Tag Archives: grief

When It’s Hard To Be Thankful

As we enter into the official season of gratitude, I’m coming off a week that made it hard to feel thankful. It seemed like I was pushing water uphill in virtually every aspect of my life — and I found myself increasingly discouraged and overwhelmed.

Sound familiar?

While the world celebrates other people’s successes, you struggle with the secret — or worse, the very public awareness — of your repeated failure. That failure becomes a heavy burden that can seem even heavier when the calendar announces, it’s time to gather and give thanks.

What if you don’t feel thankful?

Last Thursday, exhausted by continuous efforts that failed to achieve any of my objectives, I melted into tears when my husband asked, “What’s bothering you?”

When simple questions bring tears to your eyes, gratitude is not the first emotion. Resentment, anger, despair… those are the familiar feelings that surge to the surface and belie any words to the contrary.

The truth is, it’s hard to be thankful when life is hard. Where is God? Why isn’t He helping? Why won’t He answer fervent prayers?

I told my husband that I’d been praying about several different situations while working to resolve them all. None of that had done any good. Everything was coming apart. And God’s promises didn’t seem to be translating into positive outcomes.

He told me what he sometimes tells his patients: “Let it go.”

He was right. It’s the best response when you come face-to-face with the realization that you are not in control.

Why? Because God is.

There are times when unanswered prayers are a blessing, when the struggle of the moment is setting the stage for the miracle that’s coming. Even if you can’t see it yet, it’s not defeatist to stop pushing water uphill. Nor is trusting God simply wishful thinking. It is choosing to affirm that He is who He says He is.

But, has He forgotten me? Does He care about this situation?

That’s the voice of doubt speaking. Doubt opens the door to fear and undermines faith with worry-filled fantasies that are contrary to the promises of God.

When your mind fills with doubt, worry and fear, it’s time for faith to flex its muscles. How? By exercising your freedom to choose whether to worry, or whether to trust. By definition, the more you do of one, the less you will of the other. One will weaken your faith; the other will make it stronger.

Receive that knowledge as a gift this Thanksgiving season. Recognize its incredible value, and give thanks for your freedom to choose: fear or faith.

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Need more encouragement during a challenging season? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Face-to-Face with the Hardest Question

This morning, I caught a glimpse of a newborn in the obituaries. In his photo, tiny George’s eyes were closed and he held his head in his hands. He was naked and peaceful.

I could not look away.

Years ago, I miscarried twins, one at a time. Their lifeless bodies remained inside mine for a short but surreal period of time as we waited to see if they would “leave” on their own or require surgical removal. To say that I sleepwalked through those days does not begin to capture the feeling of that time.

Our hope for a family of our own, for a future that extended beyond my husband and me, was concentrated in those babies. We loved the idea of them. And once they were conceived, we loved the knowledge of their presence. Our joy was beyond words. Our exuberance, boundless! We were having twins!!

And then… we were having just one baby. A surviving twin. Welcome and loved, but forever a reminder of loss.

And then… none. As it turned out, we were having only loss. And deep despair.

That was a dark and hopeless time. We told very few people, and none of them knew what to say. There were no words to answer our question: “Why?!” Why breathe life into them only to let them die? Why give us hope and then snatch it away? Why force us to circle back and share bad news so soon after we’ve shared joy?

“Why, God?!”

He was silent. And we were left to struggle through dark days of heartbreak, anger, resentment, and grief. God knew what had happened. He had allowed it. Or maybe, He’d willed it. He’d foreseen our celebration of good news… knowing death would follow. He’d given life to our dream… and then, watched as it died.

How were we supposed to make sense of that? of Him? And how could we ever trust such a capricious God?

That was the beginning of our journey. It was the crossroads moment that forced my husband and me to face the hardest question, “What kind of God are you?!” It would be many years before each of us found the peace that transcends circumstances and came to trust God in all things. There would be many, many more tears. More days of confusion, fear and loss.

Now, I can see in hindsight that the Lord truly has been “Emmanuel,” God with us. He has kept His promise never to leave or forsake us. He has given us joy in place of grief, and hope in lieu of fear. He has taught us the truth of who He is and of His great faithfulness.

Yes, that first loss took our breath away. It revealed our powerlessness to us. It also focused our attention and shook us out of a spiritual complacency. It compelled us to seek the God who wants to be known, and who promises…

I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.”  [Proverbs 8:17]

Would we have wished for that experience at the time? Not a chance. But now, are we grateful for what it brought about in our lives? Absolutely.

Are you face-to-face with the question, “Why God?! What kind of God are you?!” My heart goes out to you — but I also have great hope for what’s in store. Seek Him diligently and you will find all that you need.

Welcome to the journey.

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Need wisdom and insight as you make your journey? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Nothing is Wasted

My friend, Gayle, told me a few days ago that she’s ended a relationship with a man she’d hoped to marry. She is grieving the loss of John’s presence. But more than that, she’s grieving the loss of a highly-prized idea. She had believed he was “the one.” But it turned out, he wasn’t.

