It hasn’t been the month I hoped it would be after sharing my word for the year, embrace. Instead of welcoming this month with open arms, I’ve been grasping for glimpses of joy. On February 14th Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School faced a horrific tragedy. You’ve probably seen or heard the heart-breaking story. This high school is nine miles from the school where I work; many students and staff members here have friends and family at this school. Broken-hearted is how I can describe these past few weeks. Broken-hearted for the families, staff, and students who suffered and are suffering the effects of this tragedy. Broken-hearted for the first responders, grief counselors, doctors and nurses doing their best to serve this community during this tough time. Broken-hearted for my kids living in this time and doing my best to answer the many questions they have.
“Lord, how do you embrace this?” I’ve asked this question numerous times during this past few weeks. I don’t have a clear answer but I do know I’m not alone. God is here in the pain, doubt, and sorrow. He is with those grieving the loss of loved ones and in the hospital rooms where there are still students fighting for their lives. Grief can come in waves that sweep us under. Grief can then linger like an unwelcome companion. As I’ve been swept under quite a few waves this month Jesus is there to remind me I’m not alone and in Him is the hope of heaven.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Most of the time I need Jesus to help me from myself; the battle in my head not to focus on the negative and difficult. Whatever you’re facing make time to get alone with God and come clean; let Him meet you in the good, bad and ugly going on in your head. God knows all of our thoughts, fears, and insecurities and loves us through all of them. If you’re in the early stages of deep grief go slowly, God is with you and He is patient. I remember reading Psalms 18, two days after my brother was killed in a hit and run accident, it was the first time I realized God was with me in the midst and He spoke comfort through His Word. I didn’t feel immediately better and the pain of his loss still lingers with me years later. BUT it was the beginning of knowing I’m not alone and God has a plan even when I can’t understand it. I just had to open His Word.
When I was in the beginning stages of my grief journey I prayed like never before. It was one of the first times in my life I couldn’t handle normal day-to-day tasks. For the past couple of weeks, it has been a time of praying without ceasing, mostly for others who are in the midst of this tragedy. This should be a constant thing in my life, but often times trials have a way of turning me back to the Lord and reminding me to pray more. I’ve also been praying that I don’t forget to keep praying.
It also helps when I shift my focus from my difficulties and focus on serving someone else. If you’re able to help others who are grieving do so. God takes our little and uses it, multiplies it, and blesses through it. Our women’s ministry group at church made “thinking-of-you” bags for the teachers at West Glades Middle School, the school next
door to Stoneman Douglas High.West Glades Middle School was also deeply affected by this tragedy. The staff returned to work the next day trying to figure out how to process their grief while caring for their students. The staff was so appreciative of the “thinking-of-you” bags. God took our little something and used it to make a big impact. There have been other opportunities to serve too. They’ve seemed like small tasks, but trusting the Lord to use them to make a bigger impact as His church comes alongside to serve this heartbroken community.
I’ve had to remind myself God’s grace is sufficient for me during this time. My husband told me last week he’s been praying for me to be filled with joy. That felt more like a smack in the head then the loving encouragement and concern my husband meant it to be. Conviction started to rise, how long has it been since I’ve been joyful in our home. Definitely not the past couple of weeks. I’ve been allowing the heaviness of grief and difficulties weigh me down. I was being bumped and nudged and what was coming out wasn’t pretty! I needed to look up instead of around me. Now I’m not talking about “feeling happy” type of joy. I’m talking about the joy that only comes from faith in Jesus. The peace and joy we have, as believers in Christ, because of the hope in heaven.
This past weekend I was blessed to attend a Living Proof conference with an awesome teaching from Beth Moore. This was exactly what I needed. I had time to reminisce about how Jesus met me right in the midst of my sin and doubt twenty years ago, just like He met the women at the well. And He still meets me today to extended His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. I was savoring the reminder that Jesus is the only thing that can truly satisfy. As I returned back to my day-to-day living; I was determined to relish in this beautiful reminder of grace. I felt like I could sprinkle joy all over our home like confetti!
Then I woke up Monday and definitely didn’t “feel” joyous but I was ready to pursue Jesus and His joy this week. Then my mom called; through her tears she told me one of the managers at her office was killed in a car accident on his way to work the night before. The questions arise again; this broken-hearted grieving wells up AGAIN. I was blessed to work with this young man for a couple of years when I worked part-time at the office. He always had a smile on his face and a kind word to share. “Lord, why?” Grief upon grief. Broken-hearted for my mom who personally invests in her employees, for his family whose life will never be the same, for my co-workers that are grieving the loss of their friend and co-worker. “Lord, how can I just sit here and go through these tasks?” I wanted to be at the office where I used to work to grieve and pray with the employees that were processing this, and encourage someone if I could. Not sitting here pretending like it’s another normal day.
That was Monday. By the end of the week one of my dearest friends had traveled to see her Grammy in hospice to say good-bye one last time. Another sweet friend celebrated what should’ve been her daughter in heavens 13th birthday. I learned of a woman in ministry who ended her battle of depression. Grief upon grief upon grief….
Again, I ask God, “How do I embrace this?” What do I do with this broken heart of mine? What do you do with your broken heart? Thankful God can shoulder my concerns, I run to Jesus, I pray, try to offer the little encouragement I can while trusting God to use it for more. The heaviness isn’t gone, neither are the tears, the pain, or the questions. What do you do when those close to you suffer loss? When these stories on the news weigh you down? When you begin your own grief journey? Take it day by day, extend grace to yourself and others, seek Jesus in His word and in prayer. Take time to acknowledge all you’re grateful for. Remember this isn’t our home, heaven is our home! May we be ever thankful for the hope of heaven.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Philippians 3:12
“Dear Jesus, meet us here in the midst of our broken hearts. You know each burden and loss we carry. Help us to pray like never before during these times we live in. Lead us by Your Spirit to comfort others with our little. May we make time to open Your Word and be comforted, convicted, and encouraged. Help us find true joy in the hope of heaven.”