• DANCE IN THE RAINLife is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.- Vivian Greene

bag suffering trust+

 

 

“How do you prepare for suffering?”

When I was first asked that question years ago, I was startled. I had no idea how to answer. How does anyone prepare for the unthinkable?

Personally, I have felt unprepared every time suffering has shown up on my doorstep. Even when I think it’s coming. Even when I know what to expect. Even when I’m sure it’s inevitable. Somehow it feels theoretical until it actually arrives. Or maybe I just keep hoping it will not be delivered. But when it’s finally here, it can take my breath away with its intensity.

Even as I write, I’m dealing with escalating struggles with post polio syndrome, struggles I was warned about over a decade ago. And yet I’m still surprised at how hard it is to deal with the losses.

As I struggle, I stay in the Word daily. I declare that God is trustworthy. I remember that He is in control. I remind myself of truths that sustain me every day. Truths that come straight from the Bible. Like those I have learned from Job, who has been my faithful mentor in suffering.

In one fateful day, Job lost everything. His children, his servants, his home and his livestock. And then he was afflicted with sores all over his body. No one could never have foreseen that type of loss. There was no way to prepare. Yet before disaster came near his tent, Job did things that helped him withstand his trials. And I have found those same things have helped me face my own suffering.

Most importantly, Job knew God. Before calamity came, Job feared God and talked to Him. Continually. He prayed constantly for his children. He lived his life looking to God in all circumstances.

Like Job, my relationship with God was forged years before my heartbreaking losses. I grew to know God deeply through reading the Bible and praying. Even when the Bible felt dry and boring. Even when God felt distant. And even when devotions felt like pure duty.

Over time, simply reading the Bible and asking God for wisdom taught me to hear His voice, understand His heart and know His ways. And bringing my requests to Him, telling Him my fears, and listening for His still small voice brought genuine depth to my relationship. View full post »

  • April 21, 2016 - 6:03 pm

    Lisa - Today I read and shared your writings with two women who lives the LORD but are in the fiery furnace these days. The days are sad. I sent them you word from GOD to remind them that God is still God and He is still Sovereign. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2016 - 7:27 pm

      Vaneetha - God is still God and He is still sovereign! What a wonderful truth for us all to remember in the fiery furnace.ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2016 - 7:57 am

    Elaine - Just love this post. I stopped reading for a moment and thought of Job looking up and saying Holy Moly, how did this happen? What did I do? The how and why questions. But God loves us when the sun is shining and when rain is falling in buckets, something that took a long time for me to grasp. You are such an encourager and I pray, Vaneetha that you will always be encouraged.ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2016 - 1:58 pm

      Vaneetha - It is hard to grasp that God loves us even when our world is falling apart – but that is when we get more of His comfort, which is an amazing gift.ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2016 - 9:15 am

    Scott - “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    Vaneetha, thank you for comforting me this morning with the comfort which you have received from God. I too have had escalating pain and can relate to a feeling of complete unpreparedness and dependence on God to get through it, although at times it feels as though He has turned His face away from me. Grateful that through Christ, He has not, nor will ever. Grateful for your words of comfort. Thank you again.ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2016 - 2:00 pm

      Vaneetha - I too am grateful that He will never forsake us or turn His face away. I’m sorry for your pain and praying that God will meet you in an unmistakable way today!ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2016 - 12:25 pm

    Trudy - Thank you for these comforting words, Vaneetha. We can find such encouraging truths in Job, can’t we? I love that Job could trust God and yet argue his case at the same time. Just this morning I read Job 23. Job looked north, south, east, and west, but He couldn’t find God. Then in verse 10, he says, “But He knows the way that I take [and He pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I will come forth as [refined] gold [pure and luminous].”(AMP) He is right beside us, and the refining fire in all our troubles will make us more and more like Jesus. I’m so sorry you suffer so much pain, Vaneetha, and I pray God will give you grace and strength moment by moment. Hugs!ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2016 - 2:00 pm

      Vaneetha - Love those words from Job, Trudy. Thank you for sharing them!ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2016 - 2:34 pm

    Liz Sewell - Vaneetha, thank you again, so much. You articulate such rich truths so well. Life is hard…BUT God is GOOD, and means all for our good and His Glory if we are His…oh to ever meditate on this and for our faith stand strong in the day of suffering.ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2016 - 2:59 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Liz. I write to remind myself of these truths as well because in the heat of the furnace, its easy to forget!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2016 - 12:07 pm

    Bancy - Thank you so much for sharing this. What a thought, that these difficult circumstances are actually blessings that we’ll thank God for one day. Nothing develops faith, character like testing. And we can’t really understand the depths of His love until we find it in the darkness of the storm when all else has been swept away.ReplyCancel

    • April 24, 2016 - 9:36 pm

      Vaneetha - I so agree with that! Nothing develops our faith and character like trials…ReplyCancel

