The Fellowship of His Sufferings

The one part of being a follower of Christ that I did not realize when I accepted Him as my personal Savior was the part of “the fellowship of His sufferings”.  I had never even heard that terminology.  My personality is such that I feel things very deeply and even the thought of someone’s suffering causes me to hurt inside.  So, being a part of “the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” is the part of this Christian life that I would run from.

Ken Gire talks about this very candidly in his book SEEING WHAT IS SACRED:

“God may call me at some time in my life, as He may call you at some time in yours, to play the role of the needy Christ.  Would you if He did?  Would I?


Honestly, I want to be like Christ.

But honestly, I want to be like the Christ who turned the water into wine, not the Christ who thirsted on a cross.  I want to be the clothed Christ, not the One whose garment was stripped and gambled away.  I want to be the Christ who fed the five thousand, not the One who hungered for forty days in the wilderness.  I want to be the free Christ, walking through wheat fields with His disciples, not the imprisoned Christ who was deserted by them.

This is the dark side of Christianity, the side we don’t see when we sign up.  That if we want to be like Christ, we have to embrace both sides of His life.  What else could it mean when the Bible talks about ‘the fellowship of His sufferings’?  How could we enter that fellowship apart from suffering?How could we truly know the man of sorrows acquainted with grief if we had not ourselves now grief and sorrow?”

Though I would never have chosen it, I was playing the role of the needy Christ starting from the day my husband was given a terminal diagnosis. For four and a half years it was in the form of what I know now was anticipatory grief that was thrown into full blown grief when Bob went to heaven.

Through it all I have gained a better understanding of not only the broken heart of Christ, but also the love that Christ has for me.  In all the years of my life aside from the time that I accepted Christ as my Savior, it has been difficult for me to separate myself from others in the world and become an individual in the eyes of Christ.  Picturing myself standing alone with Christ having a direct, intimate conversation was not something that I was able to imagine.

But, when I was singled out for “an assignment” and as I lay on the floor of my bedroom praying for my very ill husband, it became very easy for me to see myself alone at the feet of Jesus.  I was the needy one and He was the only one who could truly understand that and help me.

My personal relationship with Christ has changed from that relationship with Him that began when I was a nine year old girl.  Growth hurts and hurt is not something that I would ever knowingly choose, but it is a part of the process of really getting to KNOW God. Is it easy?  No.  It’s very hard.  Hurt forces us to focus on the only One who understand and can help us.  It drives us to Him who is standing there waiting for us with open arms. Christ longs for us to run to Him so that we can be caught up into His embrace and comforted as no one else could ever comfort us.


The Good Part

In Luke 9 Jesus has just crossed the hot deserts of Samaria where he had given up hope of Israel ever receiving him as their Messiah.  He knew that his God given purpose to die on the cross for the sins of the world was going to happen soon.  He made his way to the home of Mary and Martha who were his friends hoping to share all of his emotions and find comfort.

Martha’s first thought when she saw him enter was food centered.  She immediately kicked it into high gear and began making preparations to serve him a meal.  But Mary, whom you always find mentioned as sitting at Jesus’ feet, ignores all of the flurry going on in the kitchen while she gives Jesus her full attention.

When Martha complains to Jesus, Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen “the good part”.

In the chapter titled “The Growth of the Reflective Life” of Ken Gire’s book SEEING WHAT IS SACRED, he better illustrates just what Jesus meant:

“Imagine a sumptuous Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.  Hillocks of mashed potatoes and dressing, sluiced with gravy, hot buttered rolls, cranberry sauce, an assortment of salads, trays of deviled eggs, olives, sweet pickles, slabs of pumpkin pie daubed with homemade whipped cream.  All those things look wonderful, smell wonderful, taste wonderful.

Now imagine that meal without a turkey.

The portion around which all the other food is centered is the butter-basted turkey, cooked golden brown and filling the entire house with its mouthwatering aroma.  That is the “good part” of the Thanksgiving meal. 

Without intimate fellowship with Christ, the Christian life is just a buffet of so many side dishes and relish trays.”

How many times since the death of my husband have I asked God, “Why am I here?  What is my purpose now if I am no longer to be a wife?  What’s the point?”  How many times have you asked those very same questions?

I now believe this is the purpose of every widow – to chose “the good part” of learning how to have that intimate fellowship with Christ.  “How do I do that?” you may ask.  I would say that first of all you have to come to the point where you can be still.  That’s hard to do when you are struggling so hard to find your identity and you want to find it in a hurry because you don’t like being out in that place of limbo where grief throws you.  I can’t tell you how long it may take you to get to that point.  For some, it may come sooner than for others.

