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There I was in another funeral home with another friend grieving over the death of a family member. There was no warning. She died suddenly, leaving behind a husband, young children, family and friends. I gave him a hug and told him how sorry I was, but it felt so inadequate. I felt helpless. Nothing I could do would take away the deep sorrow he felt at such a devastating loss.

It’s a painful experience being separated from those we love. There’s a feeling that it just isn’t right, that this is not the way it should be. I cannot help but think if this is how God felt when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden after they sinned? In Genesis 3:22-23, God sends them out of the garden and separates them from the tree of life. From that moment on, death becomes a part of life.

It is that thought of separation that has often had me wondering what made Jesus weep in John 11:35. Was it his full divinity weeping over the separation of humans from God or was it his full humanity weeping over the loss of his dear friend Lazarus? Either way, moments later Jesus points us to our true hope when he commands, “Lazarus, come out (John 11:43-44)!” John then tells us that Lazarus emerged from the tomb.

In the midst of our grief, we can find hope that resurrection awaits those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As Jesus told Martha, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe (John 11:40, NLT)?” In that hope we can give praise for Jesus’ death and resurrection that has given us the hope of eternal life. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting (1 Corinthians 15:55, NLT)?”

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published May 12, 2011.

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)

Wednesday Walk Through the Bible, John 11:1-45, particularly verses 29-45 (NIV)

#WednesdayWalk, 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 went to mourn with Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus.

I arrived at the house to help console Mary and Martha about the loss of their brother Lazarus. A somber mood greeted me as I entered the crowded home. As I made my way through the front room, I tried to locate Mary and Martha. A few minutes later I spotted Mary near the doorway and watched as she quickly left the house. The room emptied out as everyone followed Mary. It appeared she was going to the tomb where her brother was buried.

I followed the crowd for a ways when suddenly everyone stopped. That’s when I spotted Mary bowing at the feet of a man. I asked the person next to me who Mary was bowing to and was told the man was Jesus. I had heard about this man and his miracles, but had never seen him in person.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I heard Mary say to Jesus. She began to weep. Indeed, if it was true he could heal the sick, he could have prevented the death of Lazarus. But now it was too late for him to do anything. Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw the pain on Mary’s face. “Where have you laid him,” I heard Jesus say with a troubled look on his face. There was murmuring in the crowd as some responded, “Come and see, Lord.”

For a moment we all stood stood still, silent as we watched the tears stream down the face of Jesus as he wept with Mary. It was obvious that he loved Lazarus. Some people in the crowd were saying, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” I thought the same thing, but now there was nothing he could do. Who could overcome death?

A moment later we made our way to the tomb. I noticed it was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. That’s when I heard Jesus say something that shocked us all. “Take away the stone,” he said. Martha being the practical one advised Jesus, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” To which Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

What did he mean, “if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Then, to my surprise, against Martha’s advice, they actually took away the stone. I held my nose as I watched it roll away, prepared for a strong stench. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

For a brief moment we all stared at the open tomb. I would not have believed what happened next if I had not seen it myself. To my amazement Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Then the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. I stood frozen as Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” I could see it was indeed Lazarus as the cloth was removed from his face.

I whispered to myself the words Jesus said only moments ago, “that they may believe that you sent me.” Could this be the Son of God as some people had told me before this day. How could I not believe in him after seeing him raise Lazarus from the dead?

In the moment

I thank God for each breath I take

In the moment

I thank God for the cooling breeze

In the moment

I thank God for his hand upon my life

In the past

I feel the pain of struggles and trauma

In the past

I grieve for those who are gone now

In the past

I recall God’s hand upon my life

In the future

I worry about tragedies yet to come

In the future

I feel anxiety about the unknown

In the future

I know God’s hand will be upon my life

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matt. 6:33-34 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. – Luke 12:22-23 (NIV)

#ThrowbackThursday — This post was originally posted June 11, 2010

This is the first Father’s Day I will be without my dad. It did not really hit me until the other day when I strolled past a display of Father’s Day cards. Instinctively I started to walk toward the display thinking, “Oh, I should get my dad’s card.” No sooner had the thought entered my mind when I remembered he was no longer with us. A sense of loss suddenly filled me; a sense of missing someone you love; a sense of wanting to see him again.

It made me wonder if I have the same sense of loss of not being with God my Father. Do I miss his companionship when I don’t spend enough time with Him? Do I have a love for God that makes me miss Him – makes me long for Him? Do I grieve over the sinful things I do that harm my relationship with Him? Isaiah 59:2 reminds us that our sin separates us from God, that “sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (NIV) Paul told the Ephesians not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30)

Paul expressed the longing he had for God the Father and Jesus. In Ephesians 1:23-24 he describes being torn between his desire for Jesus and his desire to stay and teach others about Christ. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” I question if I have that same love for God my Father. Do I live in expectation of the day when there will be a reunion with God my father in heaven? Do I long for others to know the love of God?

While this Father’s Day carries with it sadness and loss, there is also joy in thinking about the reunion with God the Father and my dad on the true Father’s Day in heaven.  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3) There we will no longer feel the pain of separation or the grief of loss. We will live forever in the joy of his presence. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the older order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)

There was seemingly no end in sight as the trials continued to pummel us. I lost count of the times that I cried out to God to spare us; to rescue us and others experiencing the excruciating emotional pain each week. But it just continued, the trials were relentless with seemingly no end in sight. Yet there were times when the eye of the hurricane would pass; times when God would remind me of his grace and his love. There were frequent times when dear friends would lift us up in prayer and the peace of God would suddenly be evident In the storm.

There is no doubt the suffering of the last few years has changed me. I cannot go back to the person I was before the storm blew through my life. Certain passages in scripture now resonate with me like they never did before my trials. When Paul writes about the thorn in his side in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, I can feel the piercing of the thorn and the torment that shook his confidence. I understand more fully Paul pleading for God to remove it. And I understand better that the Lord’s grace is sufficient, that God is made perfect when we are weak.

I have found that when I come to the end of myself and my arrogance, God can begin a new work in me for his kingdom. I am better able to rely on God for my strength to see me through the trials in life. Where once I did not understand James 1:2-4, I now know that the trials I face help me to persevere in my faith. The more I draw closer to Christ Jesus, the more I mature in my faith.

I feel I am only beginning to understand perseverance and how it is shaping me in my faith In Jesus. I am only beginning to appreciate how Christ can meet all my needs. Perhaps I am getting closer to the point where I can thank God for blessing me with trials.

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