A Scent of Water
a daily devotional for the first six months of bereavement.
Following the traumatic accident in which I saw my mother's life ended, there was an extended period of grief and mourning, during which I found it very difficult to pray or to read the Bible. I couldn't concentrate, nothing seemed to help, and I wished that there was a specific daily devotional to help me to connect with the Lord in and through the grief. I've written "A Scent of Water" in the hope that it might be of assistance to others in times of bereavement and grief.
I have had on my heart from some time to put together a daily devotional, as an aid for the first year of mourning and bereavement. Just a verse and a few thoughts, for the times when mourning and grief mean that anything longer, anything deeper, is impossible.
For those days when finger-tip-hanging is by just one nail.
When grief is all consuming, raw, inconsolable.
I know that. I have been there. For a full two years I have been there. There were times when I barely clung on. When hugs rubbed me raw, and consoling well-meant clichés rang false.
When God seemed far away. I was far away.
I could not read. Anything, let alone the Bible. When the depression and the blackness were all consuming and life was barely worth living.
I had Amy Carmichael's “”Edges of His Ways,” a book of short daily devotionals usually based on a verse of Scripture. Some days were good, comparatively, and I read the brief thought. But it was not specific enough, did not often touch my deepest cries. I needed something more, something very short but very intentional.
I decided to write it myself. And now I offer it to you whose heart is broken, who has a hole the shape of a loved one who is no longer with you. May the Lord meet with you on and through this sob-wracked pathway, binding up the broken-hearted. Jesus promised that when we die we go to be with Him; He also promised that He is always with us. So our loved ones are with Him and He is with us – so they are not so very far away. We are held in Him together.
There are 23 weeks, each of which are for Monday - Saturday; and immediately after the introduction, there is a section for special days – the funeral, the first Christmas, anniversaries, birthday. There are pictures and photos to be uploaded too. Thank you for patience! One day I hope to publish this as a little book of devotionals for those who grieve, but in the meantime do pass it on to anyone who may find it helpful.
"There is hope for a tree when it is cut down.
merely a scent of water will make it grow again."
Job 14:7-9 (God’s Word Translation)
The book of Job and the telling of his suffering and bereavement is probably one of the oldest books of Scripture. It asks one of the oldest questions -
Is there hope?
Is there hope for a tree cut down?
At the merest scent of water it will bud and grow new shoots again. (Job 14:7-9)
The scent of water. My prayer is for this small book to be the merest scent of water for someone else whose grief causes them to feel like a tree cut down.
“There is hope for a tree when it is cut down.
It will sprout again.
Its shoots will not stop sprouting.
If its roots grow old in the ground
and its stump dies in the soil,
merely a scent of water will make it sprout
and grow branches like a plant.” (Names of God Bible)
Notes of explanation:
sometimes in the comments there is a line ___. It is a blank space to be filled with the name of the one for whom you are grieving.
The weeks do not have to be read in the order they are here; sometimes it may be helpful to flick through and allow your eyes to alight on something that seems relevant or helpful for today, for this week.
Some days during the first year of mourning are so important, so shattering, so huge in their grief, that they require something special. This is my own attempt to write for those particular events. Everyone’s grief is so different, and I only know mine. I also know that learning to find gratitude in the grief and brokenness was an important part of my journey.
THE DAY OF THE FUNERAL
My heart is frozen. I can’t believe this day has come. Some people’s tears become a raging torrent or a flooded waterfall; for others there is the ice. It is hard to hear through the ice. Or above the sound of the waters. It’s impossible for me to reach out or for me to feel others reaching out to me. But today, today, I want to be strong, Lord. There will be others grieving at this service, others missing __ . So I commit this day of all days to you, Lord God. Help me to give thanks for __’s life and for all the love we shared and knew. Give me the strength I need today, Lord – the courage to stand straight and acknowledge my pain, the ability to comfort others with the comfort you are giving me. To be able to say, “What a faithful God have I.”
Jesus promised: “I will not leave you comfortless, desolate, bereaved, forlorn, helpless. I will come (back) to you.” John 14:18 (Amplified Bible)
THE DAY AFTER THE FUNERAL
___ is gone, and nothing can bring them back. I am going through the motions – or not – automatically, frozenly, numbly. I still can’t believe this is the start of life without them. Yesterday was like the end of an era; almost an end of me too. Others were wanting to be hugged and to hug me. It felt like my raw wounds being rubbed; it was agony.
Yet you, Lord God, are in it all with me. I have to believe that. I don’t feel blessed in any sense whatsoever, so hold me, Lord. Hold me close. I’ve nothing else except you.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. ” Matthew 5:3-4 (The Message)
Christmas won’t be the same without ___
Ever. Or so it seems right now. There will be a __shaped emptiness, around the table, singing carols, by the tree, opening presents. It’s times like these s/he is missed the most. But I don’t want to mope, to spoil the day for the rest of the family. I know I will be wobbly inside, tears will be near, the ache will be more pronounced. But today is about YOU, Jesus, and your coming to earth. Fill me with the love of the ChristChild today, Lord; thank you for being my Counsellor, my Almighty God, my Everlasting Father, my Prince of Peace – my all in all.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Prince of Wholeness.
Isaiah 9: 2, 6 (The Message)
What a strange feeling – that it all happened last year, that I won’t see __ this year at all. ‘Last year’ makes their going all the more distant. It’s last year since we hugged, last year that we talked. I am going into this new year knowing I won’t see them, hear them, this year. And so the normal anticipation of a new year, with its connotations of new beginnings and fresh starts, of opportunities and events, is tinged with sadness, sorrow, aloneness.
Yet I don’t go into it alone. You, Lord, are by my side, the God who makes all things new. You promised to be with me; I claim that promise now, Lord, as I step over the threshold of this new year. Keep me by your side.
“Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT)
I know I don’t have to do anything special today – there is no ‘should’ about it all. And apart from the family, no one else will really notice anything different about today. But because it’s a birthday, the sorrow washes over me anew. The alone-ness is intensified. The memories of other birthdays crowd in. I feel as if I’ve been through the wringer – head achey, eyes sore and red-rimmed, sorrow starting up again and surprising me by its intensity. Birthdays should be happy occasions, a time for celebrating. And so through the fog of my grief, I want to celebrate, to be grateful for memories of happier birthdays. Joy and sorrow and love, all bound up together, on this birthday.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. James 1:17-18 (NIV)
There's no card or present from them, of course. True, others have remembered my birthday and I am glad and grateful. But still, I miss that one phone call, card, voice; I'm noticing the absence, yet in the absence I can be grateful for all the years, all the memories, all the times we were together on this day. I am thankful that the Lord knows me, created me, gives me another year.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made Psalm 139: 13,14 (NIV)
Today would have been – no, IS – our wedding anniversary. And I am here alone. One half of a whole. I miss __ more than I ever felt possible. But today of all days, I want to give thanks for the life we had together, for all we shared: the good and the bad. I long for __’s touch, hug, kiss. I feel as if a part of me is missing. Grief is the price I am paying for love. I hate being the one left behind.
As I mourn afresh today, Lord, remind of all the wonderful times we had, of all that we meant to one another. Forgive me for not saying “I love you” enough, forgive me for all the times I shouted, stormed, turned away. Lord, take away the painful memories and keep me thankful for the good ones.
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. Song of Songs 8:7 (NIV)
ONE YEAR TO THE DAY.
