Sunday, December 30, 2012

In the lion's den

I spent several days last week, before and after Christmas, in the lion's den. Bully grief shoved me from behind and I fell into the pit. They were long, terrible days of emotional and mental war with grief in the dark confines of the den. There are times when the grief is so overwhelming that all I want to do is die, to commit suicide. I don't want to leave my husband and family, but I just want the pain to go away. Last week was the third time I have felt like that since our son died.

The lion's den is a dark, foul place. The battle of the finite mind against the truth of God's Word echoes with deafening roar in the pit. Your eyes see nothing, only darkness, while your hands grope frantically about seeking to find anything of comfort and familiarity to grab hold of. The reverberating lies of the enemy bounce off the ears and clang with acute sharpness in the mind. Mercifully, however, the hand of the God of hope reaches out and takes a firm hold of yours. His calm, unhurried whisper brushes next to your ear. Suddenly, the noise of grief is drowned out by the words of the Comforter. "Be still."

God's voice, through His Word, comforts His children. "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) God knew. He knew where I was. He knew what I was thinking. He knew what I was feeling. I was not alone in the lion's den.

God's Word is the light that pierces the darkness. Truth is the slayer of the liar Assassin in the pit. But truth does not stand alone. Just as Batman has Robin, Truth has Hope. Hope is what gives you the strength to crawl out of the pit, with Truth pushing your backside up and out of the lair. 

I managed to get out of the pit. I turned on the praise and worship music and shared what I was feeling with my husband. The LORD gave me the key to escape when He reminded me to focus on Him, to worship Him, to pour out my heart to Him in honest lament. What is brought into the light cannot be hidden by the dark. The journey of grief is indeed dark at times, but the words of Corrie Ten Boom are wise: "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer." Giving thanks to the LORD, for He is good. (Lam. 3:19-26)


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Grief is a bully

Grief is a bully. He strides in inconspicuously without warning and knocks you over before you know what hit you. He walks with purpose and strength. His one, sole aim is to knock you over, unawares. And he is effective. Oh, so effective. How do you fight an enemy that has perfected the art of ambush? I still don't know. But I am learning to get back up, little by little. And though my attempts are feeble, I know that each time I do, I will get stronger and better at it. To be honest, however, there are times I don't feel like getting back up. Sometimes I'd like to just lie there in defeat. Yet I know that's not what God wants. He doesn't want me to give in to the enemy or allow him a foothold. Yet He also knows I'm not strong enough to fight on my own. He is there waiting for me to take hold of His outstretched hand, to pull me up, where I can stand firm beside Him in His strength.

Not surprisingly, today was tough. The roller coaster of emotions has left me physically and mentally exhausted. After grief has knocked you down, he proceeds to kick you. He is a master at implanting envy and doubt with each stamp of his foot. He taunts viciously, "See all those pictures of everyone else's family? Their families are whole." And you can't argue with him because it's the truth. There is no empty chair at their table, and you can't deny the glaring, barren spot at yours, no matter how hard you try. No amount of wishing or attempts at filling the chair with another body replaces the one who is gone.

Grief continues his assault, spewing hateful things in your ear, planting seeds of doubt. Things like, "So where is God? Where is this Jesus that you are hoping in? He hasn't returned. It's been centuries. You're still waiting, and you're still suffering. Are you really sure Heaven's real? Where's the proof?"

I tried to ignore the enemies lies and taunts, yet hearing Grief's whispers made my heart ache. My son is gone. There is no celebrating the holidays with him. I realized I wasn't escaping the ambush. I've learned enough the past 16 months to know that when I'm pinned, I'm pinned. I cried, "Uncle" and went to my bedroom to cry. After about 10 or 15 minutes, however, the incessant banging by our three year old on the door coerced me into getting up. It was a good thing, anyway, as company was due to arrive within the half hour, and I still had a lot of meal preparation to do.

I realized I needed some praise and worship music to help deflect the blows of bully Grief. Christian music is a powerful thing, enabling the truth to speak quietly into a hurting heart. The lyrics lifted my eyes back to the Author of life, the giver of all good things. And as our company arrived, I was reminded that we are not alone, that the troubles of this life are only overcome through faith and trust in Christ.