  • April 27, 2016 - 7:57 pm

    Ruth - Thank you for the encouragement. We have traveled a similar path. I grew up in a Christian family. I had polio at age 3. God’s most precious gift was my mother’s faithful teaching about God’s love & soverignty. I became an RN, married, and had 6 children…all that I truly longed for was granted. When our fifth child was born with a rare syndrome & died at the age of 6 months I was to re-learn, or underline the things mother taught me. No matter how you FEEL…remember what you KNOW. God’s tender mercies became more real than they ever had been during sunny carefree days. His Word…especially from the book of Job…and the Psalms were my anchor. Experiencing deep sorrow was not ever what I would have signed up for, but experiencing God’s faithful love, mercy and sustaining strength would never be something I would regret.
    About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with Post Polio Syndrome. This was something I had heard about, but was sure I would never allow to happen. I had learned to fly over the top of my physical disabilities. After all God had given me an amazing recovery, and blessed me with strength to accomplish my goals in my career and my family for His glory, right? What a humbling, bumpy path this diagnosis has been. And yet another circumstance to experience and underline, “My grace is sufficient for you Ruth, & my plan for you is best.”
    We keep on learning about His grace, sovereignty and sufficiency…everyday.
    Thank you again for sharing and being real.
    I pray that God will send just the right people…just the right encouragement, and His measure of strength to you in His perfect time.
    Blessings,
    RuthReplyCancel

    • April 27, 2016 - 9:39 pm

      Vaneetha - Love this: “Experiencing deep sorrow was not ever what I would have signed up for, but experiencing God’s faithful love, mercy and sustaining strength would never be something I would regret.” Thanks for writing, Ruth!ReplyCancel

  • September 20, 2016 - 5:29 am

    Andy - My experience has been that suffering has prepared me for suffering. My nephew drowned when he was 12 and I watched her grief, and would often say to others that I didn’t know what I would do if something happened to any of my children. Then my younger son suffered major brain injury in 2012, when he was hit on the head by a train in London. As he lay in a coma, not expected to survive, I was challenged by the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to trust God no matter the outcome. While he was unconscious I received word that my mother had died, suddenly and unexpectedly. But praise the Lord, He healed my son. However, 3 months after his accident my daughter collapsed with a cardiac arrest, and an ICD was implanted. Tragically this became infected with a rare bacteria, and she suffered immensely as doctors fought the infection, through a total of 49 operations over 10 months. She suffered another cardiac arrest when she was alone in February 2014, and passed into the presence of her Lord. My son’s accident enabled me to grasp the truths of God’s sovereignty, love and wisdom in our suffering, and to be better prepared for the death of my daughter. I do not understand why God chose to heal my son, and chose to take my daughter home – but I do know there is an answer.
    Thank you for your writings.ReplyCancel

    • September 21, 2016 - 2:01 pm

      Vaneetha - Andy, I honestly have no words for all you’ve been through. It sounds unspeakably hard. God’s ways are certainly mysterious and I often have more question than answers. But I love the way you ended this- “I do not understand why God chose to heal my son, and chose to take my daughter home – but I do know there is an answer.” Thank you for your faithfulness in the midst of crushing loss.ReplyCancel

  • October 26, 2016 - 8:22 pm

    Marie - I’m glad I found your blog. I have been dealing with anxiety and bouts of hopelessness for a few months now. The past few days have been really rough. I continue to cling onto God even if it feels so hard. I know He is near, but it is hard to feel His presence. Early on this journey, I tried medication and found out immediately that it was not the path for me. God has closed the door to that 3x. Right now is really tough and it saddens me to see how all of this is affecting my family and my work. Thanks for writing and for inspiring others as they go through their fiery furnaces.ReplyCancel

    • October 26, 2016 - 8:46 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m sorry things are so difficult right now, Marie. Praying as I write this that you will sense God’s presence as you walk through the fiery furnace with Jesus.ReplyCancel

  • October 26, 2016 - 8:56 pm

    Marie - Thank you, Vaneetha. I know Satan is trying to pull me down, but I also know that God never leaves or forsakes His children.ReplyCancel

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lament beauty+

 

When pain almost strangles us and darkness is our closest friend, what should we do?

For years, I thought the best response was cheerful acceptance. Since God uses everything for our good and His glory, I felt the most God-honoring attitude was to appear joyful all the time. Even when I was confused and angry. Even when my heart was breaking. And especially when I was around people who didn’t know Christ.

But I have since learned the beauty of lamenting in my suffering. Lament highlights the Gospel more than stoicism ever could. Hearing our authentic lament can draw others to God in unexpected ways. I first noticed the power of lament in the book of Ruth.

I had long seen Ruth as the undisputed hero of the book that bears her name, and Naomi as the grumbling character with weak faith and a negative attitude. But having walked in similar shoes for a fraction of her journey, I have a new respect for the depth of Naomi’s trust in God.

Ruth was an eyewitness to Naomi’s faith. She saw that faith hold fast, even in horrific circumstances. And behind Naomi’s faith, she saw the God who heard Naomi’s lament and didn’t condemn her for it, even as Naomi spoke frankly about her disappointment with God.

