Hate will not win.

It’s bigger than racism. It’s bigger than hate.

No doubt racism is still a raging and important issue in our nation. As a middle-class white woman, no doubt I don’t fully understand it.

America’s most recent, devastating tragedy, a shooting spree in a church, underscores reality again. And my soul grieves with the families and friends whose loved ones died.

I’m thankful for the response of the Charleston community. I’m thankful riots haven’t broken out, but rather prayer. I say with these brothers and sisters-

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28)  The gospel creates unity.

But the problem is bigger than racism alone. We live in a broken society, a world fractured by the sin that courses through every person. I need only lift my head to see shattered fragments all around: shootings, bombings, abuse, rape, racism, terrorism, war, corruption, scandals, adultery, identity crises, abortion…

In my lifetime alone, the list is exhaustive.  Gulf War. Oklahoma City Bombing. Columbine. 9/11. Sandy Hook Elementary School. And I will not neglect to look at my own brokenness. I see my own sin.

So we cry for peace and we cry for change!

As I watched the suspect’s bond video this morning, a message from the victims’ families resonated across the court room.

“I forgive you.” 

“May God have mercy on your soul.”

“We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the One who matters the most, Christ. So that He can change you. He can change your ways no matter what happened to you.”

“I admit I’m a work in progress. And I acknowledge that I am very angry… But we have no room for hate, so we have to forgive.”

Over and over families offered forgiveness. More powerfully, they pointed the man who destroyed their families to One who will restore everything. Issuing a clear call to repentance, they pleaded for this man’s soul.

Not explicitly stated, but certainly implied was an undercurrent that forgiveness was possible because they had been forgiven.

So here’s what I want to say.

In a world gone mad, Jesus is the only hope. He alone will make things right. He forgives because He paid the penalty for sin.  

Since God is holy, forgiveness couldn’t merely be a wave of the hand, a dismissal of penalty. Rather forgiveness cost something. Atonement was absolutely necessary.

Issuing forgiveness cost the Father His Son, and it cost the Son His life. The legal demands of sin no longer bind me because Jesus took them! The Great Substitute. On the cross He became sin so that we could be righteous.

These grieving families can forgive because they have been forgiven.  They have been forgiven because Jesus satisfied God’s righteous wrath.

How beautiful the response of these dear ones! Turn to Christ. Run to King Jesus, who will one day make all things right. Amid a pain that hurts “every fiber” of their bodies, they offered Jesus. Such grace.

Hate will not win.

Sin will not win.

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So this is grief

jon goofy

I want to talk about my grief for a few minutes. I suppose I’ve learned some things about it over the last several months. By the way, I know the picture above doesn’t really go, but it makes me smile before dealing with such a heavy topic. I don’t know what grief will look like a year or five years down the road, but this is what it looks like now. This is part one. There’s too much for one post.

I recently finished reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis and I was comforted by how closely his thoughts mirror my own. He writes of the sense of utter confusion and shock that overtake you in the beginning. He writes of the fear that memories of his beloved would fade. That’s a big one for me! I can also understand the wrestle for joy, the temptation to feel guilt, the hard questions, and the desperate cries for help. It was good to see someone who was undoubtedly one of the great Christian authors struggle the same way I am. I get it when he says, “The act of living is different all through. [His] absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

Grief doesn’t look the way I thought it did. Though I had experienced some grief before Jon’s death, they were much different circumstances. I had not experienced losing my other half. So here are my thoughts. Deep grief is messy. It’s not linear, and emotions and questions you think you’ve resolved, rear their ugly heads without any warning or explanation. It’s a weight that threatens to crush. It’s the feeling of an unending battle. Or a wilderness that stretches unbroken.

There’s a lot of loneliness that comes with the death of a spouse. A lot of loneliness. I’ve gone from having evenings of quality time with the one I love to evenings, and now days by myself. And even when I’m with people, I’m still lonely sometimes. It’s really easy and tempting to take the loneliness and run to other things besides God–exercise, shopping, ice cream, people, Duck Dynasty (ha!)… But I’m learning to run TO Christ in the loneliness, to meet Him as my true companion, and to know the comfort of His presence. I’ve filled many pages in my journal, but I admit I haven’t fully figured out this loneliness thing.