I have been on a long hard journey this past year. I can scarcely believe it is only one year – in some ways it feels like yesterday since __ died, in other ways it feels like a lifetime ago. I am learning to live with this ‘new normal.’ It has not been easy and there is a way to go yet; I can appreciate why people used to wear mourning clothes for two years. But I know there comes an end to this grieving; that I carry __ in my heart forever and I know s/he would not want me to put my life on hold for much longer. And I know that one day, one day, Death will be gone for good, that the Lord will wipe away all tears, and we will be with him without pain or sorrow or grief. “Forever with the Lord! Amen, so let it be.”
I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Rev 21:3-5 (The Message)
WEEK ONE: Immanuel, God With Us
Grief can be a solitary and isolating experience for many of us. Jesus knew the depth of grief like that. This week’s readings help us to realise that he knows, he understands, he is there IN it with us.
He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. It was our sorrows that weighed him down.
Isaiah 53: 3-4 (NLT)
Jesus knew grief; the sense of the Hebrew is that he was familiar with deepest calamity and sorrow.He knew; he knows. And he carries our sorrows.
So he does understand. I don’t even have to tell him – he knows how I am feeling today.
Thank you, Lord, for knowing.
Jesus burst into tears.
John 11:35 (ISV)
These words give me permission to grieve. Not that I need it – although sometimes in our western culture I feel that I do need that permission. Too many times I have been told that it’s all for the best, they are in a better place ….. they may be, but I am left here without them, and I am hurting. My tears fall unchecked and I want to hide. Public grief is not part of my culture.
But it was for Jesus; he burst into tears as he arrived at the tomb of his close friend Lazarus. He was not ashamed of his grief. Death causes tears.
Lord, all I can give you today are my tears.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize (with our weaknesses)
Jesus understands not just the facts of my grief; he understands the feelings too. He understands the pain, the depression, the hurt of being left alone. Far from being cold and heartless, he is full of tenderness and sympathy. He too knows the full gamut of emotions. Even if those around me try to understand, how can they know just how I am feeling today? Bless them for trying; but I feel that they can’t know exactly how it is for me today.
But Lord, you truly do know and you truly do understand. You have experienced every single emotion. Only you can fully sympathise. Let me know your feelings in this with me today.
Emmanuel: God is with us
They will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
God, you are in this with me. You know how it is; you know I have to go through this path of grief. But you are here in it WITH ME. And I am so glad I don’t have to go through it alone. Thank you, thank you. Keep close to me today Lord, otherwise I fear won’t get through it. Just saying your name, Emmanuel, means a great deal to me today.
God with me.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)
It is not a failure to come to the throne of grace; it isn’t a sign of weakness. Far from feeling that there’s something wrong with me or that I’m not spiritual if I have this depression and huge sense of grief, I can actually know that this is a normal part of being human and alive, that our God welcomes me to come to him. At the throne of grace there is help when I need it most – his love and mercy and pure grace are there, ready to be poured out over me. Every day. Whenever I need it. And how I need it today.
Grace to help. I need that grace today.
He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.”
Matthew 26:38 (NLT)
It cost the Saviour a lot, everything, to walk the path of suffering and death. He experienced the deepest feelings, emotions and pain. Experienced them to the point of being so crushed, so depressed, that life itself seemed almost pointless. In the depth of my own sorrow, I am yet again amazed that he could reach this point – could know, could truly know, just how it is. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
WEEK TWO: The Brook Besor
This week’s daily thoughts are based on the story of King David and his men after the attack on Ziklag, in 1 Samuel 30. They had lost everything – their homes destroyed, their families taken away. They were devastated.
David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.
1 Samuel 30:4
It’s our normal reaction to grief – tears rain down until we are exhausted. Then we weep again.
These men wept together. Lord, I need someone to weep with me today.
Let my tears be a reminder to me of how much I loved and was loved, and a reminder to be grateful for that love.
But David found strength in the Lord his God
1 Samuel 30:6
Confronted with disaster, bereft and lonely, David did the only thing he could: he went to the Lord. He’d lost his wife and children, his companions were blaming him for the disaster, and he felt totally alone and misunderstood.
Lord, that’s how I feel: alone and devastated by my grief. Will you strengthen me today?
Then David said to Abiathar the priest…
1 Samuel 30:7
After resting in the Lord, David turned to a friend – he called on his pastor for spiritual advice. Sometimes talking with a trusted friend or with a wise pastor, can help to ease and to understand the grief.
Lord, show me who I should turn to. And when. Actually, Lord – please just send someone, nudge the right person into coming to me?
Then David asked the Lord.
1 Samuel 30:8 (NLT)
What shall I do, Lord? I feel lost, overcome, consumed by all that I am feeling today. There are decisions to make, things I have to do. Guide me, show me, help me.
And keep me in touch with you.
They came to the torrent Besor: and some being weary stayed there.
1 Samuel 30:9 (Douay Rheims)
Resting by the brook, too weary to go any further, worn out by grief. Allowed to stay, allowed to rest, allowed time to recover. I too am resting at the Brook Besor, needing time to recover. And that’s OK; I don’t have to do what I would normally do. I can have this time out for now. And that’s such a relief to know.
Thank you Lord.
We share and share alike–those who go to battle and those who guard the equipment
1 Samuel 30:24 (NLT)
It is not a disgrace to have this time out. This is one of those times when I need to stay by the Brook Besor. David was generous to those who had stayed, exhausted and worn out; he treated them the same as those who had continued into battle.
God’s grace is a generous grace. HE understands, even if others don’t seem to.
Lord, thank you for allowing me this time at the Brook Besor. Thank you for undeserved grace.
WEEK THREE: Concerning The Morning Aid
How did Jesus cope with pain, sorrow and isolation? He quoted words from a Psalm when he was on the cross, and it’s a good psalm for this week’s readings.
Concerning The Morning Aid Psalm 22 (LXX title)
I can’t read this poetical, deeply painful psalm right now; not yet. But I know Jesus knew it for he shouted words from it whilst in immense, intense agony on the cross. Sorrow and suffering, aloneness and unansweredness. Counting my bones for I am unable to eat. He and I both. But into the dark night of my soul, into my sadness, comes this word: the morning aid. Say it aloud and it becomes my mourning aid.
I start today knowing that HE is my mourning aid. My aid this morning.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Psalm 22:1 (NLT)
Lord, it does seem at times as though you are far, far away. I can’t feel your nearness; I can’t feel very much at all, actually. My heart is frozen. Sorrow for now is all consuming. I am groaning – roaring as one translation says. The funeral was so – final. Life for others has returned to normal. But I am bereft, struggling to find my new normal.
Help me to know that you haven’t abandoned me; that your love still surrounds me. Even in this.
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief. Psalm 22:2 (NTL)
I know that God hears me; but I can’t hear his words to me. I am sleepless, tossing and turning, thinking and remembering. Help me to remember more of the happy times, Lord, more of the good things. Thank you for those times we used to have. I’m sorry I didn’t say,” I love you,” more often. But I did love, do love and that’s why there is so much grief. It’s the cost of love.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them.
They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. Psalm 22:4 (NIV) & 5 (NTL)
I’ve known that too, Lord – in difficulties and hard times, you’ve been there for me in the past. So I know I can trust you now. Even though it doesn’t feel like it, I know that you care, that you are with me in this. Thank you for your unending love and faithfulness. I know it in my head; I just wish I could feel you more right now.
My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. Psalm 22:15 (NTL)
Grieving is tiring. Everything is tiring right now, but my grief saps my strength. I seem to have very little reserve energy, and things I normally do without a thought now seem to take a huge effort to accomplish.
