We have permission to grieve, the past year, for all of the things we lost. Time with family and friends, warm hugs and the sparkle in a friend’s eye when she sees you for the first time in almost a year. Laughing over a meal, feeling that joy and connection that you can only obtain when in the presence of someone you truly love.
We have permission to grieve the loss of a relationship, which could not traverse the chasm of political and social disparity. The time spent in deep conversation about hopes and dreams for the future, for the love of our Savior and spreading love and the message on our hearts.
We have permission to grieve and stand in solidarity with our African American and Asian American friends who have had a lifetime of violence and deleterious exploits this year. We can weep with them, listen to their grief, and put an arm around them in love.
God gave us emotions as a beautiful gift, to experience joys and love but with that comes sadness and sorrow. We have permission to feel and hold both at the same time.
Jesus wept for his friends Lazarus and his sister Mary. You have permission by our creator to feel those feelings of grief and cry, knowing He is there with you weeping, and He gives us hope that there will be joy again soon.
When Jesus saw her weeping, …he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” Jesus wept. John 11:33-35
Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
“We talk about the fires or hard things we walk through, the ashes we have to sift through, and then the beauty that we find in unexpected ways from the stories that God has written for our lives” ~Heather Lobe Johnson
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “Take These Ashes: Finding True Hope in Our Suffering, with host Heather Lobe Johnson and guest Kristin Vanderlip.” Kristin is a writer and author of “Life Worth Living, A Daily Growth Journal.” Helping woman to develop a steadfast faith and love of the Lord.
Kristin begins by sharing her story. As I started to get into my relationship with God, which began as a Catholic, I became more of a rule follower. I knew Jesus came to offer you this abundant life, He is going to save you from sin and bring you peace, abundance, and prosperity. All of those things worked well for me until they didn’t. Until I got a real dose of suffering. Years later I realized that part of my suffering was tied to my expectations that God was going to protect me from suffering.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
“On December 1st our daughter was born. She had quite a few medical issues. The statistical evidence that was thrown at me in light of my faith was hard for me to believe, in light of God who can do the impossible, was very hard for me spiritually. She did pass away at a month old. We had no support system; we were in Alabama for only 6 months. The unexpected loss of a child, loss of my career, loss of community, more loss than I could ever imagine. As if that was not enough, a couple of weeks later my Dad passed away from cancer at age 60. I felt like God where are you, how could you allow this to happen, where is the abundant life, where is the protection?”
“In the midst of my grief, I kept turning to God because I felt His presents, His undeniable peace, when it didn’t make sense.”
Part of my healing was I had to stop resisting suffering, I had to reframe it in a way as it is not punishment, it doesn’t mean you are not loved or cared for by God. To see suffering as an invitation and move forward in life and anticipating more troubles are going to come and they are going to hurt and they are going to be unexpected but I will know without a doubt that God’s spirit will help me persevere. That has been the most transformative.”
Heather interjects, “On a practical level are there other things that have been a comfort to you or other places that you have seen God in the hardships you have walked through?”
Kristin explains, “Every day I started off with a prayer ‘God save me from this, God stop the pain.’ I wanted a miraculous healing for my broken heart, I didn’t want to feel the pain anymore. When I realized this is going to be a process, it didn’t mean I stopped praying, my prayers shifted, to be more aware of your spirit and of your goodness.”
“In the loneliness I turned to writing, I was journaling and writing. The gift of loneliness was growing in intimacy with God.”
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Kristin created a beautiful journal, which helped her during her time of suffering. She describes it here:
“Journaling can be such a transformative practice. If you are a writer or not, you should give it a try. Most of my journaling is pouring my heart out onto the pages.”
“I ended up using the tools from therapy and understanding scripture more. I made this journal for myself and it has 3 basic parts.”
Pour out your struggles in a safe space to share your heart.
Then you pause to think more action oriented, to think about the growth or overcoming that you are seeing in your life. Not to just get to the end but in a way that gives you hope to see this transformation. Pay attention to what the Lord is changing in you.
It ends with thinking about what is good, it can be a promise of God that you are focusing on or the cup of coffee you made for yourself that morning, or the text message from a friend that stands out.
Heather wraps up the podcast by thanking Kristin for sharing and stating, “It helps you to see that there is something I control or a promise I can hold onto to.”
This podcast had such rich godly guidance and real-life struggles that I chose to give you the highlights of it and no additional commentary. This was only a third of the actual podcast, Heather speaks more about her story and they both talk about how scripture has promoted healing in both of their lives and how it displayed God’s hand at work in their suffering.
Links to the podcast, Kristin’s journal, and how to connect with Heather and Kristen are all below. I pray this episode along with part one, with Jodi Rosser and Dorina Gilmore, will aid you in discovering God walking along side you everyday.
An amazing story, I was blown away, click below to read it:
What is suffering? Merriam-Webster.com (30 March 2021) defines it: the state or experience of one that suffers: to endure death, pain, or distress; to sustain a loss or damage; to be subject to a disability or a handicap. Hope: is to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true; to trust. As Christians we find our hope in God.
