Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Join In The Conversation, part 2


Hi everyone,
     Last night a reader sent the following note in and I appreciate that she addressed each of the 3
questions about bitterness in yesterday's post. She hasn't been able to write much since her husband died, but something struck a chord with her and these words flowed from her heart.
     Whether we are asking, answering, or simply telling our story, our words matter very much. It's as important that we say them as it is that someone hears them. Writing is very therapeutic, so journaling, keeping a diary, writing letters, blogging or posting on social media are good ways to help others (and help yourself)! Thank you Lisa W! 


Thank you  SJ for being honest with your feelings. We all have been there in some way, shape, or form..wondering how the unimaginable could have happened. How could something this horrific be part of a Good God's hopeful and harmless plan?  Plain and simple-widowhood is ROUGH...we have lost a part of ourselves and are left to learn to navigate life on our own. God is here for us though. We mustn't forget that.

 So for me, though I am no expert..

1. "If God made me , knew who I was ..knew how I would react...So if he knew I would react the way I am, How can He be mad or disappointed at how messed up I am?" 

      To be honest, I am not entirely positive that God is mad or disappointed. LIke you said, He already knew you would react this way. But I guess if He is, we can look at it like this- that sometimes as parents we know how our children are going to react when they are about to get some disappointing or bad news. Right? We know there is going to be some kind of melt down. Not to minimize it but for the sake of making a point, as an example let's say there was supposed to be a Chuck E. Cheese play date but suddenly it was cancelled. We know our child was looking forward to it and we know there will be some sad/upset/etc. feelings. Even though we KNOW this , and yes we may be frustrated with their way of handling their disappointment, we still, as a parent that loves our child, want to envelope them in our arms and comfort them and tell them we know they are upset and disappointed. We understand they were looking forward to it. Let's figure out what to do with those not-so-happy feelings? Calmly we can model for them how to handle their feelings because at that young age, they do not know how to. So maybe God is not really mad at all..maybe He is just wanting you to rely solely on Him to get through this. He is saying, "I'm here..I know this stinks and hurts and is painful...come here and cry to Me..it's okay..I've got you even though you can't see it..."  


 2. "How is it realistically possible to believe these promises now when they didn't work?" Like Ferree said, God 's promises always are true. He never promised that we would not see trouble or that we would not have hardship. He does, however, promise to be WITH US while we are IN these troubled times. Like he was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, or even Daniel in the Lion's Den. Those are bad situations to be in and they were Faithful Godly Guys but that stuff still happened. But God was WITH them through those times. And, of course, Job...he was so, so godly and look at all he suffered through. It seems horrible that we lost our husbands. I know...mine was truly my soulmate, my best buddy, the guy who completed me, the dad of my kids, my ministry partner..But I know God has not forsaken me...He has shown Himself over and over again here with me and my kids ..No-- it is not easy, yes-- I cry every single day.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. But I know God catches my tears and hears my laments each morning.  I'm sure I sound like a broken record-- "this is rough God..you have me confused with some Strong Christian..I"m not Joni E Tada, I'm not Elisabeth Eilliot. I'm just Lisa..."
I'm 11 months in and all I can say is I'm still standing because when I am weak, He is strong. Now more than ever, I have to trust God's promises. Ken's and my verse was Jeremiah 29: 11 "for I know the plans I have  for you says the Lord ...plans to give you a hope and a future." I have nothing left but to trust those words. Yes, this seems like a crazy way of showing me His plans are good, but what happened to those others who have suffered? Somehow, in God's way, He has taken what is bad and made it good. 

 A few years ago I had the privilege of serving at "Joni & Friends Camp." We provided companionship to kids with disabilities while their parents were able to relax without having to worry about their kids. These camps are all over the world. It is an international ministry. All I could think of was how when Joni was 16 or 17 and was told she would no longer have use of her arms or legs. How devastating that had to have been! And how never in a gazillion years could she have ever imagined herself heading up a world wide ministry to families with kids with disabilities! But that is how God rolls. So even though I don't understand the plan, I trust He has one and it's really all I can do. 

