Editor’s Note: This is a fresh intro. & edit as of July 10, 2016
What a seriously intense week… month, really!?! Orlando’s still smoldering. And now, Dallas… and families from St. Paul to Baton Rouge grieving… intensely. As fellow citizens, we hear it all… we hear the side-stakers… we hear the “haters”… we hear the denials & the outrage… and wonder if a second Civil War is eeking out… We wonder if we should speak out or how best to reach out. Will we hold up under this internal pressure here in our homeland?
What if, in our weakness and confusion, we kneel down? I mean really kneel down… and pray. I, along with several hundred others, just completed a study on the book of Philippians (IF:Equip). Timing could not be more profound. We’re reminded our citizenship ranks on a higher plane than where we find ourselves. Yet, we can’t pretend it all away. We can’t conquer all the wrong, and we can’t even right enough wrongs to feel right again.
Navigating the now… that’s the tough space. But we must remember we aren’t alone, and we must remind each other we aren’t alone. We’re being held up, and we’re holding up. I concur with Paul’s prayer:
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Philippians 1:9-11 ESV
Throughout this series, we’ve met kindred souls surviving terrifying, horrific, and lonely losses throughout history. Their ingenuity, humility, courage, and driving love continue to speak of the mysterious rest & wrestle of vulnerably sharing hope in troubled times.
In … always holding somebody up … (part 1), I shared my Dad’s words at Jamie’s funeral that included the story of Dawson Trotman. In … always holding somebody up … (part 2), I shared a compelling story of a Hero of Hope of mine from World War II, Friedl Dicker- Brandeis. Similar to steadying Lifeboat 12 on the sinking Benares (… always holding somebody up … (part 3) ), we relate to the sincere souls struggle to steady. Each inspiring story strikes hope and courage despite death’s dark and dank pursuit.
Slipping back into history a bit further, we see how this persistence plays out ( (part 4) & 5) … Listen, as the songs swell …
First, Matthew 14:22-33 recounts the mysterious majesty of Jesus Christ when he walked on the water … perilous, swirling-waves-and-winds-kinda water. At first, even His disciples feared Him because they thought He was a ghost. Once they knew it was Him, Peter played bold and asked to be invited to join Him on the sea as the storm raged on. Peter got out of the boat. He actually walked on water, too. Then, he saw the wind, he began to sink, and he cried out “Lord, save me!”
“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly, You are the Son of God.'”
Matthew 14:31-33 ESV
We see Jesus faithfully save Peter, join the others in the boat, calm the storm. And they respond how? They worship Him by declaring Who He Is.
Next, John 11 recounts the story of Lazarus’ death and Jesus’ response. Jesus speaks of being the Resurrection and the Life in verses 17-27. This He speaks to Martha even after Lazarus has been buried for four days. Jesus asks if she believes Him, and she responds, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Then, they go near the tomb to find Mary weeping along with the Jews who were with her. Jesus’ response- despite His power, majesty, divinity-… He “was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.”
In doing so, Jesus’ compassion connected with His dear friends, Mary and Martha in their mourning, but He also connected with some of the Jews who witnessed this. They noticed, “See how He loved him.” Jesus didn’t “hocus pocus-poof” in a manner of pride and power. He joined them – heart, soul, mind, and strength. He loved His neighbor as Himself… both in His humanity and His Divinity.
Are we really looking for the Glory of God? Do we recognize His Steadfast Love in the moments we’re not getting the Resurrection and the Life vibe?
If we see a glimpse of Him, are we willing to also declare His consistent character by returning praise to Him?
Maybe we think we are, but maybe we’re looking for instant relief?
Maybe we’re looking to political patches, feel-good feelings, humanitarian handouts, work ethic accolades, athletic honor, academic prestige, or anything less than the Resurrection and the Life.
Acts 3 Peter reminds us, “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may sent the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.” (verses 17-20)
Repent. Receive. Redemption. Refresh… in the presence of the Lord.
How do we respond?
Paul in Philippians reminds us again and again to REJOICE. Our response is to TRUST and THANK Him through it all.
Remembering back through this grief journey … mourning Jamie’s loss… I confess several seasons where I withheld thanksgiving to the Lord. Honestly, I even squinted my jaws and locked my soul’s scowl in place containing trust to a controllable region of my heart and mind… because, like Peter, I kept my eyes on the wind. And the sinking soul…my mind and my mire.
Part of this may have stemmed out of a misconception. Holiness and Hope doesn’t necessarily equate to jolly, persistent happiness which is contingent on favorable circumstances and stirring fuzzy feelings. Rather, Joy is a fruit of the Spirit that seeds contentment deep into our souls and stirs encouragement soul to soul despite circumstances.
I know now that I’ve withheld full praise until I see what I want to see as a solution instead of remembering His Character far surpasses my understanding. His purifying touch inhabits us in beautifully, powerful ways as we praise Him in the process… Step by Step.
In regards to this project in particular, I did not want to share until I felt strong enough. I didn’t want weakness. I didn’t want pity. He’s used both to teach me what Compassion really is.
We’re told to expect trouble in this world, but live in the lively know – Jesus has overcome and He overcomes. We’re told to “Take up our cross daily and follow,” not to illustrate ease, prowess, or even ethic… but to obey and honor the Divine Dignity bestowed upon those who know only One is always holding us up. The One who chooses the foolish things of the world to tame the wise was born in a stable. His earthly character built up His heavenly witness to His Father and perfect obedience to the mission.
Yet, we waver… whether with doubts like Peter or in our grieving… we wonder.
However, as I’ve submitted my weakness, fears, and rejections back to Him, He’s beyond faithful stirring Life, Light, & Hope beyond all I can imagine still, but especially in those early, dark hours of grief and loss.
“Consider and answer me, O LORD, my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,’ lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your Steadfast Love; my heart shall rejoice in Your Salvation. I will sing to the LORD because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
Psalm 13:3-6 ESV
Won’t you join the eternal song already in progress?
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”
How do we respond to Who He really is?
Repent. Receive. Redemption. Refresh… in the presence of the Lord. Rejoice! And Remember His Faithfulness. Remind one another Who He was and is and is to come.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” Revelation 4:8
In the contrasting times of our earthly existence, we’re reminded again and again who we are and Who He is. Circumstances and loss wreak havoc on our emotions; however, they don’t have to derail His Character in us. Rather, when the winds and waves conspire, we ought to receive His reach to us, and we ought to extend His reach to one another.
Faith. Hope. Love… always holding somebody up.
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!.. To Him who sits on the throne to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! Amen!”
writing & photo by Heidi L. Paulec