Put Thou My Tears Into Thy Bottle
Psalms 56:8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?
Grief. Loss. Tears. Those three words probably evoke pain in each of us. For some of us, grief comes in the form of the death of a loved one. For others, it comes in the form of a difficult marriage. For some, grief is in our lives because of bad choices we made, and the consequences of those choices. Whatever form it comes in, grief sometimes comes raging into our lives with razor sharp claws. It threatens to tear at our insides, to consume us, to paralyze us with its ferocity. For me, it has come in the form of death.
The first time was when I was 17. I stared into the face of grief as I stood clinging to my mom, sisters, and brother at my dad's funeral. I could feel the pitying glances of family and loved ones as they watched us that day. For three years, we had watched my dad slowly slip away, paralyzed little by little by the horrible disease of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
The second time was in my 20s. I lay on the cold, sterile table, and stared at the ultrasound screen. Where there should have been a wiggling, squirming baby with a strong heartbeat, there was stillness and silence. There was no heartbeat, just the silence of a watery grave. The next was another miscarriage....this time, three days after getting a bright pink positive on a pregnancy test. And yet again, when I was in my 30s this time, I lay on a cold table and stared numbly at the still....oh, so still!... ultrasound screen. Another watery grave. One of the worst to come, however, was a month after my third miscarriage.
Her name was Kelly. She was quiet and sweet, while I was outgoing and bold. She was an introvert who loved to paint, and I was an extrovert with no hand for crafty things of any sort. We met in 2010, and we hit it off from the start. She was, quite honestly, the polar opposite of me in so many areas, but yet the same in so many. We were both married to men who planted churches six months apart. We both started homeschooling at the same time. We were thrown into it not knowing what to expect, and it completely overwhelmed us. There were so many days that we battled "mommy guilt". We weren't good enough to teach our kids. What if our kids flunked basic math? What if they failed at life because we were horrible teachers? Any time we felt overwhelmed and just wanted to find the nearest bridge to jump off of, we would pick up the phone instead. We were each other's lifeline. We texted multiple times a day. We encouraged each other, laughed with each other, and helped each other through the hard days of homeschooling, church planting, and life.
I called her my Jonathan. She was my sister by choice. The year that her fifth child, and my sixth, was born, (three weeks apart!) she started to have problems. She was having excruciating back pain, and strange fevers. I had a bad feeling about it. We used to joke that homeschooling stressed us out so badly that we were going to get some weird disease from it. Well....now that I look back, it doesn't seem so funny. When the back pain started to keep her home from church, I begged her to go to the doctor. When she did, it was bad.
Stage four breast cancer. She had had a lump for years, but it came and went, and she was busy, so she never got it checked out. She had waited too long. She had cancer in her breast, in her spine, and in her pelvis. I felt sick. I wanted to puke. I cried instead.
She prayed and talked about it with her husband, and decided to go the natural route. After a year of that, she ended up in the emergency room with incredibly low blood counts, and almost died. She decided on chemo next. Her hair fell out. She sent me the picture of the hair in a Wal-Mart bag. She sent me cute pictures of her in different wigs. She was always upbeat about it. She developed mouth sores and thrush from the harsh chemo they were pumping into her. She lost more weight, and had to have multiple surgeries for drains and ports. The harsh chemo kept the cancer from growing, but she was miserable from the side effects.
In January of 2018, it was apparent that the chemo was no longer holding the evil cancer at bay. She had a seizure, and a tumor on her skull was discovered. It was pushing into her brain. At this point, she decided to stop all chemo and drugs, and she accepted the fact that God was going to take her home. And he did.
I am one who grieves alone. I don't like to cry, in fact, I rarely ever cry. Ever.
When I visited her a week and a half before she died,though, I couldn't hold back my tears. I clung to her and sobbed on her chest. She let me cry, and she patted my head as her other hand gripped mine. I told her I loved her over and over...she couldn't speak, because she had a breathing tube in, but she wrote it on her white board. I sobbed, her husband sobbed, her children sobbed, and all she did was smile. She wore a smile of incredible peace, joy, and happiness. She wore a smile of pure bliss...for she knew that she was about to see her Saviour.
And this is why I write this. You see, we don't grieve as the world does. We grieve with HOPE! When we feel the icy tentacles of grief begin to grip our hearts, we don't have to despair. We will see our loved ones again. We will see our babies again. We will never experience the second death, because if we have believed on the name of Christ, we will live forever with him!
When the razor sharp claws of grief begin to slice you into pieces, don't let them! It's ok to cry and mourn those that we love, but don't let it consume you, or possess your every waking thought! When the house is silent, and my children and husband lay sleeping, I stare at my ceiling in my darkened room. Hot tears roll down my face in this period of mourning. I think of my dad, whom I still miss, I think of my babies, and I think of Kelly. Memories flood my head and my heart. But then I think of my dad dying peacefully in his sleep of Lou Gehrig's disease, knowing where he was going to spend eternity.I think of Kelly's smile. I remember her radiant, beautiful, cancer eaten smile almost hidden by a breathing tube, and I wipe my tears away.
They are all in the arms of Jesus now. There is no more pain. No more cancer. No Lou Gehrig's disease...the awful disease that slowly paralyzes every nerve in the body. No sin, no darkness, no night, no more suffering. We have a God who sees our pain. Someday he will wipe away our tears, and the Bible says that he bottles them, and that he knows our story. He know what we are going through.
No matter the form of grief that comes your way, always remember this one thing. If you are saved, then you are never alone. God is always by your side. I saw Kelly's faith in action. Her body was ravaged by cancer, barely recognizable in her emaciated state. Yet the peace of God radiated from her entire being. When she closed her eyes in death, peacefully, at three in the morning, on February 7th, 2018, she was carried straight to the arms of Jesus.I am sad, but I sorrow not, as those which have no hope. The icy grip of grief will not hold me. It has no power over me. It will not control me. I will have joy, despite my grief.
What about you, sister? Do you sorrow as those with no hope? Or will you let God's peace consume you, and wear a smile, despite the pain? That is mine, and Kelly's, prayer for you.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 King James Version (KJV) 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.