Lord, I think you are telling me that this is all right, that this is normal. To go slow, to rest, to be content to achieve less than I normally do, is good for this time.
O Lord, do not stay far away! You are my strength; come quickly to my aid! Ps 22:19 (NTL)
All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy. Psalm 22:26 (NTL)
I know that God will grant an end to this sorrow one day; that one day I will know his love and comfort in all their realities. He will come, as my mourning aid. He will come – he does come.
His coming is as certain as the morning. – Hosea 6:3 (old French version)
WEEK FOUR: From A Deep Hole
Grief can sometimes feel like a heavy burden which has to be carried. It saps the strength, causes weakness and weariness. But God – don’t you love those words? – but God is our strength and refuge, as Isaiah knew. So these words from Isaiah 40 may help in the daily need for the Lord’s support.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, my cause is disregarded by my God? ” Isaiah 40:27 (NIV)
Why do I say that? Because sometimes that is how it feels. Because sometimes my grief and loneliness are overpowering and I can’t seem to find the comfort that God has given me in other times, in other situations. Yet it is strangely comforting to know that others have felt like that before. They too said that God seemed almost uninterested in their situation. I’m not the only one.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. Isaiah 40:28 (NLT)
Yes, I know you created the world, Lord, and that you can do anything. Anything that I ask in faith. That if you were able to create the world and everything in it, including me, then you are able to strengthen me. So my confidence is in you. It’s a small amount of confidence and it wavers occasionally, falters even; but I trust in you, even in and through this valley of the shadow of death. And I know you are with me. Thank you for being there.
He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.Isaiah 40: 28 (NLT)
The everlasting God never changes: his strength goes on forever. And so does his understanding. Corrie Ten Boom said that there is no hole so deep but God is deeper still. Some days I feel as if I am in a deep deep dark hole. But you are deeper still, Lord God, and underneath are your everlasting arms. Hold me, Lord; hold me.
He gives strength to those who grow tired and increases the strength of those who are weak. Isaiah 40:29 (God’s Word)
This grief of mine is heavy and tiring as I carry it around all the time. But I am not ready to put it down, not yet. I hug it to me, finding some strange comfort in the carrying of it. And I am strengthened by the One who understands, who knows me and knows my burden, and who gives me strength. Lord, I need that strength today.
But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)
Trust – wait, hope, putting my confidence in the Lord. I have to rely on you Lord – I can’t do this in my own strength. One day, I will be able to soar like an eagle, with joy and freedom; but for now, all I can do is simply and only trust in you. I can say it; but Lord, help me to do it. Keep me trusting in you.
They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)
I can’t remember how that felt – the running and not growing weary. And I’m not sure I actually want to be like that right now. But it is strangely comforting to know that one day, one day, I will be strong again in the strength that God gives. Thank you Lord, for your faithfulness, your comfort, your strength. And thank you that your strength never ends.
Psalm 94 is about all the things most hated in this world – things that snare our thoughts. Troubled thoughts, disappointed thoughts, perplexing thoughts, sad thoughts. All the ‘whys’ and ‘where is God when it hurts?’ Busy thoughts, says Kay’s translation, busy thoughts that multiply within me (v19). As we read some of the verses from this Psalm, try to offer these thoughts to God, for him to deal with.
Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. Psalm 94:17 (NIV)
My thoughts are busy with my sorrow and tears, my remembering and my grief. My head aches with them and they drag me down. They silence the outside world until it feels like the silence of death. Unless the Lord helps me, I am helpless to do other than be busy with these thoughts. Please help me, Lord.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me. Psalm 94:18 (NIV)
Some days it feels as though my feet are slipping away underneath me and then I just want to stay in bed all day, wrapping the duvet about my ears, refusing to stand and face the reality of what has happened. And yet – your love, O Lord, can and will support me: if I let you. Please can I sense your arms of love holding me up today?
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:19 (ESV)
The cares of my heart, the busy-ness of my thoughts, exhaust me again and again.They occupy me most of the time. They prevent my sleep, they focus away from food, they shut me off from others. Memories. Regrets and remembrances. The withoutness, the emptiness. Wanting one last hug, one last look, one last together-time. Don’t go there. I must. I can’t not.
But – ‘Thy consolations have soothed my soul” (v19, LXX translation) I can’t feel the joy, the cheer, not yet, not even in your strong consolation, dear Lord. But I know that I will. Soon. Thank you for consoling me as no other can.
But the LORD is my fortress – stronghold – defence – high tower – defender …. Psalm 94:22
The translations each have something for me to hold on to. A fortress, where I can find safety and security behind its thick walls. A stronghold, unassailable from attack. A high tower, way above the rushing waters of grief and busy thoughts. A defence and a defender. I want to run into the Lord and be saved from the raging torrent of grief.
…. My God is the mighty rock where I hide. Psalm 94:22 (NLT)
A rock gives shade from the intense heat of the scorching desert. Sometimes my grief makes me feel as parched and dry as the Sahara. A rock also can be a place to climb, to escape from the waters below. Lord, you are my shade in the desert, my safety in the floods. Hide me in you today.
When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down and cheered me up. Psalm 94:19 (The Message)
That’s exactly how it feels, Lord – I am upset and beside myself so often at the moment. But you can calm me down and cheer me up. So I’m turning to you, yet again, knowing that you are all I need. Knowing that you can still these busy thoughts, quieten my grief, strengthen my weakness, cheer me up because I trust in you. Thank you, Lord.
The waters of grief ebb and flow. A tear can become a waterfall, the gentle wave lapping at my toes turns without warning and crashes down over me. And yet, and yet ….. Isaiah 43 writes for this too.
“Fear not … ” Isaiah 43:1 (NIV)
The grief causes extraordinary emotions, ones I had not realised it would bring. Tiredness, yes; but there’s caution and self doubt and fear. Did I really use to do this – and this – and this? I hesitate now, fearful I can’t do that – or that. Isaiah writes that the Lord says: fear not. Don’t be afraid; Jesus said it several times, as well. In fact, it comes 366 times in Scripture. One for each day of the year and one extra for the leap year. Fear not. But I do; I do fear, I do feel afraid. Let me hear the reassurance of your loving voice, Lord, gently giving me confidence in you.
“…. I have called you by name. You are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 (ESV)
These words give me a sense of intimacy, of a deep relationship with you, Lord. I belong to you. Even though I feel unable, dis-abled, by this deep mourning, you care deeply for me. I am redeemed by Christ and called by grace; loved and cherished by you. So when I mourn the loss of earthly love and relationship, help me to know, to feel, loved and accepted by you.
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you … ” Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)
I am surely going through deep waters. Sometimes I am wading, sometimes I am swimming; and sometimes it feels as though I am about to go right under. Those huge waves and breakers of grief wash over me, often at unexpected moments. It feels very lonely sometimes. But these words today tell me that you are here with me, Lord – not taking me out of the waters, but going through them with me. Thank you, thank you for accompanying me in these deep waters.
“When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)
Oh but I am drowning, Lord. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to breath, my chest is tight and grief threatens to take over, to the point of drowning. I gasp for air, flounder; my feet give way under the immense pressure of the heavy waters of these rivers. I am going under …. And then I feel your arms around me, rescuing me, keeping me afloat, dragging me to safety. For now. Until the next time. For there is still wave upon wave upon wave ahead. You’ve promised I will not drown. Can I trust you to save me again and again?