 3. God is not punishing us even though it may feel like it. He is going to use this to teach us stuff and to have a God glorifying story to share.   When my husband first went to Heaven, I was really, really struggling... I thought I should have gone first because I was not as godly as Ken. Ken was just a righteous guy . He loved the Lord with every fiber of his being. When the dr told him he had only hours, maybe days, to live he raised up his hands and said, "I am His and He is mine."
Four hours later he was in the presence of the Lord.  So I said to myself, "I should have gone first..I deserved to die first because Ken was so good." But then I thought, "Well maybe he did deserve to go first because Heaven is so wonderful and beautiful---it makes sense he would get to experience it first."
Around that time, my mother-in-law came with this verse in Isaiah 57:1-- "the righteous perish and no one takes it to heart ,the devout are taken away and on one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil." And that just kind of nailed it home for me--that Ken died at 50 to be spared from evil.. The good die  young... ( I know this is not always the case I am just sharing my thought process at this time) So, I told my daughter all of this. She was 20 at the time. She said, "Mom, don't you know you die when God is done teaching you all you have to learn?...look at Moses ---he was over 100 but Jesus did not make it to 35." I was like "Yeah I guess so...but what happened to  your dad was so crazy."
And she said this: "Mom, don't you know...the crazier the stuff, the better the testimony?"
I said "What do you mean?"
She said, "Imagine Mary sharing her testimony at a women's retreat..imagine how it might sound: "I was a virgin teenager, I had never been with a man and I was told I was going to have a baby. And I was told this by an ANGEL. But not just ANY baby- GOD'S baby! And then I gave birth in a stinky barn with animals and a king wanted to KILL my baby..and then an angel saved him and then when he was 12 he pulled a fast one on us in the Temple..then he performed a lot of miracles and then he was crucified on a cross, but He did not do anything wrong and then He came back to life!" 
I was like, "Well, now that you say it like THAT..that IS PRETTY CRAZY"
She said "See?! The crazier the stuff, the better the testimony!"

SJ, I say all this to try to help you find some peace with everything you are going through. I know that these questions are NOT the "ONLY THING" you are going through. If you are like me you have financial stuff, medical stuff, home repairs, car repairs, kids' school stuff, job stuff and more. It is a LOT!!!  Give God all your hurts and cry out. He is happy to take it.. He can handle it. Like when we carry our kicking toddler lovingly in our arms. God is here and willing to do that for us. 

 I hope this helped in some way...

 love and lots of prayers....

Lisa E. W.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Join the Conversation

Here is a note I got about bitterness last week. The questions are so clear and precise! This lady has some excellent and heart-felt questions. Many of them were what I wondered too, except I couldn't put them into words as well as she's done. How do we keep bitterness at bay when apparently God's promises didn't work? Or, for some reason, they didn't work for us personally? Please read on thoughtfully for the full context of her questions. I've attempted a bit of an answer too, but like the man who was crippled in the Bible, whose friends carried him to Jesus, I think I need some friends to come around with their help too. Please join this conversation but clicking a comment today or email me and I'll copy and paste it in for you. wcplace@gmail.com   
ferree

 - from SJ, 10/9/17, used with permission.

Thank you for your writings.  They have been food for thought.  Today's email about bitterness has been particularly interesting.  I noticed that since my husband died 10 months ago from an accident, with me raising my 2 children alone with no family nearby: I realized that I have become an angry and bitter person.  I do not want to be that.  At least I recognize it now, and will try to work on it.

But, since you wrote your email address down for questions, here are thoughts to ask--

1.  I think: well if God made me, knew who I was before I was born, and knows me, then that means He also knew how I would react--all my anger, my feelings that my life is wasted...so if He knew I would react the way I am: How can He be mad or disappointed at how messed up I am...if He knew this was how I would react?  Is He going to discipline me further, to teach me even more that I better deal with my life the Bible way?

2.  We are told to believe in God's promises, i.e. He will never leave us or forsake us, He will care for our burdens, etc.  But how is it realistically possible to believe these promises now, when they didn't work did they, in protecting my husband...wouldn't it follow the line of thinking, Well doesn't that mean God's promises didn't come to pass for my husband, because he died.  And yet, I'm supposed to re-set my thinking that God will be there, will look out for me and my kids, will comfort us...wouldn't it have been better if God did that with our family intact?