She’s frustrated that she “wasted so much time” on what proved to be a dead-end. And she’s stressed, knowing that the time can never be recovered and the clock is ticking.

Does any of that sound familiar? I wanted… and I thought… but it wasn’t… and I’m devastated… and now, I’m stressed… and what if it never….?!

I listened and offered comfort and support. And then, I told her nothing is wasted with God. Everything can be carried forward and used for good. My belief is rooted in Romans 8:28 which promises:

“All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

It’s also rooted in my own life experience — and the experiences of countless couples I’ve watched make their own infertility journeys. Nothing is wasted. Nothing! In the incredible goodness and efficiency of God, it all equips us for what He knows is coming.

“Let nothing be wasted” [John 6:12]

That was Jesus’ instruction to his followers after the feeding of the 5,000. He had transformed 5 loaves and 2 fish into more than enough food for everyone present. Clearly, he could provide more in the future. But instead, “Jesus distributed… as much as they wanted,” and then told his followers to gather every leftover. They were to take nothing for granted. Every bit had value — and it would likely be needed and used in the not-too-distant future.

How does that connect to Gayle’s story? Or to yours?

I’m convinced that everything God allows into our lives has a purpose. In the moment, it is often impossible to imagine how. When suffering and self-pity overwhelm us, it’s easy to think God has turned away, rejected our pleas, and hardened His heart.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When we give God our suffering and ask Him to use it for our good, He promises to transform it and give us “beauty for ashes, and joy for mourning.”

By faith, we can claim today’s heartache as the foundation for tomorrow’s joy. Gayle can choose to walk by faith, believing that God is well able to bring the right man into her life at the right moment. You can choose to walk by faith, too, trusting that all the bad news that comes with infertility is never the final word. That belongs to God.

“Let nothing be wasted.” Lift up your suffering in open hands. Let Him replace it with joy.

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Talking With God

Years ago, I read about a woman missionary who was frustrated by her inability to connect with people. A fellow missionary came to visit and encourage her, and within a week, he had won over many of the locals. Embarrassed that her own efforts suffered by contrast, she humbled herself enough to ask him, “How did you do it?!”

He answered, “By teaching them how to hear the Lord speak.”

“Teach me!” she begged, because she had never heard God speak to her directly. So, he did. It changed her life… and her ministry.

What he taught her is what I call prayer journaling. It has been life changing for me, and I believe it can be for you, too.

In essence, it is three simple steps: 1) Find a quiet place to be alone, 2) Write down what you want to ask God or talk to Him about, and 3) Wait patiently and quietly until you sense a response in your spirit that is not your own; when you do, write it down.

This morning, I wanted to talk with God about a crushing disappointment. We had invested time, effort, money and hope in a deeply-desired outcome… and then received the news that what we had hoped for was not to be. The implications were many — and all discouraging.

Why? I wanted to know. Why, if we believed for the best, did everything we could do to bring about a good outcome, and saw all the ways in which it could be a blessing? Why, if we were convinced that this was God’s best for us? Why, if the outcome we experienced seemed full of harm and not good? Why did this happen? Why this bad news?

I took my questions straight to God, pouring my heart out on the pages of my journal as tears coursed down my cheeks.

When I finally paused to listen to Him, I sensed this answer in my spirit, “Trust me. All will be well. Do not be afraid. I AM in control.”

Can I tell you exactly what that means about our situation? Unfortunately, no. So, now I have a choice: 1) Dwell on where things are and give in to despair, or 2) Believe that all things are possible, and that this is not the end of the story. I choose believing.

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”  – Psalm 5:3

God sees. He knows. He cares. And, He loves me.

That will tide me over until He acts — or speaks again.

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Want more encouragement? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Comfort One Another

Andy Stanley, my all-time favorite pastor and a terrific counselor (despite his claims to the contrary), frequently reminds us to “one another one another.” By that he means we should love one another, help one another, teach one another, serve one another, encourage one another, support one another… seek ways to “one another one another” as an expression of our love for each other and the embodiment of Christ’s love for us.

But how do you find the strength to do all that “one another-ing” when you’re struggling yourself?

That’s Melissa’s challenge.

She wrote to me a few days ago asking for prayer. She’s incredibly grateful to have given birth two weeks ago: “We had only one embryo, only one chance. But God! …miraculously we conceived.”  Her joy is tempered by her father’s sudden death 7 months into the pregnancy. Overwhelmed by grief, her mother cannot fully enjoy the new life in the family. And, before the baby was two weeks old,  Melissa’s husband learned he may have cancer. How does she triage the needs of all the people she loves most in the world, and keep her own emotions in balance?

Instinctively, she reached out to someone who has also experienced infertility, the joy of new life, the early death of a father, the grief of a widowed mother, the fearful waiting for news of cancer and all that that may foreshadow. In doing so, she offered me a chance to live into a powerful promise from scripture:

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:4

“He comforts us….” There is no question whether God will comfort us; He will and He does. When? “… in all our troubles.” Not some of the time. Not only when He decides our troubles are someone else’s fault and we are innocent victims. He comforts us all of the time in all of our troubles.

