Friends, today I’m not including the letter I usually do, because this time I received a telephone for help. Let’s call this dear lady Viv. The call was to tell me her husband died last week and to ask for advice. I think all I did was confuse her even more than she’s already confused, so in retrospect I’m answering her the way I would have attempted to had I not been in shock.
For the wounded:
When I have grieved one death after another after another–either of a destroyed life or marriage or simply a broken heart–no book written about grief was capable of helping me. They didn’t address MY heart, MY pain, MY experience. Only one book, written by a beloved friend of mine, helped me, and it was written for those whose friends have suffered a loss. The title is How to Help a Grieving Friend by Stephanie Grace Whitson. Having read it several times I knew what not to do with Viv.
For instance, I knew that no spoken words would help. I knew that sharing my own experiences wouldn’t help. I was able to give her practical advice about taking care of herself and not expecting to even recall our conversation, because when one is in shock one doesn’t know what she’s doing most of the time. I gave her instructions about finances–things I knew she would probably forget, but I focused on caring for her and helping her move forward so she could care for herself. I pray I gave sound advice. But there is one thing I didn’t tell her, and it’s something I’ll tell her later, when anger or bitterness threaten to set in. I’ll tell her this because I’ve experienced it over and over again. I’m sure you have, too, in some way.
I’ve been reading and rereading the passages in Hebrews the 12th chapter directly following the verses about God chastening those He loves–his true children. I’ve buried myself in it to commit it to memory. In this world we suffer, sometimes to the point where we want to die. But beginning in the 12th verse of the HSCB version, we are told, “Therefore, strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.”
A broken leg needs to be straightened and placed in a splint or cast so it will grow back together properly. The same thing happens when the emotions are involved.
There are times in our lives when we endure such suffering that we might be tempted to rebel against God and the pain He’s allowed us to endure. We can begin to see all of life as a punishment, and those around us tend to retreat after a time because our words are often filled with sad thoughts, depression, even bitterness. I’ve been there. Actually, I’m still focusing on the climb out of that particular pit.
When we’ve been injured by death or a broken relationship or cruel words, the loss of a job or any number of other attacks, this is the time it’s most vital for us to keep our paths straight–to not rebel against God. It’s time to draw closer, to bathe ourselves in His word–something we’re less likely to do when we’re angry with Him. It’s the only way to keep our paths straight when we’ve been injured. We’re already hindered by injury, and physically speaking, we need those straight paths so that we don’t wander off into the rocky places and make the injury more severe.
You might be limping today after an emotional injury, a physical injury, or life-changing illness. Now is the most important time to keep your eyes focused on God. Read and reread Hebrews 12 until you can see more clearly. Tell Him exactly how you feel, and never sever the connection between yourself and God. Those who never suffer have never belonged to Him. I realize that isn’t a great sales pitch to bring in new believers, but for those of us who belong, it’s the plain truth. My warning for my friend Viv is to stay close to Him especially now. We can cause more damage to ourselves and others when we’re wounded. Don’t forget to keep your paths straight and walk with the Great Physician. He can keep you firmly in His arms. If you don’t walk alongside Him at this time you can walk away and incur further injury. That will not only hurt you more, but it could hurt your friends and loved ones.
May God be with you if you’re suffering from a loss or an injury today. May you allow God to bring you peace and may you treat yourself kindly as you heal.
Much love from Hannah Alexander