Thursday, 26 March 2015

To the ones who struggle to cope with death

Look at the myriad of stars and constellations above you.
Who set them to burning, each in its place?
Who knows those countless lights each by name?
They obediently shine, each in its place,
because God has the great strength and strong power to make it so. 
Isaiah 40:26 (VOICE)

Friends of mine have three little children. 

The oldest, Ethan, is six. He wants to be a pizza delivery man when he grows up and marry his childhood friend, Isabella. Four year old, Emma vacuums up spiders, dances in tiny ballet shoes and is one of the most beautiful little girls I know. Caleb is the type of guy who smiles in the direction of a girl, says “Hey!” and wins her heart. He is only two but I reckon he will still pull it off when he is seventeen. 

About a year ago a friend of theirs, a little two year old boy, passed away suddenly. 

It amazed me that the death of their friend did not diminish life for  these three small children; it simply altered it for a time, until once again they could play with their friend. 

Their mom told me how while her kids understood that their friend could no longer come and play with them, they would still ask when he was coming to visit. 

Ethan, grasps their friend is in heaven, but could not understand why they could not visit him the way they could friends in Cape Town or London. 


For Caleb, Sophia and Joshua death is only a postponement of pleasure; it is eating the main course so you can have dessert; reading a book from the beginning without skipping to the end. 

To these under six’s, death is the anticipation of something good; like waiting to open a present till Christmas morning. 

I would like to view bereavement like these children: not as the termination of life with a friend but as an invitation to spend an eternity with them; infinity without death or separation. 

Shortly, after my brother heard his best friend had died in a cycling accident, he told me through tears, dripping like wet paint down his cheeks, that he now had a reason to look forward to heaven. 

Now, that is viewing death as a little child does, as an invitation to have a play date that has no end, a play date that has just begun for one of the friends. 

It is also the realisation that the one who set out first is probably having a better time in heaven then they ever had on earth. 

I struggle with the fact that death has to exist. 

Death is the one thing that makes me question God’s existence. I know it’s a part of life. I appreciate that life often follows death but that doesn’t make me understand all the hurt and pain that comes with it. 

Even while I struggle with the idea of death I have learnt some mechanisms to cope with sorrow

I cry and I get angry. 

I remind myself that Jesus doesn’t like death either which is why he came to give us eternal life. 

I share stories about those I have loved who are now heavenly men and women. 

I laugh at the good times we shared. 

And I look at the stars

I lie on my back in the country and stare up at the cosmos which stretches farther then our strongest telescope can see. I look up at the stars God strung just to astonish us. The stars he named to reveal his bigness, his majesty and his sovereignty. 

I look at the stars because they remind me of who God is. 

The stars tell me that God is not spiteful but awe-inspiring. 

The lights shining in the darkness remind me that God is both, Jesus weeping for his friend, and the One who breathes light out his mouth. 

The stars expose how big God is and how tiny I am. 

I consider the stars and remember that they only burn so brightly because they are dying. (tweet this)

As each star burns out, and shoots across the sky, I remember that in each death,  there is beauty and mystery, if I choose to see it.

Ponder: What helps you cope with death? 

Prayer: God, I don’t get death but I find comfort in the fact that you don’t like it either. Help me to see the new life being birthed out of pain in my life. Amen. 

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Monday, 23 March 2015

7 bible verses to comfort you in tough times

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:50 (ESV)

Machines beeping, the blur of medical staff running, a crash cart whizzing into an ICU room.

A young woman lay, packed in ice, as doctors attempted to somehow stop the swelling in her brain that threatened to take her life... and her family waited. 

Six days turned into eight weeks. Helo awoke to discover that she was not the same. She saw two of everything, couldn't feel half of her face, couldn't hear from one ear, and could not speak. 

While intubated in the ICU with a breathing tube, Helo Matzelle gestured for her sister-in-law to give her a pen and paper. She had undergone surgery for a rare brain tumor and then suffered multiple complications during recovery.

Helo writes, "This was the first time since surgery that I had initiated communication. I could've written anything, but what I wrote still moves me to this day. It took me five minutes with fragile hands to write three simple words, ‘God is amazing.’”

I’m pretty sure my first words after going through what Helo did would not be “God is amazing”. 

I kept reading, and was stunned to read in her book, “Halo found Hope”, the story of a woman who learned how to hang onto God while learning to walk, sit, and cook again. 

One bible verse she pointed out from Psalm 119 really struck me: 
This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. (tweet this)
I realised as I read, how often in Xylon’s struggle with cancer, it was the promises of God that kept me going, that gave life.

These are some of the promises I hung on to:
1. God’s promise to always be right there (Psalm 34:18) 
2. God’s promise of peace (Micah 5:5)
3. God’s promise of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)
4. God’s promise to be a place of safety (Psalm 18:2)
5. God’s promise to be my help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)
6. God’s promise of life, life, and more life (John 10:10)
7. God’s promise to birth new life out of pain (Isaiah 66:9)

Ponder: What promises from God have helped you through hard times? 

Prayer: God, help me to remember your promises to me so that they can be a comfort and give me life. 

More about the book mentioned in this devotional: 
Halo Found Hope is the story of a beautiful, busy wife, and mother of three whose life changes instantly with the diagnosis of a rare brain tumor. An exceptional ENT, a brilliant neurosurgeon and a dedicated medical team tackle the tumor, setting off a series of unbelievable miracles. Helo's story is not one of survival, or of salvaging a life through a broken body. It is not about endurance through pain, but victory because of it. While the family heard her silence, God heard her prayer. Helo's story is simply this: Wherever you are and whatever you are going through, God is right there. He doesn't need to be recognized by you, to be there for you. He can replace fear with courage and discouragement with determination, if you let Him. Helo did, and that is how she found hope. 
Buy the book here: http://amzn.to/1Ftsx7D

Disclosures: 
*This post includes affiliate links
** I was given this book for free by LitFuse in exchange for an honest review. 

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Thursday, 19 March 2015

One thing to do when you wish you were happier


A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 (MSG)

I let my fingers find my husbands as we walked along the pier. 

We spoke about contentment. 

We talked about what it meant to us. We wondered at friends of ours who keep moving cities but never seem happy no matter what their address says. We mused about whether they are discontent because of their inner selves rather than their surroundings. 

And we didn’t have answers. 

But we were okay with that because we’re learning that there is so much in life which we don’t have answers for. 

I thought about German proverb I read recently which said, 
“When you're happy don't wish to be happier.” 

And I thought about the women in South Africa who have so very little but still laugh with their friends as the walk to their tiny tin house. 

And about how I must never let the things I want make me forget the things I have. 

I love how the message puts 1 Timothy 6:6-8: 
A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.

Together, we paused at the edge of the pier and watched the ocean pulling and pushing in an endless rhythm. 

And I was content. 

I stood there trying to figure out how to stuff that moment into my heart, to carry it with me constantly so that my heart learns the rhythm of leaning into God for what I need today, and being satisfied with that. 

But I didn’t know how to do that, so instead I did the one thing I know works when I wish I am happier, I offered gratitude and let me heart whisper, “Lord, thank you for bringing me to this place.”

Ponder: What keeps you from being content with your circumstances right now?  

Prayer: Father, give us this day our daily bread and help my heart to know that is enough. (tweet this)

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Photo Credits (Creative Commons): Pier: Dean Cothill | Sky: Gratisography | Heart: Magdeleine.coDesign: Wendy van Eyck