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Posts Tagged ‘pain’

Loss, pain, loneliness, hopelessness, betrayal.

Tears.  Cries.

Desperate!

Been there.  Done that.  Did not like it!

When life—the things, the people, the needs—is out of control…when I can’t make things happen the way I want…when it goes on and on…when  there is much pain and little hope…desperation takes over.

Our friend King David understood.  Hear his cry of desperation in Psalm 142:

I cry aloud to the Lord;

    I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.

I pour out before him my complaint;

    before him I tell my trouble….

Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;

    no one is concerned for me.

I have no refuge;

    no one cares for my life….

Listen to my cry,

    for I am in desperate need…

God welcomes our cries.  He knows life in this fallen world is difficult, painful, desperate.

When I am desperate, I eventually:

*Fall on my face before God, usually literally.

I pour out my desperation, I cry out to Him, I admit my hurt, my disappointment, my fear,  my frustration, my anger.  I tell him once again that my life is not the way I want it.

*Say “Thank You, Lord.”

Not for my desperation, but in my desperation.  Thus, acknowledging that I know and believe that He is God and He is good.

*Open my hands. 

Often that means literally making a fist—holding tight to my wants and desires, my hopes and fears, my pain and hopelessness—and then one by one prying my fingers open so God can take out what He wants and put in His very good for me.

*Rest in Him. 

Sometimes the release and relief are immediate.  Other times it takes time.  But the leaning into Him and experiencing His comfort and peace produce healing and hope and rest.

David recognized that only the Lord could free him from his desperate place:

I cry to you, Lord;

    I say, “You are my refuge,

    my portion in the land of the living.”

Set me free from my prison,

    that I may praise your name.

I can gain comfort and encouragement from family, friends, books, counselors….  But when I am desperate, there is truly only one place to find deliverance:  the God who loves me and promises to care for me.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

    he delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,

    but the Lord delivers him from them all… (Psalm 34:17-19)

 

What about you?  Are you desperate yet?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Three generations sat around the table last night:   Our adopted son, Joshua; his grandparents, Mimi and Papa; his birth mother, Julie; his best friend, Jon, with girlfriend Megan; and Steve and I.

The occasion:  We were celebrating Josh’s 30th birthday—October 27.

As with any family, much joy, pain, hope and disappointment were represented at that dinner.

Mimi and Papa adopted Julie as a baby, not knowing  much about her.  As she became a teen, the usual teen identity search was magnified as it often is for adopted children.  Unfortunately, Julie’s struggle led to poor choices, including alcohol and drugs.  Her life has been hard—on the streets, in and out of jail, health issues.  She is fresh from prison and doing really well right now, living again with Mimi and Papa, caring for them.  She and i hugged, talked about Joshua, prayed together.

An early marriage gave Julie a daughter, who was adopted by Mimi and Papa to provide a stable life.   Six years later Joshua was born, and Julie was determined to raise him herself.  Eventually her addictions and life choices led to Joshua being taken from her, given to Mimi and Papa, and then to our family.

From the beginning Joshua provided challenges for us.  When he became a teen those challenges escalated into many poor choices and dangerous situations.  Most people observing would say Joshua had two possible outcomes for his future:  prison or death. (You can read his/our story beginning here.)

Yet here he is, turning 30.  A handsome young man. A good person, a good friend, a good son.  A responsible worker with his own landscaping business.  God’s grace is truly amazing.

But pain continues.  His marriage of 6 ½ years has failed.  Financial burdens are heavy.  A career path is uncertain.

Choices have consequences.  And those consequences often last many years, touch many people, impact generations.

Julie’s birth mother gave her up for adoption.  Mimi and Papa provided a loving home for her, but her choices affected her and many others: Mimi and Papa, her daughter and Joshua, our family, his marriage.

Joshua’s choices have also had far-reaching impact—painful and joyful.

So when someone says something like “It’s my life.  I can do what I want.  It’s no one else’s concern,” that is totally not true.  All of us affect others in our lives—for good or bad, for peace or pain, for life or death—by the choices we make.

Often those outcomes are hurtful.  Sometimes they are disastrous.

But sometimes our God does amazing transformations to redeem at-risk lives, to bring good from not good, to offer a future with hope.  As evidenced by the love and celebration at our table last night.

Pain continues—and Joshua has a lot of it right now.  But hope exists—and even abounds.  God says he is able to bring His good from our bad choices, from the hurt we inflict, from the reality of living in a fallen world.  His good usually looks different from what we hoped for, and never comes on our timetable, and is often a joyful surprise!