Lamenting to a god would have been foreign to Ruth. Ruth’s first god, the god of Moab, was Chemosh. No one would have dared lament or complain to him. Pagan gods were appeased; there was no personal relationship with any of them, especially not with Chemosh who demanded child sacrifices.

But Ruth sees a completely different God as she watches Naomi. Naomi trusts God enough to tell Him how she feels. Though she says that His hand has gone out against her, Naomi doesn’t walk away from God in anger. She stays close to Him and continues to use God’s covenant name, Yahweh, asking Him to bless her daughters-in-law. Naomi doesn’t stop praying; she believes God hears her prayers.

Naomi’s trust is further evidenced by her determination to travel to Bethlehem alone. If Naomi felt that God had truly abandoned her, she would never have begun that journey. She would have stayed in bed, pulled the covers over her head, and died in Moab, bitter and angry at God. But she doesn’t do that. She acts in faith, trusting that God will provide for her.

Naomi’s trust is extraordinary given the tragedies she has endured. She and her husband had left Israel for Moab with their two sons in search of food. While they were there, her sons and husband died and she was left alone. A widow. A grieving mother. A foreigner. With no means to support herself. I understand why she felt that the Lord’s hand had gone out against her.  In my own pain I have cried out to God, “Why do you hate me?” I have retraced my life, wondering why God had turned against me.

But to my regret, I’ve always been very private about my pain. I have hesitated to voice my anger and fears, concerned about what others might think. Lament can be messy and I want my life to look neat. And I foolishly think my bleached prayers somehow make God look better.

View full post »

  • April 8, 2016 - 6:20 am

    Evelyn - Absolutely beautifully put. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • April 8, 2016 - 7:33 am

    Elaine - Thank you for revealing a different insight to Naomi’s lamenting. God does want us to be honest, even if we are wrong, he will bring us to the truth. The photo is incredible. It immediately brought the thought of rising from the ashes to beauty. Words and photo are so encouraging.ReplyCancel

    • April 8, 2016 - 12:54 pm

      Vaneetha - So grateful the Lord used the post and picture. My cousin gave me that photo and I thought it was perfect- glad you did too! And its been a blessing for me to see Naomi in a new light too!ReplyCancel

  • April 8, 2016 - 9:53 am

    Shawn - “Our authenticity draws others to God as it allows them to be honest too.”

    This is a beautiful post. I feel a little convicted in that I boast about the importance of being transparent with others about the goings-on of our lives, but the reality is that I have only given glimpses of my suffering to those around me. I put on a “stoic” smile and push thru pain so others do not see my pain. But that is not letting them see Gods grace and love thru me. It’s hiding Him. My goal now is to be “authentic”.ReplyCancel

    • April 8, 2016 - 12:56 pm

      Vaneetha - I do the same thing, Shawn. As I was writing this post I was convicted of my own tendency to hide my pain from others. It was seeing Naomi’s authenticity that convicted me!ReplyCancel

  • April 8, 2016 - 11:51 am

    Allyson - When I see there is a new post on your blog in my email, my heart leaps for joy! Your words provide such comfort, strength, and support beams for my faith in the midst of much grief. Thank you for your willingness to share with so many who are hurting!ReplyCancel

    • April 8, 2016 - 12:56 pm

      Vaneetha - So very grateful the Lord is using this. Thank you for writing, Allyson.ReplyCancel

  • April 8, 2016 - 1:39 pm

    Trudy - This is so hope-filled, Vaneetha. It’s hard not to put on a “happy face” to others. I’m learning to be more authentic in my writing, but I feel I need to learn it more face-to-face, too. Thank you for this insight. I love the truth that our authenticity “draws others to God as it allows them to be honest too.” Also how He welcomes our lament. He wants us to be dependent on Him and lean into Him. Blessings and hugs!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2016 - 11:07 am

    Effie Darlene Barba - Thank you as always for your post. For years I have written little bits of my life interjected into the series after series of writing through scripture one book in the Bible at a time. Being in February, I began writing a series “in Search of Love” as I quite openly am telling the story of my Life including all my frailties, my struggles, my lamenting moments, my sorrows and even my unjust anger against the only source of joy in my life. That was an anger I covered up, hid because of the very fear of proclaiming it–then one day, I screamed into heaven “What do you want? I have tried with all my heart and soul to follow you and you keep breaking my heart over and over again!! Then when my sobbing ended, a gentle quiet voice replied, “oh, my dear dear beloved child, don’t you see? It is you who has broken my heart. You keep looking for joy; but, I am here beside you and I AM Your joy. You want to be loved; yet, you fail to realize the depth, breadth and height of my love for you” All the anger, bitterness faded away and I suddenly realized that all my pain had purpose, all my sorrow had purpose. 1. First it was to display to my heart His magnificent Glory, Joy, and Love that I might know Him 2. It was so He could share with me His Glory–by using my life as a testimony to those who need to find Him. He did not need me to draw others to Himself; but, He graciously has allowed a broken, scarred vessel become testimony to His Grace. So, telling the truth of my story has been a scary thing; but, if it can point to His Grace–well I write on. Thank you for always being open, transparent, and vulnerable in your writing as well. I know how scary that can be; but, I also know how wondrously God is using you.ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2016 - 6:16 pm

