When Hope Needs Help

The visual was perfect. For each grief experienced, the group leader added another Lego to the crystal bowl.legos

Griefs piled up as various women listed them: miscarriage, deaths, loss of a dream, divorce, infertility, unemployment, sexual assault, moving, rejection, feeling misunderstood, loneliness, the aging process, a husband’s infidelity, the illness of a child, et cetera.

Finally the mountain of Legos representing grief fell over. A mess on the floor. A mess in life. The perfect representation of what happens when we let griefs pile up.

The group leader explained, “It’s important to recognize each loss and grieve it in a healthy way. Discover what kind of griever you are and work through it. Ask for help. Piles of grief can become dangerous, causing stress and even illness.”

I knew she was right, but at that moment—I did not recognize how deceptive grief could be.

What looked like a mere transition in life had become a loss of identity.

What seemed like ministry had merged into codependency.

What felt like strength—a sucking-it-up method of living, masqueraded as denial and eventual pain.

Joy stolen. Loneliness expanded.

A memory of another saint who pronounced denial on me as I grieved the loss of my first child, “Oh, this is nothing for you,” she said with a beatific smile. “You’re a strong woman with a strong faith. You can deal with this.”

Ministers are not always allowed the opportunity and the vulnerability to grieve. They are supposed to help everyone else. Never ask help for themselves.

When we cannot see the truth in ourselves, it is vital to listen as others come alongside. “Praying for you,” says a friend. “I can tell something is wrong.”

“How can I help?” asks another. So refreshing, this offer of coffee and a friendly hug.

“You need to see a counselor,” says the trusted spiritual director.

Hard truth is still truth.

Hope threads through the losses in search of restoration.

Sometimes we must ask for help from those who see more objectively, those who are trained to find the germ before it grows into a virus.

And sometimes—instead of helping others—we need to take a break and seek help for ourselves.

This writer now seeks help, moves toward a professional who can sort out the hump I am hiding behind—the reason I cannot move past Deb’s death.

Mental trash cans filled with unresolved griefs I was not allowed to share.

My soul already feels some healing although pulling off the Bandaid hurts. I rest in the salve of faith and put my hope in that future day when tears wash away pain instead of adding to it.

Hope requires that I use the resources available to me, keep looking up to the One who grieves with me and remember—he never ever lets me go.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All rights reserved.

When you are grieving and need to look toward hope, check out Hope Shines. Now also available in Large Print.

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Delay vs. Denial

Somewhere on the internet, I read the quote, “God’s delay is not necessarily his denial.”

It seemed like the perfect sentiment for a bumper sticker or maybe a tasteful tattoo. But in spite of the obvious aesthetic value of these settings, I wondered what the quote might teach me.

So many Bible verses challenge us to wait while Bible stories seem to underline this principle. “Wait on the Lord. Wait I say on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). King David waited several years and battled for his life until he finally became King of Israel. Hannah, Elizabeth and Sarah waited years for a promised child. Even Jesus waited to fulfill his destiny until God said, “Go.”

Within the closet of my prayer life, I often list requests and then wait for God to do something. But recently, I experienced that time-lapsed delay in reverse.

As a writer, I want my work posted on best-seller lists. The notoriety is only one piece of that desire. Marketing is another. But the most important role that a best-seller plays is that the words God has given me go out into the world. Writing a best-seller is one of the best ways to fulfill the Great Commission. Words travel from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and into all the world – including over the internet waves in cyberspace.

So as a writer, I pray that my words will become best-sellers. I’ve been doing this work professionally for almost 40 years and thought I was still waiting and praying for a best-seller. But God already answered that prayer in reverse and didn’t tell me about it. Recently, I discovered that “A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers” – one of the anthologies that includes my writing –  became a best-seller back in 2007. All this time, I could have been celebrating with chocolate or cheesecake – or worship.

So it is true that God’s delay is not necessarily his denial. In my case – he answered a long time ago – and chose not to tell me. That’s okay. Now, I can pray for the next best-seller.