When someone you love dies, it feels like the world keeps running right by you. In the beginning, friends and family will say they are sorry for your loss or some other words that they try to comfort you with. Others will not know what to say and not say anything.
Everyone tries to help in their own way. But in reality, nothing they say can help, nothing can take the pain away. There is a feeling of wanting to cry out, “How dare you keep going as if nothing is different!”
Everything is different. The world is a darker place because they are gone. Sometimes, there is a feeling of people just wanting you to “get over it” and move on.
What if we cannot “get over it” and go back to work or doing whatever it is we typically do? Our entire life is different, and it feels like nobody notices, nobody slows down to acknowledge that an incredible life is now gone, and their laughter is no more.
There are feelings of wanting to shout into the air as people hustle and bustle by you, “Do you care?”
How dare others move forward as if nothing is different. Maybe nothing is different to them. Maybe you are alone in the hurt and not sure where to go or who will even listen. The pain is real, the desire for the world to just stop spinning and take notice of the loss is real.
I have learned that the world will not stop spinning, people will not stop hustling and bustling, work will not stop piling up. None of these things will occur. It is during these times that we must find a safe space, wherever that is to you, and we must pour our heart out to the only One who knows exactly how we feel. The only One who loved that person more than we did: Jesus.
We must allow Him to comfort us; we must. There is no other answer, there is no other path. I am not saying we will heal after ten minutes of prayer. Not at all. This wound may never heal, but with Jesus, we will learn how to function in our new world. One second at a time, then one minute at a time – Jesus is our Comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
We cannot move forward without Him. This wound is too deep for us to just absorb. Find your private time to talk to Jesus, do it for your loved one that is no longer there to tell you to do it. Cry, yell or sit still with Jesus whenever you need the world to stop spinning. Jesus never tires of hearing from you, and you can have the same conversation with Him 100 times, and He will hold you 100 times and listen to every word you say because He loves the sound of your voice.
As followers of Jesus, we are not to look like the rest of the world. There are consequences when we try to mold our lives to reflect the world around us versus what God has said in His Word.
A great example of this is after the book of Judges, the Israelites approach Samuel the prophet (Hannah’s son, 1 Samuel 1:20) and tell him that they want a king.
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.'” 1 Samuel 8:4-5 NIV
On the surface, it appears that the people are asking for a king to be appointed because the sons of Samuel are crooked and evil. The reality is that God was their King, and they were to follow all His ways in the Word of God. They should not have needed a human king. However, as we see at the very end of the book of Judges, everyone did what they wanted, and there was chaos.
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges 21:25 NIV
Samuel’s reaction is to pray to the Lord. If only we would all learn to pause and lay out decisions and concerns before the Lord.
“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.'” 1 Samuel 8:6-9 NIV
God plainly says that the people have rejected Him, not Samuel. It is easy to look at the Israelites and believe we are not like them, yet, unfortunately, as we look at the world around us, we have also rejected God. We have each played a part in our societies and cultures moving away from God: the places where we have not spoken Truth into situations, the ways we have voted, how we have spent our money, and the list goes on and on. With each decision we make, there are consequences. God communicates to Samuel the ramifications of the peoples’ desire to have a king.
“Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.'” 1 Samuel 8:10-18 NIV
When we make decisions that result in us straying from the path He has for us, there are consequences. Throughout the Bible, God informs us of the problems that occur when we do not follow His commands. He also describes the many blessings of obedience (see Deuteronomy 11:8-32). Why wouldn’t we want His blessings in our lives or in the lives of others?
A place for reflection is where are we proceeding with decisions that God has already told us in His word will have a bad outcome? Spend time asking God Psalm 139:24, “Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me, then lead me on the eternal path!” (CEB)
Let us not be like the people during Samuel’s time.
“But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.'” 1 Samuel 8:19-20 NIV
It may seem better to mirror what others have or do – this can be wanting others’ possessions, how we interact with our families, or how we manage our finances. However, we are to look like Jesus. He was not concerned at all about mirroring the world; in fact, it was the opposite (see John 15:19). Also, James 4:4 says, “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy” (CEB).