So here’s some good that could come from the pain that Joshua is experiencing right now:  As a birthday gift, would you pray for him as he seeks the next steps for his future, and especially that He would choose God’s path as he goes forward?  Thank you so much.

What about you?  Where have you seen choices bring widely felt consequences?  How has God redeemed some of those situations?

C2012 Judy Douglass

Related posts:

Chained and Imprisoned

Perspective at Any Season

Cupcakes for the Journey

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I’ve been bearing the weight of a long journey, especially the past few months.  So fellow Redbud Writer’s guest post on Bearing the Weight really ministered to me.  I know you will feel like Dorothy has come along side you as well.

I woke at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of wood scraping against the clapboard. The three birch trees outside our bedroom had gone from upright to nearly horizontal in the course of the night. It was a brutal storm.

Since we’ve not yet had a killing frost, most trees were cluttered with leaves which acted like velcro for the snow. Camera in hand, I headed for the conservation land at the end of our road hoping for a spectacular sunrise. Instead I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of trees taken out by the storm.

Saver of the Trees

I assumed a familiar post snow storm role – saver of the trees. Moving from sapling to sapling, I shook off the snow from as many as I could get my hands on. I don’t mean to come off as a pantheist, but I deeply identify with nature in crisis.

Due to a more than a decade long battle with chronic illness, like the trees on this October morning, I have many times felt incapable of standing erect. Fibro pain. Eighteen years of disrupted sleep. Sometimes all it takes is one thin coat of ice to make me feel that I can’t possibly shake off the burden and stand up.

With or without a medical diagnosis, many friends fight their own devastating storms: death of a spouse, failure of a marriage, loss of a crucial relationship, the unrelenting nature of caring for a disabled child or poorly aging parent. And that’s just here in a civilized nation. Those who were born in a region that lacks potable water, adequate food and medical care, or a stable governmentsmust clear the snow off their trunks at the advent of every sunrise. I have traveled enough to resist self-pity.

It’s odd to realize that something in and of itself so light could become such a burden. A single snowflake, perhaps even a thousand snowflakes would not even register on a scale. The cumulative effect, the unrelenting nature of chronic pain, be it physical or emotional, pushes it from barely noticeable to unbearable.

Pain Progressing

The leg and arm pain frustrated, but failed to sideline me. When it progressed enough to prevent me from skiing, swimming, and playing basketball with my sons, I tilted a good 30 degrees. And in the course of this past year, when conflicts in our community came crashing down around us, I could feel my back bending another 45 degrees. A few more inches and my nose will be scraping the ground.

Though I’ve rescued many trees before, I learned something during this storm. Typically, I tap the bent trunks and limbs causing just enough movement to free the wood from its burden. While that worked for the young saplings, it failed miserably with the older trees. The snow was too wet and the weight too substantial. The first limb I used this technique upon snapped decisively.

Needing a new method, I pondered what would serve me and realized that if someone sucker punched me, even if they had the best of intentions, I too would break in half. Instead, I reached under the limbs, ever so gently shaking the snow off, while gradually pulling it up. Even with this white glove treatment, I had a few additional breaks. We lost our peach tree completely and a good section of our dwarf red maple.

A Compulsion of Empathy

My trees saving compulsion reveals both my need as well as my pastoral instincts. I do for the trees exactly what I do for others and what I myself need. My instincts to serve those who bear a crushing burden issues less out of co-dependence, or a need to rescue, and more out of empathy.

I get it. I’ve had enough mornings when it takes all of the courage I can muster to just get out of bed and face another day. And more sleepless nights than I care to recall. Looking past my own limitations and reaching out to another eases my aloneness even as it practically serves them.

On some days however, despite my heroic efforts, I can’t lift my burden let alone anyone else’s. I often find myself turning to written words, seeking meaning and inspiration from others who have travelled this road before me and stopped long enough to write down their experience.

From King David in the Old Testament book of Psalms:

I lift my voice up, to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from you, maker of heaven, creator of the earth. Oh how I need you Lord. You are my only hope. You are my only prayer. So I will wait for you to come and rescue me, to come and give me life.

If you’re anything like me, waiting is hard. Sometimes excruciatingly painful in and of itself. Even as I dutifully freed many branches and saplings, the unmistakeable report echoed through the woods from trees that succumbed: a crack, followed by leaf covered branches plummeting down to earth. I have my moments when I wonder, Will I succumb too?

The only thing I know to do then is cry out to God and those around me, asking them to lighten my burden, come alongside of me, shake off the snow and gently lift me back up. And as soon as I have a shred of hope and strength, turn and do the same for the ones standing next to me whose heads are still bowed down.

