Tag: pain (page 1 of 2)

One Defiant Act You Can Choose This Christmas

I stand outside in the early dawn of my hometown, and tears pool in my eyes.

I am moved by this – the bravest picture I’ve seen this season. A picture of defiance over darkness, hope holding on.

My brother, David died of cancer 2 1/2 years ago.

He was an “everyone is welcome” guy. A “we’ll leave the light on” guy. A “stop by anytime…come as you are” guy. But since his death, the house has looked shadowed, like it was grieving too.

Until now. Until this small act of defiance, by my sister-in-law, Susan. A courageous act of choosing Life.

Susan chose the small, but significant act of putting up Christmas lights.

To me it shouts, “I will NOT let the darkness win!”

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5

God made us for Life – life in relationship with Him, now, and forever. There’s nothing the Evil One would like more than convincing us that the darkness of loss and pain are too much, too pervasive, to allow us to ever walk in the light again.

Courage doesn’t mean the darkness doesn’t exist. It means you don’t give it the power to control your life. 

Many of you are experiencing pain, and loss this Advent.

You need to be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to say “no”. Choose what will nurture and sustain you. Draw near to Jesus.

But I also know that you can make choices to courageously light a candle in your darkness. Your tiny light may look like

  • just getting out of bed in the morning
  • finding one thing to thank God for
  • calling a friend
  • listening to worship music
  • serving someone else

Every year our church has a special worship service at the beginning of December, specifically for people struggling with darkness and loss during the Christmas season. Each person who shows up is courageous…choosing light over darkness.

This year we opened with this song. I pray it encourages you.

God will make a way through the darkness. I’m cheering you on as you choose the defiant act of lighting a candle.

What are some ways you are bringing light to the darkness?


A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Summer

Many of you are jonesing for Pumpkin Spice Lattes and cozy sweaters on crisp fall days right now. You are just done with this season and ready to move on. I get it. It seems like many of my friends have been living “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Summer this year.

One friend is grieving the sudden death of her husband. Another reeling from a deeply painful betrayal, and another whose 18 month old has leukemia is living with chemo and isolation. Still others are dealing with “prodigal” children, dysfunctional communication in their families, and postpartum anxiety.

This pain leaves my friends wondering “Why, Lord, why? and WHEN will this END???”

In contrast, I have had a delightful summer, making me loathe to share my joy, for fear of intensifying their pain. I know. I’ve been Alexander in the past – the one in deeply wounded confusion.

I really want to be a good friend.

It’s timely, then, that I’ve been reading “The God of All Comfort” and doing a study of Job.

When our friends are hurting, our first inclination is to want to figure out and fix, right? After all, we hate seeing our friends suffer! The thing is, only God can fix it, redeem it, and in His time He will.

Often when we speak, we inadvertently add to the pain of the sufferer.

Without thinking, we say the normal, “How are you doing?” and the one in pain wants to scream, “HOW AM I DOING??? I WANT TO DIE, THAT’S HOW I’M DOING!!!”

A better option might be to give a hug and say “It’s so good to see you.” or “What is on your plate today?”

My friend whose child has leukemia wrote: “Someone told me today that the vaccines I chose to have my son receive caused his leukemia.”

WHAAAT???? Why would someone say that?  As we talked about it, we agreed that when we draw close to people in pain, in addition to wanting to FIX, we also become aware of our own vulnerability. Our reaction may be to withdraw or come up with “reasons” that make us feel more protected.

But I believe God’s charge to us (though I do it poorly) is to sit with our friends in pain, not judge (as Job’s friends did), and listen more than we speak.

Glennon Doyle says friendship is two people acknowledging together that they are not God. Good word, that.

Joe Bayly lost three children years ago and wrote this after the death of one son:

“I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealing, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly. I wished he’d go away, and he finally did.

Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour – or more. He listened when I said something. He listened. He answered briefly. He prayed briefly, and then he went away. I hated to see him go.”

If you are hurting today, maybe all you need to hear is that you’re not alone. You are precious and beloved no matter what.


Hiding in the Balcony

The expanse of the balcony looked totally empty as it should be until a movement far away caught my eye. A young woman with long blond hair had been sitting alone, her hair hiding her face. She got up and hurried out.

We have a Saturday night worship service at our church and because it is small, we close off the balcony. At the end of worship a few weeks ago I had to go up to talk to our tech people. This is when I spotted the balcony girl.