“For I am the Lord, your God . . . your Saviour; . . . you are precious to me. You are honoured, and I love you.” Isaiah 43:3, 4
Those words speak deep healing into my sad soul today. The Almighty God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, says that I am precious to him, honoured and loved by him. I need to think quietly about this, turn those words over in my mind and my heart, take them with me into today.
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Isaiah 43:5 NLT)
Those words of reassurance again, reiterating what I need to hear – that you are with me in and through all this, Lord. As the waters threaten me today, may I remember that you are with me, that you love me, that I am precious to you, and you will not let me drown. Come rescue me again, dear Lord. May I cling to you today. Thank you for being stronger than any waters which may threaten me.
Jesus promised that when believers die, they go to be with him. He also promised to be always with us. So if our loved ones are with him, and he is with us, they cannot be so very far away. That thought has been of great comfort to many.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. John 14:1 (NIV)
My heart is troubled, very troubled. The disciples were worried and upset because Jesus was talking about leaving them, and they were already beginning to feel the loss of this friendship and leadership and relationship. .So he reassures them – and reminds them to trust. And then to trust some more. I know I need to trust, but knowing it and doing it are not the same.
Lord, I want to trust you today, to know that you will comfort me and be with me even in the loneliest of moments.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 (NIV)
I love the thought of Jesus going ahead and preparing somewhere special for me. And for my loved ones. And so I don’t need to be overwhelmed by the sorrow of this time. They are already in the special places he has prepared for them – what it is like I don’t need to know now, but it is comforting to think that they are already enjoying what he has prepared just for them.
Thank you, Lord, that I can trust your words to be true.
When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:3 (NLT)
‘Come’ is present tense – so it’s not referring to your Second Coming in glory, Lord, but to the present time. So you came for ____ because their place was ready. And they are always with you. But I am still here, without them, and it’s really really hard. People keep telling me that they are ‘in a better place,’ and so they are; but I am not and I miss them very very much.
Lord help me to be glad for them, to be thankful that they are with you; and help me to be patient until the time when you come for me.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. He is the Holy Spirit (who) ….. lives with you now and later will be in you John 16-17 (NLT) I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. John 14:18 (KJV)
If ‘come’ is in the present tense, then, Lord, it refers also to your coming to us. To me. You promised to come to us, and I believe you do. You come by the power of your Spirit and you promised not to leave me comfortless.
That’s another of the promises that I claim: come to me Lord with the comfort only you can give.
I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 (NLT)
A reminder not to be troubled or upset. I am, Lord, and I need your gift of peace of mind and heart today. Remind me of your words as I try to act normally today; as I meet people, as I interact with the world.
Grant me your gift of peace and may I BE a gift to others too.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20 (NLT)
So there it is: they are with you, Lord, and you are with me. So they cannot be very far away. Thank you that we are all in you; thank you that you are with me.
I need to feel your closeness to me today, Lord.
There are some theories that grief goes through a neatly ordered set of emotions; from denial and anger, through bargaining, then on to depression and finally acceptance. And for some who grieve that may be true. But for many people, sorrow and grief cannot be ordered or put into neat boxes. They are not stairs to be climbed where each step leaves the others behind as we move on and up. Emotions, perhaps especially grief, bounce around, ebb and flow, refuse to be corralled. Grief is untidy, messy, raw. It is a sea, one moment regular and the next whipped into crashing breakers, life threatening and all consuming in its rage.
Two months into mourning and the world moves on. Even Job’s comforters only sat in silence with him for a mere seven days. The world urges us to ‘pick up the threads again’ because ‘she wouldn’t want you to be like this’ or ‘you need to get on with your life again.’ Not so, I silently retort. This is my time for grief, for remembrance, for mourning what I have lost. Psalm 23 was quoted to me so often as a gentle pastoral aid for grief, a reminder of green pastures, gentle brooks, pleasant ways. Even the valley of the shadow of death was not to be feared.
Sometimes I seemed to be walking in a different valley.
PSALM 23: The Amplified Bible
1 The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.
But I DO lack, dear Lord. I lack the beloved presence – voice, glance, touch. All I can think about it is my withoutness. Through my tears, I’m unable to see you ahead of me, feeding, guiding, shielding me. My head knows you are there but my heart can’t feel you. Help me today to know the truth that you ARE there, that you are MY Shepherd; and that you care for this sad little sheep of your flock.
2 He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters.
My tendency right now is far from lying refreshed. Either I am restlessly moving, trying to fill the emptiness; or I am lethargically worn out from this all consuming grief. Lord, you really do need somehow to make me take time to be refreshed by you. The only waters I can sense are tumultuous and raging; lead me, Lord, to the places of your choosing. How I long for the refreshment that only you can give! Help me to accept your refreshment today.
3 He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake. 4a Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death ...
Sometimes it feels as though I am in the parched desert in the heat of the noonday sun. I yearn for the shade and a sip of water; but I have to walk this scorching way. You, Lord, know how it feels; and you alone can give me the refreshment I crave, you alone can lead me out of it. Restore me with your refreshment today.
4b ... I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.
Sometimes it feels as though I am in the deepest darkest valley, at the bottom of the steepest pit. It is cold and lonely. Death stand between me and my beloved. And death is the wild attacker, it knocks me off course. But you, Lord, have the rod with which to fight off the predator; you wield the staff to bang against the sides of the enclosing darkness and test out the safest way. Even though I feel no comfort, that does comfort me. Because you are down here with me. You know what I am going through. You do know. Protect me today, Lord, from any attacks of grief which undermine my relationship with you.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.
Even when the Enemy is trying to attack me in the dark wild places, you Lord want to give me good things. It’s hard to believe right now; but you care enough to massage my matted fleece with soothing oils and to serve me by looking after my needs, even when I am feeling so low. Your loving care of and for me is amazing. Thank you Lord for your love and care and protection - even in the deepest valley.
6 Surely or only goodness, mercy,and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place.
Through all my days, no matter what I go through or am going through, your love for me, Lord, never fails. I can look back to times when I knew that love in extraordinary ways; I can anticipate that one day, one day, I will experience your love afresh. And yet your love is always there, always with me, always available. I can be in your presence all the time – wherever you lead me, whatever I go through, whoever is with me. Today, Lord, I choose this. Your beloved presence, even in this dark valley.
Thank you for being in it with me.
Two things stand out in the first few weeks of my terrible traumatic loss and grief. First, there was a sense of not letting go – keep hold; hold it in; hold it very tight. There were things to do, a house to clear (in just three weeks, a whole lifetime’s things to ponder, divide, dispense, jettison) , people to contact, insurance claims to file. And secondly, a sense of being cold; frozen even. My heart was frozen and it chilled me through. Not for a few weeks did I realise how cold I was the whole time, until I had a special treat: a facial, while my body was enveloped in warm towels and blankets. As I drifted in and out of drowsiness, I had an overwhelming sense of my grandmother and my father meeting my mother, and of the Lord welcoming her Home – the full ‘dream’ or picture is too intensely personal to share. How the Lord was wiping the tears from her eyes as she looked back at what she was being wrenched from. From hers; but not from mine, not yet. And for the first time ever there was a wistfulness, a longing, so quickly flashing through me, to be Home as well, to be with those beloved people. And then it was gone, the vision faded, and I was left in this world.
He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces …. Surely this is our God. Isaiah 25: 8,9 (NIV)
I have to believe this promise, Lord. That death will one day be no more. And this picture of you as a loving parent, stooping tenderly to wipe away the ravages of grief upon my face. Yes, this is my God, my loving, caring, tender Heavenly Father.