Dorothy Greco is an extraordinary photographer who also writes.  She lives with her husband and three sons outside Boston.  You can see more of her beautiful work at http://www.dorothygrecophotography.com/

Photo by Dorothy Greco

What about you?  Where are you bearing a great weight?

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Today I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus. See how you can participate below.

by Judy Douglass

I’m a giver.

I love to give—encouraging words, desirable gifts, needed money.  And life challenges.

I always want my gifts to please, lift, help, awaken…

God is also a giver.

He assures us that He gives good gifts.

My experience, however, has been that His gifts often have deeper purposes.

Sometimes they are truly hazardous.

The most hazardous gift God has given me is our son.

Twenty years ago God sent a nine-year-old boy from a very difficult situation to our family.  From the beginning, he provided significant challenges for us. He came with the results of his birth mother’s neglect, alcohol and drug abuse:  learning disabilities, ADD, attachment issues, no ability to reason cause and effect, incredible need for center of attention. That was just the beginning.

By his late teens, we were fully into the world of rebellion, poor choices and their consequences.

Our son took us into places we knew nothing about. Calls from the school principal were not to tell of his latest accomplishment, but about his latest escapade and the possibility of expulsion.  We became familiar with the juvenile justice system and traffic court.  Would the late-night calls be from the jail or the hospital—we got both.  He and his friends lied to, stole from, took advantage of and abused us and our home.   Drugs, alcohol, sex, accidents…

The way was deep and dark.

This was a gift?

Oh yes.  Hazardous for sure, but surely a gift.

Amazingly, this boy had a positive impact on our ministry. Because we did not hide our struggle, but lived out the journey in appropriate ways before our staff, we found new doors of ministry opened.

The greatest impact was on my relationship with God. We were helpless and therefore driven into His arms. My honesty with, trust in and hope in God all grew in amazing ways.

A wonderful online prayer community—PrayerforProdigals.com—and a June 2 Worldwide Prodigal Prayer Day blesses thousands around the globe.  It is truly my son’s ministry.  And he still gets prayed for.

God gave many other specific gifts through this one hazardous gift:

I know I am totally dependent on God—I have never been able to make his life work the way I wish it would.

I learned to pray—really.

I know for sure that God will never give up on me—and He enabled me to not give up on that boy.

I have a better understanding of unconditional love—and that it doesn’t require love in return.

I am able to attest to God’s unfathomable love and grace.  I am so grateful for that love and grace.

I am able to share hope and courage with others.  And more.

So this is where I tell you all is well, right?  We’ve weathered the storm and survived this hazardous gift.

Well, mostly.  He has become a responsible, hard-working man.  He desires to make right choices. He brings joy to me.  But he finds it hard to entirely escape the darkness. Things from his past still come back to bite.  We’re in a little bit of a hard place right now.

I wouldn’t, however, trade this gift for anything.  Sure, life would have been easier, safer without him.   But the gifts produced by struggle and pain make him a valuable gift, a priceless treasure. Plus I really love him. Thank You, Lord, for such an incredible gift!

What about you?  Has God given you a hazardous gift?

C2012 Judy Douglass

Click over to the Synchroblog.

How to Join the HAZARDOUS Synchroblog

The synchroblog starts Monday, August 27th and runs all week until Saturday.

Write a blog post sharing a personal story about a challenge you faced as a follower of Jesus. (You could also add: “I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.”).

At the bottom of your post, link to the synchroblog landing page: http://wp.me/PewoB-SN so that others can share their own Hazardous Faith Stories (Hey, you can just copy and paste these bullet points!)

Add your post to the link up section at the bottom of the My Hazardous Faith Story landing page on Monday-Saturday. Don’t forget to read and comment on at least one other post!

Tweet your post with the #HazardousFaith tag.

Include this image with your post: 400 pixels or 250 pixels width.

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Life includes plenty of pain.  Much of it comes from the realities of life in a fallen world:  illness, accidents, natural disasters, financial crashes…

Sadly, too often, our pain is caused by other people.  I am horrified at what people will choose to do to each other:  theft, lies, abuse, slavery, rape, sexual trafficking, torture…

But the most painful is usually that inflicted by those we love—and we think love us.  That pain is often unbearable, barely endured, deeply grieved, scarcely survived.

God’s Word has given me real help.  I may not be able to control the cause of my pain, but I can choose how I respond.

So here are some responses that have made a difference for me.