Once you can be still, then your heart will be ready to “hear” God’s still, small voice and the communication can begin.  You may feel His stirring in your heart as you are reading your Bible.  Or perhaps you find that Christian music fills up your heart with Him.  It may be that He speaks in the rustle of the pages of a book you are reading.  God can commune with you through the beauty of nature.  Theses are just a few of the countless ways that I am finding “the good part”.

I challenge you to stop struggling so hard against what grief has brought to you.  Instead, lean into it and just be still so that you, too, can find “the good part”.


My Sacred Journey

In his book It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here, Gary Barkalow talks about the journey of life. I want to share this with you in first person.

“My life is a long journey to a sacred place (a mystery) for a sacred purpose that passes through a myriad of places and seasons that will include joy and abundance as well as weeping and drought which will bring me from one level of strength to a greater level of strength as I am walking along with God.

If I am to find my calling, the intention of my life, I must become oriented–I must find my true north. I must sit still and clear from my navigational equipment (my heart) the inaccurate, invalid maps and errors and triangulate to the three universal coordinates: story, desire, and journey.

STORY: I must continually remember that more is going on than I can see (there is a greater story), the stakes are higher than I’ve been told (I live on a battleship, not a cruise liner), and I am far more than I believe (I am the only one in the spiritual realm who underestimates the power of my life). The theme of my story is overcoming and becoming.

DESIRE: The good news is that what I was created to do in the greater story is what I most want to do–it is written on my heart in the form of my desires: ‘It is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him’ (Philippians 2:13 ISV). I must also continually be aware not only of the story I am living in, but of my desires.

JOURNEY: In addition, I must always remember that there is a process, a progression, a journey that all people must take in becoming who they truly are and in recognizing the role they are to play. And I must remember, as essential and powerful as these reference points are, beyond them are things that only God can reveal about my life. God wants to be intimately involved in my journey of becoming and because of His desire for my life to become what it was destined to be, He must and will speak to me personally.”

So many times you will hear a widow equate her life after loss as her journey or grief journey. That’s exactly what it is. It’s time of shifting and changing, twists and turns, moving forward and at times, falling back. But, the wonderful thing about a widow’s journey if she has accepted Christ as her own person Savior is that she is not walking her journey alone. Yes, we feel so alone so many times because we cannot see a physical image walking alongside us and that is very hard. We long for the hugs and intimate touches that we have lost. But, I have experienced those heart feelings that comfort me on my journey–those “I love you, Candy” in the form of the realization of blessings that come my way each and every day if I look hard enough for them.

My journey is sacred and like no other. It’s a holy journey that God has entrusted me to travel. And so is yours, my dear widow friend. It’s a place of overcoming all the obstacles of life without your spouse and becoming exactly the woman that God created and designed you to be. Keep going, girls! Never give in and never give up! The journey may be a winding one that goes through dark forests at times. Keep in mind that God’s Word is a lamp that is lighting your pathway. He wants you to overcome and become.

The Mystery of Widowhood

“Though mystery shrouds the glory of our lives, it is there. Mystery must be mined, one shovelful at a time and with careful inspection of each collection. It is easy to overlook gold when your eye is not trained for the unpolished mineral. All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien/The Fellowship of the Ring

One of the hardest things that a widow wrestles with after the death of her husband is trying to discover who she is and finding her purpose as a single lady. Many of us found our joy and value in being a wife and when that “job” was ended, we find ourselves floundering. In reading Gary Barkalow’s book IT’S YOUR CALL: WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE it has come to my attention that we have something to give to this world that has to do with joy and intimacy with God and not a “job” evaluation.

I myself have tried and tried to figure out just what my life is all about now – what my purpose is as a single woman. In fact, I have looked for that purpose, theme, and direction so hard that I have allowed it to become a major stressor and narrow my range of being able to hear God.

The journey of widowhood is one that begins when we are thrown way down into the valley onto totally unknown trails. Barkalow writes, “I have heard said that the most spectacular vistas require traveling the roughest, most dangerous trails. And so it is with our lives—to reach the most beautiful, authentic, fulfilling places in life will require some risk. A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. We tend to look for a definitive activity, position, or place that we can call ‘God’s will’ for our lives. We want a precise, easily understandable answer to the question ‘What am I supposed to do with my life?’ But we are never offered that in Scripture. What Scripture does say is that God ‘will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go’ (Psalm 32:8) and that He ‘is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him’ (Phil. 2:15 ISV). God’s calling on our lives is far more mysterious than methodological, and mystery is something we don’t handle well.

