Psalm 33:18-22 (NLT)
But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.
What will it be like? When death comes calling with a harsh swift knock on the door snatching someone from us in an instant? Death is tragic. The grave is a cold ominous place no matter who strays close to its edge. I knew this day would come. Although heavily anticipated, I did not expect it to come just over a week before our daughter’s wedding or just a few days after our son’s latest PET scan. Work has been filled with long audits, a program review and coming accreditation and that has nothing to do with the grind of daily operations. Looking for some semblance of routine and order in the chaos we call life, I was wiping the counters of the kitchen getting ready to head to the gym for some much needed therapy. A message popped up on my phone, “Hey, I just heard the news. I am so sorry. Let me know if you need anything.” I scanned previous messages and nothing going back to my task. But my heart pounded wildly in my chest as my throat began to close, something must have happened. Picking up our house phone which is barely used other than being a favorite of telemarketers, I had several messages each from my aunts asking me to please call them. When I finally got one of them on the phone she said, “Sweetie, I am so sorry to tell you this but your mother has passed away.”
For many long years, I have wondered what it would be like when I finally got the news. My mother and I have been estranged for over a decade with only brief contact here and there separated by a stream of addiction too wide for me to pass. She could not overcome the waves and wind of this storm. Her body ravaged by abuse from this horrible partner. It finally gave in just find some peace. She passed from what appears to be years of alcoholism that has taken a horrible toll on her body. I am not mad at my mom. I forgave her for all the times that I needed her but she could not be there. I always wondered if we could overcome this barrier one day. We talked almost a year ago about my son and his fight. I envisioned taking the news responsibly and nonchalantly. I imagined sadness, but not like this. Now that it has come I have cried more tears than I thought possible as I grieve the loss of my mother who did the best she could to love us. I am filled with sorrow for the life she was robbed of including the plethora of grandchildren who know her only by name. The Lord watches over those who fear them. Those who rely on His Unfailing Love. He rescues them from death, and keeps them alive during times of famine. Now that the moment has come and gone, I find comfort and peace in these words as I know that I am never alone.
Psalm 103:2-4 (NLT)
Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
The Lord redeems us from death. Whether it is our own physical death, loss of a loved one or close friend and even those dead dreams and worn out wants, the Lord is quick to deliver us from the pain and sorrow of that moment when we take hold of confident hope and faith. When life turns out to be a tragedy, the Lord promises to make us triumphant. This is what it means when He says, “Death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55-56) For many years, there has been a tremendous void in my life. My dad married a wonderful woman decades who go who has become my “mother” in every other sense of the world other than birth. She has loved me as her own. Cared for me as if she bore me herself. God gave me a precious grandmother who also stepped in before my dad remarried to aid in the care of two little kids caught in the crossfire of divorce swallowed up in separation. The Lord knew my mom and all of her weaknesses. He made sure that my brother and I were well-cared for in the pages of the story of our life. We both have thriving families with children who know and love Jesus. The Lord promises to redeem us from death. The finality of the ending makes us evaluate our life from the beginning. Regret seeps in where human weakness would not allow us to do differently. There is no going back. There is nothing to do but move on. The Lord crowns us with tender His Love and His Tender Mercies concerning all those things that sin has damaged in our life. Redemption is not a ticket for the future but a pass to live our life among the imperfect people and tragic situations so we can keep moving toward the Light of His Love in spite of broken hearts, torn up lives in the midst of devastation.
Psalm 139:13-18 (NLT)
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. they cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
God chose my mother before I was born. I did not have a say in the matter. The Lord was not surprised at her shortcomings or the events that eventually led to our separation. When He formed me in utter seclusion, God knew that we struggle in our relationship. It was not His Desire for it to be like that for the Work called my life and the Word given to it are good ones with a future and hope. He wanted us to overcome. He empowered us to break the bondage of sin. In that moment before I was born, “Every day of my life was recorded in Your Book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” If this is true, which I believe that it is, then how does that impact “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8) God knows the tears that fall in our life. They are recorded in His Book but not in the order that this verse is written. They were all dully noted before a single one fell according to Psalm 139:16. There is no need for regret or sorrow in this moment as I grieve the loss of my mom. I have a right to do so even though we did not share the last several years. I loved her and still do. She loved me and still does. Grace allows me to step over all her faults, failures and weaknesses as a human being to embrace the love designed by God so long ago. Mercy allows me to overcome the guilt that tries to keep my heart from weeping and mourning this sweet, fragile person who fell victim to addiction. I went to sleep last night hoping that I would wake up and this would be a bad dream. But it’s not. It’s called life. We all experience tragedy in our life because of that stupid thing called sin. It is not consequential as punishment from God because Jesus satisfied our debt marking it paid in full but rather the result of human weakness that does not always win the good fight of faith. When I woke up this morning, I was not alone. My Father in Heaven met me in that moment and carried me into His Presence. He is the only One who understands the complexity of my mother and I’s relationship and the intentions of each heart. He is the One who promises to capture my tears and store them in a bottle marked “Redeemable”. He is keeping track of my sorrow because He knows they will soon become unspeakable joy in my life. I cannot believe that my life and the people in it will be a tragic tale ending in death but I must believe that because of the Power of God living inside of me that it is about to become triumphant for His Glory.
John 16:21-23 (NLT)
It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.
In the last few years, we have faced our greatest fear fighting illness with our son. It has been a harrowing experience so when death did dare to come and take someone I am appalled. I grieve the loss of mother but more so the fact that we were robbed in this life of so much time and memories. I know that there are many of you experiencing the same strained relationships that should have been different. The only way that you could survive was to take back your expectations from that person and put them all in Jesus Christ. The Lord tells us that there will be sorrow in our life. He captures every tear in a bottle which means He is prepared even when we become immersed in sadness. God is working to turn our sorrow into joy.
It says, “At that time you won’t need to ask for anything…” This comes right after it says that you will have sorrow now. I do not think sorrow ended on the earth when Jesus rose again. In fact, I know for a fact that it did not. Sorrow and suffering ends when Jesus comes again. The dead in Christ will rise and everything will be transformed and changed in that instant. There will be discomfort and pain in this life. Each time I gave birth to a child, there was terrible pain associated with it. Yes, it hurt but the pain became enveloped in joy the moment I heard them cry, looked in their face and touched their skin. My love was instantaneous and completely consuming. God in His Perfection felt the same way about us when He created us but that moment never passes because God does not ever change. My mother felt the same way the moment that I was laid in her arms. When I looked in my first son’s face, I was devastated by the thought of making mistakes that would impact his life and totally distraught that they were unavoidable. I am sure my own mother felt the same way. I share all this to say that God knew before we ever took in our first breath the limitations of our humanity and considered them in the construction of our life. Jesus provided access to enough grace and mercy so that every insufficiency would be completely covered so we could move on even when our hearts are broken, relationships ended and death comes to call. We were made to love one another beginning when we were born. Sometimes our loved ones cannot meet our expectations but God didn’t make them for that just to love us in their own way for their designated time. Each relationship that we encounter should be about love and not what can you do for me. Christ alone must be the relationship of love and trust that we depend on. This gives us the freedom to love without human expectation or earthly desires. My mother passed away. Now I know what I will do. I cried. I am grieving her loss because she is my mother complete with every fault, weakness and failure. I don’t have to depend on her to be perfect. My Lord is that to me. I am free to love people expecting nothing in return. It has taken me a long time to get to this place and I have so far to go. My mother is now free from the pain of addiction and all the sickness it brought in her life. She is healed and whole body, mind and spirit. She is at peace and so am I.
John 16:33 (NLT)
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”