1.  Tell God the Truth

How do I feel about what this person has done to me?  God knows what is in my heart and mind, and He can handle my rawest emotions.  I tell Him the truth.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. “ (John 4:23)

 2.  Thank God in the pain, the hurt, the person who has hurt me.

Thanking God helps to refocus my mind and heart.  It tells God that I know He is God and He is good.  And giving thanks opens the door for what God wants to do in the situation.

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

(More on giving thanks: In All Things)

3.  Look for the good that God is doing.

Sometimes the good is hiding for a later time, but often I can see glimpses of positive results:  changes in my life or the life of the one who hurt me; insight into my past and my future; resolution of unhealed wounds; opportunities to encourage others.

“I will never stop doing good to them…” (Jeremiah 32:40)

4.  Forgive the one who hurt me.

Really?  Do they deserve to be forgiven?  Probably not.   But I’ve been given repeated admonitions to forgive and a powerful model.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34)

(Some help: A Prayer for Forgiving)

5.  Bless the person who hurt me.

Once again, God is clear in His impossible requirements.  He tells me to bless my enemies, and yes, even this one I love feels like an enemy when he hurts me.

My tendency is to strike out verbally, to accuse, to blame—to curse.  But God says to leave the consequences to Him—He is a much better justice maker than I am.  When I choose to bless, amazing things happens—my attitude begins to change, the person receives my blessing and that blessing invariably comes back to me.

Jesus:  “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.“   (Luke 6:28)

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)       

(More on blessing:  Scattering Blessings) 

When I do these things, does the hurt go away?  Not usually.  But these responses open my heart and mind to receive the love and grace God wants to pour all over me.  And grace and love are powerful healers.

What about you?  How does God help you when you have been hurt by someone you love?                         

C2012 Judy Douglass

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“Josh has cut his head open with a chain saw!”

These words from Josh’s wife, Brandon, sent chills through me.  Horror.   Fear.

Josh was trimming a shrub for a client.  The chain saw kicked back on him, right into his forehead.  Blood gushed.  Pain seared.  Josh managed to hold his head and call 911.  A passing driver stopped to help him.  The paramedics rushed him to Trauma.

Brandon arrived.  Family came.  I got there.  Many called and visited at the hospital.  Twitter and Facebook prayers.  Love and care.

It was not life threatening.  It missed his eye by a fraction of an inch.  Only a chip from the skull.  No brain damage.  Yes, a deep and ragged gash, requiring many stitches by a plastic surgeon.  Weak and achy.  Ongoing pain.  Living with a life-long scar.

Beautiful reminders:

Josh’s word to God:  “Thank You, Lord.”  (1 Thes. 5:18)

Josh’s word to me:  “I just don’t want to miss what God has for me in this.” (Rom 8:28)

Josh’s word to Brandon:  “I haven’t had time to get you a Christmas gift.”  Her response:  “You are my gift.  You are alive!”

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First I talked with Sarah (not her real name). Sarah’s husband was in prison for speaking the truth about Jesus. He and others were sentenced to five years in prison. It was appealed, but in the meantime, Sarah and her two children waited.

A stray tear rolled down her cheek as she told me that they were proud of their husband/father, but they miss him terribly. They were proud that he was sharing in the Lord’s suffering and telling others about Him. They were determined to keep their faith strong and continue to serve God. They were demonstrating real courage.

Then I met with Julia (not her real name). She too shed tears as we talked. She and her two children also missed their husband/father. He was murdered for speaking boldly about Jesus. They didn’t understand why this happened. The pain was humanly unbearable. But they knew he was a brave man who loved God. Julia was determined to continue in ministry—to honor her husband and to honor her Lord. Courage is a word that applies to her also.

We all need courage—often. Sometimes that courage is for great, life-shaking events, losses, pain. Sometimes it is for less dramatic events, but courage is still required.  We need courage to face our fears, our uncertainties, our confusion. We need courage to step into the unknown, to try something new, to take a risk. We need courage to let go and to embrace.

Most of us will not encounter the traumas that Sarah and Julia endured. Our fears and doubts and reluctances may be in different arenas. But each of us will have those times when we need to throw ourselves completely on God—and the mercy, grace, strength and courage that He alone can provide.

He is so faithful to ENCOURAGE us—to put courage in us.

He said to Joshua: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

The Lord Jesus often said to His disciples: “Do not be afraid.” He promised to be with them, to take care of them, to provide for them.

And He says the same to us: “Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous.” In every test, each trial, with each fear, every risk, with all terrors and uncertainties, Jesus is there to ENCOURAGE us—to give us the measure of courage we will need.

And He often uses us as his instruments of instilling courage in those we love, work with, minister to: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) What a privilege!

May God give you courage today.

c Judy Douglass 2010

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