If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either …. but Christ has indeed been raised from the dead….. 1 Corinthians 15: 16, 20 (NIV)
This is part of our Christian faith and belief – that Christ was raised from the dead, and therefore believers are also raised in Him from the dead. So I can act like a Christian, live like a Christian so I will one day die like a Christian. Songs and rejoicings can be on my lips even if not yet in my heart. I have to believe that my loved one is with Christ. One day I will know it beyond the shadow of a doubt. For now, I cling on to that hope because it is my belief – because God’s word tells me it is true.
The body is raised imperishable … in glory … in power … a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (NIV)
And this is what God’s word tells me has happened to my loved one. Now imperishable, living for ever, eternally, in glory and power. I have to learn to be grateful for that. I can’t pretend it’s not hard. I can’t pretend other than that I would rather they were still here, with me, on earth. And yet, and yet … death is another beginning, not an end, for them, and will one day be so for me. It is what we have to look forward to. In the meantime, ______ has simply changed addresses.
Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in times of distress. Isaiah 33:2 (NIV)
The verses of the past few days highlight one of the paradoxes of the Christian life – that it is better to be with the Lord and so it must be better for my loved one to be with Him; and yet it is so painful and sorrowful to be parted and to be the one who is left here. And so, Lord, I long for you to be my strength in this time of distress. I long to feel again your grace and love and tenderness.
Precious in His eyes is the homecoming of the saints. Psalm 116: 15 (NIV)
The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die. (NLT)
Thank you, Lord, that you care; thank you that when your beloved ones come to you, it is a special and precious thing for you. It’s hard for those of us left behind; but amazing that it is such a momentous and incredible occasion in heaven. Help me to be more grateful for that, Lord. I know that gratitude is a great antidote to self pity – and in grief I am especially prone to that. And I know that if we don’t say good bye here, we can’t meet together in Him, there.
I wept soul tears. Psalm 69:10 (Kay’s translation)
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30 (NIV)
You who seek God, let your hearts revive. Psalm 69:32 (ESV)
Deep deep tears – and yet as in so many of the Psalms, an experience of deep distress leads to looking upwards in praise and glory and worship and thanksgiving. In my heart of hearts, I know that this is the only way to be able to carry on. It revives and refreshes the soul, comforts and calms my heart. Thank you Lord. Let me keep on looking to you.
I don’t pray enough for my loved ones; my mother used to pray for each of her children and each of her grandchildren and each of her great grandchildren at least twice a day. Morning and evening, sitting in bed, she would spend time with her Lord and talk to him about her family. We prayed for one another; and the habit of praying for the family members is deeply ingrained. But when they have died? My evangelical upbringing did not allow praying for the dead. Giving thanks for them, yes, remembering them with gratitude, yes. But not specifically praying for them. Until I was in the deepest grief and began reading about bereavement and dying and going to be with the Lord – and praying for and with those already in the Lord’s presence.
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NTL)
Yes, Lord – I know and believe that my loved one is with you, in the house in heaven which Jesus went to get ready when he left this world. And I know that death is not the end, it is a new beginning, the most important beginning, the beginning of eternal life with you. And Love, love which makes life here on earth glorious and loving, cannot, does not, die. Love is eternal. _______ has left the shabby tent of the earthly body and is now in the most glorious house, home, palace, with you.
And I give you thanks for that.
I am torn …. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. Philippians 1:23 (NIV)
Paul could write that to die and be with Christ would be far better than continuing to live here. The Biblical descriptions of heaven are of such a wonderful, glorious, loving, place. My loved one is gazing upon the face of the Lord. It is better – for them.
I give you thanks for that.
For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Hebrews 4:10
N. T. Wright, in his book, “For All the Saints?” describes how the Christian departed are in a state of ‘restful happiness’ awaiting the triumphal second coming of Christ. And so it is a comfort to me to be able to hold ____ in my prayer before the Lord; I hold him/her in my love, praying for refreshment, as they rest in God’s love.
I give you thanks for that.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.” Revelation 14:13
Whether death is sudden or not, unexpected or not, it’s always a shock. But there is some comfort to me, Lord, to know that my ____ is blessed by you, resting, no longer having to DO anything, just BEing in you and in your loving and loved Presence. S/He no longer has to do all that heavy stuff they were burdened with here. Now they are resting. Continue to bless them, Lord.
I give you thanks for that.
Love is invincible facing danger and death. Flood waters can’t drown love, torrents of rain can’t put it out. Songs 8:7 (The Message)
Love does not die; love is eternal. And so there is nothing Death can do to it. My loved one loved me a moment ago, passionately and completely. And who is to say that their love is not still loving me, loving me forever; for love does not forget. Many waters cannot quench love; and I still love with my whole being. In that love, both given and received, I hold my beloved within the love of God.
I give you thanks for that.
Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13: 8 (ESV)
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)
Love, mine for my loved one and hers for me, becomes a prayer. That love - I know, I trust, - will never end, always endure.
I give you thanks for that.
Most weeks in church, for most of my life, I have repeated the Creed – Apostles or Nicene – including the phrase ‘I believe in the communion of saints.’ And I did. In theory. But now, each time I come to that phrase, I say it with added depth and meaning. For now I truly know what it means. It brings a new solace to my bereaved soul.
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses … Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
Scripture doesn’t seem to tell us exactly how much of what goes on in our everyday lives is actually ‘seen’ by those who are already forever with the Lord. But it does tell us that they are like a great cloud around us, or maybe like the great crowd of spectators at the ancient Roman games. They are therefore an encouragement to us, to me. My loved one is in that cloud, part of the heartening inspiration to enable me to carry on. Lord help me to live today knowing that the great cloud of witnesses, including ____, is spurring me on!
God the Father … from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. Ephesians 3:15 (NIV)
The family of God has some members in heaven and some still on earth. But it is not two different entities. We are all part of the same family. What comfort, Lord, to know that we are still together in you, still part of your family, together in Christ.
Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. 2 Thessalonians 2:1 (NLT)
One day, when Christ comes again in glory, we will all be gathered together – those who have already died and those still alive on earth – and we will TOGETHER meet him. I cannot imagine how that will feel; the glory and the joy and the love and the amazement. But I can echo the prayer in Revelation:
Come quickly, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)
Jesus promised: “And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world–from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.” Matthew 24:31 (NLT)
Another description, like yesterday’s verse, that promises we will be gathered together in the Lord at the Second Coming. And something in me tells me that the great cloud of witnesses, who are surrounding me and inspiring me, and who will be gathered up with me, will be cheering as my feet step over the threshold into eternity with them.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. Hebrews 11:40 (NLT)
The true communion of saints – because they need us as much as we need them. They are waiting for us to join them and only then will God bring us all to what he has planned for eternity. So ____ and I, together with all the saints, will be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words, writes Paul. (1 Thessalonians 4:18, NASB)
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NIV)
‘Separation is temporary; the reunion is eternal.’ So wrote C.H.Spurgeon. ‘It will be wonderful,” he said, to experience the general assembling of the redeemed, never again to be broken up; the joy of meeting never to part again is a sweet remedy for the bitterness of separation. There is great comfort in it, but the main stress of consolation doesn’t lie even there. It is pleasant to think of the eternal fellowships with the godly saints above, but the best of all is the promised fellowship with our Lord—“We will be with the Lord forever.” Whatever else you draw comfort from, don’t neglect this deep, clear, and overflowing well of delight. There are other sources of joy in connection with the glory to be revealed, for heaven is a multifaceted joy; but still none can surpass the glory of communion with Jesus Christ, therefore comfort one another in the first place, and most constantly, with these words, “We will be with the Lord forever.” ‘
Thank you Lord that one day we all will be together with you forever.