3.  Which sort of circles back to the first thought: then God will keep punishing me, disciplining me, until I get with the program, and be more thankful and obedient and more faithful, and get over this wounded wasted life already.  -SJ

Dear SJ,
     Sometimes we get hounded with thoughts that we must do more, obey more, trust more, give more, thank more, rejoice more, glorify God more.... and that somehow it was our fault our husband died---like God was or is angry with us and we need to be disciplined and corrected. 
     These kinds of thoughts come in subtle ways from pastors and Bible teachers, the way we were raised, books we've read, and classes we've taken. Even in the best of churches we often get the message that if we do the right thing God will bless us, right?
     Sometimes it works like that---in fact, it often does! People are blessed! Prosperous! Loved! We can easily start to think such abundance is normal. 
     My husband Tom and I were in a church group once (actually, more than once!) where the teacher was describing how righteous living bears good consequences. Tom and I walked away with many a "Yes, but..." for times of suffering we've seen or personally experienced. And we wanted to ask this: what about the words of Jesus? In John 16:33 He said, "In this world you will have trouble."
     There's also the example of Job in the Old Testament. His friends gathered around him during his absolutely undeserved suffering and made matters worse with their accusations that he was hiding some sort of heinous sin--which he wasn't. 
     Volumes more could be said, but John 16:33 comes right to the point as Jesus continues with, "But take heart! I have overcome the world." When we are overcome with suffering, pain, confusion, bitterness, and even sin Jesus is still here to overcome. He helps us overcome sin, he helps us overcome grief and suffering too.
     For me, personally, confession and forgiveness are almost as habitual as breathing, so if there is sin in your life that needs to be confessed, take it from me--confess it. Grief alone is enough of a burden, don't also harbor known sin. But if you and God have nothing between you, if instead it feels like you're prayers are bouncing off the ceiling or that He has abandoned you, then hang on to what you know about God rather than what you are feeling. Be like Jacob who wrestled with the angel of the Lord and refused to let go.
     Also gather godly people around you. Widows trying to get back to normal while still broken-hearted are like a person with a broken leg trying to walk without a cast and a crutch. We need God's help in the form of His people! And unfortunately people usually don't realize we need their help and they don't offer it. Persistence--asking again and again--is necessary. Especially since you still have kiddos at home, you need help with them. 
     This is a process and a wilderness journey. It's not something we understand or enjoy. Our first task most days is to breathe and get through the day. But each day puts us closer to the truth that this journey is not a waste. Widowhood won't last forever, but heaven will and that's where our heart is.  
     I wish we could talk face to face, there's so much more to be said. But for now, I hope other readers will add their insights and encouragement. In the meantime I will be praying for you. Let's stay in touch and please feel free to reply.     
 ferree

Friday, October 13, 2017

When He Carries Me Away

Speaking of heaven... this song takes a peek at it...
I tried to find it on Sunday to share with you here, but a young friends of mine who will bury their 2-year-old baby today posted it on FaceBook. That's how I found it, and I think God wanted to add that bit of a back-story for you. I also want to share it in memorial for one of the godliest widows I've ever met--Marcia Temple Fuller: Marcia Fuller, 62, of Peru, died Wednesday afternoon, October 11, 2017 at the Hospice House in Auburn, Maine. 
Sorely missed, both Marcia and baby Jed, but I'm surely grateful that their lives touched mine. ... And that your's does too. Please pause with me and worship as together we hear this beautiful song.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dear friends,
I've received some touching comments and questions about bitterness from some readers and I'm anxious to share them with you as I know they will speak to your hearts with honestly and hope.
I don't want to leave you wondering, but for the next few days something has come up that I need to be present and hands on here. I'll get back to posting as soon as possible. Until then, lets pray for each other and fix our eyes on Jesus. I love this perspective and should have included it yesterday when I mentioned the benefits of discovering our treasures in Heaven:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NASB)

Don't lose heart!

ferree

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Overcoming the Bitterness of Grief, #1

Yesterday I wrote about the aftermath of widowhood---all the things left to deal with. I see widows courageously knock through them one by one. However bitterness is subtle and subversive and it traps people in grief time and time again.

God points out dangers of bitterness in Hebrews 12:15:
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
It can be a temptation for widows to be ruled by bitterness. Don't we have a "right" to complain, to "vent" like a volcano, or to be offended and hold a grudge when people are insensitive to our grief?  These kinds of feelings should wave red flags to us that bitterness is ready to pounce and take root. 

Bitterness also tempts us when we begin to compare our life with those we see around us, OR with the life we used to have. These thoughts, longings, yearnings and lonely holes in our heart aren't confined to only the early days of grief either. Believe me, they can persist for years. It's not unusual for them to barge in when we least expect it. They especially crop up around the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

So what's a widow to do???? 

I have used a variety of ideas to strengthen my faith over the years, and the amazing thing is God comes alongside and truly begins His powerful solace and healing when I open up to seek Him in these ways. We'll go over them one by one over the next week or two. 