I cannot better explain the word “mystery” than the way that Barkalow describes it below:

“Mystery is something to be embraced, journeyed through, and enjoyed. It’s not that mystery can never be explained but rather that mystery unfolds—not all at once, but a little at a time. ‘Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ (Rom. 11:33-34). God is not a little confused or in the dark. He knows what is going on, who you are, and why you are here at this time in His story. We must believe that God knows what He is after with us. In the midst of mystery it is helpful to remember that the best is perhaps what we understand least. There is more to you than you know. What is most glorious about you is yet to be fully revealed. Your life has a depth and purpose that cannot be revealed in a moment in time; it must be journeyed into with one discovery leading into the next.”

The question that immediately pops into my mind is why does there have to be mystery? Proverbs 25:2 answers that: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” God doesn’t hide things from us so we can’t find them. He hides them knowing that it draws us closer to Him during the search. This is certainly true in the life of a widow who is consistent in her grief journey. Suddenly life becomes only you and God together. And when something that we are searching for is uncovered and found, there is joy in that discovery.

We are not to occasionally ask, seek, knock. Our life is to be one of continually asking, seeking, and knocking. We are to be explorers not tourists, archaeologist not museum visitors. Our life should be continual shouts of ‘I found another one!’ Not only does God want us to experience the excitement of discovering truths about our purpose and design, He wants us to stay in intimate conversation with Him. God knows that if He were to tell us everything we needed to know about our lives, assuming we could comprehend it, we would probably run off in desire and excitement to fulfill our purpose, without returning to the conversation. I believe God will give us enough clarity to keep us encouraged and moving, but He will also shroud enough of our purpose in mystery to keep us coming back for more intimate conversation. Mystery is an invitation to intimacy with God. Instead of wasting your energy fighting mystery, allow mystery to stir you and guide you to keep asking and seeking and knocking”, says Mr. Barkalow.

I cannot express to you how knowing that this mystery of widowhood is not to be found out all at once but a little at a time takes the load off of my trying to figure everything out. How about you?

The Unfolding Glory

Have you ever taken the time to look back to the beginning of your life and considered how it has unfolded? This is an exercise I did during my second year of grief with the help of resources from an organization called OneLife Maps that enable you to recognize and respond to God in the story of your life.  Their resource is a portfolio of unique visual maps that help people document their life stories for the purpose of spiritual growth and meaningful forward action.  It is a self-directed journey written from a Biblical perspective that helps you invite God into the process of reviewing your past, assessing your present and to continue walking with God into your future.

The workbook is for a person who is seeking God in a deeper way and desiring to rediscover who you are through His eyes.  It is for someone who is thinking “I don’t know myself anymore“, wondering “Is there something more?”, or standing at a crossroads in life and are asking “Which way will lead me toward expressing more of who I am made to be?“. Or perhaps you are looking for a way to understand the restlessness that you feel inside or find yourself relationally at odds with yourself and/or others in ways that have ties to your past.

When I sat down and took the time to really look back at my life, I was amazed to see how God has been working in the peaks and in the valleys – in those dark places where I could not feel Him and wondered where in the world He was.  I could see how He has been orchestrating my life all along.

From the time I was a young girl music has always been something that deeply touches my soul.  I took piano lessons for many years and although I am far from an accomplished pianist, I used to play for church services and vocalists in church. Nothing made me feel happier and more fulfilled than to just sit down at my piano at home and allow all of my emotions and whatever I was feeling to come out through my fingers.

For a long time after my husband died, I could not listen to music. It was too painful for me. Gradually over time, I began listening to christian music again with tears streaming down my face. Something had changed within me and I began to really listen to the words of songs and research why the composer wrote the lyrics. Most music is written from a person’s life experiences.

Last night my daughter Annissa asked me if I had ever heard the song THE GLORIOUS UNFOLDING written by Stephen Curtis Chapman. After listening to it with tears streaming down my face, I had to know what was behind the lyrics of the song that he . I knew that Stephen understands grief because of the tragic loss of his daughter some years ago. This is what he had to say:

“There is a story that God is telling in our lives and He knows the story that He’s telling.  It is a story that’s ultimately going to be incredible and good and amazing and yet, it involves chapters that can be very hard….be very difficult… Throughout this music, really, I kept revisiting that through just different truths that I’m learning and holding onto…that God is committed to finishing the good work that He has begun, the work He starts in us.  He is working even at any moment in the story, even in the hard chapters, and that He is at work, working all things together for good.  He’s taking even the broken pieces, and hard chapters and hard parts of the story, and weaving them into the epic, amazing story.  It’s in that process, watching and seeing those places wherever the story is unfolding, where He’s revealing it to us and revealing more of Himself to us.

