Summer in the Shadowlands

This has been a summer of trials and sadness, a walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

It began with the fire. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know about the trauma our entire city went through as fire rained down on the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. On our neighborhood.

A week or so later, a close friend of mine was hospitalized for a weekend with serious medical symptoms. Just days after she was released, another beloved friend of ours in her mid-thirties received a diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer.

Later in the week we heard of a couple we knew who lost their baby just days before she was due to be born. A devastating still-birth. And yet another couple who suffered a miscarriage just a week after announcing the joy of pregnancy.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Aurora theater shooting. I was not touched by this directly, but I was touched personally by the friends-of-friends who were victims, the sister who was supposed to be there that night but wasn’t because of car trouble (thank God), the proximity – a mere 45 minute drive from my garage door.

We’ve been through test after medical test for my husband’s dizzy spells – with some scary possibilities and the frustration of no answers – although he likes to tell people he might get a “brain transplant”!

And then this morning I awoke to a 6:00 AM phone call from my mom telling me that my beloved great-grandfather had passed away last night.

I was still in shock when I called my husband at work to tell him what had happened. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Fine,” I said, “but sad.” A few hours later the ache began to sink in and the tears began to fall. So here I sit, soothing music on, Bible open next to me, writing it all out.

I find passages of hope, like:

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. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~1 Thessalonians 4.13-18

and:

‎On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. ~Isaiah 25.6-8

I’m convicted by verses like:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. ~1 Peter 4.12-13

and:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~Hebrews 4.14-16

So many times this summer I’ve caught myself lingering on the line between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is healthy, a God-given human response to trials and suffering. Jesus himself was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53.3). Yet it is so easy to cross that line and sink into despair. For me it comes in the question: “What next?”

When that question hovers over your forethoughts, it is then a small step to succumb to fear. Any and all fears I have ever had crop up in my nightmares and daydreams as what could possibly “come next.” This smacks me in the face with the question, “Meg, do you really believe God is good and trustworthy and in control?”

And then I come back to the comforting words of Paul:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. ~2 Corinthians 4.7-11

And:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8.26-28

My life right now is learning to rejoice in the midst of suffering, learning to fix my eyes on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12.2)

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