If we choose to ignore God’s warnings about the outcomes of our decisions and proceed against His will, then God may very well “hand us over” to what we desire.
“When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.'”
from 1 Samuel 8:21-22 NIV
All of the warnings God provided the people of Israel in 1 Samuel 8:10-18 above were fulfilled. Their lives were worse after Saul was installed as king than if they had just followed God and accepted Him as their King.
It is the same with us. Our lives will be filled with His love and peace if we just obey the Word of God (see Psalm 63).
Father in Heaven,
Help us to listen to You and seek Your guidance in decisions. Help us to read Your Word and give us hearts that crave to obey and are quick to confess sin.
Have you ever prayed and fasted for so long, waiting to know His path for you, with no answer? I have to the point where I began to think, “Why won’t He just tell me what to do? I will do it, but I am tired of this. Sometimes this all feels like a game!”
When you have feelings such as these, we must put on our spiritual armor and take every thought captive. These thoughts are of the enemy. I know this because God has already told us and showed us the path we need to be on. And we have failed to follow it.
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:21-24 NIV
This verse says “all have sinned” – you, me, everyone in the past, and everyone in the future. All – except Jesus, of course. He died without sin so you and I can spend eternity with Him and live on Earth forgiven of our sin.
You may ask when did God tell me the path to be on, what about the answer I need to a specific decision, or what is the step I am to be taking right now, and so on. All valid questions. I offer that when we are praying for His path on the big things in life, we need to ask ourselves where we have failed with His path on the “little” things in life. When was the last time we told a lie, had a lustful thought, were mean to our neighbor, or said words that were unloving, and so on?
“Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10 CEB
I am not saying that we will be perfect. We are not and will not be perfect, as we are humans. My suggestion is that we keep praying and fasting for His path on the big things in life, but in the meantime put a heavy focus on ourselves and where we can become more obedient in every area of our lives. God’s goal is for each of us to be more and more like His Son, to better prepare us for what lies ahead. He is building our endurance and character to be able to enjoy what He has ahead for us on His path. If we allow ourselves to be casual with commandments like lying or loving our neighbor, then how can we be faithful with much?
Yes, keep praying and fasting for His path and do what He told us to do in the meantime. We must work every day to read and obey, work at walking with the Spirit and obeying Him (Matthew 6:33). We must ask for forgiveness when we fail (1 John 1:9), forgive others (Colossians 3:13), and do not keep repeating the same sin – that is a sign of a lack of repentance. We need to ask and strive to be more like Jesus every day (2 Corinthians 5:17), and when He gives us those opportunities to be Jesus to others, we must take them. That may mean praying with somebody or sending an email or mailing a card or leaving a letter for a neighbor sharing the gospel.
You do not have to be a superhero daily, but just keep your eyes open. Yesterday, I was in a store and a man noticed a lady who appeared very sad. He asked if he could help her. They wound up sharing a God-given moment where encouraging words and a prayer were exchanged. The global pandemic has put every single human being on a level playing field. The virus does not care what color, race, background or education you have – you are at risk. There is raw, real pain across our globe right now, and we are the light.
“Jesus spoke to the people again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.'” John 8:12 CEB
We bring the light of life and God wherever we are – whether that is in a store or online in social media or a business video meeting. We are His light. We have the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead in us; let’s act like it in a world where there is the most pain and suffering possibly ever in our lifetimes. As believers, we are to steward the light He gave us. We are not to hide it, but shine it bright (Matthew 5:14). You may have nothing, but if you believe in Jesus then you have eternal life and the Holy Spirit in you, so be an excellent steward with what you DO have. Be faithful with what you do have.
God has told us all what to do. The commandments are for every single person on this planet. Yes, He has a unique purpose for each of us as well, but the commands are the foundation. Love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), honor our parents (Matthew 19:19), love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39), love God with all our hearts, being and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5), and love each other (Romans 12:10). If you love Jesus, we are to obey all of His commands daily.