It’s now about three months. Three months of grief, aloneness, of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. The world around me seems already to have forgotten my loss and moved on. Or, maybe it’s just that they don’t know what to say to me: they have said all the usual jargons and cliches of supposedly comforting words, and there is nothing more to be said. Psalm 23 comes back to my mind again – even though I am (still) walking through this valley of the shadow of death, and even though I know I have to take every single step in order to get to the end of it and see the light again – even though all this, the Good Shepherd is with me, to comfort me.
I am bowed down (miserable, depressed, troubled, in other versions) and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. Psalm 38:6 (NIV)
I can’t seem to help this, Lord. I do indeed feel very low and alone, my only companion my mourning. It's like a roller coaster - some days are better than others. I can’t feel the sympathy and love that others have tried to give me. And sometimes I am still frozen in my grief.
Lord, have mercy upon me .
I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. Psalm 38:8 (NLT)
The exhaustedness of the psalmist can be translated as cold, without warmth. And that’s exactly how it feels, Lord. I am cold, chilled through, by this burden of grief.
Lord, have mercy upon me.
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you 1 Peter 5:7 (KJV)
Barnes’ notes say: “If we feel that we have no strength, and are in danger of being crushed by what is laid upon us, we may go and cast all upon the Lord; that is, we may look to him for grace and strength, and feel assured that he will enable us to sustain all that is laid upon us. The relief in the case will be as real, and as full of consolation, as if he took the burden and bore it himself.”
Lord, have mercy upon me.
O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. Psalm 38:9 (ESV)
That simply, says it all. I can’t find the words to pray, Lord, but you know that. And what do words matter, when my longing, my desire (KJV) is already before you, known to you.
Lord, have mercy upon me.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. Psalm 38:10 (NIV)
Someone said to me the other day that my eyes showed my pain and my grief, and no longer sparkle. I know; they are dull and lifeless and bruised with tears.
Lord, have mercy upon me.
I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.
O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God
Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Saviour.
Psalm 38:15,21,22 (NIV)
In all the weakness and the sadness, in all the weariness and the sorrow, I will choose to wait for my Saviour. And I know and trust that He will indeed come to my help
and carry me
Lord, have mercy upon me.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33. NIV) Martin Luther said, in the 16th century, that this verse was worthy to be carried from Rome to Jerusalem upon one’s knees. So this week, just these few words will be carried with me, for me to hold and meditate on, to have Christ’s peace at the heart of all I feel. Just like chewing the cud, I want to extract every ounce of goodness, of strength and peace, from these few words.
... that in me you might have peace.
I crave your peace, Lord. As I go into this new week, with all that it holds, I long to know the peace which passes all understanding.
Give me your peace, dear Lord.
….. that in me you might have peace
Peace does not come from circumstances, (which change) or people (who can alter) but only in Christ: the one who never changes.
Give me your peace, dear Lord.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. (NLT)
Yes. And this one in particular. I feel rather in limbo, Lord – held in a place of grief, where it is difficult to make decisions or do very much at all. People tell me to be kind to myself; it’s still early days. I guess they are right and I must accept that I can’t do very much at the moment.
Give me your peace, dear Lord.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. (NLT)
Thank you, Lord, that you knew there would be ‘trials and sorrows’ and that therefore I would need your peace to give me the security I need so desperately right now.
May I know your peace afresh today.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.
I don’t like being so low, so overcome by my grief. I long to ‘take heart,’ and feel more cheerful. Yes in some ways that seems almost to be letting my loved one down. I have a heart full of unshed tears, can’t-shed tears. Lord, wash them away with your peace.
Give me your peace, dear Lord.
but take courage; I have overcome the world. (NASB)
I am holding on to this verse today, Lord, as I have all week, carrying it with me wherever I go.
Give me your courage, your peace, and faith in you because you overcame the world when you defeated death and rose again.
I put all my trust in you, Lord Jesus. Give me your peace today.
The prophetic words of Isaiah 33:2 were written to give voice to the Jews when they were threatened by an invasion from Assyria. These are deep, heartfelt words, giving voice to a longing for God to rescue and support. These words speak to me in my grief, and in my longing to know God helping and supporting me as I go through these deep waters.
Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in times of distress. Isaiah 33:2 (NIV)
Lord, be gracious to us (have pity on us – God’s Word Translation) We long for You.
I know you are faithful and your love is eternal, dear Lord. And you are gracious and take time to comfort me.
My heart feels as though it is broken and I need you to tenderly heal it.
I long for You.
We wait with hope for you. (God’s Word Translation)
Sometimes hope seems far away, and it’s hard to wait. Lord, restore my faith in you and in your promise of life after death.
I long for You.
Be our strength in the morning.
I need your strength all day, Lord. I invite you into my day, all through the day, knowing that you have all that I need. When I am weak through grief, your strength is sufficient. Thank you that are constantly my strength and support.
I long for You.
Be our arm every morning (ESV)
I love the picture of you extending your arm to me Lord, so I can lean on you for support. Your arm is around me to protect me, and I depend on you today.
I long to feel Your arm around me.
God, treat us kindly. You’re our only hope.
First thing in the morning, be there for us!
When things go bad, help us out! (The Message)
You are indeed my only hope, Lord. I long for your kindliness today, as I walk this lonely valley of grief.
I long for Your kindness.
Yes, be our saviour in times of trouble. (God’s Word Translation)
We have a Saviour who is mighty to save. I know that, Lord, and today I want to reaffirm my belief in you and your strong arm.
You are in this time of trouble with me. Thank you for your presence beside me.
Sometimes bereavement, loss, grief, stems from the death of a loved one; sometimes it is a result of other losses – work, home, culture, for example. Someone who knew that kind of grief was a woman who lost her home, her work, her security. Thrown out by an unkind, unrelenting boss, forced to leave and feeling like a failure, feeling inadequate and rejected, wondering if she could have acted differently … and wondering whether God had any idea of what had happened and where she was.
Did God care?
Did God see?
EL – ROI You are the God who sees me Genesis 16:13 (NIV)
Hagar, used and misused by those who employed and owned her, at the end of her tether because she had run away to escape the misery at home, pregnant, destitute and alone. But God saw; God saw her situation and God sent an angel to help her.
Lord, help me to know that You see – You see me in my grief and desolation.
Have I also (or have I not also) looked after him that seeth me? (Clarke’s Commentary)
The literal translation of these words imply that Hagar was looking for the Lord – she had looked after him in the sense of looking for. In her misery, in her grief, she wondered whether God was near, whether God knew. Thinking of him revealed him to her.
Lord, I look for You – please show yourself to me.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar. Genesis 16:7 (NIV)
Where is God when it hurts? When it seems he doesn’t know, doesn’t care? Are his eyes shut, is he asleep?
Actually, God was looking for Hagar and sent an angel to her. He knew; He cared; He saw.
Lord, I need an angel from you today, maybe a friend who understands and cares, maybe a letter or a phone call,
maybe just a sense of your nearness to me and my dearness to you.
You shall name him Ishmael Genesis 16:11
Ishmael, the child Hagar was carrying deep within her. Ishmael: whose names means God hears.
