Helplessness

One of the things that is uppermost on my mind now as a widow is that I must be independent and not helpless proving to my four daughters and the world that I can do this by myself.  Having to ask for help has become a sign of my weakness.  Proving that I can take care of myself has become the number one priority of my life.

Yesterday I began reading Philip Yancey’s book entitled PRAYER: Does It Make Any Difference? and discovered what God thinks about helplessness.

One sentence that I have heard others say to a widow is, “You are so strong!!”, and after reading in this book, I believe those words may be to a widow’s detriment because it puts into her mind the belief that it’s wrong for her to need help.

“Norwegian theologian Ole Hallesby settled on the single word helplessness as the best summary of the heart attitude that God accepts as prayer.  ‘Whether it takes the form of words or not, does not mean anything to God, only to ourselves,’ he adds. ‘Only he who is helpless can truly pray.’

As adults we like to pay our own way, live in our own houses, make our own decisions, rely on no outside help.  All the while we are systematically sealing off the heart attitude most desirable to God and most descriptive of our true state in the universe.  “Apart from Me you can do nothing,” Jesus told his disciples, a plain fact that we conspire to deny.

The truth, of course, is that I am not self-reliant.  As a first-grade student I hated having the teacher stand over me to correct my reading miscues; I wanted to “do it myself!”  But had the teacher not assumed her proper role, I may never have learned to read books, much less write them.  As an adult I rely on public utilities to bring me electricity and fuel, vehicle manufacturers to provide me transportation, ranchers and farmers to feed me, pastors and mentors to nourish me spiritually.  I live in a web of dependence, at the center of which is God in whom all things hold together.

Prayer forces me to catch sight of this my true state.  In Henri Nouwen’s words, “To pray is to walk in the full light of God, and to simply, without holding back, say ‘I am human and you are God.’ “

Most parents feel a pang when the child outgrows dependence, even while knowing the growth to be healthy and normal.  With God, the roles change.  I never outgrow dependence, and to the extent I think I do, I delude myself.  By trying to be strong, I may even block God’s power.

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?’s a Widow Asks God

1)       Why did You not answer our prayers for healing?

2)      How could You do this to me, God, after we have served You and loved You?

3)      How did I fail You, Lord?

4)      How could You leave me without a husband to love me and take care of me now?

5)      Why couldn’t I feel You when things were so bad and we so desperately needed YOU?

6)      How can I ever trust You fully again, God?

7)      Why can’t I feel You now, God?

8)      Will I ever feel joy ever again?

9)      Will my relationship with You ever again be what it is supposed to be?

10)   WHO am I now, Lord?

11)   How can I make it through another day without my husband, God?

12)   How did my husband feel when he died?

13)   Did he see You at that moment that his life here was over?

14)   Was he afraid, Lord, or did he have peace at that moment?

15)   What is he doing now, Lord?

16)   Is he thinking about me at all?

17)   Is he able to see what is going on with me now and not be sad about it because now he can see the big picture?

18)   Is my husband interceding now for me in my behalf?

19)   Is he up there cheering me on, God?

20)   WHAT am I supposed to do with my life now, God?

21)   Will You ever be able to use me again in this shattered condition?

22)   How long is it going to take me to get through this deep pain and this dark place in my life?

23)   Will I get through this deep pain and dark place in my life?

24)   Why are my friends no longer around?

25)   Why have my husband’s family kicked me to the curb, God?  How can I no longer mean anything to them?

26)   Why doesn’t anyone care enough to just call and check on me?

27)   Why don’t people ask me how I am doing and really want to know how I’m doing?

28)   Why doesn’t anyone want to talk to me about my husband, God?  I like to talk about him.

29)   What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life?

30)   Will I remarry or will I be alone for the rest of my life?

31)   How am I supposed to make it financially?

32)   Who is going to take care of me if I need taken care of?

33)   Do You really care about me, Lord?

34)   Are all of Your promises really true?

35)   How can the death of my husband be good, Lord?

36)   How is this love?

37)   How can this be Your perfect way for me, Lord?

38)   Did we misunderstand Your Word, Lord?

39)   Do You only answer certain prayers?

40)   Do You really love me, God?

What Do I Do Now?

“What do I do now? How do I get on with my life?”

One thing has to be totally clear before we can adjust and move into a new way of life: We must be convinced that we can NEVER go back to the way life used to be. There is no turning back or going back. We HAVE to adjust. We HAVE to find a new kind of normalcy.

Life never stays constant and every serious change means we must leave old ways behind and accept new paths (the new normal), often with added value in our lives.

Even when we know we are going in the right direction, the adjustment is often uncomfortable, and it’s usually difficult.

“When people are in pain, their period of grief isn’t the time to reason with them. They often ask the WHY question. BUT they really want God to answer a different one, “Do you love me, God? Do you care?”

When life goes out of control – meaning our personal control – we’re left confused and with great loss. “How can this be?!”, we ask.

The immediate reaction of most of us is, “What did I do wrong? How did I fail?”