“This is love: that we live according to his commands. This is the command that you heard from the beginning: live in love.” 2 John 1:6 CEB
We must build up that foundation so He can build out the plan for us. Conquer your thoughts and your actions, steward your God-given talent and the light He has given you.
One final thought on the matter, if you are like me and want God to just tell you what to do. As Dr. Martin Luther King said so beautifully, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
If you are thinking I do not even know the next step at all, return to what God has already told you. How can we live that step out today, then tomorrow, and so forth, demonstrating how we handle the “little” things that prepare us for the “big” things?
Whenever I have a hard time hearing from God or need additional time with Him after morning prayers and reading, I head to a park. I am blessed to be able to choose from a number of parks near me. I look for parks that are not crowded and are more “natural” versus ones designed for people who want pavement. I bring ear buds and a playlist filled with worship music so I can tune into worshiping Him while walking in His creation. I typically will have an ear bud in one ear with the music while listening to sounds around me with my other ear.
If you do not have a park near you, find a quiet and safe place to put both of your ear buds in and listen to praise music. Close your eyes and just focus on Him. The goal is to draw closer to God, not necessarily be in a park or surrounded by nature – unless those help you draw closer. James 4:8 says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (NLT).
On a recent walk with Him in the park, here are things I heard and things He showed me. I pray these insights bless you.
Do not allow fear to rob you of seeing God already at work
Are there times that you learn of an activity or a ministry and you are filled with joy just thinking about the opportunity to get involved? That is your passion being illuminated by God already at work. Your immediate reaction is excitement, energy, and a desire to get involved.
Soon after that, however, the fear sets in: How would this work? I have no time. I would not know anyone there. What if I don’t know what I am doing?
When we feel God leading us into an assignment or a task, it will most likely be scary. When we are scared of something, it causes us pause, to proceed with caution or rethink what we are doing. Being scared is normal when we are stepping into something new or something that only God can achieve that we cannot do in our own strength. This is different than fear.
Fear is defined as a potentially paralyzing emotion caused by impending danger, evil or pain, whether the threat is real or not. Fear can result in us not doing what we feel passionate about or led to do. Fear is the tool of the enemy. We must trust in Him to equip us for His calling.
Sometimes, trees fall down in winter but they are replaced with fresh growth in the spring
When one thing is torn down in your life, He will raise new life from it – in His timing. When one opportunity is gone, He sends something else. We just have to always keep our eyes open. While you are in a season of waiting, use this time to work on you. This season is a once in a lifetime opportunity when you will be the age you are, have these specific people around you, and be in your current situation.
Listen through the daily noise of life, and you will find Him in unexpected places
In the park, right next to a major highway, was a little waterfall. It is easy to be focused on the circumstances around us, for they are in our faces and demand our attention. God is present everywhere, but tends to be a whisper.
“‘Go out and stand before me on the mountain,’ the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:11-12 NLT
What if you don’t hear from Him? There have been times in my life when I was desperate to hear from Him for a looming decision with an expiring timeline. I had been on my knees praying James 1:5: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (NLT). I poured out my heart to Him asking why I had not heard, despite trying many things and praying those verses.
Then I heard, “You have heard from Me. You have the Bible.” This is why it is crucial to keep reading the Word. If not already, you should make it a daily habit. If you think you don’t have enough time, start with a verse a day and slowly increase from there. Keep praying. Keep worshiping Him. Keep doing the last thing you heard Him tell you to do. The enemy will attack you and want to discourage you from obeying God. Remain vigilant. Enlist prayer partners. Stay focused on Jesus. Let Him bend you, break you, and mold you into who He created you to be.
“Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”
from Romans 8:37 NLT
Throughout our lives as Christians, we will endure many trials and blessings. Times of blessing are, of course, easy to walk through. The potential hazard during times of blessing is forgetting to thank God. We must recall that He provided all we have, and we should not slip into a sense of self-righteousness or thinking that we provided all we have.