Lord, hear my crying, my sorrow, my need for you as I call out to you. Thank you that you promise to hear.
The LORD has heard your cry of distress. Genesis 16:11 (NLT)
Forever after, both Hagar and Ishmael would be reminded that God hears, because of the name of boy, and then the man. The Lord has heard.
Thank you, Lord, that you hear me. May I be constantly reminded of that today.
Truly here I have seen him who looks after me. Genesis 16:13 (ESV)
The result of God’s comforting words was that Hagar knew without a shadow of doubt that the Lord was looking at her – looking out for her – looking after her.
Lord, may I know the truth of your looking today – and tomorrow, and always.
There are several powerful descriptions of God’s names in Scripture. El Shaddai אני אל שדי is one of the best known – and perhaps one of the best loved – partly due to a song which has this name of God repeated in its first line several times.
Many people have known the power of El Shaddai, when they have run to God for comfort and strength.
The LORD appeared to him (Abraham) and said, “I am El-Shaddai–‘God Almighty’…. Genesis 17:1 (NLT)
El Shaddai – which seems to mean ‘The All-Sufficient One.’ The One who is powerful, who has infinite strength.
Lord, I need to know you as my El Shaddai today: my powerful one.
I am the Almighty God Genesis 17:1 (AKJV)
EL – this very old word for God means might, or power. But SHADDAI has a very different sense – that of provider, the one who pours out all that is needed. Just as a mother feeds her infant, and provides everything – strength and nourishment, love and contentment. The Lord God seen as a breastfeeding mother.
Lord, I need to know you as my El Shaddai today: the lover of my soul.
I am God All – sufficient (Old English, quoted by Wesley)
Wesley’s notes say, “he is enough to us, if we be in covenant with him; we have all in him, and we have enough in him; enough to satisfy our most enlarged desires; enough to supply the defect of every thing else, and to secure us happiness for our immortal souls.”
Lord, I need to know you as my El Shaddai today: my sufficiency.
The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks. Ezekiel 10:5 (NIV)
The voice of Almighty God, of El Shaddai, is penetrating and far reaching (and so the sound of the cherubim’s wings is compared to it) .
The voice of El Shaddai can penetrate even the thick fog of my grief, reach deeply into me – to bring his comfort, love and sustaining.
Lord, I need to know you as my El Shaddai today: my foghorn, almost!
The LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. Genesis 17:1 (NIV)
Live in my presence with integrity. (NLT)
God is provider, sustainer, comforter; all powerful, all sufficient. And his relationship with me is unconditional. I live in his presence, and I want to be blameless before him – living with integrity. Even in my grief.
Lord, I need to know you as my El Shaddai today: giving me strength to live with integrity in your presence.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Lord, I need to know you as my El Shaddai today and everyday. Thank you for your promise to be all sufficient. Your grace is all that I need.
Grief is strange and changes us. Step by step we move through its different stages – whether we want to or not. Sometimes it feels as though I am becoming resigned to this state of sorrow; sometimes it rises up like a mighty ocean and crashes wave after wave upon me, and I am all but subsumed in the tidal waters of grief.
You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. Psalm 89:9 (NIV)
The waters of grief pour over me, Lord. They are crashing about me, threatening me, all but subsuming me. But you are in control!
Still the tempest, Lord, quieten me, in your love.
The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. 2 Samuel 22:5
That’s exactly how it feels. David knew that feeling too, as he wrote those words in a song to the Lord. What did he do? “In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.”
Lord, I am calling out to you. Hear my prayer.
I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm. Psalm 55:8 (NIV)
Some days I want to be far away from this season of my life, free from all of the tears and torrents of grief. I want to be sheltered from it all. Where can I go? Only to the Lord.
Thank you for being my place of shelter
You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm. Isaiah 25:4 (NIV)
I know I need to allow the Lord to shelter me in this stormy sea of sorrow. Yet sometimes, perversely, there are days when I seem to want to be right in it, to feel the sorrow in all its power and depths, and not to be out of it for that might feel like not being sorrowful enough. Emotions are strange sometimes.
Thank you for being a refuge in my need.
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Mark 4:39 (NIV)
The Lord has to be the one to quieten my emotions and quieten my feelings. He can do it – I just have to ask him and then allow him to do it.
Still my raging emotions, Lord and fill me with your stillness and peace.
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. Luke 8:24 (NIV)
Even the wind and waves obey him! As I pass through this storm of my life, I know that God is in control and he will not permit me to be drowned by it all. He rescues me and keeps my head above the deep waters.
Thank you Lord, for granting me your calm.
Grief, all consuming, is draining. I had not realised how tiring it is to mourn, how little I seem to be able to accomplish, how exhausting it is to do things I used to rush around and do comparatively easily. And so sometimes I need to allow myself a quieter day, whether physically, spiritually or emotionally – to let go and allow God to be my all-in-all, my tower of strength.
He who trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on the Lord shall be compassed about with mercy and with loving-kindness. Psalm 32:10 (Amplified Bible)
I love the idea of leaning – leaning into the Lord, letting him take the weight, the strain, today, knowing that I will be surrounded with his love. Leaning into him, under his arm, feeling his love throwing a cloak of protection around me. Knowing that the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who leans on him.
When I am afraid, I will trust – lean – in you. Psalm 56:3 (NIV)
Many of the newer translations use ‘trust’ where it might originally have read ‘lean.’ When I am afraid – afraid of the depth of my grief, afraid I will never be the same again, afraid I will never be confident and capable again, I lean on the Lord, knowing he will protect me, strengthen me, refresh me.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT)
Perfect peace – because l lean – lean forever on him – for the Lord is my everlasting strength. How I crave that peace and strength. Learning to lean deep today.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me ….with my song I praise him. Psalm 28: 7 (NLT)
My heart leans and I am helped; when I lean into him I am able riskily to look up – and praise him.
Surely, it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and he will be my Saviour. Isaiah 12:1-2 (Canticle: The First Song of Isaiah)
God is strong, like a rock, fully able to hold me up when I lean on him. When I need to lean, to let him take the strain, so that I can have a rest, he is always there for me. This canticle has a beautiful tune – those who know it can hum it throughout today as a reminder of leaning and trusting. You can listen here
Whoever leans on, trusts in, and is confident in the Lord—happy, blessed, and fortunate is he. Proverbs 16:20 (Amplified Bible)
I am grateful that I have a Saviour who is such a strength to me, on whom I can lean, and who will give me peace. Even if I don’t always feel it now, I know he is there for me and I can lean into him whenever I need to.
Psalm 142 is attributed to King David, when he was feeling his enemies and hiding in a cave. That’s all I want to do right now – to hide, curl up in the enveloping darkness, sleep away this time. But I need to learn to copy David – to bring all my troubles to the Lord, to look up at God, knowing he will bring me out of this dark place, knowing I need to praise him, even in this horrendous time. Being grateful in the brokenness.
I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy. Psalm 142:1 (NLT)
This grief, this unexpected grief (for death and bereavement are always unexpected even after a long illness) – it feels as if I have been punched in the stomach. My internal muscles clench with the shock and the agony of it all. I feel nauseous. All I can do – and what better thing to do is there? - all I can do is cry out to the Lord.
Lord, save me from this agony.
I spill out all my complaints before him, and spell out my troubles in detail Pslam 142: 2 (The Message)
Throughout a sleepless night, tears coming and going, deep sobs racking me through and through, I pour out what I feel (or don’t feel) to God.
