20160220_155059Out of the blue last Tuesday, I was struck down by a wave a grief, sobbing and wrestling with loss after loss.  In a matter of days we had attended two visitations at the same funeral home.  One was for an elderly man who lived a long life.  And one was for a beautiful young girl, a neighbor and long time friend of our grandchildren.  She was a freshman at our high school, played the flute in the band, danced on drill team, was a big sister and a little sister.  She was full of life.  She once sat our table for a tea party when she was 8 years old–a princess tea party.  We told her how much she was loved by The King and how God had good plans for her life.  She was so beautiful, dressed in her crimson red and sparkling gold princess gown. Her future was so promising.

But her days were numbered.  Fourteen years.  We never would have imagined that her family would experience the all-too-familiar grief that the thief leaves when he suddenly comes stealing the joy we had found in family.  The common, the routine, the normal course of our days does not look for death in youth–our youth–our children’s youth.

Yet it comes.

Like a thief.

In an instant.

So young.

Two babies In the womb of a friend—not thriving.

A friend’s little niece, age 3—dies of a deadly infection.

Another friend’s son age 4—drowned.

A sweet little princess friend age 14—suicide.

A young man age 15—a fall.

Another friend’s son, in adult prison age 17—suicide.

Friend’s beautiful daughter age 21—car accident.

Our son age 24—suicide.

Children’s mother age 34—at the hands of another.

Son’s friend age 36—overdose.

Like a thief.

How does one get up and walk again when they have been robbed of the very ones they hold dearest?  How do we get past the grip of grief and ever go on with our shattered lives?

It isn’t without sorrow or by a quick and easy process, but we do go on because we do not sorrow as those who have no hope.  We, as Christians, have the hope of the high place where death does not get the final word.  We may grieve for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

In I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul reminds us of the hope of heaven that is the hope of those who believe in Jesus.  Our hope is in the high place, eternity.   The hope we have for our loved ones who are asleep with Jesus is that they will rise, and we will one day be together again, forever and ever.  Death did not get the final word.

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

From this recent wave of grief, I penned these words as I counted the many losses that have grieved me and my loved ones.  Not just death of the body, but our dreams, relationships, health and security–the common losses that threaten our hope and break our hearts.

The High Place

I long to live in the high place
where men are not filled with anger,
where sacrifice trumps pleasure
and children are no longer pawns.
Where forgiveness lingers
and wholeness delivers.
Where rights are forgotten
and righteousness rules.
Where babies are blessings
and marriages last.
Where death awakens
and sorrow is shaken.
Where one means all
and all means you too.
Where whose you are
matters more than what you do.
Where relationships heal
because the pain is real.
Where evil is conquered
by God’s free will.
I long for the high place
where families don’t quit.
Where wounds don’t scab over
and callously harden.
Where every sin
receives a pardon.
Where prisoners are free
and lives are redeemed.
Where satisfaction
is more than a dream.
Where differences are embraced
and demands are replaced
with hands that extend
to the painful place.
Where mercy rules justice
and justice restores.
I long for the place
where love reigns evermore.
I long for the high place.

I pray that you will hold onto the hope that Paul tells us about.  The hope we have in Jesus where the dead rise again. If you find yourself without hope because you do not know this Jesus who has already conquered death, I pray you will ask him to reveal himself to you so that you too can live in the hope of the high place where there is no more death, no more suffering, no more tears.

If you know this Jesus, yet your hope is waning, or your faith is standing with feeble knees, I am praying for you right now to cry out to the One who can restore to you the joy of His salvation, to lift you up and set your feet firmly on the high place. 

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Kelly lives in St. Louis County, MO with her husband. She shares her story where it matters for juvenile justice, parenting prodigals, to encourage cancer survivors, brain injury survivors, and their families. Prayer is her love language. She is happiest when she is with her family or on her belly in snorkel gear floating wherever the river runs with the fish racing below her, sun rays streaming through the ripples onto the rocky bottom and the sounds of the world distantly dim. In addition to blogging here at the Consilium from time to time, she leads In ONE Accord, a Facebook live prayer event at The Consilium Prayer Room where we come together to pray scripturally as we take our eyes off of our circumstances and onto the mighty gracious attributes of God. You can find her learning how to take care at her blog Curare.

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