    Krysta Carhart - Thank you, Vaneetha, for continually pointing toward the God who does not require us to be inright-outright-upright-downright-happy-all-the-time (oh, how I loathe that song!). Close to ten years ago, my husband left me and our four small children. I have always had a heart for single moms – never dreaming that I would actually *be* a single mom – and currently work for an organization that ministers mainly to single moms. The women I talk with give me a place to speak into their lives that I would not have had, if our family had survived intact. God redeems all things.
    I agree with the importance of being transparent in the midst of our pain. I think, though, there’s a cost to choosing that – particularly in the Church, where I often encounter people with a need to reframe my pain in a neat and tidy way, in order to make themselves feel better. For me, this has run the gamut from the relatively mild “It’s good that you’re still single, so you can focus on your kids,” to my pastor’s wife saying with pleading eyes, three weeks after my husband moved in with his girlfriend, “You’re okay, right?” (You’re kidding me, right?!) Many well-meaning, caring people just cannot handle the evidence of a God who allows appalling things to happen to the children He loves. And their comments have added pain to an already painful season. Not that this excuses me from being transparent. But I do limit how I share with certain people who, when I share a struggle, seem to need to “put a bow on it.” I’m not sure this is right or good, but it’s what I tend to do.ReplyCancel

    • April 12, 2016 - 7:45 pm

      Vaneetha - I think your perspective is wise, Krysta. We need to be transparent and not try to hide our struggles, but we also need to careful about who we share our pain with- some well-meaning people add to our burdens and don’t lift them. I’m sorry for all the pain you’ve been through but thankful for what the Lord has been doing in you and through you.ReplyCancel

  • April 13, 2016 - 9:56 am

    Imogene Hatcher - Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have been there. Whitewashing my pain,
    and fearful of letting others know what was going on inside and only letting them see the fake smile and the pretense that everything was peace and joy. Thanks for the honesty of the above comments. I
    thought I was honoring my Savior and Lord
    through my pretense of joy. Thank you,
    thank you! Imogene HatcherReplyCancel

    • April 13, 2016 - 10:15 am

      Vaneetha - Letting go of pretense is hard and daunting at first– but then it is so very freeing!ReplyCancel

  • April 14, 2016 - 5:11 am

    Ellen - Very authentic writing. God bless you, Vaneetha!ReplyCancel

  • April 14, 2016 - 4:29 pm

    Paula Rinehart - I love the way you bring out the permission part of lament…that
    in the Gospel it’s not only possible to “feel” but to bring those
    feelings to God. many thanks….ReplyCancel

    • April 14, 2016 - 4:39 pm

      Vaneetha - Lament is an amazing gift from God, isn’t it? I love the way the Psalmists modeled it for us so we all have permission to bring our emotions to God!ReplyCancel

  • April 15, 2016 - 1:27 pm

    Jazmine - Thank you so much for this post! I read an article of yours on TCW then clicked on the link to your blog and wow! These words have been a blessing for me! Thank you for your honesty and taking the time to write and share!ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2016 - 9:39 am

    Joyce Snuggs - Thank God for you , Vaneetha. You have been blessed with the ability to see our God, Lord and Savior change a vessel from brokenness and chadderedness to complete wholeness. It is so very difficult to experience such tragedies in our lives, but it is essential for us to go through these times in order to be what He want us to be. For the last ten months, I have been on a rollercoaster ride and it’s the first time in my life where I have not been the one that was in the driver’s seat. I have finally learned how to totally surrender to Him and let Him take me by my hand and lead me. I tell you it was HARD at first. But at this time right now in my life, I am happy, have more peace and contentment to allow the Lord to direct every step of my life. By the way- this all happen after I told Him yes to become a vessel to take His word wherever He allows me to go. I am happier now than I have ever been at 64. For twenty plus years I have been running from preaching the word, now I’m running towards it. Thanks for encouraging my heart today. God bless you.ReplyCancel

    • April 18, 2016 - 11:37 am

      Vaneetha - I so agree, that God uses the hard things in our lives to draw us closer to Himself. It can be a hard road, but the blessings are incredible!ReplyCancel

  • April 17, 2016 - 7:11 am

    What Else Does the Bible Say? | Boxx Banter - […] Source: Lament: Beauty out of Bitterness – Vaneetha Rendall […]ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2016 - 6:55 pm

    Toni Keeling - I thank God for your recounting of Ruth and Naomi’s story – trusting God and His Word and trusting God to hear us and love us when we are authentic and lament the losses of life. Your posts, especially this one helped me to really trust God that I could pour out the heartbreak day after day.
    I do feel now that this has opened up a new day for my walk with God. At 71, I do feel a new day dawning, of contributing and loving Him.