The lack of answers makes it even more difficult for believers. We feel there must be an explanation and we’ll have no peace unless we know the reason. So we constantly cry out, “Why, God? Why?”

Or if we can’t figure out the answer, we try to console ourselves and mumble, “Someday I’ll know the reason”. Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead of “Why, God?” isn’t it better to ask, “How, God? How do I feel your comfort? How do I draw close? How can I move beyond my pain?”

We can focus on the tragedy and ask, “Where was God?” Or, we can say, “God, this tragedy hurts. I’m in pain. Help me!”

Author Unknown

As Close as Your Breath

A NEW SONG by Jan Karon (as told by Father Tim)

It always hurt him to see the damage and confusion and too often the utter desperation of those forced to go it alone.  In short, it was a hard road to hoe and fraught with unique assaults by the enemy.

“When trees and power lines crashed around you, when the very roof gave way above you, when light turned to darkness and water turned to dust, did you call on Him?  When you called on Him was He somewhere up there or was He as near as your very breath?

What some believers still can’t believe is that it is God’s passion to be as near to us as our very breath.  I pray for each one of you to sense God’s presence as near as your breath.  In short, it has been my prayer since we came here for you to have a one on one daily personal relationship with Christ.  I’m talking about something that goes beyond any Sunday service ever created or ever to be created….something that you can depend on for the rest of your life and then forever.

I’m talking about the times you cry out in the storms that prevail against you – times when your heart and your flesh fail and you see no way out and no way in – when any prayer you utter to a God you may view as distant and disinterested seems to vanish into thin air.  There are legions who believe in an existence of a cold and distance God and on the occasions when they cry out to Him in utter despair and hear nothing in reply must get up and stumble on alone.

Then there are those who know Him personally – who have found that when they cry out, there He is as near as their breath – one on one, heart to heart, Savior, Lord, Partner, Friend.  Some have been in church all their lives and have never known this mighty, marvelous, and yet, simple personal relationship.

Others believe that while this relationship might be possible, it’s not for them.  Why would God want to bother with them except from a very great distance.  In reality, it is no bother to God at all.  He wants this relationship far more than you and I want it and I pray that you will ponder that marvelous truth.

But who among us would ever deserve to have such a wondrous and altogether unimaginable thing as a close, personal, day to day relationship with Almighty God – Creator of the Universe?  It seems unthinkable!  And, so, we are afraid to think it.

For this fragile time in history, this tender and fleeting moment in our lives, I am your priest.  God has called me to lead this flock.  As I look out this morning, my heart has a wish list for you.  On and on there are fervent desires upon my heart for you, but chief among the hopes, the prayers, the petitions is this:  ‘Lord, let my people KNOW.  Let them know that the unthinkable is not only real, but available and possible and can be entered into now today though we are, indeed, completely undeserving.’

It can be entered into today with only a simple prayer that some think not sophisticated enough to bring them into the presence of God.  Not fancy enough to turn His face to theirs.  Not long enough, not high enough, not deep enough.  Yet, this simple prayer makes it possible to know Him not only as Savior and Lord, but as a friend.  “No longer do I call you servants,” He said to His followers in the Gospel of John, “but friends.”

In the storms of your life do you long for the consolation of His nearness and His friendship?  You can’t imagine how He longs for the consolation of yours!  It is unimaginable, isn’t it, that He would want to be near us frail as we are, weak as we are and hopeless as we so often feel.  God wants to be WITH US.  That, in fact, is His name – Emmanuel – GOD WITH US.

And why is that so hard to imagine when, indeed, He made us for Himself?  The One who made us, made us for Himself!  We’re reminded in the book of Revelation that He created all things for His pleasure.  Many of us believe that He created all things, but we forget the very best part – that He created us for His pleasure!

There are some of you who want to be done with seeking Him once a week and crave, instead, to be with Him day after day telling Him everything – letting it all hang out – just thankful to have such a blessing in your life, such a friend who will never UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES leave you and NEVER remove His love from you.  Amazing?  Yes, it is!  It IS amazing!

God knows who is longing to utter that simple prayer this morning.  It is a matter between you and Him and it is a prayer which will usher you into His presence – into life everlasting and into the intimacy of a friendship in which He is as near as your breath.

Here’s the way this wondrous prayer works.  As you ask Him into your heart.  He receives you into His – the heart of God.  What a place to be!  To reside for all eternity!

Sense….feel God’s presence.  Silently repeat this simple prayer:

Thank you, God, for loving me and for sending Your Son to die for my sins.  I sincerely repent of my sins and receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.  Now as Your child, I turn my entire life over to You.  Amen.”


Why We Grieve

Why do we grieve? 

First of all, we grieve for ourselves.  If we stop to think clearly and logically—and now, how difficult that may be!—we realize that the person who has died is beyond the problems and feelings of those who mourn his death.  So our sorrow is for ourselves.  We are sad because we are suddenly, painfully deprived.  We ache because we are separated from someone we love and need.  We feel this even when we know that death was a release from torment.  We feel it even when we admit to ourselves that we would not wish the suffering one back.