It takes us holding onto that by faith sometimes, and really choosing to see those places and believe even in those dark places that God is at work….The nature of my music, I think more than not, has been that I want to encourage.  I want to speak this in a way that encourages someone else in their journey.  In a way, that’s what this album is a bit of a return to for me, from the place that I’ve walked and lived and am still living in my family, to begin to say to someone else, ‘Can I say this to you? I’m not pretending to know what you’re going through exactly, wouldn’t dare to do that. But whatever it is, I want to say this to you with confidence and with certainty from my experience….'”

I challenge you to do what I did.  Get the Listen to My Life Portfolio/Workbook and take the time to look back at how your life has been unfolding. See how God has been working all along unfolding His glory in your life.


Control or Release?

One day this week I received a text, private message or email from four different widows all saying that they were really struggling and in a dark place. I, too, was discouraged.  Each of us are in different times and places in our widow journey.

As I began to think about what might be the common denominator of each of our struggles, I discovered that they all boiled down to one word – CONTROL.

When your husband dies, grief tries to drown you and then hurls you onto “Me Island“…….especially if you are a widow with grown children living outside your home. Life being married changes to life being single and living on your own. There are countless hours in the day to just think about you.

At first it is vitally necessary for a new widow to pitch her tent on “Me Island” in order to go through all of the things that she must just to survive her first year. As the reality of life alone hits her during her second year, she settles down in her beach chair as the cool breezes blow wrapped in a blanket with her toes buried in the warm sand.  She’s become familiar with “Me Island” and finds it to be a place where she feels safe and comforted. In fact, it may take her a couple of years there to process through whatever God brings to her attention in order for the widow to begin becoming the woman that God intends for her to be.

Cynthia Bezek, author, editor, and widow from Colorado Springs, wrote about control in her July 30th blog post entitled “Let It Go”. She talked about an experience she had during a five day silent retreat as she sat on a quiet beach watching the waves while waiting for the sun to go down.

“A gull caught my attention.  It was standing on a flat-surfaced rock as the tide started to come in. At first the waves rushed around the rock where he perched.  After a while, waves started to splash over his rock.  Before long, the waves would completely cover the rock before receding.

I expected to see the gull fly away.  But he didn’t. Instead, he would jump over the wave and then settle back on the rock as it rolled back to sea.  Eventually, he couldn’t jump high enough.  But he still didn’t leave. He just started flapping and shot up – vertically – until the water receded off his rock.

That was one stubborn bird, I realized.  He was not going to leave his rock come hell or high water.

What about you? I sensed God quietly ask.  Are you determined to hang on?  Will you try to control, no matter what? Or will you release it to Me? Will you let it go?”

I, too, find myself holding onto things trying to get back some kind of control of my life. Then I think about the control business and know in my head that I have never really been in control of anything because I gave God control of my life when I made Him my personal Lord and Savior. However, my tendency has been and still is to try to take back that control and make my life what I want it to be. It becomes this vicious cycle that is so energy draining.

There was a time when I was going through the dark valley of anticipatory grief and denial near the end of my husband’s life. I remember my mom looking at me and asking, “Don’t you like to go to God’s school to learn things?” Without a thought my answer was a resounding “NO, because it hurts too much!” Mama’s quiet response was much different.  She said that she had learned so many things about God in the hard times of her life.  She had such a deep abiding relationship with Him that gave her an aura of peace. Somehow she had found the way to release her control.

I will be completely vulnerable and honest here and tell you that I am not there yet and I know that I am not alone. That’s my struggle.  CONTROL or RELEASE CONTROL.  CONTROL or RELEASE CONTROL. God knows that I am such a slow processor when He brings these things to my attention and it’s a wonder He doesn’t just give up on me. But, God doesn’t do that.

How about you?  Are you that seagull standing on a rock struggling with CONTROL or RELEASE? What has been your experience in just letting go and allowing God to take control? If you will read Cynthia’s blog post, she will tell you the rest of what happened on her silent retreat.


A Widow’s One Constant

George W. McDaniel said, “The Bible is a bridge spanning the deep river of life, built of steel and concrete by inspired workman. The foaming floods have never shaken it’s Adamantine Foundation.  It has never needed repair and no one need doubt its security. On its stone floor, worn smooth by the feet of devout pilgrims, millions have crossed on to Glory, and by it we must cross over if we would walk with safety.”

I have found in my widow journey and even before as I was going through death’s dark valley with my husband, the Holy Spirit would bring specific scriptures to my mind just as I needed them. God and His Word the Bible was my one constant then and now. It’s only because of His grace that I have come this far.