    Thank you for being faithful to your call Vaneetha and may God continue to pour out His Blessings through your writings to you and readers.ReplyCancel

    • April 24, 2016 - 9:26 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad that you are trusting God to hear your lament! It opens us up to God in new ways…so excited you feel a new day dawning in your walk with Him.ReplyCancel

  • April 26, 2016 - 4:24 pm

    Louise - As you, Vaneetha, I have always been very private about my pain.
    I still am.
    Because it is usually not safe to be open about it. Unfortunately, that has been my consistent personal experience due to being too different, an “other”.
    There were only a few close friends I could share my deepest sorrows with, people who would not punish me for not feeling and thinking the “right” things.
    Another reason for keeping my sorrow, or my lament as you so poignantly describe it, to myself is that some people would get really worried about me, people who have much to endure themselves. I am really reluctant to add to their burdens by sharing about mine. It doesn`t seem right, because it looks like I am dumping my woes on top of theirs.

    In a weird way I cannot explain, pain, suffering and sorrow has always drawn me closer to Creator Jesus.
    There are a few times when I am blessed to share laments with someone else and we can encourage and validate each other [rather than acting punitively towards each other].
    It also seems like I am going through very specific sorrows to be able to understand and reach out to others in similar situations. That has been a distinct pattern in my life.

    Nothing will happen to us that He does not know about and is in control of. I don`t like certain words, such as control, because they have been much abused and wielded like lethal weapons by some people against other people.

    Creator Jesus is the only one I do not fear or mistrust being in control of His creation and everything the created beings experience. I am not afraid of what he might do in my life, even if I don`t understand it on this mortal side of life.

    As someone wise has said :
    Never doubt in the dark what He has shown you in the light.ReplyCancel

  • June 16, 2016 - 12:12 pm

    philip - Am just from reading your post vaneetha you are blessed,the words you share are so building and encouraging may God bless u moreReplyCancel

  • September 25, 2016 - 1:27 am

    ~Brenda - Found your blog from Desiring God. This entry particularly spoke to me, as I have been in a lamenting season. Will be returning for more wise words from you! Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • September 27, 2016 - 10:55 am

      Vaneetha - You’re welcome, Brenda. Glad the Lord used this.ReplyCancel

  • September 25, 2016 - 3:12 pm

    Cheryl - Krysta, I couldn’t have said the last part of your comment any better. I was thinking the same thing and was going to comment, but you did it for me. I do have a little to add about our experience.
    In the church, there are indeed people who are very uncomfortable with transparency and lamenting. It is indeed wise to be careful who you share your heart with. Our situation does not have to do with divorce, but instead with chronic physical pain/disability, unemployment and deep-seated depression that resulted from the first two. Many have advice as to how they would “fix” our problem and think they are helping by recommending the obvious while not standing in our shoes. But we understand the heart of what they are saying; we know they are trying to help. We mostly keep to ourselves these days not because we don’t want to be transparent and allow our laments to show, but more because they do not seem welcome by most. A smile is most preferred and some have told us so. We have gathered that there is a shameful stigma attached to our situation. It comes across to us that some are kind of tired of our problem and wish that we would “get over it already”. And we understand that too. We have judged others that same way, to our regret. And we have prayed that God would keep us from doing that in the future.
    In our experience, lamenting draws some and repels others. Some people seem to be very uncomfortable with our suffering either because they don’t know what to say, or they seem to want to “put a bow” to make themselves feel better. Our problem is a one of those “no-casserole” kind of problems (like bringing a meal to a shut-in) that you don’t share openly. Our suffering is mostly invisible and sometimes it seems easier to just give them the smiles they want to see. I think that sometimes, especially for men, they are afraid of these very things themselves (disability, unemployment, depression) so they don’t want to talk about the pain or reality of it in someone else almost as if it might be contagious. It has made my husband, especially, feel very alone (and because we are one, me too!). I thank God for the few men who have been drawn to face it with him and pray with him through this season. It has been a long season of waiting on God! But He has been faithfully working on us while we wait for his answer.ReplyCancel

  • October 5, 2016 - 4:56 pm

    Sylvia - Originally, I was looking for information on Naomi and her character for something I’m writing. But the more I read, the more I saw my own sorrow – the death of my own son and husband. How true that we feel we must hide our sorrow! Now, not only do I know Naomi’s sorrow better, I know my own more fully. Expressing our pain to God brings us closer to him. What an insight. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • October 6, 2016 - 3:40 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad that it was helpful, Sylvia. I learned so much about my own sorrow in Naomi’s response as well. Scripture is amazing, isn’t it?ReplyCancel

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good friday cross consolation+

 

This year, the events of Jesus’s last days have gripped me like never before.

I have read and reread the accounts of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, being delivered over to the Jewish and Roman leaders, willingly being crucified on Calvary.

Perhaps for the first time, what Jesus endured has become very personal. In each scene from His final days, I have discovered something new. Noticed something encouraging. Been drawn to worship in a deeper way.

A model for prayer

It’s hard to know how to pray when I’m desperate. Do I ask God for deliverance, crying out to Him for relief? Or do I simply relinquish my desires to Him, trusting that He has the perfect plan? Faithful believers through the ages have Scripturally supported one side or the other, but in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus does both.

