“Take your scripture verses and…”

There was once a day where I wanted not only to say those words, but punch them into someone’s face.  That day was December 6, 1999, and it was the day of my sister’s funeral and the day my grandfather died.  Why did I want to say that (and do that???)?  Well, here is what had just been spoken to me:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).  

No.  This isn’t good for me.  How can my sister choosing to die by suicide be GOOD for me????  How can fresh grief that has just had salt poured on that gaping, open wound by adding the death of my grandfather, one of my main caregivers over the years, be GOOD???  Shut up.

I wanted to scream all that.  But I didn’t.  I shook hands, and stood there, completely numb.  So much anger and confusion on the inside, and just going through the motions on the outside.

I so was not ready for Romans 8:28 in that moment…

And even moreso now, I see how out of context that verse is, and we misuse it all the time. So let’s go deeper.

Romans 8:26-39

 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So here is what I have learned and observed in these verses:  I am weak.  Oh yes, I am weak.  I am so weak that there are moments I have no idea what to even pray for or about.  I throw my hands up in the air and surrender because life has just gotten the better of me.  In that moment.  Then God reminds me, “I’ve got this, Kara.  You can be weak because I am going to be your strength today and everyday.  Rely on me.”  I know this because He tells me He has called me since before time began!  I am predestined!  I am CHOSEN!  God chose me.  Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”  

Even that day, December 6, 1999, with so many people speaking Romans 8:28 to me, was written in my book before it even happened.  God knew.  He knew the events that were going to unfold.  He  knew the choice of free will my sister would make.  He knew that it would be too much for my grandfather’s heart when he saw her in the casket during her visitation.  He knew that I would be angry and unable to receive His words of truth.

And here is what else I have observed in Romans 8:26-39:  God did not spare His own Son from death.  God KNOWS grief.  He has experienced it!  In that moment, He had such great compassion and empathy for me, because He knows loss.  I can see that now.  I couldn’t then.  But today, how comforting it is for me to know that I serve a God who KNOWS the hearts and minds of His people, because He truly has walked every path imaginable.

I want to look at that verse a bit closer too:  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  ALL THINGS.  God graciously gives us all things.  Every experience.  Every job.  Every encounter.  Every situation, good or bad.  Graciously, God allowed me to experience every day I have had thus far.  Even that day.  In the moment of that day, I had no idea what God could possibly do with my grief.  I wasn’t even ready to comprehend that.  Time has softened my wounds and dulled the salt that falls upon them.  He has allowed me to see how He has orchestrated the safety net that caught me.  He had that net in place well before the events began to unfold that would cause me to fall into that net to begin with!  He graciously saved me with that net.  He graciously has worked on my heart every day since.  He graciously took my mistakes and used them to teach me, coach me, and ultimately reveal to me the need for Jesus to cleanse my soul.  He used that net to remind me that nothing will ever separate me from my Abba Father.  Nothing.  And so many times I have quoted King David, because I am in awe of all the Father has done for me:  “Who am I that You are mindful of me???” (personalized Psalm 8:4)

Who am I?  I am adopted into God’s family.  I am CHOSEN by God.  I am His creation.  And I am so loved by Him that He made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that I could have a relationship with Him.  And despite the pain, despite the anger, despite the confusion of grief, God has carried me and drawn me close to Him.  He is my conqueror!

It has taken years to understand this:  God has used the brokenness and pain of my past to grow me.  He has allowed the fires to burn the dross, to purify my heart.  He is allowing me to minister to others because others ministered to me.  I am able to share these words, that God gives us not what we want, but ALL THINGS WE EXPERIENCE, because of the Truth God has spoken to me.

God is not a vending machine.  He is not our go-to when we don’t have everything we want.  He is more than that.  He is indescribable!  He is omniscient!  Sometimes, we have to experience the pain in order to understand blessings later.

I want to share some great songs with you now, to bring this entry to a close.  Grab some tissues…and listen carefully to the lyrics.  And remember:  we will rarely understand the why, but that doesn’t mean we can’t trust the WHO.  So let’s throw our hands up in the air and let Him pick us up and bring us through the fires.

That’s what scars are for…

I came across this song by Mandisa, and it just gave me some incredible shivers!  Listen, read the lyrics.  Reflect over what your own scars mean.  I am going to share after the music video what my scars mean to me as well.