Likewise, the “Why me?” syndrome is a seductive trap. How quickly my thoughts spiral to destructive places when I start comparing my lot with others. The constant emotional roller coaster is teaching me how desperately I need God. And how I must cling to truth of the Gospel to combat my emotions. “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6). And this verse is true because of Christ. He holds my lot because He died for me. He is the pleasant place. He is my inheritance.

There’s also the temptation to put guilt for Jon’s death on myself. And that’s something that’s just a lie. God knew the number of Jon’s days before He ever created him. God is sovereignly working all things for His glory, and my good. God’s plan of redemption is so much bigger than Jon and me.

Speaking of lies, many of those pop up too.– “Ami, you know that look that passed between you and Jon, well it wasn’t real. You just imagined it.” And another popular one, “God is punishing me for loving Jon too much.” Again I look to my arsenal of truth.

  • “You are precious in my eyes, and honored and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4)
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
  • “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)

Another thing that’s been a big deal for me, are the conflicting thoughts of remarriage. Now I’m really letting myself be vulnerable before you. So please handle my words with care. I only bring up this facet of grief because I’m trying to paint a picture of how it looks for me. I was shocked at how quickly the idea of remarriage surfaced, which of course led to more guilt. “Do I not love Jon as deeply as I thought? How can I even have these thoughts! It’s only been months!” I didn’t anticipate dealing with this topic for a long time. But it’s actually one of the biggest conflicts of grief for me; I desire to love and be loved again. Yet I long for Jon. And I worry about the criticism of others. Yep I struggle with that. It’s called fear of man. The topic of remarriage spirals me to questions I can’t answer like, “How will I love someone else like I love Jon? How could I handle another man kissing me? What happens to all my pictures? And my wedding rings?” And so on and so on.

But thankfully, some wise people reel me back in, and remind me that God is big, and that guilt is not grace. I don’t have to answer these questions now. They remind me that if God does ever bring someone into my life, He will meet me with abundant grace, just like He does now. And he would meet that guy with grace to handle a girl who is a widow. And they remind me that enough love for two people is not a hard task for the One is in control of everything. So, I think you get the picture. Grief is a place of conflicting emotions and thoughts you don’t anticipate.

And then there’s just the plain old “missing him.” I miss everything about him. His quirks. His goofiness. His hideous green sport coat (that came out only for costumes these days) His passion for the Gospel. I miss his touch. His smile. This is a place I could park at for awhile, but I’ll keep going.

Yet among the loneliness, fear, lies, and conflict, God tells me that He is the one that truly satisfies. This is true. ”How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (Psalm 84:1-2) I want to stay in this place as long as He wants me to. And whatever state I find myself I want to serve with undivided devotion.

So this is some of what grief looks like for me. I’ll stop here for now. Just two more things. I was reflecting on the imagery of the wilderness yesterday, and not coincidentally, God brought Isaiah 43 to mind. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people the people whom I’ve formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” (43:19-21). So I thought, “God are you making a way for me? Is there a river in my desert?” Then the most beautiful thought flooded my mind. God already has made a way in the wilderness. He has already done a new thing. He made a way at the cost of His own Son. And in my desert, Jesus is the Living Water.

Finally, Christ knows grief. Perhaps some of the agony of Gethsemane was that of grief? “Surely He has born my grief and carried my sorrows.” (Isaiah 53) Yeah, He really did. He really does. Talk about Hope!

Hey, so maybe your husband hasn’t died, but I bet you have suffered in some way. I bet you can relate to the wilderness feeling. And I bet you can relate to lies and temptations. It would be ridiculous of me to think that the death of a spouse is the deepest form of human suffering.  Everyone suffers. But if you’re in Christ, He gives you drink in the wilderness too. And we will declare His praise! This is awesome.

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