In His anguish, Jesus cries out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus first draws near to God in His pain, using the intimate term of Father. He then affirms that God can do anything. This is not merely a perfunctory prayer; Jesus is confident that His Father is able to change the situation. Thirdly, He directly asks God to take away His suffering. He is boldly asking for deliverance; Jesus does not want to face what lies ahead. Finally, He submits His will to the Father.  Jesus beautifully models in His short prayer how to pray in our suffering: boldly ask God for deliverance yet submit to His sovereign will.

Jesus’s greatest work on earth was accomplished by submitting and not by “doing”

In the Gospels, Jesus is a man of action; He responds to everyone God puts before Him. He heals the sick. Raises the dead. Gives sight to the blind. Makes the lame walk. And preaches the good news to the poor.

But now Jesus is being acted upon. Rather than actively doing or saying anything, He lets others impose their will upon Him. He is “betrayed into the hands of sinners,” (Matt 26:45), “led to Caiaphas the high priest,” (Matt 26:57) “bound and led away and delivered to Pilate,” (Matt 27:2) where “they stripped him… mocked him… spit on him… and led him away to crucify him,” (Matt 27:31) yet “he remained silent.” (Mark 14:61)

In His final days, Jesus willingly submits to the cup of suffering set before Him. And this is what brought God the most glory. Through His submission, Jesus accomplished His most important work on earth. View full post »

  • March 25, 2016 - 9:07 am

    Tracey Casciano - Thank you for this powerful reminder!ReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2016 - 10:51 am

    Elizabeth - Simply beautiful! I so much needed to hear this. Thank you so much for sharing with such honesty. You may be physically able to “do” less, but God is certainly still using you, your gifts, and your heart to encourage and build up your sisters in Christ!(PS: I can’t sing that song without weeping!)ReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2016 - 10:58 am

    Scott - “JESUS’S GREATEST WORK ON EARTH WAS ACCOMPLISHED BY SUBMITTING AND NOT BY “DOING”” …

    Amen. Like Samson, His greatest victory came through his death. Unlike Samson, he not only laid down his life, but took it up again. Grateful for your post and words of encouragement. Grateful for Jesus’ greatest work and the hope we have in Him. After darkness, light.ReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2016 - 12:14 pm

    Trudy - Thank you so much for this comforting reflection, Vaneetha. I love your insight into Jesus’ prayer – that He acknowledged God has the power to change things, then boldly asked Him for deliverance and yet submitted to His will. Yes, what a model for us. And what hope there is in the fact that He was forsaken by God so we never will be forsaken, even when it may feel like it sometimes. I hope you have a joy-filled Easter. He is alive. He is always with us. He will never leave us. Hugs!ReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2016 - 2:29 pm

    Jennifer Bernardo - Thank you Vaneetha. I read this first this morning before all my other devotionals. I like how you said this year the last days of Jesus’s life have really gripped you. I have really tried to slow down this whole week and really think about what he suffered for ALL of us. I have the little book from John Piper Your sorrow will turn to joy. They are daily meditations for all of Holy Week starting on Palm Sunday up to Easter. Do you have that little devotional? You can get it I believe on Desiring God.org. You would enjoy it. Thank you for a wonderful message today. GOD BLESS YOU Vaneetha. JenniferReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2016 - 6:41 pm

    Rinu - Vaneetha, I simply feel that you are talking aloud my thoughts at times. Very timely and relevant to the issues I go through. I think its mainly it is because your blogs are very real.. Thank you so much for not giving up. Please continue sharing your meditations. May God continue to to strengthen you! You definitely are accomplishing much by submitting to His will.
    Warmest regards,
    Rinu.ReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2016 - 9:54 pm

    Pia - You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jer 29:13

    Thank you for seeking Him with your whole heart Vaneetha. And for sharing with us what you have found.ReplyCancel

  • March 26, 2016 - 9:25 am

    Effie Barba - Vaneetha, I know that your suffering is hard at times. Yet, you have been given a wondrous gift–Act of Grace as God uses your suffering to be a part in His Glory. His greatest Glory is displayed in the cross. He does not need me to bring anyone to Him, so if He can through my suffering uses me to reach others for Him; by doing so He is sharing His Glory with me. All too often, I have gotten caught up in wanting so much from God. If I were to choose, I wanted the loving husband, the white picket fence, money, career, children and no illness. Perhaps, it was foolish to believe that those things would have brought me more joy than what I have ultimately found!! There was that misconception, false doctrine that we so want to believe. We want to say that if God really loves me He will lavish me with prosperity, health, and all the joys of this world. My whole life was one by one God ripping from my hands, mind, and heart the “counterfeit joys” that I thought would satisfy; so, that I might see Him as my greatest treasure. – All those things that I thought were too hard to bare were God’s Acts of Grace to transform my heart so that I might know Him as my joy, my love, my most precious treasure. “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross” What joy? The joy of loving me and the joy of loving you. So, What more can He do to prove His love for me than that which He has already done?ReplyCancel

  • March 26, 2016 - 9:34 am

    Debbie - These words were so beautiful to read. I didn’t want them to end. Your words always point to Jesus.ReplyCancel

  • March 29, 2016 - 1:15 pm

    Kimberly - Hi there, I just recently discovered your blog. Your writing really resonates with me! I can relate so much to the concept of “dancing in the rain”, of finding joy in the midst of challenges and trials. I write on a similar subject, about finding treasures in darkness, or diamonds in the coal. 🙂 I look forward to reading more of your writing, and getting to know you and your story.