How does He do that? Through scripture. Through the indwelling comfort of the Holy Spirit. Through those who love us. And sometimes, through those who hardly know us — those who are completely unaware of the ways in which their words or actions help us or give us hope.

Why does God do that? Not because He owes us something. Not because we’ve been guaranteed an easy life or a quick rescue from heartache. He does it “…so that we can comfort others.” He comforts us in a whole host of ways that are designed to meet our needs so that we can pay it forward. So that we can embody His love for us and extend it to someone else. So that we can “one another one another.”

The verse goes on, “When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” I’m claiming that promise! Melissa is troubled, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will be able to give her the same comfort God has given me as I have struggled through each of the difficult challenges she’s now facing. By the grace of God and according to His promise, I will be able to give her the comfort that gave me peace in the midst of loss and uncertainty.

I will be able. Not because I’m me, but because God is faithful. And because He equips us to “one another one another.”

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Find more cause for hope in Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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National Infertility Awareness Week

It’s National Infertility Awareness week.  Could you be any more aware of how hard it is to conceive?  Well then, rather than seeing this week as salt rubbing into an already gaping wound, consider these words from Jesus Calling:

“Peace is my continual gift to you.  Just as the Israelites could not store up manna for the future but had to gather it daily, so it is with My peace.  The day-by-day collecting of manna kept My people aware of their dependence on Me.  Similarly, I give you sufficient peace for the present, when you come to me by prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  If I gave you permanent peace, independent of My Presence, you might fall into the trap of self-sufficiency.”

Whoa….

I wish I’d understood that when we were we struggling through infertility.  The sense of barely having enough peace to make it through the day – or the next few minutes – is not a sign of God’s absence, but of Christ’s Presence.  He does not intend to strengthen us to the point of self-sufficiency.  That is our goal; not His.

His goal is to teach us minute-to-minute reliance on Him.  Our reliance is a constant reminder that He keeps the promise, “I am with you always.”  Our neediness is a constant reminder that He is sufficient for every need.    Our inability to find peace apart from Him is a blessing because it returns us – again and again — to the only Source of strength that can overcome all things.

So, welcome National Infertility Week as a worldly reminder that millions of infertile couples need peace, hope, and compassionate love as they make their way toward the future of parenthood.  You are not alone, and neither are they.  He has promised, “I am with you always.”

Seek Him, and find peace.

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Need more encouragement and cause for hope?  Click this link to order your copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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The Need for Grace

I was driving down the road a few days ago, not aware that I was thinking about much of anything… and my eyes welled up with tears.  A minute later, they were streaming down my cheeks.  And before I knew it, mournful sobs began pouring out of a heart that had finally been overwhelmed by grief.

How could I have been so oblivious to so much sadness?

It’s taken me days to make sense of that question.  The process of wrestling with it has been painful, but invaluable.  I’ve learned a lesson – and it may help you, too.  That’s my hope.

So, here’s the story…

Years ago, the heartache of circling back to family members — who’d rejoiced at the news of a twin pregnancy – to tell them we’d lost first one, and then both babies, was almost unbearable.  We decided:  Never again.  All subsequent efforts to conceive and carry a baby to term would be in secret.

It was a choice made out of fearful self-protection, rooted in the belief that lightning had struck twice – and it could very well strike again.  We couldn’t bear the thought of an audience to more despair, and so we distanced ourselves from everyone and their expectations of “happily ever after.”

Fast forward….

We’re now in the midst of another struggle, doing our best to strike a healthier balance between disclosure and privacy.  Still, many of the people around us have no idea what we’re facing.  They aren’t riding the emotional roller coaster we are.  Their faith isn’t being tested daily.  They aren’t undergoing trial by fire.  They’re sailing along oblivious to our suffering.

And so, too often, there’s very little grace.

In a world that’s moving at a million miles an hour, there’s apparently no time for it – and no need.  No time to gently uncover the story behind the misunderstanding.  No time for a compassionate question like, “Is everything okay with you?”  No time to revisit things in any context other than the one that inconvenienced or aggravated them.

No extenuating circumstances:  No grace.

So, I’ve been faced with a choice.  I can make our struggle public knowledge and explain its consequences for my emotions, my memory, my occasionally faulty judgment, my fatigue, and my seeming disinterest in the minutia of other people’s lives.  Or, I can slap on the mask of “Everything’s great!” and do my best to meet the world’s expectations – with little or no margin for error.

You know what?  I need another option.  And I need a lot of grace.

That’s what made me cry.

I need more grace — without explanation, without resentment, without a heavy sigh that tells me I’m asking for something unreasonable.  I need it not because I deserve it, but because life is hard.

Where can I find it?

I’ve re-discovered that the world will never be able to give me all the grace and compassion I need.  But the Lord can, and He longs to.  Yesterday, I heard “Better Than a Hallelujah” for the first time.  If you haven’t heard it already, click this link.  You may hear what I did….

“Lord, I need grace” is better than a hallelujah sometimes.

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