John 16: From Sorrow To Joy

PEY CHU|GUEST I am a huge fan of modern medicine. My first three children were born in North Carolina with the marvelously numbing help of an epidural. Sure, I felt uncomfortable but I did not feel the excruciating agony of childbirth. This was not the case for baby number four. He was born in East Asia where the epidural was not often administered and so, it did not take. I did not know that birthing a baby was actually supposed to be so painful. At one point, I was so convinced that I was dying in childbirth that I tearfully looked into my husband’s eyes and apologized for dying and leaving him a widower to care for three, possibly four, children. From Sorrow to Joy In his farewell address to his disciples, Jesus compares his impending earthly departure with a woman’s sorrow in labor. This metaphor would not have been a new one to those listening to Jesus. It was used in Old Testament biblical literature to allude to “the birth pains of the Messiah refer[ing] to a period of terrible trouble that must precede the consummation.”Jesus uses this imagery to show his disciples that they were at that point. The misery of Christ’s death would be countered with the bliss of Christ’s resurrection. In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus has been preparing his disciples for what was about to come. As he looked ahead to his own death, Jesus tells them in John 16 that soon they would not see him. Their sorrow at his departure would be like the pains of childbirth. But their sorrow would not be the end; their sorrow would turn to joy. The intense agony of labor (and their sorrow) would be followed by inexpressible joy just as a woman “no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21). Jesus follows with, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:23).

John 16: From Sorrow To Joy2022-05-04T00:26:24+00:00

Letting Go of My Mother and Friend

PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST God blessed me with the gift of a godly mother, a blessing that would impact my life in innumerable ways over the six decades we shared. Raised as an only child after my baby sister passed away, my bond with Mom was strong and multi-faceted. She could be a firm disciplinarian, but she was also my best friend and closest confidant. When my 39-year-old husband, Ray, passed away suddenly, Mom and Dad moved to Georgia to help me and my then 7- and 10-year-old daughters navigate life without our beloved husband and father. In the ensuing 24 years, my daughters, son-in-law, and three grandchildren also benefitted from her selfless, unconditional love and unwavering faith. I couldn’t imagine life without her. As a child, I would sometimes hope we’d die together in an accident of some sort. Little did I know then that a day would come when I’d sit by her hospital bed and plead with the Lord to take her Home. But it did. Role Reversal Unlike my husband’s sudden, unexpected loss, I lost Mom bit by bit over the last few years of her life. Tiny but determined, she continued to take care of her home and loved ones even as arthritis and osteoporosis took a greater and greater toll on her physically. Then came some red-flag moments signaling a decline in her mental abilities— her request for help balancing her checkbook even though she’d worked in banking for years, the inability to successfully bake a cake she’d made countless times over 50 years. Those moments alarmed and saddened me. Gradually, our roles shifted as I assumed more caregiving activities. Mom would often tell others, “I don’t know what I’d do without Patsy. She’s the mother now.” Or she’d tell me, “Thank you for your help. I can’t ever repay you.” I’d remind her, every time, of the years she’d invested in my children and me, lavishing so much love and care on us, and that if we were keeping accounts, I’d be the one forever in her debt. Bound by love, we knew there was no record-keeping between us. Yet, there was a growing sense of sorrow as we experienced our changing roles and limits on what we could do together...