God's grace is sufficient and got us through the day. However, the reality is, as author Isabel Fleece said, "...grace is not an anesthetic."(Not By Accident) The LORD uses the painful things of our lives to turn us toward Him, to remind us that we need Him. It seems to make no sense, but after all, I am the created, not the Creator. Then just when I needed it tonight, God spoke to me about today. I cried once again reading the homeschool devotional in my email inbox, and though today's struggle didn't have to do with homeschooling, the LORD had a message for me.

Daily Focus - A Christmas Love Letter

I see you sitting there tired, worn out, and empty. Another year of homeschooling has used you up. You feel helpless like a baby. That's OK. I know all about being a baby. I was born one for you many years ago. I know the ache you feel to be held and loved, and that is why I came. I knew you would be sitting there in the future, praying and asking me to hold you, and I am, dear one. Let me give you a special Christmas gift of love as I breathe new life into the center of your soul.

Do you know that I think of you every moment of every day? I watch you patiently homeschool the children I gave you, and I know how badly you feel when you fail and lose your temper. I forgive you, my child, just as you forgive your children when they make a mistake. "It's OK. We'll try again," you say to them, and I'm telling you the same thing. I'm so proud of you and how you've followed me when I asked you to teach your children about me at home. Your sacrifice says that you love me. I know all about that, too. I left everything that was mine when I came from heaven. I know how you feel when the Father asks so much of you.

Look at me, my child. You may feel beat up, but do you know that you are still beautiful? I see that smile. Yes, you're still as beautiful as the day I created you. I love who you are, and I'm whispering your name. Can you hear me? Remember, my child, this is not your home. You really belong here with me in heaven, but I want you where you are now to love this family I gave you. Don't give up. I want you to trust me. I won't let you down. Every promise I've made is true, and someday, I'm coming back for you. For now, rest in my love, and tonight and even tomorrow when you wake up, I'll be here watching over you. I love you. Merry Christmas.

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:14-15a).

Jesus, thank You for the best Christmas gift I could ever receive, Your forgiveness and love. My heart sings with praise to You for understanding my every need. I love You, Jesus, and offer You my life again to use however You choose. In Your name I pray, Amen.

God sent His son at Christmas to save us, to redeem all that was lost; His Creation, the world, and everything in it. A day today filled with grief, yes, but still a blessed Christmas.

Toby Mac - Get Back Up


Saturday, December 22, 2012


I firmly believe there are several essential "lifelines" (a.k.a. beliefs) one needs in order to heal well from the loss of a loved one. My mind goes especially to the parents of the Newtown, CT school shooting victims who are just beginning the journey of grief. They are now members of the club no one wants to be a part of. Looking back to the beginning of our journey, I remember several "lifelines" that were, and continue to be, instrumental to our healing thus far.

Lifeline #1: God loves you
Lifeline #2: God is Sovereign
Lifeline #3: God is good

Lifeline #4: God desires you to express your grief to Him

Lifeline #5: God designed us for Heaven; this world is not our home.

The first lifeline is crucial, I believe, to the healing process. Ramon Presson in his book, "When Will My Life Not Suck" states, "I have discovered in my years of counseling that most people can endure almost anything if they are assured of at least one of two things: 1) they are loved or 2) the current situation or condition is temporary and will either improve or completely pass."(pg.34) 

I found that immediately after Matt died, over and over again, I kept hearing "God loves you." I didn't even realize how badly I needed to hear that until someone would say it. It was like having someone place an oxygen mask over my face, and I felt resuscitated each time I heard it. I find it interesting, however, that for my husband, it was the second assurance statement of Presson that spoke most deeply. My husband drew comfort in knowing that the overwhelming grief and pain would not always be there, that God, over time, would bring healing.

Lifeline #2 is a tough one. God's sovereignty is an enigma to many people. If He is sovereign, then why doesn't He stop bad things from happening? Why does he allow loss? I find it comforting, however, to know that there is a sovereign God who rules over all, even death. Our lives are not in the hands of a ruler who does not know what He is doing. I take great solace in knowing that the LORD Almighty has a purpose and a plan in all things. Our lack of understanding about His ways does not define His character. We can trust our Maker.

The belief that God is good is also fundamental to healing. I think many people draw the wrong conclusion that the allowance of bad things must mean either an impotent God or an evil God. This is simply not true. God reveals Himself through His Word, the Bible. Many people know so little about God and His character because they do not study His Word.