It is during the trials, times of suffering, times of silence, and times of confusion, that we need answers. Depending on what we are walking through, our questions can range from “Why, God?” to “When, God?” to “How, God?”
The enemy will use those times of trial, silence, or confusion to try to get us to doubt God. To doubt His promises, to doubt His past provision, or to doubt that He will once again provide. The enemy knows that when we feel the farthest from God is the exact time that He is the closest and just waiting for us to draw near. James 4:8 says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” The enemy will show up in full force when we are going through hard times.
Job and Joseph are just two examples in the Bible of people under attack but standing firm in their faith for God. Sometimes reading those chapters of the Bible does not help me. I feel like I am not a Job – I could not drop to the ground in worship if God were to wipe out all my children in one swoop, like Job did (Job 1:20). I truly do not think I could do that. Perhaps I could get to that place with time, prayer, and help.
However, in my journey, I have realized that there are three words that we need to insert as the answers to our questions for God. So, in those moments when we feel that the examples in the Bible are not encouraging, and God is silent, and the enemy is attacking, what answers do we have to the questions and hurt swirling in our minds?
I offer three answers, each with three words.
“It is well.” No matter what happens to us or our loved ones, our souls will spend eternity with Jesus because we believe He is the Son of God. There are many, many awful things we will endure in this life – but ultimately, our destination is eternity. We need to keep our eyes on eternity, and if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart He rose from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Your soul is safe for all eternity, and it is well.
“Thy will, Lord.” There are going to be hurtful, hateful, senseless things that happen. On this side of Heaven, we will not always understand why things happen. But we know that He works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We simply cannot understand all that God knows, and it is with this perfect knowledge from generations past and future that He makes the decisions He makes to form His perfect will for us. We will doubt God, we will say this does not make sense, and it will never make sense, and that very well may be true, but we are to “trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (Proverb 3:5). Surrendering to His will is what is best for us, whether we can see that now or not.
“God loves me.” There will be times of silence. We will feel far from God, or we will be passionately seeking God daily in prayer without an answer for a decade or more. This does not mean He does not hear our prayers. Psalm 116:2 says, “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” We may receive no response because the timing is not right, or His answer will be different than we seek. However, in those times, we must never doubt His love for us. He sent His one and only Son to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). God is our loving Father (Romans 8:15).
Cling to one or all of these answers when the enemy comes for you. Nothing the enemy says is true, for he is the father of all lies. These answers above are Truth. They are promises in the powerful Word of God.
I grew up in a very dysfunctional and abusive house. My biological father left when I was a few weeks old. Sadly, I know there are a lot of people in the same boat – they were raised in families that did not at all represent God’s design of family. We live in a sin-filled world, but God sends us what I call “earthly angels” to help us when our lives are full of hurt.
Humans are not angels; they are separate creations. There are many verses that make it clear humans are not and do not become angels. One example is Psalm 8:4–6: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet” (NIV). However, I use the term “earthly angels” to describe humans, sent by God, who step into our lives to lead us closer to Him.
My uncle became the father figure I needed as I grew up. He was there for me when I was sick and carried me when I could not walk. He drove my mom and I back and forth to many Children’s Hospital therapy appointments for months on end. He was there when my heart was broken; he was there to teach me how a man should treat a lady. He showed me unconditional love when I messed up. He walked me down the aisle the day I got married. I believe God placed my uncle in my life as my “earthly angel” to fill the gaps of not having an earthly father present.
My uncle went to Heaven last night. His health had been declining swiftly over the past few months, so his transition to Heaven was not unexpected. It certainly hurts when you lose someone you love deeply, but I will say there is comfort in knowing you will see the person again in Heaven. When there is faith in Jesus, there is the promise of eternity with Him.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV). “Whoever” is a huge, beautiful word. It does not matter WHO you are, WHAT you have done, WHEN you did it, or HOW you did it – you will have eternal life through your belief in Jesus.