Each book of the Bible portrays Jesus in a certain way:

  • Genesis – He is the Ram at Abraham’s Altar.
  • Exodus – He is the Passover Lamb.
  • Leviticus – He is our High Priest.
  • Numbers – He is our Cloud by Day and Pillar of Fire by Night.
  • Deuteronomy  – He is the City of our Refuge.
  • Joshua – He is the Scarlet Thread of our Rahab’s Window.
  • Judges – He is our Judge.
  • Ruth – He is our Kinsman Redeemer.
  • I & II Samuel – He is Our Trusted Prophet.
  • I & II Kings; I & II Chronicles – He is Our Reigning King.
  • Ezra – He is Our Faithful Scribe.
  • Nehemiah – He is the Rebuilder of Everything That is Broken.
  • Esther – He is the Mordecai sitting faithfully at the Gate.
  • Job – He is our Redeemer Who Ever Liveth.
  • Psalms – He is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.
  • Proverbs & Ecclesiastes – He is our Wisdom.
  • Song of Solomon – He is the Beautiful Bridegroom.
  • Isaiah – He is the Suffering Servant.
  • Jeremiah & Lamentations – He is the Weeping Prophet.
  • Ezekiel – He is the Wonderful 4-Faced Man.
  • Daniel – He is the 4th Man in the Midst of the Fiery Furnace.
  • Hosea – He is my Love that is Forever Faithful.
  • Joel – He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.
  • Amos – He is our Burden Bearer.
  • Obadiah – He is our Saviour.
  • Jonah – He is the Great Foreign Missionary that takes the Word of God into all the World.
  • Micah – He is the Messenger with Beautiful Feet.
  • Nahum – He is the Avenger.
  • Habakkuk – He is the Watchman ever praying for revival.
  • Zephaniah – He is the Lord Mighty to Save.
  • Haggai – He is the Restorer of our Lost Heritage.
  • Zechariah – He is our Fountain.
  • Malachi – He is the Son of Righteousness with Healing in His Wings.
  • Matthew – He is the Christ – The Son of the Living God.
  • Mark – He is the Miracle Worker.
  • Luke – He is the Son of Man.
  • John – He is the Door by which everyone of us must enter.
  • Acts – He is the Shining Light that appears to Saul on the road to Damascus.
  • Romans – He is our Justifier.
  • I Corinthians – He is our Resurrection.
  • II Corinthians – He is our Sin Bearer.
  • Galatians – He Redeems us from the Law.
  • Ephesians – He is our Unsearchable Riches.
  • Philippians – He supplies Our Every Need.
  • Colossians – He is the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily.
  • I & II Thessalonians – He is our Soon Coming King.
  • I & II Timothy – He is the Mediator between God and Man.
  • Titus – He is our Blessed Hope.
  • Philemon – He is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.
  • Hebrews – He is the Blood of the Everlasting Covenant.
  • James – He is the Lord that Heals the sick.
  • I & II Peter – He is the Chief Shepherd.
  • I, II, & III John – He is Jesus Who has the Tenderest of Love.
  • Jude – He is the Lord coming with 10,000 saints.
  • Revelation – He is the KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS!




Today I remember my favorite Sunday School teacher Spencer Ingram who went to be with the Lord suddenly yesterday.  As I grieve with his wife Betty, I think about all the different things that people will be saying to comfort her and wanted to share this post to help those who might not know what to say.  It was written by Fern Ingalls.

1. Don’t Try to Lessen the Loss with Easy Answers.

There are many ways in which families, friends and professionals in the field of bereavement can be supportive of those who are grieving. Several suggestions are listed below. Some I have learned through personal and professional experience; many have been gathered from the hundreds of experiences of those who have told me of the support they wish they’d had during the painful process of grief. They also expressed heartfelt gratitude toward those who could see what needed to be done and did it.
In assessing the needs of a grieving person, it helps to understand the circumstances. There are enormous differences in the grief process that depend upon the age of the person who died, how he or she died (for example, was it a sudden death, or did it follow a long illness?) and the gender of the survivor (in our society, it is usually more difficult for men than women to express their grief openly).

Please consider the following guidelines as suggestions only. Most importantly, trust your heart and your instincts.

“He/She isn’t hurting anymore,” “It must have been his time,” and “Things always work out for the best,” are remarks that are seldom helpful. It’s more important for the bereaved to feel your presence than to hear anything you might say. Remember, there are no ready phrases which will take away the pain of the loss.

Phrases That Don’t Help

(You may have already said some of these phrases, hoping to be comforting. If so, don’t be too hard on yourself or feel guilty; just avoid them next time.)
• “It was God’s will.”
• “I know how you feel.” (None of us knows exactly how someone else feels.)
• “Time will heal.” (Time alone does not heal, though it helps. People need time as well as the grief process.)
• “There must have been a reason.”

