A Handful of Wilted Flowers

for every momentBright yellow bursts are cropping up all over my yard. Dandelions. Some call them weeds, but I love them. I really do. Reminded of a memory from three years ago….

Happy squeals wafted through the open window. Glancing up, I studied the gleeful, boisterous play. Children climbed on jungle gyms. Some jumped rope. A fierce game of soccer was in full swing, and everywhere there was laughter and innocence. I put my head down on the desk, and contemplated crawling right under it. A tear fell, a wet circle on a stack of papers–“the new normal”.

Sorrow. I let it linger for several heartbeats.

“Pull it together Ami. They need you.”

I lifted my head, soaking up the commotion of recess once more, as if by watching I could trap a tiny part of their joy. How I longed for a return to the carefree.

Day after day I held it together for my Kinders, but melted into sobs on the way home. I’d had to return to work, however. I needed someone to need me.

I suppose I needed them as well.

Often I felt a small, warm hand slip inside mine as we walked down the hallway. Without looking I knew which child it was. He was unusually perceptive for his age, seeming to know just when I struggled the most. Comfort was intuitive.

My littles and I had also gotten to have many conversations about death. And Jesus. And Heaven. And grace. For all that, I was thankful. But some mornings it was a feat just to get out of bed.

Soon I left my quiet sanctuary and stepped into the spring sunshine to gather my gaggle of geese. Faces flushed from play, they fell in line like happy little goslings, fearlessly trusting.

“I picked some flowers for you Mrs. Atkins.”

He beamed, a handful of crushed dandelions stretched out in his chubby little fist. I knelt at his eye level. “They’re so beautiful. Thank you buddy! I love them.”

He threw the weight of himself at me in a the biggest hug a five year old could muster.

They were merely wilted weeds, a bunch of crushed dandelions. But they were more lovely than dozens of roses. Given of a pure heart, out of delight, he just wanted his teacher to smile.

And smile I did.

Thank you Lord for the small graces. Thank you for the rays of sunshine amid the clouds. 

I imagine it’s something like giving to God. The treasures I present are little more than wilted flowers. He’s the God who owns everything. He doesn’t need my dandelions.

I bring my weaknesses, my tainted motives, my sin. I bring no merit of my own.

He brings His righteousness.

So He grins with delight at my feeble, childish offerings. To Him they’re supremely lovely because they are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. He delights because He looks at me and sees His Son.

When I remember that, I can’t help but want to bring Him all the flowers I can gather. I delight in Him. And as a result. obedience and love flow from the abundance I’ve received– identity, reconciliation, adoption, salvation, inheritance, restoration. And most importantly, I’ve been given Him.

And here’s the thing. I would have smiled at my little Kinder, even he had never brought me a thing. My love for him was not a result of his behavior.

How beautifully freeing.

My Father delights in me.

Placing the flowers in a prominent place on my desk, I smiled again. My Father delights in me. He gives grace for every moment. And sometimes grace is a bundle of wilted dandelions.


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This post appeared first at anewseason.net

Joy and Sorrow: A Beautiful Dance

Stirred anew by the beauty of the gospel, an overwhelming sense of illumination spread like fire in my heart. Joy and sorrow intermingled, two cords of the same braid. I call it a beautiful crushing.

It’s the place where God reminds me of my desperate need for Him, and just how much I’ve been given in Jesus. The worship gathering continued, but I lingered, astonished by a singular concept.

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive, But if her husband dies, she is free from the law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:2-4 

  • I no longer belong to my husband.
  • One day I may belong to another.
  • I already belong to Jesus.

I’ve read this passage countless times since Jon died, but never have its contents seemed so radical.

Sorrow and joy wove an intricate dance, somehow moving harmoniously together. I still miss belonging to Jon, but joy swelled at thoughts of renewal, reversal, and redemption. Joy blossomed at the idea of belonging to another. A year ago, sorrow would have vastly outweighed joy, but now they feel more compatible.

joy and sorrowI’ve long since realized that counter to cultural expectations, joy and sorrow may be equally present. The ultimate oxymoron, one does not necessarily exclude the other. For Christ had deep sorrow over the weight of sin, but also deep abiding joy to do the Father’s will. Joy and sorrow mingled at the cross, and learned they could dwell together.  And if I didn’t know death, I wouldn’t understand their harmony.

