Monday, May 11, 2015

How to Sorrow With Hope

            How difficult is it for you to answer the question: Are you sorrowing with hope or sorrowing without it?

            Maybe I can help you answer that question.
            God tells us, through the Apostle Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that we must not be ignorant and sorrow as those who are without hope.
            The passage does not, however, say we are not to sorrow at all. Some of us erroneous believe that sorrow is a sign of weakness, and we become uncomfortable with ourselves when it threatens to unbalance our well-ordered lives.
            I once counseled a woman, (who considered herself to be a serious student of the Bible), that God says you aren’t supposed to be angry. (She was struggling with anger at the time and the more she tried to release it, and chastised herself for being angry, the worse her anger seemed to get.)
            But the Bible doesn’t confirm what she adamantly believed. What it says is: “Do not sin in your anger.” There’s a big difference there. It tells us that we must not allow our anger to drive us to vengeance or sinful action. It doesn’t say we will not, or should not, ever have those feelings. How we let them rule our thought processes and behavior is the concern.
            It is the same with sorrow. Sorrow is a normal part of living in a fallen world. The depth of our loss and anguish causes us to suffer.
            So how do we, as grieving mothers or fathers, combine sorrow with hope?
            One important thing we can do is remind ourselves where our babies now are.
            While their tiny bodies may lie sleeping in a burial plot, or their ashes lie confined to a memorial urn, their spirits, I believe, are enjoying the peace and joy of heaven.
            It’s obvious from Jesus’ behavior toward children that He had, and still holds, a tender heart toward them. He gave them His full attention when on Earth, and He soundly gave a firm dressing down to those who tried to keep the children from Him.
            From that example, I think we can safely assume that He probably affords them a special attention and place in heaven.
            How wonderful to know that the Creator of the Universe, the One who knit your baby together in your womb and knows him intimately, is still keeping a loving, watchful eye on him for you.
            I know what you might be thinking: “But I wanted to be the watchful one!”
            I know just how you feel. The pain is nearly unbearable when you receive the answer “No” from the Lord, and He takes your baby home. We don’t like to hear “No.” We rebel against the answer, against not having things go our way.
            Yet, after He does take your child, you can be assured that God’s comfort is ready for the asking. His presence is vital to your recovery and hope. And His words will give you the life you need to grieve, and then emerge from to live again. Seek out His comfort. Spend inordinate amounts of time in His presence, just the two of you together, talking, weeping, listening, crying out in anger and fear. He’s the most trusted, tender friend you’ll ever have. Saturate yourself in His soothing, hopeful words. Scripture is loaded with them. He constantly reminds us in His gigantic love letter that He will never leave or forsake those who belong to Him. Even when your world lies shattered around you, and God seems to have taken an extended trip to the outer galaxies and left you hanging alone in your suffering, you can remind yourself that He is with you, He cares, and He will get you through this. Repeating those truths to your brain will help your heart believe and take refuge in them. Often we don’t feel those closest to us because we don’t want to, we’re keeping them at arm’s length; or because we’re so self-absorbed, the protective cocoon we’ve wrapped ourselves in doesn’t allow anyone else entrance.
            And how do I know that Jesus cares and will weep with you? Because he wept while He was on Earth. On one occasion, it was when he attended his friend Lazarus’s grave. Even though He fully intended to fully restore His dead friend to life, He took one look at Lazarus’s tomb, and cried. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
            Jesus wants to fully engage with you in your sorrow. He wants to feel your pain. Jesus understands us because He took on our humanity and suffered what humanity suffers. He knows you and knows exactly what you need.
            It is through the death of your child that Jesus can draw you nearer to Him and that eternal hope He offers. At some point in the grieving process, we need to stop asking the question “Why?” and start asking the question, “What now, Lord?”
            There is a great story of a custom that illustrates how He can offer eternal hope and move you forward to the "What now?"
            In the summertime in the Alps, when the valley grasses wither and no longer provide nourishment for the grazing sheep, the shepherd turns his face upward, toward the rich, green grasses found higher in the mountains. But the pathway there is rocky, windblown and laden with thorns. As you can imagine, it’s not the kind of path sheep are eager to follow the shepherd on. Often, they will refuse to follow the shepherd and turn on their little cloven hooves and make a beeline back to the familiar, “safe” valley. After repeated attempts to get the frightened, untrusting sheep to follow, the shepherd plucks a little lamb from the flock and tucks it under one arm. Then he repeats the process with another lamb and tucks it under his other arm. Then he turns his face toward the high country and starts out again on the craggy, arduous path. Can you guess what happens?
            The mothers of those two sheep can’t stand it. With their eyes plastered on their babies, they follow after the shepherd, undoubtedly now oblivious to the once-feared obstacles and dangers in front of them. They probably keep their eyes glued to their lambs, their ears pricked with the constant bleating emanating from each of them. And the remainder of the sheep, being the habitual followers sheep are, turn and head up the hill after the shepherd and mothers. The shepherd leads them up the path to more comfortable, life-giving pastures.
            Sounds like the shepherd knew how to get their attention.
            It’s definitely how He got mine.
            As Dr. McGee so beautifully put it in his booklet Death of a Little Child: “The Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, has reached into the flock and He has picked up your lamb. He did not do it to rob you, but to lead you out and upward. He has richer and greener pastures for you, and He wants you to follow.”
            You can keep your eyes turned upward, toward the Shepherd, who guides and comforts. The Shepherd who provides everything you need, if you let Him.
            So keep your eyes turned toward heaven. Let the Shepherd lead you. Let hope flourish in your heart. Unravel the cocoon and let Him in. And rejoice, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven, and your baby lies safe within His loving arms.
            If you follow the Shepherd, you will see your precious little one again someday.
            Knowing and reminding yourself of that is when you can truly sorrow with hope and not flounder without it!
            I’d like to leave you with a couple of poems. Clearly, these two writers knew suffering, and their Savior.

