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The sorrow runs deep, but so does my faith. People push me. The wind buffets me. Grief seeks to dislodge me, disorient me, but with God I am secure. Steady me dear God on the narrow road. When I teeter on the edge, help me regain my balance. Help me to keep my eyes on you dear God. Help me not to be distracted by looking to the right or left — to be focused looking forward to you.

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 39:20-21 (NIV)

“Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:27

“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” – 2 Chronicles 34:1-2

“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. – Joshua 22:6

© 2019 CGThelen

People will disappoint. Expectations will not be met. I will be hurt by others. Grief will come. I can count on them happening to me in this world. Yet you dear God are faithful. Your grace and love continue to abound. Your promises are truth. Forgive me for having unreasonable expectations of you. Forgive me for being disappointed when you don’t meet my expectations. Forgive me for being inpatient with you dear God when you don’t work in my timeframe. Help me to align with your will, your plans. Help me to forgive those who hurt me. Fill me with your grace and love.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. – Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

Suffering is a part of life in this world. It is difficult to understand the reason we experience pain and grief. Like Job, we wrestle with why we experience anguish — trauma that causes us to cry out as Job did: “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the sea… (Job 6:2-3, NIV).”

Pain in our life, deep misery, can cause us to cry out for help. As Job wrestled with God’s purpose for his agony, it caused him to open up to God and others about his pain. He expressed his true feelings: “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul (Job 7:11).” This is the essence of true community with God and other Christians; open and honest conversation about our struggles and emotions that builds a deep connection with God and each other.

When we share our suffering, we open the door to sharing a journey that can deepen our faith in God. We move beyond surface conversations like Job’s friends who claim they have answers for his suffering: “Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty (Job 15:5).”

To walk with a friend through the anguish is to experience it with them; to cry with them; to grieve with them. Sharing our deepest feelings, our deepest pain, welcomes others to deepen their faith with us as we replace trying to understand the purpose for pain with a deeper faith, a deeper trust in God. We can exclaim as Job did, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2).”

© 2019 CGThelen

I can still feel your hand

A weak squeeze

Dry skin against mine

Still hear the machine

Pulsating in the background

Providing you oxygen

Still feel the humid breeze

Blowing through the window

Ruffling strands of hair

Still feel the oppressive heat

From a late summer day

Permeating the room

Still feel the furrowed brow

As my fingertips moved

Across your gray hair

Still sense the sadness

As life slowly slipped away

With each passing breath

Each strained breath

I sat with you that day

Next to your bed

Next to your frail body

A raspy word, barely audible

Emerged from your lips

“Water.”

I imagined what it felt like

As I raised moistened sponge

To your parched mouth

Brief refreshment

A soothing moment

Amidst the pain

I hope my presence

Did the same

A moment of peace

Soothing peace

For your parched soul

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. – John 6:35 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I sat with her as she lay dying. The machine behind me pulsated, providing oxygen to sustain her in these final moments. She could no longer swallow and her voice was barely audible, yet occasionally she was able to say a few words. I held her hand and told her, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Even though she was very weak, she managed to lightly squeeze my hand. The cancer had ravaged her body, taken away all her strength, and now it was taking her life. She was no longer able to sit up and had been bed-ridden for more than a week. But now I sensed the end was near.

I gently pulled the hair away from her face and slowly caressed her head, trying to sooth her. “Water,” she managed to utter. She was no longer able to drink with a straw. I picked up the small sponge on a stick, dabbed it in the cup of water by her bed, and moistened her mouth with it. She sucked on it and I could see the relief on her face as the water refreshed her parched mouth. I set the sponge down and held her hand. “Thank you,” she managed to say with a raspy voice. “It’s okay,” I repeated to her with my mouth close to her ear. “God loves you,” I added.

As difficult as it was to sit with her, I had a sense of peace. I couldn’t help but think of this as an image of God and how he tends to us with a loving touch. In the midst of our difficulties in life, when we feel weak and helpless, he is there holding our hand saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He dabs our parched soul with living water to refresh us. He is there by our side each step of the way, gently caressing our head, soothing our weary soul. We only need to take his hand and say, “Thank you.”

After a few hours of sitting with her, a family member arrived and took over the vigil. A few hours later she died. I thought of what a privilege it is to serve God; how he calls on each of us to serve him in a special way. No one act of service is any greater than any other in the Kingdom of God. We all have our own calling to convey God’s love to others in need of a loving touch; people who need their parched soul moistened with living water. As followers of Jesus Christ it is a privilege to be his hands and feet in a world full of need.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28 (NIV)

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:20 (NIV)

© 2018 CGThelen

This #ThrowbackThursday post commemorates a good friend who died a year ago on August 17. Originally published August 21 2018, this post reflected on the experience of being there that day.