Joy and sorrow: a profound illustration of the gospel, yet death and remarriage exemplify it further. While Jon was here, we were bound to each other by a covenant made before God and man. And of course, I cherished that covenant. As hard as it is to process, at his death, we were no longer bound together.

Clearly the analogy breaks down, for marriage to Jon was not sin, nor was I captive to him. But the application is clear.

“Before receiving the gospel, we are ‘married’ to sin because we have broken God’s law and are chained to its verdict and mastery.” (Commentary, Gospel Transformation Bible)

I once was bound to sin. But now I belong to Another. I belong to “Him who has been raised from the dead,” free from the law’s condemnation and sin’s inescapable vice.

I belong to Someone. 

In marriage Jon was mine and I was his. How I loved belonging to him and miss belonging to him! And how I long to belong to another again someday. However, infinitely more precious than belonging to a husband, I belong to Jesus. I am Christ’s and He is mine. I’m not guaranteed remarriage, but I already belong.

Joy and Sorrow. Death and thoughts of remarriage: an intermingling I wouldn’t have chosen, but I marvel at such a beautiful dance.

Lord, no longer belonging to a husband is a hard thing to grapple. Sorrow. But to belong to You is inestimably better! Joy. In Jesus, I belong. And I always will belong! Oh, God, use the intermingling of sorrow and joy to draw me ever closer to you; through them I see all that Jesus accomplished. I marvel that Jesus embraced sorrow, so I would have joy.


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belong

Sometimes I still have nightmares.

I was running. Fear coursed through my body, adrenaline pushed me forward. Terror. Maybe that’s a better word. I paused, making a split-second decision.

Seized from behind, arms from nowhere pinned my own to my sides. A hand clapped over my mouth. Kicking, fighting, biting, I tasted blood. My attacker cursed, reactively examining his hand. I heard myself scream.

Still fighting him, words registered.

“Lovee, Lovee it’s ok. I’m here. You’re ok”

Arms still held me. They were strong, but tender. And the voice familiar. Feet stopped kicking, arms stopped flailing. Desperately I turned toward him, burying my face in his chest. Shaking with great heaving shudders, heart pounding, and on the verge of hyperventilation, the fear was still just as real.

“Honey it’s ok. It was a nightmare. It wasn’t real. I’m here and you’re safe.” My husband stroked my hair, not letting me go. 

It took several minutes for calm to return. He prayed peace and comfort over me. He dried my tears and kissed my forehead. Finally I turned back over. And he kept me close, his arms still around me from behind.

Until I got married I never realized how prone to nightmares I am. Perhaps it’s because I don’t always remember them in the morning. Indeed when I’m awake, fear is not usually a prominent adjective. Sure, I don’t like scary things, but I don’t live dominated by fear. Yet my husband told me it wasn’t unusual for him to be awakened by my kicking and thrashing.

I do, however, remember the first nightmare after he died. Waking to the sound of my own voice screaming his name, touching his side of the bed and realizing he wasn’t there—just weeks from his death, it was too much to bear.

Sometimes I still have nightmares.

Just the other night I awoke with tears streaming down my face. I’d been crying in the dream. I was crying in real life. These days nightmares about Jon are infrequent, but they still rattle me. I don’t know why I still have them two and half years later.

I guess it’s because I still love him. I guess it’s because I still miss him.

Time has vastly lessened grief’s intensity. Truly, “grieving” isn’t often a way I’d describe myself anymore. Days are abundant and joy-filled. I’d use words like vibrant, content, growing, and excited. Even most nights are peaceful. So, these days a nightmare is a stark juxtaposition.

I recall a few things.

nightmares

Nightmares aren’t real. But the God who keeps me safe is. He is present in moments of fear whether danger is real or perceived. He is safety. He is peace. He is refuge. I can say with the Psalmist,

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD and He answered me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” Psalm 3:5-6

Ultimately, the psalmist’s declaration was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus, the true Shield. Deliverance comes from the “holy hill” of sacrifice, the same hill upon which Christ laid down his life.