Letting Go of My Mother and Friend2022-05-04T23:24:06+00:00

Delicious Despair 201

ANN MAREE GOUDZWAARD|CONTRIBUTOR My entire backyard burst with the colors of spring. Everything bloomed. It was a perfect, 70-degree day and the landscape showed off. I looked out my window and saw the wicker chairs scattered under the pergola and balloons dotted on the boulders strategically situated throughout the yard. When we invested in landscaping last year, I had visions of hosting joyful events. The picturesque backdrop was perfect for a tea party or bridal shower. In fact, we planned to host a “baby sprinkle” for my daughter that very day. (A “sprinkle” is a baby shower for couples who already have children.) Cori and Brett had all they needed for two kids, but then they found out they were expecting twins. So, we planned a sprinkle to help them provide for multiple babies. We hosted a memorial for the twins (Deacon and Hallie) that day instead. In 2020, the pandemic reminded us to preface our plans with “if the Lord wills.” Everyone’s agenda hit a “hard stop,” and we realized how precarious goals are. For our family, 2021 ushered in the opportunity to experience that truth in real time. My husband and I planned for chaotic bliss in adding a twelfth and thirteenth grandchild to our already bustling family. Together with our other children, we coordinated our calendars to support Cori and Brett at her due date. God had another plan. The Lord willed something different. Something more difficult. An accommodation we had no idea we would need to make. And so began my education in grief. What’s essential in the grief process is to try and grasp God’s redemptive plans. This takes time. It may even last indefinitely. In Delicious Despair 101, I wrote that Martin Luther fully expected the pain of suffering to result in a transformation.[1] For instance, in opposition to the “first step” of grief (denial)[2], candor looks suffering in the face and says, “Yes, that really happened.” Candor acknowledges devastation, but it also asks, “Now what do I do?” Wallowing in self-pity over the events God ordains is antithetical to biblical grieving. In 1 Thess. 4:13, Paul instructs mourners not to grieve as those without hope. So, we must keep moving through our grief and actively seek wisdom to reinterpret what happened as perfect and good...

Delicious Despair 2012022-05-04T23:19:25+00:00

Light Palms, Heavy Burden

AIMEE JOSEPH|GUEST Palm Sunday. The expectant people lined the streets, praising Jesus and quoting from Psalm 118 as he approached in peace. The people knew he was the Messiah, the Sent One, the One coming to save them. Thus, they shouted “Hosanna” which means “Save us, now!” (Matt. 21:6–11). They waved light palms as he approached history’s heaviest burden. Their praise presupposed that Jesus would establish God’s people in peace politically and do so immediately. They had visions of the once-flourishing reign of David. Their hopes soared with high expectations that Jesus would usher in a new golden era. However, within a week’s time, it would become clear to these same crowds that Jesus had plans to usher in a very different kingdom. As a result of these missed expectations, their praises faded quickly into shouts of “Crucify him!” in a matter of days. We are not unlike them; our praise quickly turns cold and bitter when our expectations are not met in our way and on our timetable. As we approach Holy Week, we are invited to search for the semblances of our own hearts in the fickle crowds. Jesus rode into Jerusalem through a tunnel of praises that came from the mouths of those who would soon chant “Barabbas!” (Matt. 27:15–23). They cheered his approach with a light and airy joy, but he alone knew he was marching on to his death. His patient restraint and resolve as he approached an unthinkable burden only further shows the purity of his goodness and love. His Burden A King approaching in peace, In humility He rode on, Onlookers cheering him, Expecting a new dawn. The Scriptures foretold it, Yet none of them could see, The dawn would begin with The God-Man hung on a tree. The Messiah was coming, To bring His kingdom to bear; But of the coronation of tears, None but Jesus was aware. “Hosanna! Save us!” they cried, As hopes and palms were raised. “Finally the kingdom’s come, May Jesus’ name be praised!” He heeded not their fanatical cries, For he well knew the heart of men, From “Crown Him” to “Crucify,” The voices would be raised again...

Light Palms, Heavy Burden2022-05-04T23:14:32+00:00

Facing Feelings of Guilt and Responsibility in Pregnancy Loss

“Was it my fault?” Prenatal-care instructions draw a straight line from our bodies and decisions to the health of our babies. We’re told to avoid eating soft cheeses and drinking alcohol. We’re instructed not to exercise too rigorously and to stay hydrated. We’re counseled to take a daily prenatal vitamin with plenty of folic acid. The burden of responsibility that accompanies motherhood starts long before a baby is born. So, when the death of a baby occurs within a mother’s body, this is the sort of question that haunts us as we mull over things we did or didn’t do, or feelings we did or didn’t have. A Common Offer of Comfort I remember so clearly my doctor placing his hand on mine, looking into my tear-filled eyes, and saying, “This is not your fault.” His intention was to offer comfort, but I remember wondering how he could say those words with such certainty when he knew so little about me, my past, or my actions during this pregnancy. Just as my doctor couldn’t tell me the reason behind my miscarriage, I cannot possibly know the reason behind yours. Yet whether or not my doctor’s statement was true, the sentiment behind it was absolutely correct. There is no point in being consumed by guilt over your miscarriage. Of greater comfort than these scripted words from a physician with limited knowledge are the words of Scripture—the word of the God who does know all things, who is in control of all things, and who actually has the authority to forgive and to offer full assurance of pardon. Greater Comfort in God’s Sovereignty David’s declaration in Psalm 139 v 16 tell us that God knows all the days of a baby’s life before he or she is even formed in the womb: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Facing Feelings of Guilt and Responsibility in Pregnancy Loss2022-05-05T00:00:24+00:00