Clearly she wanted to see but not be seen. She wore both hope and grief like strong perfume that almost hovered around her in visible clouds. Continue reading

When Jesus Doesn’t Show up and Something Dies

Years ago I had a dream I believed was from God. There was a quiet Holy Spirit whisper.

I trusted Him (I thought).

I worked hard. I asked the right questions. I got the right permissions.

I was affirmed for my gifts in the area of my dream. I won awards.

And then, painfully, my dream was demolished by a series of choices outside my control.

A friend said it was like I walked out into an intersection I had been told was safe and was run over by a mack truck being driven by people I trusted.

I waited expectantly for God to swoop in and fix everything.

But God was silent.

He didn’t right the wrongs. He didn’t correct the injustices. I was left with the death of illusions, trust, and my dream.

Jesus lingered “somewhere else” and didn’t show up in time.

Like in Monday’s post, God didn’t make sense to me.

I think all of us have times when God has seemed inattentive, uncooperative, or late. What do we do when Jesus doesn’t show up and something dies? Continue reading

3 Things We’re Learning from Loss, part 2


Yesterday I posted some of the more relational things we are learning from crisis and grief. In case you need reminding, we are a mess of cluelessness – toddlers tripping and tumbling our way through this season. What I’m sharing is just stuff we’ve found to be helpful to us.

Today I wanted to share some of the hands-on stuff. In both posts it is super hard to limit the number (and I’d encourage you to add more in the comments), but here are three: Continue reading

3 Things We’re Learning from Loss, part 1

We have an incredibly close family that has been referred to as the “Leave it to Beaver Cleavers”. You know – the all-American family who goes to church every Sunday, and takes family vacations. They love the boy scouts and the 4th of July, and the major drama is when the family dog gets hit by a car (but of course miraculously survives).

All that to say, we’re rookies at pain, and loss because, well, life has gone pretty well for us.

There are many, though, who will read this who have a Phd. in pain and suffering and have much to teach us, and I hope they’ll add their thoughts in the comments.

There are others who have a limited experience with grief, but who care deeply about their friends and want very much to minister to those in pain.

But whatever group you fall into, all of us, I think, want to get better at being companions who walk well with our brothers and sisters through the dark, confusing alleys of crisis.

Over the past 4 months, we had the remarkable privilege to sit with my little brother in hospital rooms, and care for him at home in hospice, and mourn when he took his last breath.

We experienced so many holy moments and such thoughtful care from the Body of Christ. Our extended family rallied as a team in ways that brings tears to my eyes as I think of the gift God has given us of each other.

Some of the things we learned ranged from the absurdly practical, to the nuances of EQ. I thought I’d share a few of them and encourage you to add your own in the comments.  Today I’m going to start with the more relational, and tomorrow will go to the more practical: Continue reading

When You Don’t Like the Plot Line of Your Story

I snuggle into the overstuffed nest-like chair in my bedroom with knees pulled up, feet against the ottoman, Bible and books scattered around me.IMG_0516

It feels safe here.

Through my window I see there’s a tug ‘o war going on between the clouds and sun that mimics the push and pull of the thoughts in my head.

Outside the gray is winning.


I’m reflecting on the plot line of the story God is writing with my brother, David’s life.

How many millions of times, with how many different words have I prayed for healing for my brother?

Please, please, please… Write the story THIS way Lord!

Now I’m out of words. Or when I have them, they end up feeling rote and empty of meaning or power. Like some mumbo jumbo incantation from an old tired magician. Now there are only groans and sighs left.


It’s not my words, after all, that hold any power. It’s just You. You hold the pen.

Come Holy Spirit. Have mercy.  Pray in my place please, with all the right and mystical and holy words that I don’t have.

I breathe. I listen. And then I remind You of how well Your razzle-dazzle work with Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter played, in case You forgot. I suggest that showing off with a healing like that again wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Write another amazing blockbuster!

I fluctuate between wanting to distract myself with a happy clappy crowd of people, and craving silence, and just You, Jesus.

Like an overloaded African truck, I strain under the most recent tonnage of  words like “It’s spreading too fast to fight”.


I share the weight of those words with both You and praying friends.

But once I’ve dumped them one last time, I end up sitting very still and breathing.

Not thinking. Not carrying. Not burdened, but just being. And breathing. Breathing in You.  Reassured that no matter what,  You are good and nothing – NOTHING – can separate us from Your love.