To be safe is to know that nothing can harm my soul. Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. (Romans 8) He is the Shield that absorbed the fireball of the Father’s wrath. He is the Shield that blocks the enemy’s fiery darts.

He the Better Protector. Amen.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

Seems like a good time for a nap.

I don’t want to write about grief.

A post for widows, but perhaps truth for many…

comfort

I don’t want to write about grief.

I sat brainstorming for my upcoming post for A Widow’s Might. “How can I encourage other widows today? What do these hurting sisters need to hear?”

A revelation lodged itself firmly in my heart. Though I’m responsible for a post about grief, I don’t want to write about it.

How utterly marvelous and liberating!

“Why? What do you mean?”

Let me back up a moment. Two weeks after my husband died, I was compelled to chronicle the aftermath publicly, to let others see the crushing pain, to not shy away from places some fear to tread.

I’m not one to run away, so I attacked grief, aggressively processing facet after facet. I allowed myself to be in the deep places. And it was not wrong for me to be there.

I’ve unpacked layer upon layer of sorrow, filling 100s of journal pages and constructing nearly 60 blog posts. Writing is an outlet where confusion turns to clarity, where tears funnel into something productive.

More importantly, writing is the place where I preach truth to myself. I had to be raw and honest, but I also had to show the radical hope found in Jesus Christ. Writing about my grief cemented the truths God made clear in the valley:

It’s been an immensely necessary and beautiful part of the journey. I think it may yet have its place, but today my heart says, “It’s time to write about other things.”

Perhaps then, the most liberating and radical truth I can share is this: we don’t have to stay in the stranglehold. Through Jesus, grief cannot utterly destroy. Rather, He crushed death to death, and He turns mourning into dancing. He teaches us to write about other things.

Grief does not define me, nor is it my identity.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 

Christ lives in me, and He defines me. Redeemed. Chosen. Adopted. Beloved. Complete. Whole.

Now don’t miss this, I’m still madly in love with my husband and miss him daily. I’m sure tears will still come at needed moments. Yet by grace, I walk forward.

And today, I don’t want to write about grief.

Father, through Jesus there is immense hope, confident expectation. Jesus took my spiritual death, and one day even physical death will be no more. Eternity awaits, forever with You. And these things fill my heart with joy! You will turn mourning into dancing and sorrow into gladness. God You were with me in the valley of death. You wept beside me there for many weeks. But now, I’m thankful You have led me from it. 

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Psalm 30:11-12


This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net

22 Kleenexes

tissues22 kleenexes lay strewn on the floor, the culmination of two weeks of struggle, frustration, and battle. That’s not an exaggeration; I counted them. Financial pressures, unfulfilled longings, broken teeth (yep, this happened), a first date that probably won’t lead to a second, the suffering of people I love: lots of “small” things add up to make a big thing.

This morning, tears flowed freely, unable to be stemmed. The pile of tissues grew, the wrestle fierce. I also battled anger. I was angry at myself for feelings of jealousy, angry that I could not rejoice in others’ good gifts. Crying was a better alternative to throwing dishes; we all know I have that impulse.

I’ve been here before. So many times. You’ve been here with me, and I know my words sound familiar.

But my heart struggles to believe what my mind knows is true. 

This week I heard it said, “Sorrowful tragedy sets the stage for surprising triumph.” (Platt) My mind says yes. But my heart is unsure. People tell me I’m strong, brave, and resilient, yet I’m not the super saint who never doubts, never questions. Granted, most waves have smoothed out, but even two years later, there are days I’m tempted to shout at God.

“When is enough, enough? How long must I be held to the fire?”

“For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver…” (Malachi 3:2-3)

Sometimes I feel like He’s forgotten me there.

I want God to relent in His severity. Being refined is a mercy, but a difficult one, nonetheless. I know the process creates beauty, increases value, and removes the dross. But sometimes I don’t care.

Sometimes I want to tell him I’m mad at him. Refining hurts.

But the words never come. Praise God, they never come. Rather, He replaces them with tears of sorrow.

“O my dear Father, how could I ever be angry with you? Who am I to be angry with you?”

