I mentioned in my previous post about the staged rooms set up for viewing different life events at the UNSHAKEN Conference. (For more on this conference, please see my previous post) The room pictured at the top of this page is the “room” labeled GRIEF. This is a “room” I know all too well, (I honestly wish I was more uncomfortable with grief). Yet in the bitter sweet moments of grief where you can see God bringing something good out of the pain, it’s a blessing you would not experience without the suffering. Being able to appreciate the blessing doesn’t make the grief any easier, but it shifts my focus heavenward.
I often say grief ministry is one of those ministries you don’t ask to be a part of. However grief is a part of life; there is no getting around it. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT) tells us – To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. Whether you experience the loss of a loved one, a marriage ending, loss of a job, a season change or location change, grief will come. Sometimes it’s grief that smacks you in the face, takes your breath away, and stops you motionless in your tracks. Other times it’s a slow process you are walking in or waiting for, but can’t fully understand until you and grief meet head on. Why???- is one word with a great deal behind it….And although you might find some reasons this side of heaven, what I’ve learned is that most of my questions won’t be answered until I get to heaven. This is when I fully understood “cry out to the Lord,” it’s coming from a place deep with-in that is filled with much more than words leaving my lips. Crying out to God in grief and painful moments are usually accompanied by tears, emptiness and even shaking. Have you experienced this? If so, then you have felt the type of comfort only Jesus can give when you truly reach for Him. Psalm 18:6 reminds us; But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry to Him reached his ears.
Recently the Lord placed on my heart to read Levi Lusko’s new book, Through the Eyes of a Lion, an amazing book! I saw someone post about it on social media and wanted to check it out. That night the Lord knocked on my heart and said, “read it now.” I said “OK Lord. I will get it this week and begin.” Again,” READ IT NOW!”; I thought wow I have to download this book. I began reading it on my iPad as soon as it downloaded. I heard Pastor Levi speak at a southeastern pastor’s conference over a year ago and was somewhat familiar with his story. As I read I recognized Levi’s transparency, honesty and most of all his desire for pointing people to Jesus. After the great loss his family suffered I could see this was their mission. It kept me reading, then fear set in, Lord “WHY, am I reading this?” Please don’t be preparing me for the unthinkable as a parent. I watch my mom walk through this life carrying this unimaginable grief and it is difficult to bear. I began praying for my kids, especially my 5 year old, the same age as their beautiful daughter who went to heaven. I could sense the fear rising and yet couldn’t stop reading. I realized this fear was not from the Lord and began praying against the attacks. Finally a few chapters in and after prayer time I finally fell asleep.
In the days following I continued devouring “Through the Eyes of a Lion.” I am a slow reader and must admit I do not finish all the books I start. I COULD NOT put this down! I prayed for this family, had lots of “WHY?” conversations with God, and prayed through my own fears while reading this book. I also began planning “my moment” to post my #EyesofaLion picture. Many who know me understand I LOVE pictures, hashtags, and anything creative. In this book the challenge came to post your picture reading this book and mark it #EyesofaLion. I began following this on Instagram and people are reading this book during chemo treatments, in hospitals, enjoying beautiful places, on mountains, and many, many more amazing places / moments. I thought – OH when I get the book and the Lord reveals to me “my” spot I cannot wait to add my mark to this group of warriors who are posting their moments. Those who want to see this life more heavenly-minded then earthly-focused, while carrying the battle scars of life.
But that’s not where my moment came; it came in Starbucks, before work, and reading on my Ipad. In Chapter 9, Homesickness, An Ache You Can’t Shake, there it hit me. Grief came bubbling up like a volcano and my eyes began to fill with hot tears. This chapter began with a military man on his way home from a deployment. (I will not give away the story, because I do encourage you to read this book.) I will share that for me anything military is a trigger of the grief I carry deep with-in. My younger brother was in the Air Force and completed 3 tours in Afghanistan / Iraq. I remember praying him off and celebrating his homecomings. He was set to get out of the military and return to Florida and begin his civilian life. About a month before he was supposed to return home for good he was killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run accident. All those nights wondering if he was ok while overseas were supposed to be over, but God had different plans. David was called to his eternal home, at the age of 25, much sooner then I would’ve liked.
Sitting in Starbucks that morning unprepared for the emotion this chapter dug up, the words – “His sister looked so proud of her brother in uniform,” jumped off the page and punched me in the stomach! In that moment I knew God saw me and my pain. He was there for me to catch every tear that fell. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. “ Psalm 56:8 This pastor writing about his families deepest pain and he adds a couple of pages about a military man and his homecoming. “Lord, that was for me. But WHY? I have been carrying this grief for over 5 years.”
I finally composed myself as best I could, and finished the chapter. I prayed that I could function at work after after my stop-you-in-your-track grieving moment with God. You see this moment didn’t bring up fear or even anxiety, it brought up buried pain that I carry daily. As hard as it was, I knew it was a “good” cry and the Lord was reminding me for a reason. This was not how I planned or where I pictured my #throughtheeyesofalion moment occurring, but that’s just when God reminds us He is in control and has a plan. (Jeremiah 29:11) Yes I snapped my picture and it is at the bottom of the page.
This is not where the Lord left me either, sitting at Starbucks paralyzed by my grief, but He used it in the coming days and weeks. I will share more about this next time. God doesn’t want to leave you where you are either, with buried pain you didn’t realize was still there or maybe pain you’ve never dealt with. He wants to mend your broken places and use you to reach others for His glory. Will you allow Him in a little deeper?
“This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you,” 2 Kings 20:5