Tag Archives: grief

Job 1-3; Psalm 29; Revelation 10

He was about to lose his life as he knew it. I’m so thankful for these years reading through the scriptures, getting to know the people and my God better each time. But interestingly, the frequency and familiarity don’t make it easier–sometimes it gets a little harder.

I want to hit pause as I read the opening lines of Job–a man of integrity, a man who feared God and stayed away from evil, a loving father of sons and daughters, his home a place of feasting. He was considered rich by his community’s standards, and by my own standards his heart for God and family make him truly wealthy. He was a disciplined man, and his life had a beautiful rhythm.

And he was about to lose his life as he knew it.

This time around, it’s hard to keep reading farther. The loss, the wrestle, the tugging pull of assumptions, accusations, confusion–and a lot of that comes later. His pain is deep; he wonders many things; he wants to erase the wounding and lock it all away from light. There are many things loss dredges up to the surface that survivors must confront. This is hard work.

I know if I sit here longer with Job, I will learn things. Because there will be a time when life feels upended, and life as it was known is lost. How do I look at Job’s grief when I can’t even resolve my own? I turn the pages and focus on this: the voice of the Lord.

Across the seas and among the cedars and oaks, the barren places and wilderness, his voice echoes, strikes, wrings, and strips.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic (Psalm 29:4, NLT).

I listen for your voice, Lord.

10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:10-11, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, Old Testament, Psalms

Amos 4-6; Psalm 55; Matthew 14

It was probably ten or eleven years ago, and my dad wasn’t speaking to me, and my heart ached. One day I was out at the grocery store with my kids and a dear friend. I kept seeing an older man with the brightest blue eyes in the store. We had made eye contact several times, and it seems so crazy now (and maybe even a little crazy then), but I had such an urge to approach him. I parked the shopping cart off to the side in an aisle while my friend stayed by my kids. I walked over to the stranger.

“My dad has blue eyes like yours,” I said to him, awkwardly, and he smiled at me. We talked a little, and at the end he opened his arms to me and hugged me (God, bless that man), and I choked back my tears. I looked at my friend and she was crying.

***

Last year within days after my dad died, I was at the UPS Store, my mind scrambled by a to-do list of so much that had to get done that week, and planning a funeral. I walked into the store directly behind a man, who, when he turned, I recognized as a friend.

“Hey!” he said, “How are you?”

I tried to find a way to speak, to respond, and finally I reached out to him and said, “My dad died on Saturday.” And he mercifully hugged me and let me cry. (Thank you, God, for the loving timeliness of friends running errands too.)

***

35 When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. 36 They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed (Matthew 14:35-36, NLT).

There are times when the need is so strong to cry out to God, the desire great to hear His voice, or if I could … at least touch the fringe of His robe–but really to have Him sit across from me and hold my hand and hear my heart. Hard days when I cling to His Word that He has a plan, that He loves me, that He sees me, that He’s for me, that He will be with me, that He sings over me, that He will bring good and beauty from heartache and ashes.

I read these verses in Matthew and imagined the scene, to reach out and touch the Lord. To be that close. To be healed.

“If you could meet with any person from the past,” I asked my daughter on a car ride recently, “who would you pick?”

Thankfully, one day, I truly will get to sit across from Jesus, and He will wipe away my tears.

Father God, thank you that you hear me from heaven. Thank you for your sovereignty and great plan. Thank you for blue-eyed strangers and friends on this earth who comfort and love and help and encourage in all of life’s seasons.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

There is something bigger at stake than removing a threat.

After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats. (1 Samuel 24:1, NLT)

Saul leaves one fight to pursue another. Could his heart ever be satisfied? Would the threats ever stop tormenting him? Is he the hunter or the hunted?

David’s in a cave with a force behind him. They encourage him–a deliverance of a sort that could be settled in that instant. I watch David from the shadows and hold my breath as he reaches forward and cuts a piece of Saul’s robe. David’s conscience speaks to him–because there is something bigger at stake than removing a threat.

War and gore weren’t new to these men; they were both fighters and leaders–whether for better or worse. What was it fueling Saul? What was it holding David back? While this story reads like a suspense, today, I look past opposing forces and see the heart.

***

A garden untended in a summer gone too fast, and weeds are up to my waist in some places. I climb over the rocky bases and grasp and pull at thorny mile-a-minute, weak-rooted Japanese stiltgrass, and other varieties I know by familiarity than by name–ones that reach, embed, choke out nearby azalea and lilac. This year, I get half through and don’t finish. I think about emotions in a grieving process. I look at the weeds and how quickly they’ve taken over a space. Some being light, but persistent. Others, painful to touch. Some, likely poisonous and tormenting. It is work to remove them. I know the longer I neglect the process, the worse it will become.

I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
    and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
    when the ungodly are around me.”
But as I stood there in silence—
    not even speaking of good things—
    the turmoil within me grew worse.
The more I thought about it,
    the hotter I got,
    igniting a fire of words:
Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:1-5, NLT)

At best, a breath.