An Invitation to Wrestle with Emotions

Are you feeling tired, worn down, anxious, depressed, or spiritually thirsty right now in the middle of our messy world? No matter what season of life you are currently in, the world-wide Covid pandemic has surely taken it's toll on your life. Maybe you're a college girl who had to take online classes this spring or who missed walking across the stage at graduation. Maybe you are a single working woman whose work was vastly affected by the shut-down. Or maybe you are a wife and mother feeling burned out from caring for your family in this chaotic time. Whether you have felt alone and isolated in this season because of lack of social interaction or have felt burned out from too much interaction with the people around you, or a combination of both, the Psalms in Scripture offer an authentic place for us to voice our cares, questions, and feelings. An Invitation to Wrestle with Emotions When it comes to our emotions, our tendency is to vacillate between several extremes. We can stuff our feelings, thinking it is more "spiritual" to just praise the Lord with a smile pasted on our face, trying to be "positive" and "grateful" with a spiritual logic of "God is good" because that is often easier than to admit that our hearts are breaking. Or on the other hand, we can let our feelings rule and dictate our lives rather than being anchored in the truth and lens of God's character. Yet the Psalms invite us to wrestle. They help us articulate what it is that we are feeling. They encourage us to lay our honest emotions at the Lord's feet and voice to the Lord all our questions, rather than simply slap a "truth band-aid" on them. They also invite us to learn what is true about God, our world, and our role in it. In the Psalms, truth and emotions intersect to weave a beautiful tapestry for our lives. Jesus Himself models this for us. How often in the Gospels do we see Him weeping over brokenness around Him? Jesus, who was the ultimate Healer! In John 11, we see Jesus weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus, just moments before He knew He was going to raise him from the dead. Why would He cry over something that He was about to reverse? Jesus empathized with suffering. Not only that, he grieved over the state of our fallen world, for he knew things were not as they should be. "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled...Jesus wept." (vv.33,35) The God of the Universe came close to our suffering as the God-Man, Jesus, tasted our sorrows and pain for the 32 years that he walked on earth. He understands feelings such as isolation, sorrow, natural fears, abandonment, for he felt them too...

An Invitation to Wrestle with Emotions2022-05-05T00:37:26+00:00

When Christmas is Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

“It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,  It's the Hap-happiest season of all… Except....when it's not. In the days leading up to our first Christmas without our youngest child, sixteen-year-old Mark, Harry Connick Jr.'s merry lyrics sharply contrasted with the tears and unending ache in my chest accompanying me every minute of every day. Even the night of his death, Christmas was on our minds. On our way home from the hospital that hot July night, stunned to be leaving without our child, Chuck grabbed my hand and whispered, "Christmas, what will we do about Christmas?" Over twenty years later, I experience joy in this "most wonderful time of the year" but not because it's the hap-happiest season of all. Because it's not. About two weeks before Thanksgiving I begin to feel disorganized, disconnected, and emotionally edgy. Anger and impatience vie for top billing in situations that don't normally rattle me.  And every year Chuck reminds me that my root problem is grief. I miss Mark. The freight train of sorrow still surprises me with its ferocity and power. One reason the holiday season is so difficult for grieving Americans is because marketing gurus tap deep into our core need for community and family. Thanksgiving and Christmas are ready made opportunities for stirring up our God-given hunger for peace and whole families. The most effective ads are those that imply their product will produce healthy, conflict-free relationships. Divorce, broken relationships, childlessness, loss of a loved one, financial disaster, singleness, conflict-filled marriage—none of these fit the "hap-happiest time of the year" template. The ads only serve to magnify the holes in our own broken lives. 10 Tips for Christmas Grief Relief...

When Christmas is Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year2022-05-07T22:50:24+00:00
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