When the sorrows of this life come into our lives, they are filtered through the loving heart and fingers of the Almighty. What we do with them matters. What do we do with this horrendous, overwhelming grief? Do we suffer well? "Our response is our responsibility." (Emerson Eggerichs)  Do we turn to God in complaint or do we curse Him? There is a huge difference. In the Bible, Job complained honestly and lamented frankly while his wife gave a wrong picture of how to grieve. The Bible shows us what to do with our sorrow, and there is no better example than the books of Job and Psalms. In fact, there are more psalms of lament and complaint (vulnerable frankness) than of thanksgiving and worship. It is comforting to know that "There is no human experience which cannot be put on the anvil of a lively relationship with God and man, and battered into a meaningful shape." (God's Healing for Life's Losses)

Finally, lifeline #5 is what keeps me from drowning in the sea of sorrow. For every moment of grief, I must remember that this world is not our home. This is not where we belong. From the very beginning, God had a plan for His creation and is working it out in His time, His way. I know that I must trust Him and trust His Word. And I can because He alone is trustworthy and faithful. Remembering lifeline #5 is also what helps me to remember the truth that my son is alive. He is alive in Heaven. Remembering that is what helps me to go forward. The end of every day is one day closer to eternity where there will be "no more death or mourning or crying or pain..." God Himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. (Rev. 21:4)  
God does not leave us when tragedies hit. He is there, throwing us a lifeline. If you're in the sea of sorrow, take hold of the lifeline and He will bring you to safety. Though the sea billows roll, you can say, "It is well with my soul.


Monday, December 17, 2012

A bit of blog housekeeping

I've added a "resources" tab to the blog and expanded the tab description. If anyone has any suggestions or comments, please feel free to comment and/or contact me. You can find my email address in the "About Me" tab.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Walking with grief

I was thinking this morning about how our grief has changed over the past 16 months and wrote the following poem to portray the journey. I think grief will always be our companion until we reach Heaven, but hopefully, grief will walk further and further behind us as we travel forward.

Walking with Grief
by Angie Cherney

You strode your way in one day
walking ahead of me along the way
You blocked my view of life
and all I saw was strife

You walked beside me
and shook with glee
But the Lord was near
and you slowed with drear

You thought you had won
but I was not done
The LORD is my strength
and He led me the length

Grief's breath is heavy
behind my laden back
Yet there is nothing I do lack
for God's love is ever steady

His word is sure and true
though the road is long
God gives the sorrow a song
and joy comes out of the blue

Friday, December 7, 2012

Things I never thought possible

After Matt died, there are things I thought I would never say or do again. I thought I would never smile again. I thought I would never laugh again. I thought I would never dream again. I thought I would never again say "Good" in reply to the question "How are you?" Yet I found myself saying just that this week. For a second, I was surprised at hearing myself say it even. It never fails to surprise me at how healing takes place almost without my realizing it. It never fails to surprise me now how grief and joy can, and do, coexist.

It feels so good to have more good days than bad now. I never thought that would have been possible a year ago or even four months ago. Grief is always there, but not so intense now. Another grieving mom, Corinne, describes it this way, "Life is only shades of grey for a long time....color returns very slowly." It's so very true. Life turned black the day our son died, but ever so slowly, light is returning again.

The death of my child has forever changed me and I never would have thought it possible that some of those changes would be good. For one thing, I find myself no longer afraid to do things I would have never done before. The knowledge that life is short and our days our numbered was solidified because of my son's death. As a result, I don't necessarily believe in a "bucket" list anymore. I refuse to "wish" like that. If this life is short (and it is), then I am going to do my best to see that those "bucket" list items are fulfilled. I want to make them realities now in this life, while I can, instead of just dreaming about them. It's been a good thing. I have already "crossed off" two items on the list! (Cake decorating classes and a digital photography class) I also wrote a children's picture book about two years ago and am now actively pursuing getting it illustrated and published.

I don't believe grief will ever leave, just like an amputee never gets his/her appendage back. What they do, however, is learn to live without their limb. They will always look down and realize the fact that their limb is missing. But the pain of losing it will lesson and they will learn to live without it. It is a harsh, painful reality that leaves a terrible, horrific scar, but with the LORD's help, one can live again and find joy in living. Hope has been painted in on the canvas of my life by the Artist. Hope in God and the knowledge of His great love towards me are the prosthesis to my loss. I never thought it would be possible to experience such unspeakable grief and live, live with joy, peace, and hope.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Surviving the holidays

The first line spoken in the video pretty much sums it up for me. I wish there was also a tactful, kind way of saying "Please don't send me your Christmas letter/photo/card." Heavy heart this morning.