loss-abandonment · Loss-abuse · Loss-addictions · Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-divorce · Loss-flood · Loss-pandemic · Loss-parent · Loss-pornography · Loss-spouse · loss-suicide

Not Abandoned

Today is Good Friday. Today, we remember Jesus, beaten and broken on a cross, in extreme pain, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He felt alone and abandoned for a moment. 

This fulfilled and hearkened to the same cry that David had in Psalm 22.  

And that Job had. 

At one point, Job felt that God had torn, gnashed, broke, dashed, slashed, and hated him (17:4-14)-his words, not mine! 

In pain and grief, there are moments when you wonder if God has abandoned you.

Job felt totally abandoned and alone and in the middle of his battle, cried out for mercy two times! (19:21) It was at this climax, that he proclaimed that HE KNEW THAT HIS REDEEMER LIVES!!! At the point of his greatest despair, his faith was at the highest level.

Astoundingly, he knew that he was in need of a Redeemer (19:25). Job likely lived after the time of the Tower of Babel but before or during the time of Abraham. When ALL was taken and friends did not understand and even accused him, he knew he needed REDEMPTION and God would vindicate him. 

He knew that there would be a day of justice (“at the last He will stand upon the earth”) when he would SEE GOD with his own eyes. This is where he goes for COMFORT. 

For Jesus, He was experiencing the outpouring of divine wrath as He bore our sin. All three: Jesus, David, Job experienced reproach and ridicule. All three kept relying on God through it and experienced his rescue and mercy.

The truth is: God was always watching over Jesus, David, and Job. God never ditches His people. Hear this: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). And this: “For he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5b-6). And it goes on and on: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ And God said, ‘I will be with you’ (Exodus 3:11-12). 

God does not leave us while we suffer. He has compassion for us and stays with us. He is the Father who stays!! He does not desert us and this is the greatest promise ever. He never dumps us but is right next to us as we cry and hurt. He never mocks our suffering or our faith. He wants us to reach out to Him and let Him comfort us. He wants us to talk honestly and openly. Jesus, because he felt forsaken, understands us completely. God does not hide His face from us, but rather is listening and hears every cry.

Psalm 22 ends with these words: he has done it. Jesus said, “It is finished.” We have a Redeemer who gets every ounce of our agony, affliction, and aching. Today we remember the darkness He went through to save us. He died for the broken. He was broken for the broken. He is with the broken. This is my body broken for ____. Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have MERCY on me, a sinner.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent

Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-flood · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

Suffering

There is a core question that most grievers ask at some point: Why does suffering exist? Why do some suffer greatly and others do not?

In the past I would have answered: to help you grow (John 15), to grow your character (Heb. 12), to show you where you misplaced your hope (1 Peter 1:13-14), to make you stronger, more persevering (James 1). And, this can absolutely be true. But, now I realize that there is MORE to this answer–that there are some kinds of suffering that will never have answers. 

Sometimes suffering comes from our own sin or others’ choices to sin. Other times, we do not know why we are suffering. Sometimes it is a combination of the two.

John 9: 1-3-As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” So, when Jesus was asked if the blind man’s suffering was caused by sin, he answered that there was a greater purpose. 

Sometimes things happen in heaven that humans know nothing about and that can’t be explained. Sometimes very difficult things happen to faithful people. It is simplistic to think that sin is always the cause of suffering. 

In the book of Job, one day in heaven, the angels and Satan gathered. Satan accused Job of following God because of the protection and blessings. Job was described as blameless, upright, one who feared God. His family was close-knit. God, then, allowed Satan to test Job within certain limitations. The Lord allowed Satan to remove his blessings, but protected Job’s life.  God could have prevented the suffering, but He did not.

There were two tests: In the first test, Job lost his 10 children, servants, all possessions. 10 children.

In the second, he lost his health.

In the first test, he answered, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In the second test, he answered, “Shall  we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job’s answer was both humble and even grateful. He had been completely broken, yet he maintained faith. He understood that a faith-filled life did not guarantee a life free of pain and sorrow. If faith only mattered in good times, it did not matter at all.

Job also grieved: he fell to the ground, his heart was heavy (6:1), he felt punished and mocked (6:4-6, 23), he lost his appetite (6:7), he was in massive pain, with little hope (6:8), he had nights of misery and tossed in the night (7:4), he thought he would never see good again (7:7), he asked hard questions like why even try (6:29-30) and wondered if God was fair (6:22), yet, he appealed to God for mercy (6:15) and saw Him as holy, wise, strong (9:4-10). All of these are very normal in severe grief. Reading Job can be a relief to a griever–seeing a faithful person experience the same emotions, questions, and yet still have faith.