Second, there is fear.  Our world has changed suddenly, and we do not know what is ahead.  That’s one fear, and others may stem from the circumstances of this death.   Yet perhaps even more frightening are the childhood fears that are sometimes suddenly and terrifyingly awakened.  Often adults, without realizing that they are doing it, instill fear of death in a child, making it a dark, horror-filled mystery.  “If I should die before I wake…” has caused more panic in young minds than most well-meaning parents realize.  This fear of the unrevealed future, and the realization that someday each of us must pass into it, does not show on the surface as we grow up.  We avoid thinking about it.  Then suddenly it is something that happens to someone near and dear to us–and we cannot escape it any longer.  The fear that has stayed in the background all these years suddenly comes to the surface and causes panic.

And third, there is insecurity.  Insecurity means that the solid earth under your feet is crumbling, and you have nothing to hold on to.  This feeling, also, may go back to childhood.  The dependable grown-ups upon whose stability our small worlds rested “went to pieces” when death occurred.  They cried.  They said and did unpredictable things.  Our feeling of being secure in their care was shattered; and that insecurity, like fear, grew up with us.  So now when death takes a loved one from us, our world totters.  The future threatens us.

Death is as much a part of life as birth and the years of growth.  Nothing causes us greater unhappiness, and yet nothing is more certain.  Death is natural.  It is not to be feared.  It is to be anticipated calmly, as a step in the progress of a person’s soulEven when death is untimely or accidental, when our health and our spirit are strained to the utmost, it still must be regarded as the release of a spirit into a condition where it can find the fulfillment the Creator intended.

To reason this over and over until you accept it helps banish not only your fear of death but also your feeling of insecurity.

Take time now to ask yourself why you are grieving.  Reason tells you that you need not fear death.  Reason tells you that death is part of the natural order and will not shatter your world.  Reason tells you that the loved one is beyond pain and that you are grieving primarily for yourself.  You may not understand this at once.  But think of it again and again.  Eventually you will feel the healing process begin.  But first you must experience the pain of realization.

Don’t condemn yourself.  Most of us have such feelings of self-judgment and guilt after we have lost someone who was close to us.  Those nagging doubts and recriminations grow from any close relationship with another person.  But no one can foresee all that may happen, and no one can go through life doing everything possible to meet every possible turn and twist and change and shift.

We all know that we could have done some things better.  To chastise ourselves by dwelling upon our natural, human actions does not make anything better; but it does slow up the process of getting our deep feelings back in balance.  We cannot turn the clock back and do anything differently.

If you want to cry, then cry.  If you want to protest against the injustice of life, do so.  It is better to “let your feelings go” than to bury them deep, where they can fester or eat away at you.  Face the full pain of your loss, for your pain is not only deep—it is healthy.  It means that you are alive.

“Blessed are those who use their sorrow creatively for they shall find a security that is not shaken by circumstance, but rather produces the fruits of enriched sympathy, heightened understanding and deepened faith.”

YOU AND YOUR GRIEF/Edgar N. Jackson

Grief’s Results

Grief is like a tidal wave that overtakes you,

Smashes down upon you with unimaginable force,

Sweeps you up into its darkness,

Where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces,

Only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised,

Reshaped……..

Grief will make a new person out of you.

Stephanie Ericsson

Christmas Morning

I’d been doing so well focusing on the real meaning of Christmas.  So, it surprised me yesterday when that old deep, deep pain of grief totally and completely blindsided me.  It woke me again at that familiar time of 4 a.m. this morning and is still sitting squarely on top of me.  I thought perhaps it would be different this year, but it’s not and I’m wondering if it ever will be.

My 9 year old granddaughter Elizabeth has also been struggling this week as she’s asked my daughter Leah why God can’t let her Pa come back just for Christmas.  No answer Leah gives her is what she wants to hear.  My answer is that it would be too hard for us to say good-bye to him again and to let him go back.  Never mind that he wouldn’t want to come back after being in heaven for even a fraction of a second.

Facing the activities of today loom ominously ahead.  My mask came off yesterday, but I must try to put it back on today and keep it on for a little while.

Grief is a Journey

Grief is a journey,
often perilous and without clear direction, that must be taken.
The experience of grieving cannot be ordered or categorized, hurried or controlled, pushed aside or ignored indefinitely.
It is inevitable as breathing, as change, as love.
It may be postponed, but it will not be denied.

Molly Fumia

Moody Radio – Special Program for Widows/December 21st

Chris Fabry Live

Chris Fabry of Moody Radio had a special 1 hour program yesterday talking about grief and widows featuring widow of 5 years Miriam Neff who is author of the book FROM ONE WIDOW TO ANOTHER.

To listen to the program, go to http://www.chrisfabrylive.com   Click on “Past Programs“.  Then click on the “Hour 2”  program for December 21st entitled “Grief at the Holidays“.