Weeping with Hope

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul. It is easy to make a mistake here, “If God gave it to me,” we say, “its mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real life, if our hearts are set on glory.” ~Elisabeth Elliot

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Our teacher had just handed out a worksheet to work on in class, and as I typed a word into Google Translate on my phone, a Facebook notification flashed across my screen.  It was a friend from home and it puzzled me why he would be messaging us since it was the middle of the night back in the small town I am homesick for.  I’m not sure if it was the odd timing of the message or the Holy Spirit preparing my heart for the break it was about to feel, but before I even opened the message, I knew.  I knew something was wrong…terribly wrong.  I opened the message and read that the husband of one of my dear friends, and father to their amazing children, had just unexpectedly passed away.

“no, no, no….” I gasped.

I leaned over and showed my husband the message, and time seemed to stand still.  Memories of sitting at the table with this family in the days before we moved away from home flashed in my mind.  I no longer cared about the language study I was immersed in and all I could do was sit there in shock.

And then I looked up and saw her

My eyes locked with the Muslim girl’s and my shocked face softened as the Holy Spirit held my grieving heart and redirected my focus to Heaven where the complete and utter sorrow that I felt will cease to exist.  I glanced to my right and saw my teacher looking at me, wondering what was wrong.  It all happened so fast, but I remember almost as quickly as I was shocked by devestating news, I was also shown the importance of the moment I was in.  Our predominately Muslim class knows we are followers of Jesus and every chance we get in class, we talk about our beliefs.

As I saw the Muslim girl watching me, I knew I could not bottle up my pain and pretend my world wasn’t being shattered for my friend.  How will an unbelieving world understand what it means to treasure Jesus above all else if they never see the worth we see in Him?  How will they see the depth of His grace if they never see our need for it?  How will they see the miracle of our joy if they never see the trauma of sorrow attempt to steal it? How will they understand hope in eternity if they never see our suffering?

How will they understand grieving with hope if we never let them see it?  And how will they see it unless we are transparent and among them?

“And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, The Message

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” ~1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, ESV

 “The husband of one of my dearest friends just passed away,” I told the class that had focused their attention on us.

As they all gasped at the news, I added: “You just never know when your last day on earth will be.”

I sat there, visibly distracted, but trying with all my might to re-engage with my language lesson.  As I begged God to focus my mind, which still seemed cloudy with shock and grief, I felt the Muslim girl watching me intently.  I looked up and gave her a small smile. She was watching me grieve. Because we are the first followers of Jesus that she has met, I realized she has never seen hope that anchors, in the fiercest of storms, in action. My heart screamed homesickness.  I was desperate to get on an airplane and fly home to grieve in the community of believers that I miss daily, but Jesus said “follow me” and I chose to leave that family behind.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” ~Matthew 19:29

The more tragedy, graduations, birthdays, deaths, marriages, births, and holidays that happen as we are gone from home, the more I realize that the initial leaving of houses, brothers, sisters, parents, and lands was difficult, but staying gone is harder.  This following Jesus to be fishers of men takes the dying of many deaths – which will someday lead to eternal life.  The temptation to go back and enjoy the communal grieving and celebrating that we once knew is strong, but if we always go back, how will someone like the Muslim girl ever see joy that sustains in the midst of unthinkable sorrow?

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross.  And the cross always entails loss.” ~Elisabeth Elliot

This morning as I woke up before the rest of my family and quietly started my day in prayer, I felt the Lord tell me to prepare quickly how I would share what happened with our new nanny.  I have been sharing scripture with her and she recently asked me if she could go to church with me.  I knew I had the opportunity to share Christ from the joyful sorrow of our friend’s death.  I worked through how to tell her what had happened in her language and I asked the Lord to help me.

As she walked in and kissed my cheeks, she asked if I was ok.  I told her yes, but that my friend’s husband had just passed away.  She looked so sad and that was when I pulled her into my kitchen and the Lord’s grace sustained me and gave me the ability to share of the hope found in Jesus.  I showed her photos of the family and told her how because the husband loved and followed Jesus, he is now with God in Heaven.  She nodded and held my arm as she affirmed to me that she understood what I was attempting to tell her.  She asked if I cried and I told her yes, but that there is happiness because he is in Heaven.  Yes, my language skills were as basic as you can get, but combined with the scripture I have shared, as well as the power of the Holy Spirit, I am believing that another seed was planted in her heart.  Our friend’s story who passed away is far from over – his death has been an open door to share about Christ, and I am asking the Lord to allow his example of a life well lived to play a part in the salvation of those who we are sharing with.

My heart is heavy with sorrow, but I feel privileged to be given a glimpse of the preciousness of the death of one of God’s children and of the glory He receives as only He can when He takes a tragic story and shows Himself in the midst of it.

Tonight, while my children are sleeping and my husband is away meeting locals, I sit alone and choose to continue to hold the cross I took up when I said yes to Jesus.  I walk a few more steps on my journey of enduring til the end.

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” ~Matthew 24:13-14

I ask that you will pray for our family to die to ourselves daily and continue to run the race He has set before us.  I ask that you keep our friends who are suffering greatly in your prayers and I ask that you will pray that unbelievers will see their hopeful grieving and come to Christ!  There is exquisite beauty in the love being shown by the Body of Christ surrounding this hurting family. It’s a joy to watch from afar.

He is glorified because they are satisfied in Him.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.” ~Psalm 116:15