Phrases That Do Help

I call these phrases “door-openers.” They invite the bereaved to talk, sharing their pain and memories with the listener. Your greatest gift is your invitation to talk, while you listen-offering no advice or judgments, please.
• “This must be very painful for you.” (Then the griever feels free to describe the pain.)
• “You were very close to him.” (The survivor can then talk about the relationship.)
• “I have no idea what it must be like for you; I’ve never had a (spouse/child/parent) die. Can you tell me what it’s like? (Then listen.)
• “It must be hard to accept.” (Listen to the difficulties.)
• “I really miss (name of deceased). He was a special person. But that can’t compare to how much you must miss him. Tell me what it’s like.” (Then listen.)

2. Don’t Feel that You Must Have “Something to Say.”

Your presence is enough. Especially with fresh grief, your embrace, your touch and your sincere sorrow are all the mourner may need. Be sure to call or visit the survivor, no matter how much time has passed since the death. The griever still appreciates knowing you care.

Take the Initiative
Don’t merely say, “If there’s anything I can do, give me a call.” Make suggestions and specific offers of help. For example, you might say, “I’d like to mow your lawn next Saturday at morning at ten. Would that be okay with you?” or “I’d like to plant the five azalea shrubs that were given at Bill’s funeral. Would you like them in your yard, and could I do it next Wednesday after two o’clock?”

“May I go grocery shopping with you the first time out?” Each thoughtful gesture gives something of yourself and keeps the survivor from having to continually reach out for assistance. It also lets the survivor know you think he or she is important. Our self-esteem is often low during the early months of grief, and knowing someone cares enough to help does wonders for our morale.

Help with Everyday Concerns

You might run errands, answer the phone, prepare meals or do the laundry. These seemingly minor tasks loom large to the survivor, for grief drastically depletes physical energy. An offer to spend an evening just watching television together can be very comforting, especially to someone now living alone.


A bereaved person desperately needs a listener who is accepting and supportive and willing to listen patiently to often repetitive stories. The need to “tell the story” decreases as healing progresses. And each time the story is told, the finality of the death sinks in a little more. When feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, fear and sadness are expressed, accept those feelings. If the survivor keeps them bottled inside, they will slow the healing process. Sharing thoughts and feelings lessens the stress. The increased stress experienced during early grief can lead to health problems for some people. Help your friend stay healthy by listening.

Allow the Expression of Feelings.

A natural reaction to hearing someone express grief is to respond with, “You mustn’t feel guilty. I’m sure you did everything you could.” Don’t try to rescue people from their guilt feelings, which are natural and normal during the grief process. (What most people actually feel is regret. Guilt implies a purposeful act that intends injury; we feel regret when we wish we had somehow been able to change things.)

Expressing our “if-onlys” is important. However, if the survivor still talks repeatedly about a specific incident six months after the death you might ask, “What could you have done differently?” After the response, come back with another question: “Then what might have happened?” Keep asking non-leading questions until the person concludes that, with the knowledge he had at the time, he did the best he could. (Also, be aware of the difference between realistic and unrealistic guilt. If the feeling is based on reality, professional help may be called for.)

Allow the Survivor to Grief in Her Own Way.

Don’t push the mourner to “get over” the loss. If he needs to rake leaves or chop wood to release energy and tension, let him. If he wants to pore over old pictures or read every book on grief he can find, let him. We all grieve in our own way; avoid being judgmental.

Accept Mood Swings.

Expect good days and bad days for some time. The highs and lows are part of the process. These feelings have been described as waves that sweep in uncontrollably. Gradually the good days become more frequent, but bad ones will occur even a year or more after the death of a loved one.

Remember Special Days and Times.
Double your efforts to be sensitive to the mourner’s needs during difficult times of the day or on days with special meaning, like holidays, the loved one’s birthday or wedding anniversary, or the anniversary of the death. Mark your calendar so you’ll remember to reach out to the person on or before those special days.

Don’t Protect the Mourner from the Pain of Grief.

The survivor must adjust to the fact that the loved one is gone. If you attempt to protect her from her grief, you will get in the way. Grief is hard work and others cannot do it for us, though they can help with their support and encouragement. But there is no easy way out. She must walk through the pain to come out on the other side, healthy and stronger.

Assist in Finding Self-help Groups.

There are many support groups that exist to help grieving people feel less alone with their grief work. They can be very beneficial, as this poem explains:
Platitudes, well-meaning words, only brush the skin of my existence. But an arm around my shoulder…
“I know what you mean” from someone who’s grieved loss like mine
The tears in the eyes that understand when I speak of my pain and loneliness… These help to give me faith that life is still worthwhile.
Knowing I am not alone lets me face my sorrow.
Only then can I get on with living.

Know that Recovery Takes Time.