Where High the Heavenly Temple Stands

Where high the heavenly temple stands,
The house of God not made with hands,
A great high priest our nature wears,
The guardian of mankind appears.

He who for men their surety stood,
And poured on earth His precious blood,
Pursues in Heaven His mighty plan,
The Savior and the friend of man.

Though now ascended up on high,
He bends on earth a brother’s eye;
Partaker of the human name,
He knows the frailty of our frame.

Our fellow sufferer yet retains
A fellow feeling of our pains:
And still remembers in the skies
His tears, His agonies, and cries.

In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part,
He sympathizes with our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.

With boldness, therefore, at the throne,
Let us make all our sorrows known;
And ask the aids of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.
                                                                                   ~ Michael Bruce
                                                                  Scottish Paraphrases, 1781

            And then there is this poem written by Martha Snell Nicholson, a bedridden invalid who suffered from four incurable diseases. She struggled with pain for over 35 years. After being an invalid for many years, her loving husband, who she depended on, died suddenly. Through all her pain and suffering came some of the finest Christian poetry ever written. May you be blessed by reading her spiritually rich and heartfelt poetry that exalts Jesus, her Savior.

There is a new lamb cradled on Thy breast
A sweet small lamb, so lately mine
I scarce can keep my arms from reaching out
As though to snatch her back from Thine.

These arms of mine are wonted so to her, dear
They curled about her little form
So sweetly, and from dawn of time my breast
was meant
To be her pillow, soft and warm.

What does one do with aching arms and empty
With silent rooms, and dragging days?
The things I knew before will not avail me now—
Teach me new lessons and new ways.

Take Thou, I pray, these idle folded hands of
Which can no longer busied be
With dear, familiar tasks for her…. In mercy,
Fill hands and heart with tasks for Thee!

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!



To read more of Martha Snell Nicholson’s poetry, go to: