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Ambushed by Grief

We are blessed again this year to be able to attend a local GriefShare support group.  The second session in the GriefShare video series explores the concept of being “ambushed by grief”.  Last year, when we went through this series the first time, this concept did not capture my attention as much as it did this second time through.

To further examine this concept, let’s first define the word “ambush”:

1. an act or instance of lying concealed so as to attack by surprise: The highwaymen waited in ambush near the road.

2. an act or instance of attacking unexpectedly from a concealed position.

3. the concealed position itself: They fired from ambush.

4. those who attack suddenly and unexpectedly from a concealed position.

verb (used with object)

5. to attack from ambush.

ambush. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved February 03, 2013, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ambush

An ambush involves the elements of surprise, concealment and being attacked.  Have you ever experienced grief in this way?  Does grief surprise you at the most unexpected or inopportune times?

Any given circumstance can result in me being ambushed by grief.  Commonly, a grief ambush occurs when I see a boy around Isaac’s age, between the ages of ten (his age when he died) and twelve (the age he would be now if he were still living here on earth).  My typical response is to either cry, imagine that boy as Isaac, withdrawal from the situation, become emotionally paralyzed or any combination of these responses.  I also occasionally experience disorientation and confusion and am unable to make a decision for a short period of time.  The symptoms may pass relatively quickly, especially after I consciously determine to pray to God for help through the event.  Although, before I reach the point of consciously praying to God, I feel as if my heart is turned God-ward anyway, lifting up inaudible and unintelligible words and thoughts to Him.  I am reminded of the following Scripture verse:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Rom 8:26)

Recently, a situation occurred that triggered a grief ambush.  Someone was injured and for a few moments the severity of the injury was uncertain (the injury turned out to be minor and the individual is quite fine now).  In those moments of uncertainty, I became emotionally paralyzed and felt faint and my mind was cloudy.  I immediately withdrew from this situation and cried out to God for help and sanity.  He gave me the strength to return to the situation and assist, although I felt guilty for retreating in the first place.  I felt that I had to retreat at the time in order to gather my senses, but I wish I could have immediately drawn on the Spirit to help me in the first place. All of this over a minor injury – I was ambushed indeed.

Even as I write now, I continue to learn that grief is not a short-term spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical struggle that you just “get through”.  Perhaps, this will be a lifelong journey until I reach my eternal home.  I don’t understand any more of “why” we are one this journey, but I am learning more of who God is.  I realize that He is beyond the box that I tried to put Him in.  I know that He is good, trustworthy, gracious and merciful, even when my life experiences would tempt me to conclude otherwise.

Just this past week, I heard the following song on the radio.  The song is titled “Who You Are” and is performed by JJ Heller.  I think you will appreciate why this song impacted me and I hope that it causes you to reflect more on who God is, no matter what you are facing in life.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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God’s Forgetfulness

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psa 103:12)

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Heb 8:12)

How can God not remember our sins anymore? Obviously, since God is omniscient (all-knowing), He does not just struggle to remember things like we do. He does not need to keep “to-do” lists so that He doesn’t forget to pick up that item at the grocery store. He doesn’t forget someone’s name. He doesn’t forget what He did yesterday. So what do these verses really mean?

I think that God doesn’t hold us accountable for our sins anymore. When we are baptized into Christ Jesus (not water baptism, but born again into the Body of Christ), we take on His identity. Jesus Christ was the only sinless person to ever live. When He died on the cross, He took on the guilt of our sins so that we can take on His righteousness through faith. So, when God looks at the account of the believer, He sees the sinless record of Christ Jesus instead of the sinful account of the old man.

So, if God forgets our sins then why can’t we?

One argument against Christianity is that it is too easy to just believe and be saved. Someone can infer that one can sin all they want to and then just believe and be saved (i.e. salvation without consequences). While I can understand that point on the surface, I know that it is not just that simple in the experience of the believer (while perhaps it actually should be!). As someone who has been forgiven much, I struggle with the pain of remembering my past life. My old man and enemy remind and tempt me with those things that once promised “pleasure”. Now I have to fight the battle to cast those memories onto Christ, who has made me a new creature. My history is Christ’s history, not the old Andy’s. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1). Perhaps that fact is easier to read and quote than it is to walk it out.

A brother in Christ recently marveled at the Apostle Paul’s statement about having “wronged no man” (see 2Co 7:2). In context, Paul is speaking about his actions as a minister of the Gospel. However, one could look at Paul’s past and accuse him of falsehood in such a statement. Paul (once more widely known as Saul) was a great persecutor of Christians and held the coats of others as Stephen was stoned for his faith in Christ (see Acts 7:58 and 22:20). I believe that Paul could make that statement because he understood who he was in Christ. Being a new creature, he had wronged no man according to God’s record. What an amazing truth that, if we grabbed a hold of it for ourselves, would enable us to walk in freedom from the guilt of our past.

Let us march on in the freedom of God’s forgetfulness.

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Christian Studies

 

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A Wearied Man

(Before I proceed, I would like to express my gratitude for all of the responses to “A Special Day“.  I especially thank my dear wife, Brenda, for loving and encouraging me with that most pleasant surprise.  I love you honey!  You all lifted my spirit with your generous comments.  Anyway, this post below was written the morning of my birthday, before I received your encouragement.  Now, on with the post…)
 

I’ve been feeling wearied lately. In fact, the other day I was feeling particularly downtrodden. At one particular time of the day, I was walking and asking God “Why can’t I just stop ______ [fill in the blank with persistent sin]?” Once again, He spoke to me in that still small voice, saying “You can’t stop on your own, so stop trying to. I never ______. My Spirit lives inside of you. Walk after my Spirit.” I meditated on my Lord and Savior and immediately the ____ left me. One of my favorite passages of scripture from Matthew 11 then came to my mind:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Isn’t it interesting that this particular passage says to learn “of” Jesus and not just “from” Him? One aspect of learning of Jesus could mean to follow his example. We could also pursue understanding His character. He describes His character to us here: “meek and lowly in heart”. God in the flesh was meek and lowly in heart; chew on that for a little while.

As I returned to my desk, feeling much more peaceful, I read an email from Todd Wilson in his Familyman Weekly column titled “Too Many Dad Holes”. If you are feeling weary, I hope this encourages you. Below is the text of that newsletter:

Hey Dad,

I hate mornings that I’m hoping to sleep in just a little bit. Last night, I even hit the hay early because I’ve felt under the weather lately. I had hopes of sleeping in, but my little morning boy Cal (6) ruined all that…again! This morning he walked in, got in our faces and announced with 9-1-1-urgency, “I need to change ‘me’ on the Wii…the nose is all pointy, he’s way too short, and his head is fat!!”

I’m not sure where that came from, considering the Wii hasn’t been used in 4 months, but it was obvious that it was his big concern of the morning…my morning…the morning I was going to sleep in.

It’s not easy being a parent. In fact, I talk to a lot of dads, and I see the weariness in their faces and voices. They don’t say it, but I half wonder if some are contemplating checking out.

Last week, after just getting home after an exhausting day, I was relaxing in the ‘throne room’ when my wife called out to me with anguish through the door, “Oh, my word, Todd. ‘Frank’ committed suicide yesterday.” It hit me like a hammer. ‘Frank’ went to our church, had seven children, & was one of the smartest guys I knew…and I liked him.

We don’t know much about the whys, but I assume he was weary. In his clouded view, it seemed like the best way out. It’s so deeply sad, but the sadness is for what he left behind and what he’ll miss out on because he grew weary and stopped. His weariness is over, but his children will feel ‘the hole’ for the rest of their days.

Dads leave big holes. I was just talking to fellow Familyman, Andrew L. a couple days ago, and he said a 40-year-old dad friend of his died this week in a tragic accident. “He was a great dad,” he said sadly.

Dads leave big holes.

My fellow, Dad, I know you’re tired and weary. But don’t stop. Don’t check out. If you need help, ask. Your family needs you so much…and you need them.

I’ve got to go check out that Wii thing now.

You ‘da Dad,

/s/ Todd

PS – Here’s the promise – “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (and stop).” (Galatians 6:9)

(Todd grants permission to freely copy and distribute his newsletter in whole or in part. You can sign up to receive the “Familyman Weekly” at www.familymanweb.com.)

 

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Walking by Faith

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2Co 5:6-8, emphasis mine)

This verse has taken on a whole new meaning in my life over this past year.  My desire has greatly increased to be absent from my body and present with the Lord.  However, the fulfillment of that desire will be determined based on God’s will and timing and not mine.

I have never walked by faith this deeply before.  I’ve had to trust the Lord through some trials in my life, usually brought about by my own sinful choices.  However, I’ve never been handed quite a test where I’ve had to journey solely by faith, without seeing the physical evidence of the object of my trust.  I can’t see into Heaven to see Jesus and my son who has gone on before me.  I have to trust in the unseen.  Even though death has won this battle here on earth, I have to believe that, through Jesus Christ, eternal life and victory in Heaven is available to everyone who believes.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1, emphasis mine)

Sometimes I envy others who experience the visual, audible, tangible or even evidently miraculous manifestations of God.  I assume that they are absolutely certain of His voice or appearance.  However, God doesn’t normally speak to me in an audible voice or through visions, dreams, prophecies, etc.  He primarily speaks to me deep in my heart, with His still small voice (I assume that He knows what’s best for me and what form of communication suits my gifting and personality).  Sometimes I question the source of that voice and ask “was that really the Holy Spirit or just my own thought?”  I have to exercise a lot of faith to believe that it is God speaking to me.  He not only calls me to have faith but then also gives me the strength to exercise it.  My faith then serves as the evidence that God exists and is relational.

How do I know when it is God’s voice?  Whatever I hear must not contradict His written Word.  If any voice calls me to disobey the Scriptures, it is not from God!  If the voice urges me to seek my own glory and not God’s, then it is not from Him.  If the voice condemns me to hopelessness, it is not from God.  A lot of times the voice convicts me of a sinful thought or attitude, leading me to the cross where my sin is forgiven and then to repent towards God.  As I think about what the Holy Spirit might say to me, I turn to Jesus’ own words about the Spirit:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (Joh 16:7-15)

Lately, His voice is providing us with comfort.  He is reminding us of His love; the sufficiency of His grace; the complete payment for sins that Christ made on the cross; His goodness and mercy; that we have eternal rewards waiting in Heaven if we hold fast; that His children are here to comfort and help us; and that we cannot always see what is real.  He is calling us to walk in a deeper level of faith.

As I wrote this post, I was reminded of two songs by Jeremy Camp.  These songs were from his album titled Stay.  The lyrics to most of the album’s songs were inspired from Jeremy’s journey through the illness and death of his first wife.  Two of those remarkable songs are “Walk by Faith” and “I Still Believe”, both of which declare having faith and believing in God even when we don’t understand the circumstances of our life.  I hope that you are learning to walk by faith no matter what circumstances you are facing in your life.

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Family Updates, Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Who Do You See?

When you see someone living strongly in the face of great adversity, do you admire that person for his/her inner strength?  What is the source of his/her strength?  What, or better Who, is the source of my strength?  You see, my will has been broken.  I want to quit.  Yet, God has left me here for a purpose, and that is to give glory to Him.  His Holy Spirit gives me the strength to get up on my feet and walk each day along the path He’s laid for me.  I have a wife and children who are depending on me to lead them as I follow Jesus.  So, I want you to see Jesus Christ working in me and through me for His glory and not my own.  Please don’t admire me, for I know who I am apart from Christ.

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; (Php 1:12)

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Php 2:13)

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Php 4:13)

Blessings,

Andy

 

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