Archive | March 2015

From Adversity to Triumph

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We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts.  Romans 5:3-5, NCV 

An anvil is a tool with a hard surface on which another object is struck. You might say the anvil graduated from the “tool house” of hard knocks. In most cases the anvil was used as a forging tool, and before the advent of modern welding technology it was the primary tool for metal workers. If we liken the anvil to the hardships in our lives what is the result? As an example, why don’t we explore a bit of Joseph’s story from Old Testament times. Like many of us, he had it rough, but how can an ancient story make sense to the modern, grieving heart? Let’s peek into his life and see if we can uncover anything that might fit our lives today.

Joseph was the eleventh of twelve sons born to his father, Jacob. He was the first child born to his mother, Rebekah, Jacob’s favorite wife. The other sons were from Leah, Jacob’s first wife and from his wives’ maids. Does it sound complicated? It must have been the source of much drama during the time in which they lived. And on top of everything else, Joseph was his father’s favorite son, which provoked jealousy in the hearts of his step brothers. It didn’t help that he had dreams and then explained their meaning to his family in which he implied that his brothers would one day bow down to him. I can imagine how I’d feel if one of my siblings said that to me. It would not have gone over well.

The jealousy led to a quick life-changing act at the young age of seventeen. One day Joseph’s father sent him to the fields to check on his brothers. He happened to be wearing the special coat woven especially for him. Not the usual drab colors shepherds’ wore, this coat stood out with its bold, bright colors and the brothers saw Joseph coming from a long ways off. Their blood boiled just thinking about this self-proclaimed dreamer. One brother suggested they get rid of him once and for all. Others suggested they not murder him, but sell him to a band of Midianite merchants they could see approaching in the distance, who would be on their way to Egypt to sell their wares and slaves. For a little change in our pockets, some of them reasoned, we could unload this dreamer and be rid of him. And so that is what they did and changed their brother’s life forever. Plucked from innocence and freedom, he was now destined to be a slave in the household of Potapher, Captain of the Palace Guard. Would Joseph ever see his family again? Where was his God when he needed Him most?

Meanwhile back in the fields, the brothers concocted a lie to tell their dad when they returned home. They would tell him that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. They produced Joseph’s coat as evidence, which they had dipped in goat’s blood, supposedly proving that they were telling the truth. The Bible says that Jacob mourned a long time for his son and refused to be comforted. He lived many more years grieving his loss. Even though he was surrounded by his many other children and their offspring, the death of Joseph nearly killed him. He refused to be comforted saying, “I will mourn for my son until I die.” (Genesis 37:35, GW) Sound familiar? I have said these same words. You too?

And so began a different life for Joseph . . . one he did not choose. He had been taught well at home and even though he must have resented his loss of freedom, he set to work to do his best. Do you think he wondered how this wicked action could possibly be a part of God’s plan for his life? Did he blame God? We have no evidence that he did. Did he know his life would get better over time? Did he know he would get out of jail after being unjustly accused? Did he know whether or not his brothers would be brought to justice? Did he know that one day he would be given a high place in public office where he would face his family again and they would indeed bow down to him? No. Joseph did not know his life in advance any more than we do.

We have the advantage of being able to take a panoramic view of Joseph’s life whereas he did not know what lay ahead. It’s worth taking the time to read through all the twists and turns from adversity to triumph within the pages of Genesis. It may be difficult for us to see our reflection within Joseph’s story, but if we take the time to look, perhaps it will give our own personal faith a boost.

Sometimes we find ourselves in our own deep well of adversity and see no way out. Perhaps Joseph did too, when he was sold as a slave, but he chose to not give up on God even though his future seemed to have collapsed at his feet before he had barely begun to live. How discouraging it must have been to try and try and try and still come up short. He suffered many losses over the next few years while in bondage to Pharaoh, but God never left his side. He had plans, big plans, and one day Joseph would have 20/20 vision, and he would see how God had led him step by step until the day he was promoted to second in command under Pharaoh and was in charge of feeding the nations who were struck by the adversity of famine. Eventually his family joined him and his dad lived out his final years surrounded by all of his children, even the one he thought he had lost forever. All along the way, God was with him and blessed him. Even when he was unjustly accused of raping his boss’s wife and sent to prison, God was with him, helping him to stay faithful within his circumstances. 

~Especially during life’s trials, our spiritual muscles are exercised and strengthened, thus building characters fit for heaven~

But Joseph replied [to his brothers], “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.  Genesis 50:19-20, NLT

I am familiar with the same impatience you feel. I didn’t think I could last a week after my son’s suicide and now it has been years. I’m as eager as you are to see the end of suffering and pain and have our children restored to us once again. Like Joseph, soon we can shout loud enough for the enemy to hear, “YOU INTENDED TO HARM ME, BUT GOD INTENDED IT ALL FOR GOOD!”

