In the Face of Pain…

An article I wrote for a ladies magazine a few months ago (for you young ladies–check out Daughter’s of Promise), which still speaks my heart today…

It was a crisp, sunshiny November day in the Colorado countryside where our family eagerly awaited my brother’s wedding.  It began with quiet moments with God and chatter with the family in the small living room of the downstairs apartment where we were staying. We ate a yummy breakfast, cooked by my mother, and made plans for the day.  It was happy and innocent and full of excited anticipation for the week ahead of us.

Seek to please me above all else.  As you journey through today, there will be many choice-points along your way….” read the devotional for that day (taken from Sarah Young’s, Jesus Calling).

Jesus, help me to live this way today. Help me to continually choose You at each point I come to.  

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” These were the words I highlighted that very morning in my Bible. I sat there pondering the heaviness of those words, the passion with which they were stated.

Then we set out across the Colorado countryside, the three of us in our van—Mom, my brother and I—to make the fifteen-minute drive into town to meet up with Dad and brother.   

Little did I know how much that fifteen-minute drive would completely change my life and the direction I thought I was headed in this journey.

I do not remember most of the drive, and the details of the events that followed are recorded as a large blank spot in my memory, with faint glimpses of medics, anguish, and tears. For that drive cruelly brought an end to my mother’s life as our minivan met the metal of a vehicle larger than itself, crushing the bones and heart of her body.

As the day went on and I tried to wrap my injured brain around what had happened, the only question I did not ask more than once was where my beautiful mother was.  My mother had died.  This information was far too big, the pain too immense, for even a struggling memory to forget.

And just like that, in a matter of several seconds, I was thrust into a lifelong journey I did not ask for.  I had no choice in it; I would not choose it if I could.  It is a journey of tears, of raw grief and continual pain.  It is a journey of learning, at age 20, how to live again; a journey of finding God in the broken places; of walking into deep dark valleys and crevices in order to discover the light and life of God.

I wish I could say that walking this journey of pain has brought about more clarity and answers to my questions of life.  I wish that for the next ten paragraphs I could write a ten-step list of “How to Handle Pain and Grief.”  Unfortunately, that is not how it is, and I do not expect it ever will be that way. In fact, the longer it goes, the more questions it seems I have.

Why God? What were You thinking? What could Your purpose be in this? Are You sure this is the journey You meant for us to walk? Because, You know, You are God, so maybe You could just go back and redo that detail.

Yet, amid my many questions, I can know for sure Who God has been to me in it all and how He is leading me on this journey of much falling down, of struggling to get up, and of remembering Who the Strong One is and who I am to Him. It is a journey of believing truth, preaching it to myself when I cannot believe it, and worshipping God in it all.

“Truth” and “worship” are two words that have become incredibly real to me. They are two “lifelines”, I guess you could say, to which I cling, and are intertwined in so much of life. Focusing on truth leads my heart to worship.  Worshiping Christ for who He is and all He has done for me, reminds me of what I have experienced in the past and know to be true.

I have come to realize just how much Satan attacks truth and my worship in desperation to draw me away from Jesus.  He combats truth with lies and shoots down worship with ingratitude and despair. When things do not make sense, and my mind tries to sort through all the pieces and put them together in a logical way that fits my understanding, I find the need to run to the truth of God’s word and claim the promises for myself; continually reminding myself of truth, preaching it to myself.

Ocean waves and ripples would be a pretty good description for life right now and it amazes me how easy it is to sing praises and trust God’s strength when I feel strong. Yet, the Christian life has very little to do with my emotions and how I feel, and everything to do with the One who gives me life and every breath I breathe.  What about the times when I am incredibly weak and the feelings are far from praise? Or when looking at my future is like looking at a death-sentence because life seems so daunting and I feel so weak that it is hard to believe I could possibly step forward and still survive? There are meals to cook, a large house to clean, and appointments to remember.  Not to mention the deeper things such as decisions to make, family to care for, grief to process, and no mother to help me do this! How can I begin to dream about the future when I barely feel the strength to process the here and now?

Well-meaning friends quote verses, encouraging me to simply cast my burdens on the Lord, and He will take them, and I will feel so much better.  What if I do not even have the strength to cast my burdens? Who says that what is right for this journey is to fix the problem and be freed from the pain? What if the power of what God has to show me is only found in walking this journey, step by agonizing step?

Think truth, Kristi.

God reminds me Who He is: In Psalm 37:23, David says that “The steps of a man are established by the Lord and He delights in his way. When He falls, He will not be hurled headlong because the LORD is the one Who holds His hand.”  I get the picture of a father and his child walking along a rutted, dirty path. The child tries his best to step over the big ruts and potholes, but often catches his foot and nearly falls. Yet, because the father is grasping the child’s outstretched hand, strongly, gently, lifting him over the potholes, the small one is not thrown head over heels into the ditch. His hand is tightly grasping the hand of his father’s; the weight of his body is fully dependent on the strength of his father’s arm.

This is Who God is to me.  Daily, hourly, moment by moment, He grasps my flailing hand in His and gives me what I need to live each day.  When I do not have the strength to cast my burdens on Him, He comes beside me, girds me up, and helps me to carry the load. It is in my weakness that His power is perfected.

As I surround myself with truth, my focus is shifted off of all that does not make sense and on to Jesus, Who is Truth, Who is Love, and Who is so intimately involved in the details of my life. He delights in my way (Ps. 37:23), and even though my journey looks different from what I ever would have imagined, He still has not forsaken me. Even though my life sometimes feels rather devastated and totaled, His plans are still to prosper, and are still for good and not for evil (Jer. 29:11). Even though the sting of death feels so strong, God is still stronger, the victory is still His.

Knowing these truths helps me to stand up with Job and sing “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh, blessed be the name of the Lord.” The only place where the deepest needs of our hearts will be met is in the place of worship before God.  It is a worship that is not found according to my circumstances and surroundings, but by being loved and surrounded by a God who is in control and who is worthy of every breath I breathe.

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One thought on “In the Face of Pain…

  1. Ernest Witmer says:

    My dear daughter! This is so precious!!

    You wrote what your heart-felt thought to God was that morning, “Help me to continually choose You at each point I come to.” While you were still in the hospital and struggling with being able to remember anything, your first response to Carita telling you that Mom had died in the accident was to break out with singing to the Lord the words of Agnus Dei, “You are Holy! Holy are You Lord God Almighty…” In that moment you were, as you had prayed that morning, “… continually choosing God at each point you came to.”

    “This is Who God is to me [Father].” you go on to say, “Daily, hourly, moment by moment, He grasps my flailing hand in His and gives me what I need to live each day. When I do not have the strength to cast my burdens on Him, He comes beside me, girds me up, and helps me to carry the load. It is in my weakness that His power is perfected.”

    Kristi, as your earthly father too, let me tell you again, I am committed to walking this path with you. Like you said, “It is a journey of learning… how to live again; a journey of finding God in the broken places; of walking into deep dark valleys and crevices in order to discover the light and life of God.” We are in this together! We will walk, and learn, and find God, and discover His life and life together.

    I love you, Kristi!
    Dad

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