    Blessings!ReplyCancel

  • May 2, 2016 - 4:07 pm

    sarah - I like you. I stumbled upon your blog today from desiring God and I think you are so real and so profound. Keep writing.ReplyCancel

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need comfort+

 

When pain overwhelms me, I long for companionship.

I want someone to talk to me, weep with me, sit with me. I want someone to put human flesh on God’s comfort.

That may sound unspiritual to some people. It always sounded faintly unspiritual to me. It seemed weak to want comfort from other people.  I thought that if God alone were sufficient to meet my every need, I should never want anyone else.

And of course, He is sufficient. We need the presence of God more than we need anything else. He is the God of all comfort. My entire ministry is based on that fact.

Yet at the same time, I also long for the comfort of my friends. I need community. And I need it most acutely when I am suffering.

This need has always felt vaguely unholy. A part of my sinful flesh that would one day be redeemed. A weakness that would diminish over time. I assumed my role in community would eventually evolve just to serve, not to receive.

Then I saw it. When I first noticed it, it startled me.

In his darkest moments, Jesus wanted His friends.

Mark 14:32-35 says:

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”

Jesus didn’t want to be alone in His suffering. He wanted human companionship.

Jesus didn’t ask His disciples to accompany Him when He was communing with His Father. He often arose early in the morning to be with God by Himself. But we see that in His hour of desperation, when He was facing unspeakable agony, He asked His friends to be with Him.

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  • March 3, 2016 - 10:10 pm

    Jo - Great devotion Vaneetha. I agree with what you’ve written about the dilemma we find ourselves in when we feel a need for people and the comfort they provide. Many are taught that it’s “unspiritual” to seek solace elsewhere and that He is more than enough? But what do we do when we feel this need for as you describe, “human flesh on God’s comfort”? What I have learned for myself is that yes, He is enough and my source for all things, and it’s out of the overflow of Himself and His love for me that He does provide kind and caring people that bring me the “human” comfort I seek.

    Your devotion reminded me of something I had recently read from Henri Nouwen’s, “Our Greatest Gift”. The spiritual writer had been suffering deeply and turned to an elderly friend and priest for comfort during his season of great anguish. He writes,

    “During the most difficult period of my life, when I experienced great anguish and despair, he was there. Many times, he pulled my head to his chest and prayed for me without words, but with a Spirit-filled silence that dispelled my demons of despair and made me rise up from his embrace with new vitality”.

    Wow! What a special friend this priest must have been. Imagine being able to just lay your head upon another’s chest and feel the love of the Father pouring into your heart. Ah, yes, to hug, to weep, to lean upon, all loving movements that require no words, just “presence”.

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

    2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

    Thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2016 - 9:02 am

    Christianna Hellwig - Mrs. Rendall, thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Recently I have struggled very hard with wanting comfort in human form and yet knowing that God ought to be enough. I felt that strength came in needing no one but God. Others have told me otherwise time, and time again, but I still had doubts until I read what you said about Jesus desiring human companionship in His hour of need.
    “It did not reflect a lack of trust in God or a fragile faith. It was simply human. God incarnate longed for fellowship. Because God created us to live in community.”

    It has comforted and encouraged me. Thank you again for writing this.ReplyCancel

    • March 4, 2016 - 1:20 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful this encouraged you, Christianna! Reading that in Scripture was a great encouragement to me,ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2016 - 10:49 am

    Scott - Thank you Vaneetha. I was just telling my folks how grateful I have been for their presence the past few weeks, during some severe pain and anguish. I had just asked God for someone to help me carry my cross, as I was overwhelmed. He sent them. While they did do some practical things, their presence was most comforting. Thanks again for sharing. Wonderful picture of the Savior.
    Grace to you, ScottReplyCancel

    • March 4, 2016 - 1:24 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for sharing your experience of the comfort of friends. Rejoicing with you that God gave you such precious thoughtful friends to put human flesh on His comfort.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2016 - 11:15 am

    Tam - Humbling. I’m one of those people who always want to ‘fix’ people’s suffering. I rush in there, filling the silence with words and advice and well-meaning platitudes. I so very much want to make things better, to take away the hurt and the bewilderment, to fix it all up. Instead, I probably end up being that person that Joe Bayly said he’d wished would go away. What a lesson in love to learn to sit, still, silent, and allow the hurting person to quietly lean into you. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • March 4, 2016 - 1:25 pm

      Vaneetha - I am too, Tam! So this post was a good reminder to me to just “sit, still, silent, and allow the hurting person to quietly lean into you.”ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2016 - 11:30 am