Lets' start with this one.

Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 6 when he talks about laying up treasures in heaven. He knew that we'd invest our heart in what we treasure so He said: 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

When our loved one went to heaven, most agree that a piece, if not all, of our heart departed too. But for most widows, our heart might be in heaven but our "treasure" is still down here! Why? Because we don't have a clue about heaven! 

What do you know about your heavenly home? 


The more I learn about heaven, the longer my "bucket list" for it becomes! (I don't bother with a bucket list of things I want to do here before I die---things here can be astounding but they pale compared to what we'll see in heaven!) Test your knowledge of heaven with this little quiz:

Heavenly I.Q Test

1. In Heaven we will be:
  • a. angels
  • b. people with bodies
  • c. disembodied spirits, very quiet and peaceful
2. In Heaven we will:
  • a. float around on clouds and strum harps
  • b. sit in an eternal church service
  • c. serve God with great joy
3. Other names for Heaven include:
  • a. The New Jerusalem
  • b. The New Earth
  • c. Cloud Nine
4. Which of the following will be in Heaven
  • a. illness
  • b. churches
  • c. wars
  • d. none of the above 
It took over two years after Bruce died for me to get interested in Heaven. The first year I was so numb I wasn't sure it even existed. (Yes, I did just say that--I had my doubts!) If you're not sure about heaven or your faith it might be because you feel as numb as I did. Please email me at WCplace@gmail.com and we can talk about it, OK?

Here are some books I think you'll enjoy--they're great to read bit by bit of the chapters you're most interested in--and there will even be times when you'll stay up all night reading or you'll read them over and over! They helped me discover the many amazing things I can't wait to see in Heaven! If they're not at your church or public library, find them at your local Christian bookstore or online with Christian Book Distributors or Amazon and select the format you like best. 

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (this is fiction but it captured my imagination and opened my mind to how amazing Heaven will be. It's short and a good starting point in story form).
Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada 
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
The Wonder of Heaven by Ron Rhodes
One Minute After You Die by Erwin Lutzer.

What are you looking forward to about Heaven? 
See? Don't you feel better already?
ferree

Quiz answers: 1. b, 2. c, 3. a and b, 4. d. How'd you do? 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Aftermath of Grief and Widowhood

From the Google dictionary:

  af·ter·math
  ˈaftərˌmaTH
    noun  the consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event.

From "Ferree's dictionary:"

wid·ow·hood
ˈwidōˌho͝od
noun:  a significant unpleasant event!


Does the "significant unpleasant event" of widowhood include aftermaths? Indeed it does! The list of possible aftermaths can be as varied as each person involved, and as unique as each individual. There are financial effects, social hurdles, grief issues, career changes, estate decisions, family relationships, health effects, and immense loneliness to navigate. May I give you a ray of hope though? In time, God can give you the strength and wisdom to work through all of these. 

But there is one aftereffect that I seldom see discussed. Please chime in with your thoughts on this particular aftermath--it might be one you've not considered yet--but unless widows confront it, it will prove an ongoing battle. I'm talking about temptation, specifically the temptation of giving in to bitterness.

temp·ta·tion
tem(p)ˈtāSH(ə)n
noun
1. a desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.
2. a thing or course of action that attracts or tempts someone.

bit·ter·ness
ˈbidərnəs

noun
1. sharpness of taste; lack of sweetness.
2. anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.

When life changes forever in an instant, there's no going back. We can't pretend it never happened. We grieve because we loved, and we can never forget because we still love them! The person died, but our love for them did not, and it will not. 

The emotions are so strong! The memories so vivid! The longing so painful! 

I know!

I'm often dismissed by widows now and I'm ok with that. I was widowed seventeen years ago and I've been remarried for fifteen years. I totally understand. Had I met someone like me when I was first widowed, I would have dismissed her too. I would have thought the same thing that widows assume about me: "Oh, she's married now. She's fine, she's lucky, blessed, happy and "over it!" 

But the only difference between my first year of widowhood and today is that I've learned how to deal with this one aftermath: the temptation of bitterness.

Please visit again in the days ahead for five points I still return to when the aftermath of bitterness tempts me to wallow in it. If this topic is personal for you too, don't hesitate to comment or email. I won't be able to answer any emails individually, but I will be happy to address them in this blog if I can. 

ferree
used with permission by Steve Hastings