John Stuart Mill and others claim that God cannot be omnipotent AND good at the same time. However, in Job, it is seen that God is in control and is good. He also allows suffering for a purpose and has a relationship with Job through it. What is the good-this is not fully answered, but partly that Job would continue in his faith regardless of the most severe circumstances. But, Job knew nothing of the events and conversations in heaven. This is the humbling of man-he does not know everything or the reasons for everything.

Martin Luther King, Jr. explains that God’s goodness is a high and fixed purpose aiming at the supreme good of man, and that accomplishing His purpose reveals His true power. And, His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8).

Job never knew about the scene in heaven. He never had answers for the reason for his losses. And, for some kinds of losses this is the case. The believer will have to learn how to keep living and have faith WITHOUT answers.

Job, also, could not make the connection of his own sin and the atrocities that happened. Yes, he was a sinner, and he confessed this, but the severity of the losses did not match the sins he committed. He understood that any bit of mercy from God was a gift, but this degree of suffering did not make sense.

In the case of suicide, it is true that the victim sinned (in great pain and darkness); but for the survivor, the question is-why did God allow this? The survivor will have to learn to live without the full answer and this is super hard, but doable.

God allows the suffering of His children. God is sovereign over all that we experience: our grief, our physical ailments, our humiliation. Our suffering does not take God by surprise (Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 Peter 1:6; John 15:2). God gives us grace in our suffering (2 Peter 1:3). In the middle of suffering, it is important for the believer to remember that God is at His core, good. In the end, what did Job cling to? He had his faith in God’s goodness and the hope of his salvation. 

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic

How Long, O Lord

This is a New Year. Over the past year, I have listened to many sermons. Many focused on the disappointments of Covid. Changes, cancellations, job loss, death-all unexpected & unwelcome. 

We are not used to suffering. We are not used to death. Understandabily. It hurts.

In the middle of unforeseen tragedies, there is groaning deep inside: HOW LONG, O LORD? 

Maranatha means, “Come, Lord Jesus!” I whisper this more often these days when I hear news of another strand of the virus, or of a neighbor dying from Covid, or a friend’s friend losing their child to suicide. I wonder–how long, O Lord? How long until Covid is gone? How long until You come back?

It reminds me of the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years asking the same question. But, I also think of how they persevered in great trouble. Generations of people in history have withstood massive suffering: the Roman Empire brutality, the Black Death, religious wars in Europe, the Crusades, slavery, potato famines, the Holocaust, the French Revolution, corrupt kings, the Russians under Stalin, the Italians under Mussolini, wars, wars, and more wars.

Paul David Tripp comforts that “Scripture never looks down on the sufferer, it never mocks his pain, it never turns a deaf ear to his cries, and it never condemns him for his struggle.”

Lam. 3:22-23 states “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease. For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.” Lovingkindness means loyal love, faithfulness based on a promise, not on performance. Since the death of my son, this verse has woken me up every morning. I awake and don’t plan to say it, but I do. I rely heavily on its promise.

How long? God’s answer: I am faithful. No time given. This year, take one day at a time. Each day with new mercy, focusing on God’s character. A challenge-choose to remember, think, speak, sing of God’s faithfulness and mercy.

We aren’t the only ones who have asked this question. This is David speaking in Ps. 13  likely during the time that his own son tried to stage a coup to overtake him:

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?

How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul,

Having sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;

My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic

Questions-Part I

There are many emotions in the grieving process. I started with questioning. The very first day after I lost my son, in my fog, I wondered how God could have allowed the death of my child.  Why did He not stop it? I have long leaned on the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty meaning that He is in charge of everything. How was it possible that He could have permitted this to happen? These are hard truths–brace yourself.

I recalled how God allowed Joseph’s brothers to throw him in the pit and be sold into slavery, He allowed a famine, He allowed Joseph to be unjustly accused and sentenced (Genesis 37-50), He allowed the hardening of Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 4:21, Romans 9:17) and the Canaanite’s hearts (Joshua 11:20), He allowed an evil spirit to torment King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14), He allowed evil to rise up against David in his own house (2 Samuel 12:11-12), Jonah was thrown overboard. Job lost 10 children. Sinful men convicted, tortured, and crucified Christ. The Holocaust. Pandemics.

On the first morning, I read in Isaiah 46: “for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning  and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” God was still in charge and He knew the beginning and the end. He doesn’t get surprised. He doesn’t stop being in charge, even for a second, an hour, a day.

