Hope in Sorrow

My mom passed away in March of 2017 after a two-year battle with breast cancer. Bit by bit, piece by piece, God has been healing my heart and giving me amazing hope as I bring to Him my sorrow and allow Him to work through His word.

When Mom’s terminal diagnosis came in, she was, and we were, faced with the realization that she would soon be leaving behind her grandchildren that she loved so deeply. She would not be there for their graduations and starting college and weddings and their children being born. They have so much life yet to experience and she would not be there to see it and offer guidance along the way. We had all always imagined that she would be there for all those things and so much more. I know this all weighed heavily on her heart as she knew her departure was approaching.

This fall, as the kids went back to school, I realized how sorrowful I still was over Mom missing out on their lives. I wondered if she felt the same in heaven. God, in His faithful kindness, took my heartache away as He helped me realize that when she took her last breath here and her spirit left her body, she was able, for the first time, to see her Savior fully and completely.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:12. And consider, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” 2 Corinthians 4:6. Mom could for the first time without the haze of sin, see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. She now knows His perfect love, not by faith but by sight!
I believe in the moment when she saw Jesus Christ, every fear of leaving those grandchildren behind was completely wiped away. As she saw Jesus Christ face to face, she knew without any doubt that He would take care of those grandchildren far better than she ever could have. Every godly hope she had for them would be perfectly and completely filled up in Christ.

So it is with us too. As we gaze on Christ, even from our earthly vantage point, and set our minds and hearts to know Him more, we are encouraged to trust Him with every moment of our future. Our sorrows are lessened as we trust the One who sovereignly brings every trial into our lives.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:3-9

I still miss Mom. I still miss her being here for the big moments and the small ones of the kids lives. But the deep ache in my heart is gone as I set my eyes on Jesus Christ and trust that He who gave His very life to give me peace with God is guiding every moment of my life and my children’s lives. Praise be to God!

2 Corinthians 4:16 “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 tot the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Here are two books that I have found helpful:
Grieving, Hope and Solace, When a Loved One Dies in Christ by Albert N. Martin
Trusting God Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges

Rejoicing in Christ’s Birth

I love singing carols at Christmas (though using the term “singing” may be an optimistic). I love the music. I love the familiarity. I love the warm memories that flood in. I love the memories I have of singing them as a little girl sharing a hymnal with my dad. I love the visions in my head of children’s choirs dressed in angel costumes singing, the familiar words being sung as loud as their little lungs would allow. I love how singing carols just makes it feel like Christmas.

But sometimes it also feels just a little empty. Just tradition. Just hoops we step through on the way to Christmas morning and stockings and gifts. I could be singing about Santa Claus or Christ’s birth with equal zeal while making out to-do lists in my mind and wondering if I remembered to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer before we left the house.

Why the emptiness as I consider the birth of Jesus?

The fourth line of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” recently caught my attention and struck my heart. “God and sinners reconciled”. It is profound really. The heart and hope of Christmas right there in line 4 of a so familiar Christmas carol.

God and sinners reconciled. God is holy and He is great. He is perfect in all of His ways. He created the universe, mankind, you and me. He created the oceans and their creatures, the skies and their creatures. He placed the mountains and the valleys, the stars and every grain of sand. He holds our very breath and life in His hands. He alone is worthy of all praise and glory.

God is just and all sin – doing what is wrong, going against what God has declared to be right and has written on our hearts to be right– is deserving of God’s holy wrath. Any sin at all – any lie or theft, any lusting or sexual immorality, any jealousy or malice or anger or drunkenness – makes us sinners and separates us from God. In God’s presence there is fullness of joy. And our sin eternally separates us from His presence and sets our destiny to Hell. There is no amount of right-doing that can erase the penalty due to us for even the wrong-doings in our lives. And I don’t know about you, but I have more than a little wrong-doing in my life!

But I go about my days feeling like a good person. In comparison to other people, I feel like I do pretty well. But as I consider the truth that God lays out in His Word, I realize that I am not a good person. As I consider God’s holiness and look at my heart against His laws, I can do nothing but conclude that I am a sinner. I have tragic huge, obvious sin in my past that He has dealt with, but I also still have day-to-day, heart level sin rearing its ugly head over and over. Jealousy? Check. Discontentment? Check. Anger? Check. Selfishness? Check. Do I need to go on?

Apart from Jesus Christ, I would have no hope of a relationship with a holy God. By default, by my own ability, I am His enemy. But while I was still His enemy, God did this amazing, profound, astounding work. Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby. Jesus Christ – fully man and fully God – came to earth to live a perfect life, to be crucified as He bore the wrath for the sins of those who would put their faith in Him alone for salvation and to be resurrected. It was God’s plan for redeeming mankind since the creation of the world.

Jesus Christ came to the earth to make peace between our holy God and sinful man. By His perfect life and wrath-bearing death, He reconciled sinful me to God. His birth is the beginning of the rescue mission that was planned from the beginning of time. Of course it should be celebrated!

I am convinced that I don’t celebrate like I should because I forget my desperate need for a savior. I forget how holy God is and how sinful I am. As I soak in God’s word it reminds me of both of these fundamental truths. As I meditate on God’s truth I am drawn out of the busy preparations for Christmas celebration and into a place of simply worshiping God in simple awe that Jesus Christ came to save a sinner like me.

How about you? Is Christmas empty for you this year? If you have been saved by Jesus Christ, won’t you take time to remember why you needed a savior and what you have been saved from? To remember what it means for God and sinners to be reconciled? If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please consider the hope that is offered to you through Jesus Christ. Hope of being forgiven by God and lead away from sin and death into joy and life. Won’t you rejoice with me in Christ’s birth this year?