    Georgia - Very true …the ministry of presence is oftentimes the greatest comfort we can give and receiveReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2016 - 12:54 pm

    Rani - Thanks Vaneetha for yet another heartfelt God breathed reality you just wrote about. My problem is I find myself like the first friend of author Bayle. But in the past few months God has been taking me through some pain which has caused me to learn some previous lessons the hard way. And that of course I see now has slowly but surely making me more like the friend who just knows how to “be” there for another.
    Yes God surely has placed us and me in a community,God forbid I ever come to a place of Independence! But to depend on Him and the people He has given me.
    Thanks sis,your writings are such a breath of fresh air!ReplyCancel

    • March 4, 2016 - 1:28 pm

      Vaneetha - I too am like Joe Bayly’s friend, and I’m thankful that God is slowly teaching me to listen and be silent more!ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2016 - 4:37 pm

    Judy Johnson - Vaneetha, I have been a Lone Ranger in the Body of Christ for many years. Not something I planned. It just seemed to happen.
    In the last few months, the Holy Spirit has been breaking down the walls I had built against fellowship. I suddenly realized how hard it is for me to reach out for help of any kind. I have felt very alone and isolated. At the same time I have been drawn into the most intimate relationship with the Lord that I have ever known. He has caused me to become rooted and grounded in His love. He has shown me repeatedly that He is always with me and ready to communicate with me.
    Two days ago I was waiting alone while my husband was in surgery for the third time in a week. I was acutely aware of my need for
    someone to be with me. I felt the guilt that you wrote about and I talked with the Lord about it.
    A few min later I noticed a woman sit down in the waiting area and take out her bible. She leaned over it and began to read. I wanted to go to her but I resisted the prompting. After refusing the urge to just go talk to her, I finally decided to be obedient to that prompting. I walked over to her and introduced myself. I said ” Isaw you reading the Word and wanted to talk with you. ” She reached out with a big hug and began to encourage me. Later her son joined her. They treated me like family.

    God met my need for human companionship in such a tender way. He showed me that I do belong to His family. He showed me that He will always meet my needs if I allow Him to do so.

    You wrote so beautifully about our need for human companionship. Thank you.

    Judy JReplyCancel

    • March 7, 2016 - 4:50 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful the Lord met you in such a tender way, Judy. He knows what we need.ReplyCancel

  • March 5, 2016 - 8:42 am

    Effie Darlene Barba - Beautiful as always. You write with such passion, truth and love. We were not meant to walk this road alone. Have you heard of Michele Cushatt and her current series called Undone Life Together? She has a facebook page where women are coming together to sometimes just listen through their trials. I think you could bring a lot of encouragement as well to the group. For me, I too am one who wants to rush in and “fix things.: As a part of this group, I am learning to listen better with simple responses of I am praying. The page is https://www.facebook.com/groups/undonelifetogether/ReplyCancel

    • March 7, 2016 - 4:52 pm

      Vaneetha - What a great idea. It is so encouraging to have others share our burdens with us. We so need the body of Christ!ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2016 - 1:12 am

    KB - That’s often what I tell my patients’ families when they ask what they can do for their dying family member. Not entirely sure where I got it from, but really… “Just be there.”

    What an amazing insight about Jesus wanting his friends to be with him though! That really encourages me, because I have also often thought it “faintly unspiritual” to long for companionship.ReplyCancel

    • March 7, 2016 - 4:54 pm

      Vaneetha - Just be there. Great words for your patients’ families and for us… Its really that simple.ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2016 - 4:37 pm

    Christina G. - Thank you for reminding me of truth, Vaneetha! I came to your blog today feeling all of those things that you mentioned. I’ve been craving to be comforted by the presence of friends. What you wrote really spoke to my heart and made me realize that it is okay to crave that community. It doesn’t make me weak, or needy, or sinful. Just human. Thank youReplyCancel

    • March 7, 2016 - 4:55 pm

      Vaneetha - God created us to live in community. How often I forget that!ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2016 - 11:07 am

    Ellie - You can also go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, before the fall… “It is not good for man to be alone.” It is not sin in us that says that we shouldn’t be alone, it is part of us desiring for things to be made right again!!

    So thankful for your thoughts here today! They blessed me!ReplyCancel

  • March 16, 2016 - 1:30 pm

    Louise - Love the depths of your insights, Vaneetha!
    I am turned off by superficiality and always yearn for being closer to Creator Jesus than I am.
    I do not ask for comfort from others, even from family members.
    Due to a hang up I acquired through many years of experiencing cruelty.
    Yet, what always helps me in my pain and sorrow is to comfort someone else, even those who have been ugly.

    One of Creator`s toughest lessons for me to finally “get” was that it is not okay to treat other people based on how they treat me.

    This ministry of presence includes simply sharing with the hurting, regardless of who they are and how they behave, in the same manner Creator is sharing his very being with us.

    Once I stood at a mass grave in my home state where several family members of a woman I had only just met, were buried.
    I had no words of comfort for her in her excruciating pain.
    So I just held her while we cried together.ReplyCancel

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