So I cry a lot. I preach to myself. I bow in surrender and plead with Holy Spirit to intercede for me. And God always meets with me and brings me back. I tell myself the truth, and the Holy Spirit lodges it deep within.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

This treasure. God has seen fit to wrap the treasure of treasures, the Gospel, in the weakness of human flesh. Why? It reveals that the surpassing power and effectiveness of the gospel belongs to God, and not to me.

Yet for some reason, I’ve been made a vessel to carry treasure. My weaknesses and inadequacies magnify God’s strength and perfection.

What a crazy paradox! But there is more.

  • Afflicted, but not crushed
  • Perplexed, but not driven to despair
  • Persecuted, but not forsaken
  • Struck down, but not destroyed

There have been moments in the journey in which I’ve fought despair, where I have felt crushed, and destroyed, standing on the edge of a precipice about to jump.

But here is reality. I have not been crushed. I have not been destroyed. I have not been driven to despair. And I never will be.

I’ve fought despair, but Jesus always wins for me.

He was destroyed. He was forsaken. He met despair square in the eye. He was utterly crushed. This was the cross of my Lord.

As the passage continues, likewise I can say,

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

More paradoxes.

  • Outer self wasting away, inner self renewed day by day
  • Momentary affliction, eternal weight of glory
  • Things seen, things unseen
  • Transient, eternal

Momentary. Permanent.

Affliction doesn’t always feel light and momentary, but with eternity in view, it’s a mere glimmer, a speck in God’s grand plan of redemption. God’s far surpassing power is beyond all human control or fathoming.

And He is preparing me for an eternal weight of glory. An eternal weight of glory. I don’t think I can fully comprehend that.

Therefore, by the power that raised Christ from the dead, the power that dwells in this immensely weak jar of clay, I can choose to believe.

I choose to surrender.

I choose to love the life God’s given me.

I choose to know He’s good.

I choose to believe there will be triumph in eternity AND in this life.

God triumphs amid human weakness.  Sometime I think I can’t bear anymore fire, but He has not forgotten I’m there. He watches the silver intently, holding to the flame just long enough for it to be perfected.

I tell my heart to believe what my mind knows is true.

And by grace, it does.


“Sorrowful tragedy sets the stage for surprising triumph.” Watch the video from The Gospel Coalition here- God’s Goodness in Your Pain. Believe me, it’s worth the nine minutes! counsel

An oak of righteousness? Two years after death.

???????????????????????????????Two years. Such small, seemingly insignificant words, yet they carry enormous weight.

Be warned, however, this may not be a tightly woven, finely crafted, highly polished train of thought. It’s one of those times I just need to let the words take themselves where they want to go.

Has it really been two years since Jon last kissed me, last made me laugh, last told me he loved me? The passage of time is both an instant and an eternity.

I didn’t believe the friend who told me the “seconds” can be more difficult than the firsts. But she was right. In year two reality set in. “This is my new life.”

I miss him daily, sometimes badly. Someone once asked me if there are days that go by that I don’t think about him. The answer to that is no. And it will always be no.

In the second year, careless words still hurt, pregnancy announcements still caused a twinge of sorrow followed by genuine rejoicing, and loneliness proved a powerful battle. Though grief’s crashing waves were less frequent, it’s reality that, at times, they were still acute in ferocity. This year it was harder to tell people when I was deeply struggling. I wondered if it was still ok.  I’m thankful for close friends who remind me it’s safe to share the struggle.

I admit there were some unmet expectations. I thought surely, by now, I’d be headed to remarriage, toward someone taking care of me, toward not living alone.

There were fears, such as knowing a day is coming when Jon will have been gone longer than we were married. Not sure I’m ready to tackle that one.

Indeed, It took its own shape, this second year. I can think of several themes that encapsulate it: waiting, binding up, defeating lies, learning deeper trust, relinquishing expectations. In a word, sanctification.

“But God, wasn’t death enough? I’m really ok with mediocre. Can’t we take a break from transformation?”

He said no.

Praise God, He’s far more committed to my sanctification than I am! And I’ve started to realize that’s an incredible thing. Let me illustrate.

