Your Grief is Your Own

RENEE MATHIS|CONTRIBUTOR “Your grief is your own.” These words, spoken by a dear friend this past fall could not have come at a more perfect time. In less than a month’s time, I was hit with a series of losses that knocked me flat. My younger brother took his own life. My dog died. My doctor’s office called with concerning lab results. What is a Christian supposed to do at times like this? Where is the instruction manual? I wasn’t sure what suffering for the glory of God was supposed to look like, but I knew I didn’t have much choice but to walk the path set before me. I’m not an expert in grief. I know there are others who have suffered great losses and are even now facing circumstances that would threaten to undo any of us. At the same time, as one who has traveled through a season of loss, may I share a few things I learned? It is my prayer that the Lord can use my tears for the good of his Kingdom. Suffering Online In today’s hyper-connected online world, we have the capacity to share news quickly. While places like Facebook can be hotbeds of anger and ugly discourse, I encountered something entirely different when my brother Jody died. Every single post—“I’m sorry for your loss” or “Your family is in my prayers”— was a reminder of a friendship, a relationship, a connection with someone who cared what I was going through. If you are ever in a place where you wonder if it makes a difference whether you say anything or not, please hear me. It does. It matters. It comforts. Those words helped to heal my aching heart. Suffering in Public Grief has a way of rearing its unexpected head in the most unlikely of places. I so wanted to worship and be with my local body of Christ, yet I couldn’t hold it together through even one hymn without breaking out the Kleenex. In the early days, the tears would come—and I would let them—at the most inconvenient times and places. This phase didn’t last forever, but I learned to yield to God’s good timing and trust that this was all part of the grieving process...

Your Grief is Your Own2022-05-07T22:38:49+00:00

What Difference Does Jesus Make in our Hardships?

On June 6, one of the elders of our church died at the age of 58. This was an unexpected and painful loss and came only 18 months after the death of another elder from our church who was 62. Both men were beloved by their families, their church, and the Covenant College community where they worked. It was one of those situations that makes you ask, why? If God healed Epaphroditus and spared Paul grief upon grief (Phil 2:27), why couldn’t he have restored these men who were helping care for his flock? Our church prayed fervently for that kind of healing, yet God chose not to heal them.In a fallen world, we are well acquainted with grief, loss, and suffering. But that prompts the question, what difference does Jesus make in the daily trials and hardships of life? If the way I live my life is no different from those who don’t follow Jesus, then I have a problem. Am I basically a secular person who goes to church to socialize—or do my theological beliefs have a direct impact on my daily life? Beyond Sunday School Answers When I ask what difference Jesus makes, the Sunday School answer is “Jesus makes ALL the difference.” And I heartily agree. But what does that mean in the mess of our daily lives? Although I believe Jesus is important, I don’t always live in a way that reflects this confession. Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus can handle my disappointments, my frustrations, my worries. As I think about the difference Jesus makes in my life, several Scriptures stand out...

What Difference Does Jesus Make in our Hardships?2022-05-07T23:07:33+00:00

Purposeful Pondering

There are a number of days and seasons throughout the year when I intentionally open my figurative chest of memories, select the appropriate box and carefully remove the lid so I can inspect the contents. Sometimes the momentous events that trigger my reflections were joyfully anticipated, like the births of my daughters and grandchildren. But others, like the sudden death of my husband, came without warning and brought deep sorrow and bewilderment. Irrespective of the emotions associated with the initial event, I choose to remember. Because time offers perspective. And anniversaries provide opportunities to reflect on God’s goodness. One January morning eight years ago, I awoke to my first day of unemployment in over three decades. Although not completely unexpected, the news the day before that I was no longer needed because my job was being eliminated left me numb and disoriented. I recognized those feelings, milder versions of the shock I felt after my husband’s unexpected death. Unlike the previous afternoon when the slate sky matched the tenor of the windowless conference room where I received my termination notice, the morning was drenched in brilliant sunlight. In spite of my surreal circumstances, I held onto hope every bit as bright as the sunshine streaming through my windows. In fact, I posted the following status on Facebook: “30+ years of continuous employment came to a halt yesterday when my job was eliminated. God obviously has something else for me to do. I can’t wait to see what it is! J” Even though I was uncertain how being unemployed would affect my life, I rested in the certainty that my life was exactly where it had been before I lost my job – secure in the hands of the One who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10), who has a plan for good and not harm (Jeremiah 29:11). The previous day’s events did not surprise Him or catch Him off-guard. I reminded myself of another windowless room where I and my elementary-aged daughters were told the unthinkable – that our beloved husband and father had succumbed to a fatal heart attack – and I recalled God’s provision across the 13 ½-intervening years.

Purposeful Pondering2022-05-07T23:13:53+00:00

7 Women to Remember this Mother’s Day {and How to Remind Them God Sees}

I grew up in a church that publicly honored mothers on Mother’s Day. At the entrance to the sanctuary, they placed a box of little carnations to be pinned on the blouses of women with children as a sort of badge of honor. During the welcome, the pastor would ask all of the mothers to stand. It is right to honor mothers. So much of their sacrificial work is performed in middle of the night moments or behind closed doors, and it is good to affirm their efforts, stirring them up to love and good deeds when they may be tempted to feel as if no one sees or their work doesn’t matter.This ritual to honor mothers was certainly a help to me growing up. My selfish childish heart needed to consider all the ways that my own mother laid down her life for our family and to thank her for it. I remember feeling proud of my mom as she stood during the public acknowledgement of mothers. I also wondered why she always cried, and I remember seeing that most of the women cried during this part, seated and standing alike. Despite all of the beautiful opportunity that this holiday offers to affirm the role of mothers, it can also be a trigger, exacerbating deep seeded pain in those with children and those without. For this reason, Mother’s Day provides the church not only with an opportunity to “see” the unseen work of mothers, but to acknowledge the unseen pain of all women, caring for them by reminding them that our God is El Roi, the God who sees.

7 Women to Remember this Mother’s Day {and How to Remind Them God Sees}2022-05-07T23:43:59+00:00

Palaces of Cedar: The Sweet Fragrance of Love and Sacrifice

Last spring a group of large dudes who have come to be known as The Big Guns built some raised garden beds in our backyard. I love to garden, and this project felt like a big ‘ole sloppy kiss from the Lord right on my cheek. The vegetables, the teachable moments, the vegetables that teach me in moments…our backyard is becoming a full heart kind of place for me. And an unanticipated bonus of this whole yard project: the smells. Now, granted, I have a very sensitive smeller, so maybe this won’t apply to everyone…but the smells, the smells…they are getting me. I *adore* the smell of a freshly pinched tomato sucker. And bitty E tells me blooming bee balm “smells like cleaner.” (Still not quite sure what that means.) The dirt, even some of the fertilizer (that’s weird, right?), my herbs…I love it all. But there is one smell that is getting me good. We used 4x4 cedar posts to construct the raised beds. While The Big Guns were here, they went ahead and cut the remaining posts to construct an archway over our fence gate at a later point in time. (Sometimes Big Guns tire of carting around Heavy Electric Saws.) Those cedar posts have taken up residence in our garage, just to the side of my car. And they have lit up our garage. Previously the garage smells were not of such a nice variety. Yes, on occasion, based on perfect weather conditions and zero humidity, the garage would smell pleasant. Like a garage should. However, we live in the deep south. Like, put on your diving gear deep. And we have a diapered toddler. So most days our garage smells like hot trapped trash. Enter cedar posts, stage right.

Palaces of Cedar: The Sweet Fragrance of Love and Sacrifice2022-05-07T23:54:27+00:00
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