OUR SOULS CAN BE LIKE FRETFUL BABIES
Last week was exciting with so many new sisters! I’m praying for every single one of you, that God will meet you. I am also so thankful for each familiar friend still with us. I myself have been amazed that we are experiencing God in a place like this, but we are! If you have just begun, you are not too late. I know it is a busy vacation week, so I’ve shortened the homework.
The story I must tell you in this post I’ve told before, but I must tell it again for it was pivotal in my journey — but I’ll try to add a few fresh breezes.
THE SECOND YEAR
They say the second year after a catastrophic loss is often the hardest because the denial is gone. My denial after my husband’s death was so strong the first year that when Dr. Dobson interviewed me I told him I didn’t think denial was a real phenomenon. (I was in denial about denial, and they wisely edited that remark out of the program.) It wasn’t until I went for Christian counseling that my denial was unmasked. Truly, in my heart of hearts, I had not accepted that Steve was not coming back.
When denial fades, when you realize: “This situation — this death, this divorce, this infertility….is not going to change,” the pain can be engulfing. That’s what happened to Joan Didion after her husband’s sudden death and she describes her year of denial as The Year of Magical Thinking. She refused to write an obituary, because then people might think he was really dead. She refused to give away his clothes — for what would he wear when he came back? Denial, as crazy as it sounds, is real, God’s way, I believe, of buffering us until we are stronger. But by the second year, the magical thinking is gone. It is then that our souls can go wild, like fretful babies.
I remember the day my soul went wild with grief. I was packing up to leave a house I did not want to leave. All day long I kept coming across things that made Steve’s absence feel so sharp: a white surgery coat with SGB on the pocket that he’d never wear again; his hymnal with turned down pages; a scribbled sticky note I’d kept in his dear familiar hand of things he wanted to tell the children [before he died]. He wanted to tell J. R. he was proud of him, Sally her financial debt was forgiven, John to spend more time with his children…
By the time I got into bed that night, I curled up in a fetal position and sobbed. I wanted Steve to comfort me as he had so many times in the past. I remembered how, when I was plagued with insomnia, he would put his arms around me and begin to quote a nursery rhyme.
Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod one night sailed off in a wooden shoe…
Though I had yet to study the lament in depth, I spontaneously lamented:
Lord, You promised to be a husband to the widow!
I need a husband right now!
I felt no evidence of God’s presence. Instead, I felt anger, despair…and so I asked God Almighty:
How can I connect with Someone who is not flesh and blood?
I don’t sense Your presence at all. Have you abandoned me?
At that moment I had a memory — all the way back to when I was twenty-one and a new mother. Our baby boy had colic, and cried, it seemed, all the time. My job was to make sure Steve, a first year medical student, got his sleep. So at the first cry in the middle of the night, I would run, unbuttoning my nightgown as I ran. I would take that little squalling bundle and put him to my breast, but he would not nurse. He would flail his arms and scream until his face was red. When I would stroke his little cheek to try to get him to turn toward me, he would turn the other way, and wail.
Finally, finally — he would find me, latch on, and nurse. His eyes would go to half-mast. And I would sigh: What was all that about? I was right here all the time.
THE DIALOGUE — COMING TO ME LIKE THE SPRING RAIN
And then I knew, the Lord was saying to me: Dee, what is all this about? I have been right here all the time.
The next morning, as is my habit, I turned to the psalms for prayer, and the psalm I “happened” to be on was Psalm 131. Amy Shreve sings it, and you can hear her sing part of it by clicking here:
(This CD is available in The God of All Comfort Studyguide. The studyguide is different from the book in that it studies the lyrics of the songs, whereas the book is a study about how to get through grief.)
A. Have you ever looked back on your life at a time when you felt Jesus was not with you, but now, you can see evidences that He was? Share a sentence about it.
B. Listen to Amy’s song above, which is almost like a lullaby to the soul. What impressions do you have? What stands out to you?
I knew the Lord was speaking to me when I read Psalm 131. One of the secrets I have discovered concerning intimacy with the Lord is to slow down when a passage “quickens” you, brings something in you to life. But before I tell you how the Lord spoke to me, I’d like you to look at this psalm, and dig out some truths for yourself.
READ PSALM 131
1. In verse 1, David, in speaking directly to the Lord, talk about what he will not do, referring to his heart, his eyes, and his mind. What are they?
2. CHALLENGE QUESTION: For those of you who have been through our study on idolatry, what do you think David is saying? (The contrast of verse 3 may help.)
3. What does David say he has done in verse 2?
4. ANOTHER CHALLENGE QUESTION: What do you know about “weaning” a child? (In biblical days children nursed longer, and weaning was traumatic, but finally, they were at peace without the mother’s breast — without what they thought they had to have. How might you apply this to your life?
When I read this psalm, I did not understand verse 1, until I went to a cross-reference in the end of Job, when Job responds, very similarly to David in Psalm 131:1, to hundreds of questions the Lord has directed to him. Job has suffered intensely, and has been asking, all through the book, for an audience with God so he can question God. God finally comes to Job out of a whirlwind.
5. What does God say to Job in Job 38:2-3?
6. Consider just a few of the questions God asks of Job.
A. Reflect on the following video, Job 38:12-13 and write down what God asks Job. Also, because this is amazing poetry, slow down, and write down your contemplations. (Even secular critics agree this is some of the best poetry every written.)
B. Reflect on the following video, Job 39:19-25 and write down what God asks of Job. Contemplations?
C. Reflect on the following video, Job 38:36 and write down what God asks Job. Contemplations?
7. Read Job’s response in Job 42:1-6
A. What is the first statement Job makes in verse 2?
B. Look at your pain, your loss. What can you speak to your soul on the basis of verse 2?
C. What does Job say in verse 3?
D. This is what the psalmist says in Psalm 131:2. How does this parallel shed light on the psalm? What is the psalmist saying?
E. What does Job say in Job 42:5. What does this mean?
F. What does Job do in Job 42:6?
In a discussion on suffering that Tim Keller has with six articulate unbelievers on his video, The Reason for God, Keller talks about how when a parent restricts a six-year-old, that child may be very angry and not understand why he is not allowed to do something, though it is very wise on the parent’s part. Keller asks, “Is it possible we are all six-year-olds when it comes to understanding the purposes of God?”
LISTENING TO THE PROGRAM
PLEASE LISTEN TO THE CORRESPONDING GOD OF ALL COMFORT PROGRAM ON MOODY — YOU CAN LISTEN LIVE AT NOON CENTRAL TIME MONDAY, OR LISTEN ONLINE. HERE IS THE LINK:
8. What stood out to you from the program?
Michael Card was interviewed on this program. Listen to his song, “Come Lift Up Your Sorrows” — here it is from YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TciR2ITXbaY
9. What stood out to you from Michael Card’s song?
LISTENING TO KELLER ON SUFFERING
This is last week’s sermon, but if you didn’t listen yet, please do. It’s free.
10. What did you learn from the program?
I am going to be recommending Keller’s messages on Job, but they are not free. They are 2.50 per MP-3, or a little less if you buy the series. They helped me so much in my grief. The money goes to ministries of Redeemer and they are very involved in helping the homeless and the poor in New York City. I listened to each of them at least three times, so if you want to get started, here’s the link: Click Here
11. What is your take-a-way from this week? Did God meet you in any way? If so, how?
UPDATE: Here is the link to the “God of All Comfort, Part 2” on Moody Radio: Link