A couple weeks after Jon died, my pastor and his daughter stood at my door. With puffy eyes, unwashed hair, and clothed in sackcloth and ashes, I heard him say, “We picked this journal intentionally. The tree symbolizes the far reaching influence of Jon’s death. A seed falls down to the ground and dies, but from death there’s abundant life. I think God will grow a tree ridiculously more beautiful than we know. Jon’s life and death. Your life. The gospel will explode, and there will be abundant fruit. Ami, God’s going to use this. And He’ll use you.” 

I had no words to thank him for such a touching gift, but I doubt I believed him then. I didn’t know if there was truly life beneath the ashes.

A tree can be reduced to cinders in minutes, a mere glimmer of time. Fire sweeps through, destroying something strong and lovely. From all appearances the tree is dead, or at least so severely debilitated it may never produce foliage again.

That was me, ashes in an instant.

Ashes in an instant, but it takes many years to grow a mature tree. It took me awhile to embrace that idea. The new sprout must be tenderly cared for, lest it be trampled under foot and die. Likewise, growing means weathering harsh winters, droughts, and fierce storms. Did you know it takes at least 20 years (and sometimes up to 50) for an oak tree to produce acorns? That’s a long time to wait for fruit.

But I want “instant tree.” I want to know what God is doing. I want to see the result.  Yet, just as it takes time to grow a tree, apparently it takes time to grow me.

However, there is beauty even in the growth. Each year brings new blossoms and fresh green leaves. The colors of fall are magnificent.

“That they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

Why oak? I mean, why didn’t God say willow tree? Well, oaks are symbols of strength and endurance.They grow to massive height, up to 100 feet tall, and spread 150 feet across. And as any one who’s ever desired quality furniture knows, oaks have some of the hardest wood on earth.

Also, I learned that a sprout growing from a stump of a burned (or cut down tree) grows significantly faster than its counterpart budding from an acorn.

This is what God is committed to, not just shaping and growing me, but a people. He’s committed to His church. He makes it fit to be with him. He spreads its influence through the nations. And He is passionate about His own glory.  He makes oaks of righteousness for His renown.

Therefore, I’m learning to embrace sanctification in all its forms, for God will complete the work He began.  He made me a citizen of the kingdom, a part of a people, totally set apart for Himself.

He’s making me evergreen, with leaves that do not wither, and in due season will produce much fruit (Psalm 1). It’s transformation empowered only by Jesus, and it’s possible only because he was cut down. One day I’ll be never ending new. And all of this because He’s deemed it so. And all this because He says it brings Him praise.

What an incomprehensible thing to think that the God who is already exalted, who already has all honor, would cause my faltering, weak, easily damaged sprout to magnify Him. What a incomprehensible thing to be so loved by God.

Finally, beneath the theme of sanctification ran a flowing current of grace. He empowers. As in year one, grace was tangible, God was abundant.

Grace was strength to sort through Jon’s clothes, give some away, and put some in a yard sale. It was watching a sweet old man walk away with Jon’s slippers. It was nine women invading my home, packing boxes and cleaning my bathrooms. Grace was stepping into a new house without Jon. Grace was pursuing and accomplishing new career goals.

It was bearing sorrow with others and walking alongside dear friends newly embarking on grief’s messy path; shared mourning creates a rich, unique bond that many may never experience.

Ministry blossomed and flourished, writing opportunities expanded. Grace looked like writing post, upon post, upon post, which stretched me and kept me utterly dependent. Grace was excitement, laughter, and a reunion with the Ami who existed before death.

Grace is God answering the constant cry of our marriage. “Father use us. Please let the gospel flow from us. Let us be a part of your kingdom work. Be glorified above all.”

How then, can I not rejoice in this second year?

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shalt exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with robes of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.”

Isaiah 61:10-11

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Tell me God’s not good

A family’s house burns to the ground, while another family sleeps, blissfully unaware. A woman faces years of infertility, while a second questions what “to do” with a child unwanted. Some face cancer. Some lead ostensibly charmed lives

A newborn fights for her life, bacterial meningitis ravaging her body. Her mother is a widow. To lose a husband and potentially a child, does this not seem beyond the threshold of human endurance? Isn’t it too much for one person to bear?

Poverty. Riots. War. Hurricanes. We stagger under sorrow’s heavy weight.