I concluded: God allows people to make their own choices, allows demonic forces, allows evil for His purposes (Joseph/Job) or to discipline (Saul/David) or to lead unbelievers to repentance (Jonah/Jesus) or to bring judgment or deliverance (Canaanites/Pharoah). These things are not wrong on God’s part. God can govern the actions of sinful man. However, God is not evil and does not do evil. His goodness and mercy contrast starkly with unspeakable, dark evil.

I just reread little notes from my son’s friends who I met with and asked to write their questions. The number one question is: Why did God allow it? The why will never make complete sense to me on this earth, even if someone or God tried to explain it, nothing would justify his death. God doesn’t owe me an explanation. I told you, these are really raw truths, but this is genuine faith. I believe God and I trust that He is in control (Job 13:15a), He is good (1 John 4:10), and He understands (Psalm 147:5), even when I cannot see and even when it hurts.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-Evan Dennis

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

A-Bomb

In the introduction to the book, 1984, a revolutionary book revealing the atrocities of Stalin’s regime and communism in Russia, which was released in 1945, it likens its release to the world with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagaski at the end of World War II, saying that it would change the face of the earth. Indeed. The book did and these bombs would kill and wound over 200,000+ people. As a point of reference, 500,000+ have died at the time of writing from Coronavirus. Another type of bomb.

What were the effects: some vaporized instantly, others felt the effects for days, months, years. Some were close to the bombing and some were at a distance. Keloid scars from burns, A-bomb cataract, trauma, disfiguration, bleeding, diarrhea, leukemia, cancer, radiation injury penetrates deeply into human body and injures cells. Deep painful effects.

An atomic bomb. This is how I picture the effects of suicide. According to the World Health Organization, despite efforts toward suicide awareness, a suicide occurs every 40 seconds. So, an atomic bomb drops on a family and community every 40 seconds. I think about this silent bombing often. Sometimes I will count 1, 2, 3…and realize this is happening—sometimes secretly and sometimes we read it in the newspaper. I pray for the unseen families and for the families I know impacted by suicide. I pray Isaiah 60:18, “Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.” That there will be NO MORE VIOLENCE IN THE LAND (within a family, within a school, within a community), but instead that the same people will find salvation and will praise God for His unexplainable mercy and grace and will seek help at all costs for themselves and others.

According to a 2016 study, it is estimated that 115 people are exposed to a single suicide. These people are called Suicide Survivors. Just as atomic bomb survivors must seek help, so must those who survive a suicide. Counseling, Bible studies, GriefShare texts, talking to friends/family, books, medication, listening to sermons or podcasts, helping others, educating oneself, problem solving, drawing near to the healer (Jesus)—healthy coping. There is help and depression can get better with help. Fight for life!! National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

Loud and Quiet Pain

My journal reads…“I thought about the initial shock last night. The moment I knew (I had lost my son)…and the shudder, shock, horror that burst through my body. I immediately numbed and the tremors of crying and wailing, like nothing else. I fell to the ground, crying out for God’s help. I felt that I couldn’t handle the pain. You scream for the pain to be released, like a pressure cooker, but louder.” My pain was so loud. Contrast this with those whose pain is silent. Silent. Can you hear silence or do anything about silence? Look out for silence. Do some have so much pain inside, all bottled up inside, but they can’t cry out and scream for help. Oh, how I wished they would! Why is some people’s pain deadly quiet and mine was so loud? “I stepped out of my door and cried the loudest guttural cry of my life-from the depths of my soul—echoing down my street—“Help…me…God!” 

Today as I do laundry and clean, little pings of pain hit as memories mottle the mind. I whisper to the Lord, “Help me, Lord” and He does, because I know He hears and cares.

In the midst of this, a dear friend prayed for me that I would have endurance in the pain. Hebrews 12:1-2 reads “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to JESUS, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him ENDURED the cross…” When Jesus endured the cross, Matthew 27 explains that He too cried out in a LOUD voice. Isaiah 41:10 promises,”Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I WILL HELP YOU, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Jesus is our salvation and our help right in the middle of the pain. 

Inevitably, we will have pain in life. Today I read about healthcare workers: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/16/health/coronavirus-ptsd-medical-workers.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20200517&instance_id=18563&nl=the-morning&regi_id=119103292&segment_id=28165&te=1&user_id=17b0d4d5df6a1e8b81955fd8a41cc5be

No one can fully take your pain, but they can help you endure it. Don’t be silent. Whether our pain is great or small, it is more than okay to cry out for HELP to GOD and to OTHERS in a loud or quiet voice. It is good, it is right, it is needed.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Art credit: Lana Ngo