The pain of past hurts is still there.The hurt of rejection. The laughter and judging eyes. The isolation, feeling rejected. But you rise up in this moment dear God to remind me you were there; to remind me you are here now. You long to show me your graciousness, your love. Even when I could not see you, you saw me and held me. You have carried me all these years, to this moment when I can look back and see how you protected me; how you cared for me, soothing my broken heart. All the time you inched me along, pointing me to something better, deepening my faith in you, strengthening my hope in you.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God. – Isaiah 50:10

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18

© 2019 CGThelen

In the deepest, darkest pit

You were there

When all abandoned me

You knew my grief

When I was struck

You felt the pain

When fear paralyzed me

You were beside me

When others heckled me

Your words soothed me

When rejected, cast aside

You pulled me near

When tears engulfed me

You wiped them away

When I felt no love from others

Your love remained true

You never abandoned me

Always by my side

Dear God you’re always there

Always faithful to me

You’ve blessed me

When when I felt no blessing

Filled me up

When I felt depleted

You are the one true God

The everlasting father

Your love and grace endures

Through all that life gives

Your are the eternal

In a temporal world

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” — Psalm 146:13-14 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who saw Jesus on the cross based on Mark 15:33-39.

It was a strange darkness unlike any I had ever seen. Around noon it suddenly covered the whole land in a way that was unlike any severe storm I had ever seen. My friend commented that he wondered if this was what the darkness looked like when it covered Egypt at the time of Moses before the Exodus. Some said it was because they crucified Jesus.

It wasn’t something I necessarily liked to see, but curiosity got the best of us so my friend and I made our way to Golgotha. There in the darkness we could make out three crosses. I barely recognized Jesus, the man I had seen a few times teaching the crowds. It was a gruesome scene with blood dripping down the wood beams from bodies suspended with spikes. I became nauseated at the site. What had this man done to deserve such severe punishment? What had he done to deserve death?

Suddenly we heard Jesus cry out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Indeed, I could not understand why God would allow such a brutal injustice.

Someone near us remarked, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” My heart ached. It wasn’t enough that they crucified him. Now he had to endure these people mocking him. I wanted to turn my head and shield my eyes, but someone brushed by me with a staff that had a vinegar-soaked sponge on the end. I watched as he hoisted it up to Jesus and offered him a drink. Someone else shouted, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

“Yes, leave him alone!” I whispered to myself. Something stirred deep inside me as I gazed at Jesus on the cross and then looked at the people mocking him. Something did not feel right. Why were so many so intent on making fun of him?

“We should go,” my friend said to me with a sad face. “I’ve seen enough.”

I nodded in agreement. As I turned to leave, I heard Jesus cry out. I looked back at the cross and saw his body suddenly slump with a sigh as he breathed his last. Tears began to stream down my cheeks as I traced trickles of blood down the wood beam to a pool on the ground. My head slumped with sadness. “Who was this man,” I wondered to myself. That’s when I heard the centurion standing in front of Jesus say, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

© 2019 CGThelen

The pain is deep

It eats at my soul

My heart stiffens

I ache for relief

My body tightens

Muscles tense

Tendons strain

I can’t move

My brain swells

Turbulence within

Emotions swirl

A whirlwind inside

Tears well up

Eyes close

Salt water streams

Touch my lips

Body crumples

Folding in half

Whimpers break

The silent room

Darkened window

Broken shade

Beam of light

Upon the floor

Tear drops glisten

Reflecting light

Sparkles of hope

Deep in my soul

“I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” – Psalm 6:6

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:5

© 2019 CGThelen

Praying to God for healing is a difficult thing for me. It is a wrestling match between my will and the will of God. It is a deep yearning to lay down my desires for God’s desires. Yet my emotions tell me I want people I love to be whole, to not suffer. It hit me again this week when I found out a coworker who retired last year has terminal cancer and a year to live.

This struggle of wills reminds me of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6. After he became ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz said to him, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover (verse 1, NIV).” These are words we do not want to hear from the doctor: “Your cancer is terminal.” They are words I have heard about a loved one: “He will not make it through the night.”

Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah in his bed and faced the wall. He prayed to God, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes (verse 3).” I can feel Hezekiah’s grief as he wept bitterly. I have found myself reciting a similar prayer when devoted followers of Christ I know have died; when friends contract terminal cancer. “Lord, these are people who have followed you; righteous people dedicated to serving you. Why?” In prayer I plead as Hezekiah did, “Lord, these people have walked faithfully with you; they are devoted to you.”

God heard Hezekiah’s plea, his prayer. In verse 4-5 he tells the prophet Isaiah to go back and tell him, “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and he hears our prayers. Yet it is a matter of God’s will, his plan, whether he heals. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, but not just because of Hezekiah’s will or his righteous acts. “And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

God chose to heal Hezekiah for his purposes; for his sake and for the sake of his servant David. God chose to continue to use Hezekiah. It seems I always want what I want and I don’t understand why God does what he does. But that is the element of faith in him. Part of the process of opening up to God in prayer is to also open up our heart to God; to share with him the deep desires of our heart and to know he hears our prayers. The answer to our prayers, our pleas, is to rest in God’s will for our life and the lives of those we dearly love in this world.

© 2019 CGThelen

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