At first blush it seems so arbitrary; some suffer more than others, the roll of the dice perhaps. Or worse, is it the product of a fickle god sadistically dealing out pain for his own pleasure?

I imagine your recoil. Be honest, you’ve thought it. For a fleeting second, in a moment unguarded, a terrifying whisper creeps into your consciousness. “Maybe God is cruel.”

Immediately you push it away…

Is God cruel?  Find the rest of the of the article at jenthorn.com

 

Grace: An Illogical Response

I love you2By now I’m sure your Christmas preparations are well underway. Twinkling lights, trees, wrapping paper, cookies, hot chocolate, wreaths, ribbons, shopping, carols, traditions…

It’s a delightful hustle and bustle. I love it. I absolutely do. But sometimes I start to forget the main thing. Maybe you do too? Well, come sit for a minute, grab a cup of coffee, and slow down.

Let me spin you a tale of a turkey, cranberries, and some extravagant grace


I guess this is just a sneak peak! You’ll have to read the rest at Intentional By Grace. This is one of my most favorite memories and I’m so excited to share it with you. So, take a few minutes, let your heart be stirred, and stand in wonder at Jesus’ marvelous grace.

Fear. With the force of many waters.

fear not“What if something happens to him?”

My friend’s voice broke, her tears flowed. Fear. Anxiety. Unknowns.

We put our hands on her and prayed that test results would come back negative. We prayed for God’s protection. But we also affirmed that God is good even if He chooses not to heal.

We prayed for peace, rest, and calm hearts. We prayed that ultimately God would be glorified, that He would use this circumstance for the sake his kingdom.

My own tears formed. Empathy was deep in that moment, and I understood the struggle. Her words took me back to when I asked the same question.

I thought of the journal entries.

12-26-12
Father consume our hearts with you. Use us as instruments for the sake of the gospel.

12-27-12
Because I deserve every ounce of God’s wrath, any drop of blessing makes my cup full and overflowing. It overflows because Jesus has imparted all of his righteousness to me and has given me every spiritual blessing.

12-29-12
Lord, thank you for protecting Jon. At the emergency room, you kept our hearts in peace. There is still time to prepare for surgery. For now, it’s as simple as a change in medication. Truly my cup runs over.

Following the first trip to the ER we had a time of overwhelming tenderness and affection. I remember my husband pulling me into a bear hug as he said, “I just love you so much. I can’t even contain how much I love you. I just want to be near you and never let you go.”

Jon was always lavish in his affection, but these days were radically sweet.

It was a Saturday. I sat with my coffee and Bible in hand, having time with God while Jon slept in. Anxiety trickled at first. But then the dam broke, slamming me with the force of many waters.

1-12-13
Oh God, what if you’re giving us this sweet time because something is going to happen to him?

At that point, there was no reason for me to consider that he would die. The question was born solely out of fear.

Lord, your word says ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ You are perfect love. I don’t want to even imagine  facing death, but I know you would give grace. I will love him and cherish him as long as you allow me to, but Jon is yours. Oh Father, I need your help! Please cast this fear from me.

And He did.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior!…You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” Isaiah 43:1-4

1-19-13
Father, I’m still so overwhelmed. Waiting for answers… I feel helpless. God, we’re both emotionally drained. Why can’t they see what is wrong? Please help us to trust you—to trust that you are sovereignly in control of all things, even congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema. Please provide the right timeline for surgery.

Fear not. 

You are mine.

When you pass through the waters—Trials and suffering will come because the world is still broken. We still live on a fallen Earth. Brokenness and deep waters will be there until Jesus restores all things and makes them new. But for his chosen ones, there is great promise. ‘I will be with you.’ The God Who lovingly and masterfully formed me also chose me, purchased me. This God says he will be with me. The God whose love has no boundaries says that he will walk with me. He will protect. This God says my soul is secure. On the cross, Jesus already absorbed all of God’s wrath toward me.

It seems that a season of suffering is coming. We may be tested as silver is tried, but Lord, I believe you will bring us again to the place of abundance (Psalm 66:12). If we need the fire to more accurately reflect you, then it is good. Your name be glorified.