 

Most of my scars are internal.  They are emotional wounds in my heart, my mind, my soul.  I do have some physical scars, like from my c-section last year on January 21, and this scar reminds me of the most incredible day of my life:  the day my son was born.  I had tears of joy spring instantly into my eyes the moment I saw him for the first time!  And that scar reminds me that all the muscle aches, the pains, the tears, the emotions, the hormone swings, the back aches were so totally worth it!  My internal scars took me so much longer to value, and I think that is because the wounds they represent took so much longer to heal.  At times, they open up again and healing begins all over again.  Thankfully, that healing is not as extensive a process as it was the first time.  My emotional scars remind me of my sister, my grandfather, my great-grandmother, friends, teachers, loved ones who passed from my life well before I was ready to let them leave.  They remind me of the bullies in school when I was in eighth grade.  They remind me of lessons learned in romantic relationships over the years.  They remind me of my own struggles to overcome depression, low self-worth, and suicidal thoughts.  And they remind me of a Man who also has scars.  That man is Jesus.

Jesus, who became scarred because of my sin.  Jesus, who suffered through countless stripes of the barnacled whip of the Roman soldiers.  Jesus, who had a crown of thorns thrust upon his head.  Jesus, who hung on the cross with nails through his wrists and ankles.  Jesus, whose side was pierced with a spear.  Jesus, who also was rejected, bullied, betrayed.  Jesus suffered emotional and physical scars so that we might come to know Him as our Savior! (Isaiah 53)  We have a Savior who suffers right along with us, providing balm for our own wounds, physically and emotionally.  He brings peace to our weary souls, and holds us, cradling us as a father or mother cradles a newborn baby.  Safe and secure in the arms of my Abba, I can find rest, I can find strength to continue down the path toward healing.

That’s right:  we have choices to make all along the way.  We choose to take the next step.  And that step is not always easy to take, especially when we are so weighed down with emotional pain and grief.  The strength to take that step is not our own.  Truly, if it were, I would not be here typing this.  I would have perished years ago!  God is my Strength, my Fortress.  Psalm 18 describes my own journey as well as that of King David.

So, my scars are reminders that my God has brought me this far.  2 Samuel 7:18-22 echos my awe:  Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.  Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

And as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12, I will go on boasting so that the Lord may be glorified!  He is my strength, He is my Savior, He showers me with grace and mercy that I am so far from deserving!  And yet, He has brought me thus far.  I praise Him!

My heart is saddened…

There is a news article circulating around my hometown about an 11-yr old boy who died from a gunshot wound.  The authorities suspect it was suicide, with bullying as a main factor in the situation.  My heart breaks!

First, bullying is no laughing matter.  People respond in different ways, and the issues stemming from bullying will manifest at various times throughout our lifetimes.  We need to be reminded, and teach our young people, that our actions and words have consequences.  Matt 22:36-40 says:   “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Whether one is a follower of Christ or not, the second part of this passage is common sense:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Later in scripture, the question, “Who is my neighbor?” is answered.  Everyone.  Flat out, any one you encounter is your neighbor.  Does not matter race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Second, suicide is not something from which we can hide.  I guarantee you know someone who has been struggling with suicidal thoughts or who has lost someone they love to suicide.  Don’t be afraid to talk about this serious issue!  Talk to your children.  Talk to each other.  If you are someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, ask for help!  I promise, you are not alone in the struggles.  I also have battled suicidal thoughts, depression, and the loss of a loved one to suicide.  My suicidal thoughts began back when I was in 8th grade (1993-1994), and I have battled them on and off over the years.  Through counseling, journaling, rediscovering my faith, finding some amazing friends, and taking medication (I just started taking antidepressants again for the 5th time…), I am making it through.  In the journey through grief, I find that there are still turbulent times even after 13 years after my sister passed away.  Just as surprising to me though is the fact that I find moments of peace on this grief journey as well.  I can’t tell you which bothers me more, however.  Sometimes, when I feel at peace, I battle a feeling of guilt.  I know there is no reason to feel guilty, and that is part of the struggle.

Thus, I talk about it.  That is one of the tools in my toolbox of sanity that I utilize often.  That is something I learned through counseling.  Truly, I highly recommend it!

If you are struggling, please, ask for help.  If you don’t know where to begin, start here:  Suicide Prevention Services.  If you know someone struggling, reach out and share the information.

No matter how young or how old we are, it is ok to ask for help.  It is ok to struggle.  It is ok to talk about it.  You are worth it.  Press on.