I got the proof for my parents’ grave marker yesterday–names and dates.

We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you. (Psalm 39:6-7, NLT)

My only hope is in you.

***

The voice said to me, “Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. “Fill your stomach with this,” he said. And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 3:1-3, NLT)

Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7b-8, NLT)

Lord, I turn to your word. It fills me and instructs me. It is a feast, and I celebrate the new bread of sincerity and truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30,31; Mark 16

Restore. It’s my word for the year. I notice it throughout the readings.

Micah returns the coins to this mother (Judges).

The Lord speaks in Jeremiah, and restoration pours from his mouth. His words are powerful, and I am encouraged and refreshed by his might.

  • He will bring them home to the land.
  • He will break the yoke from their necks and snap the chains.
  • He will raise up a king.
  • He will give back health and heal wounds.

It goes on, the things he does.

18 This is what the Lord says:
“When I bring Israel home again from captivity
    and restore their fortunes,
Jerusalem will be rebuilt on its ruins,
    and the palace reconstructed as before.
19 There will be joy and songs of thanksgiving,
    and I will multiply my people, not diminish them;
I will honor them, not despise them.
20     Their children will prosper as they did long ago.
I will establish them as a nation before me,
    and I will punish anyone who hurts them.
21 They will have their own ruler again,
    and he will come from their own people.
I will invite him to approach me,” says the Lord,
    “for who would dare to come unless invited?
22 You will be my people,
    and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:18-22, NLT)

My God who turns mourning into joy. He rebuilds upon the ruins. He restores.

Oh, that I can look upon the loss and heartache and circumstances that have hammered against me these months; they have not been for destruction, but for refining and chiseling–restoration. Breaking of yokes. Snapping of chains.

A tomb is empty (Mark 16).

He lives.

We live, restored.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 18,19; Psalms 149,150; Jeremiah 9; Matthew 23

A land promised and parceled. Psalms of praise! Praise! Clanging words like cymbals. Praise.

Eyes, a fountain of tears. Uncircumcised hearts.

“They do not know me,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 9:3b, NLT.

I reach for the hands of a sister. I crave the embrace of a mother.

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:8-12, NLT)

Lord, teach me. Guide me. My Father, my God, my Hope.

 23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken! (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT)

Lord, you hear the cries of my heart. You delight in love and justice and righteousness. Be at work in our hearts.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Joshua 8; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16

I thought a week off from routine would restore me. Now, a second week closing, I feel myself slipping into hermit mode. I pulled up Psalm 139 to read, and I cried. This is a Father’s loving hand upon a daughter’s head. He is right here with me. He knows me best. Even when I slip into hermitting, He comforts me in this new territory of angry grief. He does not abandon me.

(All of Psalm 139, NLT, because it is so good. Emphasis mine.)

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
    Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

 

A friend shared some hurtful things going on in her life, and by all accounts, her anger is justified. But I saw what it was doing to her and those around her. I said, “I get it. I’d be mad too. But how long is enough? How long (of being angry) will make you feel better? I hate to see you work yourself into a pit that’s hard to get out of.”

The words spoke into my life as well. At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to say it, because it can seem so unfair–but maybe the antidote for anger is forgiveness. Because the thing about anger, can it ever be satisfied–especially in circumstances where there is no justice? Some things can’t be taken back or fixed. Anger is like a hot coal being tossed into hands. How do (we) let go when memory sears?

Oh, Lord, point out the offenses. Lead me.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?] Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NLT)

Lord, I would be so utterly lost without your word, your love, your forgiveness. Thank you for loving me so much, that even in the angry grief, you don’t leave me. You tell me to get back on my feet and follow you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 49; Luke 2; Job 15; I Corinthians 3

We didn’t have those kinds of talks. He’d tell me about a new recipe, or teach me a crochet stitch, or recount a recent outing. Likely the last words I said to him were, “I’ll talk to you later.”

Only later never came. Goodbye was never said. So many questions never asked, never answered. All of this is hard. And in the grief, I find myself surprised by what surfaces. And this one question: what did my father think of me?

I wasn’t expecting my dad to die that night. He spoke to me as if he weren’t expecting it either. Perhaps our conversation might have gone differently if we had known.

Jacob speaks last words over his sons, and I cry.

Then Jacob called together all his sons and said, “Gather around me, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the days to come. Genesis 49:1, NLT

Some of his words sting and some of his words bless.

In Job, Eliphaz responds to Job, and a shaming storm pours from his mouth.

In Luke, Mary receives words from shepherds, prophecies from Simeon and Anna, and she stores these things in her heart.

When I think of things unsaid, unheard, all the unknown, I wonder if it matters now–because I can’t know. Why does that question and answer matter so much?

I turn my focus to the Lord.

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:5-17, NLT

Lord Jesus, I bring my questions to you. I find my peace in you. Your word is the final say and the one that matters. You are truth, and you see truth, and you are judge of deed and heart. I think we all desperately crave to hear your “Well done.” I pray that I keep my eyes firmly fixed upon you. Please equip me for the tasks at hand, and instruct me in your wisdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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