Monday, January 31, 2011

Fishing For Hard Questions

When I entered the 2nd year of widowhood, questions lurked in my soul like silent, slow-moving fish at the bottom of a murky pool. I knew they were there, sometimes I spotted them. But I couldn't catch them and define them. Instead of precise, efficient questions marching in orderly formation across my grief, these were blobby bottom feeders and I had to wade through a lot of mud to net them. I tried to ignore them.

Then one day I picked up a little book. Small and thin, but on the best-seller list at the time, "The Prayer of Jabez," by Bruce Wilkinson caught one of those questions for me. It was a question the grief books and grief support groups wouldn't ask, so maybe I shouldn't have been asking it myself; yet, I was still part of the human race and I figured I ought to have equal-access to non-widow books. Silly me. I couldn't just stay stuck in the 'widow'hood.
If the God of heaven loves you infinitely and wants you in His presence every moment, and if He knows that heaven is a much better place for you, then why on earth has He left you here? 
A big, ugly fish landed at my feet. Wilkinson had hooked this question for me.

Why did God leave me here? Bruce was far more talented and needed than I. He was better with our kids, he loved life, he could sing and write and preach the gospel better than most, especially me. His cycling team needed him, his church needed him, missionaries needed him, our daughters would need him to walk them down the aisle someday, Brad needed his steady gaze and coaching at baseball and basketball, and heaven knows I needed him like the air I breathe! God should have taken me instead.

But He didn't. That meant something scary. A few paragraphs later on in "The Prayer of Jabez," Wilkinson pulled another 'fish' out of the mud.
People will show up on your doorstep or at the table next to you. They'll start saying things that surprise even them. They'll ask for something--they're not sure what--and wait for your reply . . . You can trust Him that he will never send someone to you whom you cannot help by His leading and strength . . .
I copied these sayings down. I'd like to say I rose to this challenge. Instead, here's what I wrote about them in my journal: "Dear Lord, The concept would be very cool. But I just don't have it in me. I naturally avoid people. I'm so stretched and flip-flopped right now. It seems that at first all I did was extend grace to people, and now I'm pulling away or fighting with people. Somewhere in the middle is the real me, as You cut through. It's very tiring."

Now, ten years later, I can look back with amazement, kind of like if I were climbing a mountain and glanced over my shoulder and caught the breath-taking view of the magnificent scenery surrounding me. I'm amazed that God didn't give up on me when I told him I couldn't deal with the world--or those darn 'fish'--on my doorstep. Instead, He just kept giving me more things I didn't think I could deal with so I'd have to depend on Him. There was no where else to turn.

In the process I learned to take one day at a time, breathe in the wonder of each day--the wonder of the questioning, the wonder of the people who showed up on the doorstep. Why them? Why my doorstep?

I learned there's beauty in this mystery. And every day I see more clearly an incredible privilege and kingdom position for widows. Do you see it, too? Any 'fish' flopping around your feet today?

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18



  1. Right now I am just learning to walk without my husband at my side.I can't fathom the future,all I know is that God is with me and so I WILL make it.

  2. Wow, Ferree, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks for letting me "flop" on your doorstep! Ha ha...

    @Ruth, I admire and agree with your simple step of faith, trusting in God. Sometimes it seems like there is NOTHING else solid to hold onto except for the fact that God is God and He is with me.

  3. after one year and three months I'm learning to let go "of extra emotional baggage" and let God! I can't solve the riddles no matter how many hours I sit and think about him grieve about him, want him back...I learning to live where I am enjoy the time God has granted to me!

  4. I'm right there -- one big ugly fish after another, never ending. They smell. I take comfort knowing that God has a purpose for me, even though I don't get it. It also helps to know that others, like you, have walked this journey before me and are victorious. Continuing to fight as a warrior princess should...

  5. What you are writing sounds like my situation: my husband was such a "people" person, minister, song-leader, friendly to everyone. He was such a valuable servant of God, I couldn't see why He took him. Even though I'm a teacher, I'm an introvert when it comes to church & adult situations. In the four months since Dan's been gone, I've found myself comforting others in their grief & got talked into teaching the adult Sunday school class he used to teach. I'm trying to carry on all his good qualities in my life, wondering what God's purpose was in leaving me here.


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