A New Year: Thrive 1/19

a-new-year-thriveOur home telephone rang on the morning of January 1, 2003.
Still recovering from a youth lock-in the night before, I hardly noticed it. The phone was on Sara’s side of the bed, so I did not even move. But after answering the phone, Sara woke me and said I needed to get on the phone with her.
Strange.
My father-in-law was on the phone. Immediately, I felt something was wrong. I could hear it in his voice. Indeed, the news he had to deliver…well, you can’t mask it and talk as though everything is okay.
“Jared, your Dad went for a walk this morning…”
He didn’t have to say anything else. Somehow I knew.
My Dad had died.
I don’t remember anything else that was said.
I dropped the phone, went to the living room, dropped to my knees, and wept. Instinctively, I yelled, “No!” I must have said it a dozen times. My wife came moments later and wept with me.
Up to that point in my life, I’d never really wept over anything. Sure, there had been times I had cried, but I had never experienced loss like this. And I haven’t experienced anything like it since.
My Dad was my best friend. I always felt loved and valued in his presence. And there was a deep sense of warmth and joy when we were together. In an instant, those days were over…
Fourteen years later, I stood in my kitchen surrounded by my wife and kids. I was telling my kids the story of how I asked Sara to marry me (that’s another story for another day). Dad played a key role in that story and so I began to tell my kids about him. And surprisingly, as though it happened yesterday, I suddenly began to weep.
As it turns out, after fourteen years and at a moments notice, I can reenter that world of grief.
Having experienced grief for myself and having observed grief in others while serving as pastor, three thoughts come to mind.
Weep. Jesus wept. There’s a time for us to weep also. Grief is a glorious ruin. We live in a broken world. The Bible takes it as a given people will weep. In weeping we acknowledge things are not as they should be. We are restless for God to set the world right. We join with others and say, “How long, O Lord?” We look at the world as it is and with deep grief, yell, “No!” 
 
Hope. Though we say, “No!” to the world as it presently is, we are assured the brokenness is fleeting. Why? Because Christ has overcome death. One day we will chant with all the saints, “O death, where is you victory? O death, where is your sting?” O, to utter those beautifully powerful words! In hope we boast in the victory of our great God and Savior.
 
Learn. Losing someone often drives us to think more critically about life, our relationships, and our purpose. We realize our time is short and life is fragile. Grief can help us gain greater focus on what matters and clarity on why we are here. Paul encouraged his readers to make the best use of the time for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-21). Walking through grief can motivate a person to take this admonition more seriously.
In the end, I remain deeply thankful for the time I had to spend with my Dad. I recommitted to love those closest to me, making the most of the time we have together. And one day, I know I will be reunited with Dad in the presence of Jesus, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
Jared Burt
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A New Year: Thrive 1/7

a-new-year-thriveTwo years after my husband passed away from cancer, I was still grieving . I had known the comfort of the Lord and of family and friends, but that ache cast a pall over everything. It sapped my strength and I felt I was functioning on autopilot. I was living and working in West Africa with people I loved. I loved my job. My son was a soldier in Iraq and my high school daughter was with me. So I had plenty material for prayer.

One morning during my prayer time, I was reading Psalm 84 when the Lord opened my eyes with His truth about my situation. I read verses 1-4:

 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!

 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah

That was it! I so desperately needed the Living God! I imagined myself as that little sparrow nestling up near the altar. I thought, “If I could just stay here and never have to move, I would have everything I need!” But then, I read on.

 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion

What? Did I really have to get up and continue the journey? Then I realized I had been in a valley. In fact, the word for valley, Baca, means “tears.” Truly, I had been in a valley of tears. The Lord was saying to me that He would be my strength, that He would make something good come from this valley of tears. He would make it a place of springs (life-giving water). He would give me strength after strength till I see Him face to face.

Alice Statler