It spills out of me as I cry out to him.
Lord same me from this agony.
When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Psalm 142:3 (NLT)
I can barely hold on; it is so overwhelming. But my trust is in God, who is my strength, my love, my fortress, my strong tower.
There is no-one else who knows me, knows what I should do.
Lord save me from this agony.
I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought!
No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. Psalm 142:4 (NIV)
I know I have friends and family; but never have I felt so ALONE. Not lonely – although that too sometimes – but this aloneness, this being
estranged from normality, makes me feel as if there is no-one who realy understands. But you do, my Lord and my God.
Lord, save me from this agony.
Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry, for I am very low.” Psalm 142 : 5-6 (NIV)
Oh, am I low. So very low. But I think it was Corrie Ten Boom who said something about there being
no hole so deep that God isn’t deeper still. I am plumbing the depths wth you, dear God.
Lord save me from this agony.
Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. ….. for you are good to me. Psalm 142: 7 (NLT)
You alone, Lord, can bring healing and comfort and security. Even in the depths I can look for things to be thankful for,
blessings to turn my burden into blessings.
Lord, save me from this agony.
WEEK TWENTY: THE HAND OF GO
God doesn't allow pain unless he is allowing something new to be born. (a paraphrased promise of Isaiah 66:9, NCV)
I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord. Isaiah 66:9 (NCV)
Did – does – God allow this pain? Does he cause it? Sometimes it is so confusing; I don’t know where the pain comes from, why God doesn’t stop it. I ache, Lord, with this pain, deep deep in me. I carry it around with me and there is no escaping. Might there be something new and good from it one day?
But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. Psalm 31: 14-15 (NLT)
Help me to trust in you , Lord – it’s not easy today. I think it is a comfort to know that my future, whatever it may hold, is in your hands. I need to trust the future to you. Corrie ten Boom once said that we should never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
The Lord says: See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16 (NLT)
The Lord loves me so much that he has not just written my name on his hand, but tattoed it there permanently. It's such a sign of his love and care for me! Lord, I know now that you won’t forget me.
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13-14 (NLT)
What a picture of a loving father, holding a small child by the hand. Take my hand today, Lord and help me. I AM sometimes afraid – afraid of what this pain and grief might do to me. Let me feel safe with you.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel – he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted… Luke 4:18 (KJV)
I am the brokenhearted. My heart is broken. God can mend a broken heart – but I have to give him all of the pieces, every single one.
The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things. Psalm 118:15 (NIV)
“I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” – Martin Luther. I put myself into the Lord’s strong hands, knowing that there is no safer place.
Each new day dawns with the awakening moment of remembering. Each new remembering still hits hard, contracts my gut, releases tears. What will this new day bring in terms of memory, of pain, of loss? The anxious moment jumpstarts my day - unless I turn to the Lord.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
That could read, could sound, so glib. But it is true. Lord, this loss causes me anxiety about this day, about every day. So I bring that anxiety to You, thanking you for the good memories of happier days, of love and laughter in those long lost moments. Here is my anxiety, Lord. Take it for me.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NLT)
Again, Lord, I hold out this anxiety to you. Thank you for taking hold of it for me. I long for your peace, peace that I need yet can barely comprehend at the moment. Let it come, Lord.
Thy God hath sent forth strength for thee. Psalm 68:28 (Prayer Book)
Another new day, another time of not knowing what lies ahead. Another fear that I haven’t the strength to meet the unknown, the unexpected, the reminder. And yet now I know that it will be all right- because my God (yes, mine, even mine ) has already sent out the strength I need, ready for when I need it.
My God with his lovingkindness will meet me Psalm 59:10 (ASV)
That difficulty coming to meet me, that unexpected reminder, that clearing out of a beloved’s things which I have to do – all that and more, I do not have to confront alone. Before it can meet me, my God will meet with me, with all the love and kindness that I need, poured out upon me. Meet me today, Lord. Meet me before I meet that anxious moment.
I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. Psalm 63:8 (NLT)
Cling is the Hebrew word for glued, or stuck to. It is also the word for following after in order to grab hold. So that’s what I need to do today, Lord – make sure I don’t let go of You. But could you please hold me securely – not let go of me? I love that image of your right hand holding tightly to me, not letting me fall or sink.
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. Luke 22:43 (NIV)
When there was a need for special strength, the Father sent an angel to His Son, even though the Son had already said He had overcome the world (John 16:33) . Lord, I need your special strength to keep going, through all of this. Thank you that I can tell You what I need; thank you for all you have already done.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) ** I am aware that Paul is writing to the Corinthians about giving, but I believe that the principles apply to every aspect of our lives.
And God is able
Do I believe that? Do I believe that God is able, even in this grief of mine, to do the best for me, to give me His grace, to comfort and strengthen me? And am I praying, living, walking, in that belief? Only by His grace.
to make all grace abound
All means all, not some. All the wonders and strength of His grace can abound for me today – so, that speaks to me of overflowing, abundant, even-more-than-I need-right-now and throughout today. His grace is more than sufficient, it constantly pours out on to me – like a Niagara Falls .
so that in all things
All means all, not some. In all things, even this, God reaches out to me. Even to me. The Cross of Christ is big enough even for this.
at all times – always
All means all, not some. At all times today, wherever I am, whatever I am doing, whatever time it is, God is there with me in this. At all times. Older translations say Always. And always means always. Not just sometimes. Grace abounds always.
having all that you need
All means all, not some. What do I need from God today? What special grace do I need from Him? Who might I meet today who needs to see God in me? To whom might I extend grace from God today?
you will abound in every good work
“How remarkable are these words! Each is loaded with matter and increases all the way it goes. All grace – Every kind of blessing. That ye may abound to every good work – God gives us everything, that we may do good therewith, and so receive more blessings. All things in this life, even rewards, are, to the faithful, seeds in order to reap a future harvest.” – Wesley’s Notes on these verses.
WEEK TWENTY THREE: Melted in His Sunlove
Frost can define the deadlike – but it is not here to stay.
I pray to you, O LORD, my rock. Do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you are silent, I might as well give up and die. Psalm 28:1 (NLT)
I feel dead sometimes – encrusted with ice and frost, dead to all emotion other than grief. Some days I am overwhelmingly frostbitten, lifeless. Don’t let me die, Lord; let your sunlove bring me life.
Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Psalm 31:16 (NIV)
I turn my face towards your sunlove, and know that your love is always there, always warm, always strengthening. Even at my most frozen, your love is pouring over me, O Lord.
Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Psalm 36:5 (NLT)
My heart can feel frozen still, Lord – but I look up at your immense heavens which show how vast is your love for me, and for my beloved. And I am grateful for all that You are to me.
Praise your God! He spreads snow like a white fleece, he scatters frost like ashes, He broadcasts hail like birdseed— who can survive his winter? Then He gives the command and it all melts; He breathes on winter—suddenly it’s spring! Psalm 147:12-18 (The Message)
I want to believe that promise, Lord – that one day soon it will feel like spring again, that even without my beloved, the warmth of your sunlove will bring new life once again.
You let everyone drink from Your refreshing stream. Psalm 36:8 (HCSB)
Even when the stream itself seems cold, the warmth of your love, dear Lord, rises to abundantly satisfy. May I be satisfied in You today.
Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Phil 4:13 (The Message)
I am in my grief – but Christ defines me, defines who I am, not my grief. I am IN my grief but not OF it. I am of Christ, He is my strength, and in Him I can make it through today, tomorrow, to eternity.