismisses our plans, our future becomes utterly unexpected.

 

I want to be someone who can stand with you in grief, facing the unknown world, letting the pain roll over us, knowing that trying to fix it is futile, surviving it together.

 

I know I will fail.

But I will not stop trying.

 

 

Lord grant us your peace.

 

Only in you can we live in safety.

 

 

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are currently reading A Grief Observed. We would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book.

 

To keep up with Liturgy of Life please like me on facebook or join our facebook discussion group. Or feel free to comment here and subscribe for the latest from Liturgy of Life.

 

 

 

The Light at the End of Grief

Frost Weed. The light at the end of grief. Liturgy of life. liturgyoflife.com
This is Frostweed. It flowers in the summer, then dries up. When the first freeze comes its stem bursts open with these beautiful ice formations for which it is named.

 

My husband’s chest rises and falls, the steadiness of his heart beating a few inches from my ear soothes me.  He asks me why I’m crying. I can’t answer.

 

I am overcome with my own brokenness.  Another month of my body betraying me, unwilling to conceive the baby we long for.  Exhaustion of years going at full speed, the strain of new relationships, not knowing which way to turn at the intersection or how to get to the grocery store.  Fear for my daughter, of the world that she will live in and the decisions she will have to make and my inability to protect her from its violence. And then there are the wounds left open from my childhood, or those self-inflicted from my years of wandering.

 

The tears flow.

 

To make them stop I think of those who are really suffering,  who have lost the ones they love, who are persecuted and enslaved.  My heart is grieved even more, I ache for the injustice the world.  And yet the fact that others are enduring terrible hardships doesn’t dull the pain in my own heart.

 

My grief is real.

 

I know there is such a thing as lingering too long over our hurts, like a dog, licking our wounds so fervently they can become open sores.   I’m not condoning this.

 

But I think more commonly our tendency is to go the other way.  To say, “Oh it’s all right,  there’s nothing else you can do, it’s really time to move on.”  To stuff our pain so deep that we don’t know it lingers and  eliminate any chance of sharing it, for our own benefit or for the sake of others.

 

Yet it occurs to me tonight that to forsake my own grief is to forsake my hope in a resurrected Christ.

 

When I tell myself that nothing is wrong  l turn a deaf ear to Christ’s comfortable words, to His singing over me.  When I strive  to feel no pain, I rely on myself.  When I let the pain of life penetrate my soul I make an opening for Christ to come in and heal it up again.

 

Grief drives me to hope.

 

Grief is my longing for God.

 

I don’t mean to say that on the other side of grief everything becomes easy. Scars remain and continue to shape us even haunt us.

 

But to deny grief is to reject a God who suffers with us.  Our grief is not wasted, it teaches us to live.  And so tonight tears flow, they are my prayer,  they are the sign of a life that longs for God and life in a resurrected world.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading friends,

 

Erica

 

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