My uncle and I shared this belief, so that is how I know I will see him again. We also have the comfort that our loved ones are no longer in pain. There is no pain in Heaven. Our loved ones can dance again and sing again and talk again. They are freed from the chains of hurt, pain, and death that had them in their grip on Earth. Revelation 21:4–6 states, “‘”He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life'” (NIV).
My uncle is with me; I talk to him and look toward Heaven when I think of him. While I am very sad to have lost my “earthly angel”, I know he is freed from pain. I also know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
My uncle’s children are adults, and they are atheists. I pray God will use this pain to save their souls. All they have to do is believe in Jesus as the Son of God. Acts 2:21 says, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (NIV).
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NLT
We will see our loved ones again; whether we arrive in Heaven or the Lord returns while we are still on Earth, we will see them again! It is healthy to grieve, and we should grieve, but grieve with hope. Brothers and sisters, we will see our loved ones again through Jesus Christ!
Father in Heaven,
We lift up all who have lost their “earthly angels,” those people who change our lives for the better, those people who love us incredibly, those people who lead us to You, those people who help us meet You through their lives.
We thank You for Jesus and the incredible promises of eternity that we have in Him. Lord, please help those of us still on Earth to cling to Your promises when the hurt rushes in. Please remind us we can still talk to our loved ones. They are still with us – just in a different way. Please help us to grieve and to grieve with hope in Jesus.
When abuse occurs, tell someone immediately please. If that person does not believe you, try another person – please. I know this is very hard, it takes tremendous courage. Please do not do what I did and stay silent. Remember that we have the Holy Spirit in us who raised Jesus from the dead. In Him, we can do this! He wants you to begin the journey of healing. If you are not comfortable telling anyone in your life, The Victim Connect Resource Center lists many hotlines that are situation-specific (children, military, women, teens, rape, domestic violence, trafficking, etc).
After you tell someone that listens, find time and give yourself space to truly understand and process that what happened to you does not define you. What does define you is how you react to what happened to you. Pray a lot. Pray specifically. Find a prayer partner to pray for you. This journey to healing takes time and there are days when you do not want to or feel like praying. This is where you need at least one prayer partner who will pray for you faithfully daily.
Realizing that God does love you, despite what happened, was also a journey for me. I had index cards with prayers and verses to help me when I needed reminders. Examples include:
“May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:18-19
You are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). You are precious in His sight.
“Long ago the LORD said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.'” Jeremiah 31:3
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. […] But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:5,8
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39
The prayer I pray:
“Lord, I submit every corner of my life to You. Show me what I have yet to submit to You. Help me to release my need for this to feel fair or to see (him/her/them) punished. Rip out any bitterness in me. Show me what I can learn and how to grow closer to You through this. I need your peace. Help me to heal and forgive. Rain down on me the powerful healing of the Holy Spirit. Replace my pain with a focus on You and Your love. In Jesus’ precious name, amen.”
When I first started to pray this prayer, I meant only a few of the words. I begrudgingly prayed it every morning. I did not want to forget or let the ones who hurt me “off the hook.” I had to keep reminding myself that God will take revenge. I needed to focus on His love for me and who He wanted me to become as a result of all this. I had to believe that this was not my fault. I also had to see that dragging around unforgiveness was only robbing me of the abundant life that God came to bring to me. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” As for the people who hurt me, I can tell you that they did not care what they did to me. They never thought about it again; I was the one who was caught in my cycle of reliving it and not healing.
As I forced myself to pray this prayer, I began to mean more of the words. Any step towards obedience, God will bless. It is okay to pray a prayer like the above one if you do not quite mean every word; you are obeying by crying out to God, trying to release the hurt and trying to forgive. Healing takes time and patience. It takes help from God, prayer partners, professionals and support circles. I read books, I journaled, I cried, I was angry and felt every other emotion you can think of. There is no right way to heal. There is no timeframe that you “should” heal by. But heal, brothers and sisters, please heal. Allow yourselves to heal.