Jon died a week later. Though my mind had flitted to death, it still came unexpectedly. No one thought he would die.

Tonight I asked God to protect my friend from this path. Our God is big, and he is able to do abundantly above what I can ask or think. He is able to heal.

However, with confidence I could say, “No matter what, God is still good. He is big enough when fear hits with the force of many waters.”

This God was with me. This God carried. Even now, my cup runs over.

And if her biggest fear becomes reality, this God will carry my friend also.

God is Sovereign. I am not.

Sovereign2“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

As the jet ascended, Chicago’s city lights overtook the night, light saturating the terrain. It engulfed the darkness, and I marveled at its radiance. Cars became pin pricks in the distance. A clearly designed grid, created by humans minds, glowed against the black sky. From above there was order in neat squares.

To the right I could still see the rise of giant skyscrapers. Straight ahead the light ended abruptly; Lake Michigan was ink against the line of fire. It was an ethereal beauty, a peaceful calm, far removed from the congested streets, the homelessness, the hundreds of thousands of stories, the real-life struggles. Too soon though, the city’s brilliance receded into the distance. And there was darkness. How feeble was the light of much smaller towns. Light no longer engulfed the night.

But at 30,000 feet, I understood that darkness existed only in pockets. The inky patches didn’t frighten me because I could tell they didn’t last forever. Other cities, other towns slid into view. The light of one city emanated like spokes of a wheel, illumination concentrated at a central hub. Over other cities, light sprawled without any discernible pattern but still in magnificent contrast to the night.

From my vantage point, light interrupted darkness, darkness interrupted light, a constant ebb and flow. It reminded me of life- joy mingled with sorrow, sorrow mingled with joy.

“I could stay here, removed from the grit and messiness. I could stay in the place where I can see the grand design.”

Then my thoughts funneled to a single truth. God is sovereign. I am not. He is above all things. He understands all things. He is in control over all things. He sees the beginning and the end, the dark patches and the light.

Unlike a pilot, He doesn’t merely know the final destination, He sees the entire journey at once. I cannot claim to fully understand, but I know He guides all things. Through grief, I’ve learned to mine the depth of God’s sovereignty, and I’ve found it immensely comforting. God was sovereign over Jon’s death.

God knew the number of his days. (Psalm 139) My husband was supposed to die.

A high view of God’s sovereignty keeps me grounded in the reality that nothing could have thwarted His will. There were no imaginary days. The “what ifs” don’t exist. Likewise, though I long for an aerial view, God’s mercy limits my sight to the ground-level path in front of me.

Perhaps if I knew the future I would run away, afraid to face what is to come.

Of course, I would never trade loving and being so deeply loved by my husband! But had I glimpsed the future, would I have even started down the path with him. Would I have looked across time and accepted becoming a widow at 30?

Probably not. I might I have said, “Well Jonathan Atkins, you’re a wonderful guy, but there’s too much pain in that path. I’m not heading toward a world shattered and turned upside down.”

I might not have cared about the magnificent, radiant light that is following my the sea of ink. I may have said, “That darkness is too big, the night encompasses too much.”

Praise God I cannot see the aerial view! At ground level, He teaches me to trust Him. The One who sees the final city, will lead me safely to it.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” II Corinthians 4:17

Because I know God is sovereign, I know He has purpose. Nothing is arbitrary. No circumstances are futile. His plan is good, even when it includes immense, dark patches of suffering and trial. I know that’s a hard thing to hear. I’m right there with you! But let our frightened hearts rest in radical truth. For the Christian, darkness is swallowed by light. Through deepest black, Jesus is incomprehensible light.

He is peace that passes understanding. He is joy even in sorrow.

Though He is transcendent, He is also imminent. He is here. He is close. My Lord is not content to dwell far removed from the grit. Rather, He is also personal, deeply intimate, and close at hand when darkness seems to overwhelm. In His goodness He gives seas of ink. And In His goodness He gives cities of magnificent light.

Lord you are sovereign. You are in control over all things, and no one can thwart your plan. You are transcendent, but you are also personal. Thank you that my Savior is intimately acquainted with grief, and walks through darkness with me. You are radiant light. You are joy. I rest here today.


This post by Ami, appeared first at anewseason.net.