 

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They can’t get it

Who has gathered the wind in His fists?  Proverbs 30:4, AMP

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They don’t get it. They can’t get it. They can no more understand what it’s like than they can see the wind or capture a sunbeam. As human beings, we aren’t wired to comprehend the sudden, tragic death of our children. It’s as if we have been unexpectedly plunged into thick darkness and left to feel our way along in unfamiliar territory with no guard rails or flashlights. There is no data in the imagination from which to draw if you don’t have firsthand experience, and no survivor would wish that on anyone. So I don’t plan on being too hard on those who try to help from the sidelines. They will never be in the trenches of tragedy unless it strikes them personally. Perhaps a couple of personal stories will help illustrate their lack of understanding.

The first story happened a few years earlier when life was humming along on “normal” and when, naively, I did not understand the complexity of depression or the long-duration potential this dreaded disease has on the human spirit. I had developed complications after a simple surgery and needed further surgery. I wasn’t worried. But I was nervous and when I get nervous, I become a “chatty Cathy” and so I was chatting away with anyone within earshot. The doctor was delayed, but the nurses went about making the usual preparations by hooking me up to this and that. The longer the delay, the more urgent became my need to use the powder room . . . again.

Now this all happened quickly, you understand, but I will slow it down to include all the details so it makes sense. The doctor had medical residents observing at nearly every office visit so I was used to having them around and listening to the doctor explained my medical details to us both. It felt like I was on display, but I digress.  I had just told the nurse of my predicament, knowing I was making more work for her to unhook me, but she was gracious about it. I had no more asked the nurse to help me get there when a medical resident came to the foot of my bed and shyly asked, “May I watch?” I hate missing an opportunity to tease (and embarrass, I know, and I should be punished), so I responded, “I’m on my way to the powder room. Not sure watching would be a good idea.” Bless his heart. He turned beet red and quickly disappeared and as far as I know, he never returned to observe me . . . ever.

In telling this story, one does not need first hand experience to understand how the resident felt. You can instantly relate to his predicament, being so “brutally” embarrassed, can you not? Most people have had medical procedures done. Most people have been embarrassed a time or two that they can recall. And maybe there are at least a few readers who would have taken advantage of the situation, just to watch a sweet resident squirm a little.

Fast forward a few years. Life had taken an ugly turn. Sweet had turned to bitter in an instant when I got the word that our son had taken his own life. We’ve explored the emotions of tragic loss in this forum many times and we will continue to do so, for we are never finished. There will always be attempts to plummet the depths of painful loss as long as time shall last.

Friends offered to drive us to the mortuary and memory gardens to pick out things that appalled us and sign things with shaky hands that we would never choose to sign. Death had us in a vise grip. Mind was in a fog. Numbness affected sight, sound, and limbs. I ricocheted between nausea and fainting most of the time. But in the course of riding to these places to make decisions, someone said something in the car, I don’t remember what, and I laughed spontaneously, out of habit to be sure. These were friends we spent recreational time with and laughter was our entertainment, but this day, I was struck instantly with nausea.

What surprised me, however, was the response from one of the friends along for the ride. She responded to my outburst of laughter with, “Oh, that’s the friend we know.” And I heard it as, “Our old friend is back!” They didn’t get it. I was far from the friend they knew. That person had been blown to bits and was still free falling somewhere out in space. They were our close friends, but they had no idea how I reacted to laughing. Apparently they did not see my facial expression nor did they know I suddenly felt sick enough to vomit. I had to mentally talk myself down from that one; it was neither the time nor the place to be sick.

You see, they couldn’t get it. Even though they were taking us by the hand to places we wanted to kick and scream our protest, that did not help them to understand. They were wanting to draw out the usual and customary humor to break the ice and ease the tension we all were feeling . . . more likely what they were feeling. We were embalmed in a fog and not feeling at all. And to this day, I resent anyone attempting to cover up, smooth over, change the subject, or any other reaction they might have at the sight of parents’ tragic horror.

You feel this, don’t you? You understand my reaction and my protest for you have had similar reactions of your own, have you not? You could share versions of your stories and we’d all nod in agreement. Unfortunately we have been forced into getting it. We get it so much it’s hard to allow ourselves to relax our grip. Loss of a precious child to suicide is the most horrific loss and if you witnessed your child’s death on top of it all, I can’t imagine the pictures in your mind and I am so sorry for the added crushing pain you must feel. I am so sorry for the pain suicide causes those who are outliving a beloved child. I am so sorry for anyone who has lost a child from any cause. We are never prepared to lose a child. We would not be able to get it, unless, sadly, it became our horrible reality. Therefore it is all the more reason to cling to this promise:

The Sovereign Lord will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The Lord himself has spoken.  Isaiah 25:8, GNT

 

This entry was posted on March 20, 2015. 6 Comments