Don’t expect the grieving person to be “over it” within a few weeks. Great waves of emotion may sweep in for many months and then, slowly, gradually, the intensity subsides. It doesn’t happen a day after the funeral or even two months after it, as many people believe. Sometimes the real grieving is just beginning by then. It may be more than a year before you see the results of your caring and support-but when your friend smiles again and feels less pain, the reward is there.
If the mourner doesn’t seem to be recovering at all, despite your best efforts and the passage of time, suggest professional help to assist in learning new ways of coping. (Find out which professionals in you region are experienced in working with the bereaved. Don’t assume that all counselors and clergy are trained in this area.)

Share your Memories.

During the first few months after a death, there’s a tendency to focus on the survivors, while the survivors are focusing on the one who died. By relating your memories of the deceased, you are offering a precious memento to the grieving person. Your love and concern are shown not only in what you share, but in the fact that you took the time to do so.

Don’t Rush the Survivor.

Keep in mind that a grieving person is under extreme stress; don’t press him to participate in outside activities until he’s ready. Trust him to know what is best.

Know that Your Friend Will Always Remember.

For the rest of her life, a tear may be shed when a special memory is recalled. Your friend is who she is today because of having loved that person. Denying the deceased’s past existence denies a part of your friend. Love her past as well as her present, and you and your friend will be richer for it.



Today’s society pushes for being busy at all times and at any costs We are run by the clock and live by the calendar.  We are programmed early in life that to be late comes with a penalty. Because of this, people conclude that time is something that must be battled and beaten.  It is our enemy.

Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.  Time is not only not your enemy, it is your best friend because it motivates you to seek change and transformation.

Suppose you have a habit that needs to be changed and you delay making that change.  A year from now you continue in this habit.  What impact has that had on your life?  Has it hurt your relationships?  What has it cost you?  Now take it out to three years.  What have you lost or suffered?  What has happened to your faith and hope?  How much more insurmountable does this problem look now?

Time isn’t your enemy here.  It isn’t out to hurt you.  Time is giving you an opportunity to process through things and make the changes that you need to make in your life.  Time has no agenda, but allows you whatever you need.  Time is actually on your side.

Lauren Necko shares, “Time is a very powerful force in our reality.  Essentially, it stops everything from happening all at once.  It gives us spaces between events.  It gives us purpose to build up motion, momentum.  Without time, the process of our life would be immeasurable.”

In his message entitled “Starting Over” Andy Stanley recently talked about time being our friend and not our enemy and I cannot say it any better than he did.  So, I will use his words to talk about it here and it you would like to hear his message in its entirety, click on the title.

We say that time is ticking and I need to get on with it.  Time is your friend and this is true in every arena where you are starting over and here’s why.  When you’ve gone through something difficult, the truth is that you are out of balance.  And before you make another life decision, you need to find balance. 

Emotions are like a temperature….they go up and then they come down…..but oftentimes they do not come down as fast as they go up.  You’re carrying a little anger.  You’re carrying a little resentment.  You’re carrying a little jealousy.  You’re carrying stuff you don’t know about.

So, consequently, you’re a little bit off balance.  You’re emotions are a little high.  You’re still dealing with some pain.  When you are in pain physically, you become very self-absorbed.  When you’re in pain emotionally, you become very self-absorbed.  It’s not your fault and you’re not even aware you are self-absorbed.  It’s the nature of pain.  We need people who will enter into our pain with us and let us tell our story over and over and over again.  That’s just part of the healing process.

Self-absorbed people make self-absorbed decisions.  You just do.  You can’t help that.  So, consequently, jumping into whatever is next before you’ve allowed the temperature to come down, before you’ve found your equilibrium, before you’ve found your balance is a dangerous thing. 

When you are healthy, you have clarity.  And when you have clarity, you make better decisions.  Until you have clarity, you have no business making decisions.  Time is your friend because with time comes clarity.  And that takes time. 

If you wait long enough, you will be able to hear things later on that you can’t hear now.  There are some things you need to hear, but you can’t now and it’s not your fault.  It’s just that you’re not ready to hear them.  There are things you need to hear before you move on to whatever is next.

And not only are there things you need to hear a few weeks from now or a year from now, but there will be some people you’ll be able to hear a year from now that you’re not able to listen to today.  There are some people who are trying to speak into your life right now and you just can’t hear them.  It’s not that you don’t want to.  You just can’t.

Time is your friend, but it feels like your enemy.  The reason we rush is because we are convinced personally that our situation is different.  Your circumstances may be unique, but you are not.  Your challenges may see unique, but you are not.  Your version of your story has been lived out before, but because you are emotional and you are feeling the pain, you’re just absorbed with it and you don’t even know it.  You’re not in a position to make another decision.”