It was June 2010 and my children were wrapping up their school years. My son finishing up his elementary career, going from the small Catholic school he attended since 2nd grade, into the public middle school. My daughter finishing up second grade at that same school she attended since kindergarten. The news that their father suddenly passed away hit hard, it was like a sucker punch to the gut and took the wind right out of me. Even though our relationship was not tangible, it was still difficult to fathom, and my children still needed their Dad.
During the hardest storm I have ever been through I thought, how am I going to get through this? I was grateful that my faith was strong and I prayed a lot but during that time I needed people more than I ever did. At the time I didn’t realize how much my soul needed friends and family, I didn’t know what I needed, but God did. He answered the prayers I did not know to pray.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
The people God sent into my life were such gifts and blessings. When I was at my lowest someone would call or text me and it would bolster my outlook for the day. They brought so many meals, took my children so I could have time to myself and the kids could have a distraction from the sorrow. They helped me pack up the only home my children knew to move to the next town over. It was such a gift and it gave me hope that things would get better. God showed me there is hope in the people who answer His call to care for those who are suffering.
And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:6
Leading into Easter I thought it would be appropriate to write on suffering. This will be a two-part blog series on that topic. The podcast I am reviewing this week has a very similar story line to mine. The name of the podcast is “Depth with Jodi Rosser: Walk, Run, Soar.” She is interviewing one of my favorite authors, Dorina Gilmore-Young, author, speaker, Bible teacher, and spoken word artist.
Jodi asks Dorina, I know you shared that running was part of your healing in your grief. I’d love for you to share more about that. Dorina’s reply, I will provide some context of my life, I moved to central California after college, I was a journalist. I started attending a church and met my husband Ericlee. He had a connection to Haiti; his grandparents were pioneer missionaries there. He decided to put on a mission trip to Haiti which I also attended. When we came home, we started to date, were engaged the following summer in Haiti, and then married in 2003. We had 3 daughters and started a non-profit in Haiti. Then in 2014 my husband received a diagnosis of stage 4 melanoma cancer. We had this momentum serving the Lord, he was very healthy, a runner and a triathlete. His body deteriorated very quickly; in three short months Ericlee went to heaven. I found myself a widow at age 37 with three daughters, ages 2, 5, and 8. Everything in my world fell apart. It has been 6 years and God has done so much in my life to redeem me from that situation. Running has been part of that therapy, just going and moving through grief. I found that physical movement helped me to move through the emotional grief and even spiritual questions I had. When I ran, I would ask those questions of God and He could handle them. You never get over the grief but the running helped me to move forward.
Jodi goes on to speak about another chapter from Dorina’s book “Walk, Run, Soar, called Traversing Life’s Trails”. “You talk about how running a trail race is different than running a regular race. When you are on the trails you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what is ahead. This seems so much like 2020, the uncertainty of what is coming. Can you tell us what you learned from this trail run?”
Dorina states, I started trail running with a group of friends after my husband’s death. Trail racing is different than a road race. Even if you know the trail in different seasons it will be different, the ground may be more wet or the grasses are higher or rocks in different places. I was running and reflecting on what God was teaching me on my grief journey. As I was running, I couldn’t find the pace. I am going uphill and thinking about how life sometimes is uphill and hard, feel that strain on your muscles as you are climbing. Toward the end of the race this woman in back of me says you are running a great race, thanks for pacing me. I turn around and quickly introduced myself. Then I realized she was trained by my husband and it was so neat how God had us meet on this trail. She was encouraged by me pacing her and I was encouraged to meet her, someone who had a connection to my husband. In life sometimes the thing that keeps us going is knowing someone is coming up behind us, kids, friends, and people we are mentoring just by our example. That is what God reminded me on that day.
I love how Dorina points out that our faith and how we live it out is a way of mentoring to those around us. Reflecting our faith, shining the light of Jesus in our family and community. When we are there for another person who is hurting, showing love to those who we don’t think deserve it, or just saying thank you for your hard work to the grocery store clerk. This is being the hands and feet of Jesus.
I want to thank all of my friends who were there for me during my most difficult time, walking out your calling from God. Krista, Ellen, Marie, Karen, Jonna, Eileen, and my best friend who continues to be there for me today – Joan. I cannot forget to mention my Mom Corinne; couldn’t have done it without you. All of you are so dear to my heart and I will forever be grateful for the love and kindness you showed to me and my family! I pray that you will continue to see the hope in walking out God’s calling, continue to listen to him speak and nudge you along the way.
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonians 1:11
There was so much more to this podcast that I could not include here. I highly recommend you listen to it. Also, Dorina has her own podcast called “Walk, Run, Soar”, it is the intersection of faith and running. I will link to that and her book below.
Praying for a reflective Good Friday and a joyful Easter morning for you and all of your families! God bless.