David is afraid of how this might affect his boys – seeing their vibrant, active dad, weak and helpless. But I tell him they are seeing a different kind of strength in him now; a strength of faith and character that far outweighs the importance of physical strength. It is a picture of Your strength that Kyle, Cris, and Cooper need so desperately. A strength that serves, and submits to a larger story.

1 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

There are so many physical choices Dave can no longer make – the choice to hike, to fly-fish, to ski, to golf. But he is doing hard and holy things. Each day he makes the loving choices he can – calling each of the many doctors and nurses by name, thanking them, affirming what a great job they’re doing, even as he is in tremendous pain. This is Your strength.

My sweet brother knows You as the Lover of his soul, and looks forward to spending forever with You, but he’s worried that if he dies, his boys will blame You. There are a million reasons why he wants You to heal him, but this may be number one.

He knows that in spite of how we may read our chapter, You see all the characters, all the plot lines, the beginning and the end and you weave them together for Your purposes. You are good and perfect, but we live in a world bent by sin, and that can leave us angry and confused and wanting to shout very bad words in frustration when the story doesn’t go the way we think it should.

Throughout the past months Dave has said repeatedly that You are the Holy Ghost-Writer of his story and he’s just a supporting character. Each day, he has shown up and waited for what You want to write. He’s looked for the moments to cheer You as the Hero. He’s been honest about the plot twists and turns that seem confusing, the times the Villain seems to be winning, times when he’d like to grab the pen back from You.

You are writing an epic Love story, while we sometimes want to settle for pulp fiction.

But David continues to trust You as the Master-crafter who already wrote the end to our story when You went to the cross.  On Golgotha, we were afraid maybe You were writing a tragedy. Or maybe You weren’t the hero we thought You were. Maybe it was just a story of death. But it wasn’t. We waited and discovered three days later it is a story of Life. And it is a good story.

Three Questions to Ask When You’re Dinged


I got this scar when I was 16 years old.  You can barely see it in this picture, but it’s there. Trust me.

I wish it was a scar from a bullet I got moonlighting as a spy (cuz I do have those skills you know), but no, not this time.

I was working on a car wash in a church parking lot to raise money for a high school athletic club I was part of.  There was a metal piece of trim sticking out on the side of the car, and as I swiped, it sliced my finger open leaving a deep cut that required stitches.

This is a scar that (almost) everyone can see. But I have “invisible” ones too.  I know you do too.

That teacher who shamed you. That boyfriend who dumped you. That parent who let you down. The friend who said “You’re too…” or “You’re not enough…” That time you were fired or betrayed or overlooked or compared and found lacking.

They may not be physically visible, but these wounds are deep and long-lasting.

What’s an invisible wound or painful memory you carry with you? Continue reading

5 Things to Do When a Friend is Hurting

A few weeks ago I wrote about those times when we feel like we’re under water and we’re trying to help a drowning friend, but everything is in slow motion, silent and hollow, and we can’t communicate and it’s so frustrating.


One of the common elements I notice with friends who are in hard seasons is loneliness. Not necessarily that they are alone, but they feel isolated. We feel bad and we want to fix it or DO something and we don’t know what to say or do.

My friend Betsy Anderson came in and shared on this subject with a community of young married couples I shepherd at church last Sunday.

She is wise and kind and has experienced a tremendous amount of pain herself.  She has written curriculum and taught workshops on caring for each other in community.  I’m not good at this, but I’m learning from her. Here are a few of her good insights: Continue reading

How to be Truly Brave

There are many different ways to be brave, but it’s always a choice.

Yesterday I posted my friend’s thoughts on forgiving hard things and hard people.  I marvel as I watch her and others in my life who have endured deep, deep emotional pain, and, with God’s help, have made the choice to be truly brave – to face it and forgive it.

And it has made me think too, of friends who are enduring tremendous physical pain that weakens them to the point where they could question if their life is really a life at all.  And in the midst of it – with God’s help – they have persevered.  They have been truly brave, choosing to greet each day as a gift.

Still others have chosen hard, sacrificial roads of service to those who feel hopeless or left behind.  With God’s help, they’ve been truly brave, choosing to bring justice and mercy to dark places.

All of us have stuff that makes us want to give up, or give in, or yell at the top of our lungs “THIS ISN’T FAIR!!”

But instead, we can choose to be brave.  And fight for life, or our marriage, or our kids, or for justice, for redemption…

There are many different ways to be brave, but it’s always a choice.

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