Consider the account in the Bible of widows Naomi and Ruth.  What if Naomi had not spent those years in Moab grieving the deaths of her husband and both sons and had left immediately to go back to Bethlehem before the time frame that God had for her in His plans?  We know that for at least 10 years she was in a very bad place emotionally and was very bitter.  She was in that self-absorbed place of a widow steeped in deep, deep pain and grief.

When both of her sons died, Naomi no longer had anyone in their immediate family to provide for her.  She’s at her weakest point.  It’s at this place where she is finally able to “hear” God and allow Him to show her what to do.  This is when she makes her move back to her homeland of Bethlehem with her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth.  It is at this time that God has moved things into place for her and has readied the heart of her kinsman redeemer Boaz to step in to marry Ruth and provide a home for both of them for the rest of their lives.  TIME was Naomi’s friend and that time period was literally years.

I can tell you from my own personal experience with some years of time now since the death of my husband that I can now see that time is my friend.  At first I kept asking my psychologist when the grief and pain would stop.  His reply was always, “What’s the rush?” For a very long time I didn’t understand that, but I ‘get it’ now.

It is taking me much time to work through all of my pain, emotions, and expectations.  I have embraced my grief and allowed it to expose the deepest parts of my heart.  This has enabled me to process through so many things and to deal with them in a healthy way. Time has become my friend.

What about you?  Are you in a rush to stop the pain?  Are you taking the time for yourself that you need to slow down or even stop for awhile and embrace grief? Consider this truth:

Time is your friend and not your enemy.


Does Quietness Scare You?

After living in a family with both parents and my three brothers, going to college and living in a dorm full of girls, and then getting married and having a family with four daughters, quietness was something that hit me hard after Bob went to heaven and I moved into a house to live all alone for the very first time in my life.

I moved from a world of busyness to a total and complete quietness that was frightening.  That silence has stripped away all pretenses and masks.  Henri Nouwen says it well when he said, “It seems that a person who is caught up in all that noise has lost touch with the inner self.  The questions that are asked from within remain unanswered.  Unsure feelings are not cleared up, tangled desires are not straightened out, and confusing emotions are not understood.  All that remains is a chaotic tumble of feelings which have never had a chance to be sorted out. When there is no one to talk to or to listen to, an interior discussion may start up–often noisier than the noise we just escaped.  Many unsolved problems demand attention; one care forces itself upon the other; one complaint rivals the next, all pleading for a hearing.  Sometimes we are left powerless in the face of the many twisted sentiments we cannot untangle.”

This is exactly what I have been going through for the last four years. All of those questions from within that began clamoring for a hearing were very overwhelming at times to the point that I thought I might be going crazy. That was when I knew that I needed professional counseling to help me sort out each thing one at a time and deal with it in the right way.  My personality is such that when I am faced with things, I want to immediately take care of it all.  But, that has not been the way that God has worked in me.  He has made me slow down.  As I can handle it, He continues to bring one thing at a time to light.  He gave me the time and the quietness I need to just sit and process without interruption.  I believe that many of the diversions in our lives — some that we look for in the things outside us — is an attempt to avoid confronting what is going on inside.

Henri Nouwen again says, “To be calm and quiet by yourself means being fully awake and following with close attention every move going on inside of you.  If requires the discipline to recognize the urge to get up and go as a temptation to look elsewhere for what is really close at hand.  It offers the freedom to stroll through your own inner yard and to rake up the leaves and clear the paths so you can easily find the way to your heart.  Perhaps there will be fear and uncertainty when you first come upon this ‘unfamiliar territory,’ but slowly and surely you will discover an order and a familiarity which deepens your longing to stay at home with yourself.”

Can you picture yourself having the courage to face your real self inside and taking all the time you need to clear up all of those inner cobwebs that have become so thick that you have to literally rip them apart?  In a way I was forced to do that.  It was nothing that I would have ever dreamed that I needed to do.  It was just so much more comfortable to stay in those familiar rooms with boxes stacked to the ceiling and only a tight pathway to walk from room to room.  But, now I can say that it is so much more freeing and totally cleansing to face down everything inside, open each box one at a time and discard the contents, uncover the windows, wash them until they are sparkling clean so that the sunshine can come flooding in, and wash the floors of your heart until they are shining.  Is it hard?  Oh yes!  It’s tremendously hard and so very painful.  It also takes a lot of time.  Is it worth it? YES!  YES!  YES! It is worth it all!!  Are the rooms of my heart completely emptied and swept clean?  Not yet.  I would venture to say that it will be a continuing work in progress.

Can you stand to be alone from time to time with your eyes shut pushing aside all of the noises and just sitting calmly and quietly? Will you have the courage to face your inner self so that the real YOU can be revealed in all of the glory that God designed you to be?