I am not going to go through my entire life story telling you about all the bad things that have happened and the trials I've been through. This isn't about my story.I'm sure there are many people out there who have lost a lot more than I have. We all have our own stories, and our own heartbreaks. We aren't going to compare stories right now. Who or how much you lost is not the topic here. But rather how loss changes us. In whatever way, something is different now. This is about what God has taught me through grief and suffering. Here are five things God taught me about life...
-The pain doesn't go away, but it does change.
In the spans of four years I lost three grandparents, and an equal number of close friends. And time hasn't completely 'healed my wound' as they say it should. With every new accomplishment I make, there is a renewed sense of sadness that three of the people I loved most won't be there to see it. I couldn't show them my drivers license when I first got it. I didn't get to tell them when I got accepted into a good college. They knew me as a girl, but never got to see the grown up me. Would they be proud of me? Would my Grandpa give me a big hug, and would his face still feel scratchy on my cheek? There is so much I wish I could tell them, and show them. Still, in the middle of all these 'if only's' I can cry happy tears over the good memories I have of them. Like when my Grandpa would press his face up against my car window and make me laugh. Or when my Nanny would listen to my stories and tell me about growing up in the 40s. Those memories are priceless to me. I wouldn't trade them for any other grandparents that could have stayed here for ever.
- Heaven feels more real now.
I knew before that heaven was real, but knowing that people I love are there... It's difficult to explain how close I feel to heaven now. It's not just a fairy tale land and it isn't something man made up. My God created it, and I have loved ones that live there.
-I appreciate the people I still have more.
I loved them before, but I didn't realize how important they are. They could be gone in an instant just like the people that I lost. It's important to tell people that you love them, and spending time with them is golden. You will never wish that you had spent more time watching TV or playing video games. But you might wish you had asked your grandparents more questions, and listened to their tales. Learn to cherish the people you have, and really get to know them.
-Showing emotion isn't easy.
As a general rule, I don't cry in public. I have broken that rule more times than I care to mention, but it remains a rule nonetheless. I don't like crying, because I don't like pity. I had resigned myself to shedding a few tears, but most of the time I was trying very hard not to become a wailing spectacle. Until I lost my Grandpa, I didn't know it was possible to cry as much as I did. But I did cry, and I learned not to feel ashamed about it.
-God's peace is real.
I know that now, because it's what held me up. It kept me from falling apart when I really thought I would. I had never felt such comfort and understanding like the peace that God placed in my heart. God didn't choose death for my grandparents, our sins makes death inevitable. God made a way for us to live again, way for us to be truly happy, a way for us to know Him. He gives us hope, and that is what keeps me going.
God doesn't choose to make us suffer, we suffer because of sin. But God does use our sufferings to teach us and bring us closer to Him. Pain is inevitable, and because of sin people will die. But there is something more to it. Jesus tells us about suffering in Luke 9: "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And He said to them all. If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." Losing our life doesn't always mean literally dying. It could simply be surrendering control of our lives fully to God. God will never give us undo grief. There are reasons we may never even understand. But God is faithful. He will rebuild you when you're broken, and you will be broken sometimes. But God is always there.
If you are dealing with present or past heartbreak, my friend Alysa Davis has written a book called "Then Sings My Soul: How to Handle Heartbreak" which I would highly recommend. Not only is she a talented author, she is an amazing person whom I have personally learned a lot from. Her book touched my heart because I could tell that she put her heart in it. You can't fake passion, and she has it. I'm so thankful that God brought her into my life. You can buy her book on Amazon by clicking through this link:
Growing up in church I heard Bible stories over and over again. Naturally I assumed that they happened the way everyone says. But when I started reading the Bible for myself, I realized it's not always what you're told. One of the stories that stuck out to me is the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Mainly the misrepresentation of the character Leah, and the glorification of Rachel. Genesis 29-31. I encourage you to read that thoroughly. The Bible is THE source of truth. It gives us the whole picture of what happened. Usually we hear the story told from Jacob's perspective. I want to tell it from a different perspective. I might even introduce someone you thought you knew before.
Meet Leah, daughter of Laban. You may have heard of her before. She also has a younger sister named Rachel. It's easy to think of her as just a Bible character. But she was a real girl who actually lived. She grew up and had feelings and emotions just like you. In fact the Bible describes her as "tender eyed." Maybe she cried a lot. Maybe her eyes were crossed, or she couldn't see well. But other than that, she was a normal girl. She may have even been beautiful, despite her eyes.
One day would change Leah's life forever. Her sister Rachel is running in from the fields. Running to their father Rachel tells him about this man named Jacob, his sister's son. Her father runs out to meet Jacob, and welcomes him into their home. Her father asks Jacob what kind of payment he wants for his wages working for him. Jacob wants one thing. "I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter" he says. Laban doesn't find that to unreasonable, he agrees.
Seven years later. Her father has gathered all the men and prepared a huge feast. Maybe she was surprised when her father came to her that night, sending her to Jacob. What if she didn't want to? What if she didn't think it was right? Whatever her thoughts were, her father had told her to do something. She would do it.
Jacob is not happy. He wanted Rachel. How does it feel Leah? Your husband doesn't love you. He wants to marry someone else, and you haven't even been married a week yet. Love is a choice, Jacob. Are you being selfish wanting Rachel for her looks?
Why Jacob? Why do you hate Leah so much? Is it her eyes? You know God says that "Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain." Rachel may be more beautiful, but does she love God? Or does she still worship her father's idols? Jacob marries Rachel anyway, and works seven years for Laban in exchange.
Step into Leah's shoes for a minute. Can you imagine what life was like for her living with people who bitterly hate her? I honestly can't imagine that.
Jacob loves Rachel more, Leah knows that. Rachel and Jacob both hate her. But God sees. God is with her, and He will reward her. God soon gives her four sons, and one of them would be an ancestor to the Messiah!
Little sister is not happy. Leah has had for sons already, she is envious. "Give me children, or else I die!" she tells Jacob. I guess she doesn't understand that God is the One who decides if she gets children or not.
Even after she thought she was done having children, God gave her more. And at the end of her life, I think Jacob finally realized that he was wrong about her. Why? Well when Rachel died, she was simply buried. But when Leah passed away Jacob made a special effort to have her buried in Canaan. In the same place that Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebekah were buried. The same place where Jacob himself would be buried.
There is a whole lot more that I could say about Leah and Rachel. I could tell you about how Rachel brought the idols with them when they left for Canaan. Or how God gave Leah a longer life. But I'm writing this because I hope it will getting you thinking. Maybe read the story for yourself, it's found in Genesis 29-31. When I did, I found a kindred spirit in Leah that I never saw before. She was not perfect, she had her share of mistakes. But God must have blessed her for some reason.
The Bible doesn't tell us a lot about Leah's faith or relationship with God. But what it does tell us is how God treated Leah, and how the others treated Leah. Throughout the Bible we see person after person whom man has rejected, hated, cast off. But God loves and uses those people, sometimes more than the others. You may think you're unattractive. You may not have a million friends. You may be downright hated. But God can use YOU! And He wants to! But first, you have to let Him.
What is Love?
Last week I wrote a post entitled "What is Romance." In it I gave a short definition of what love is and isn't. My intention was to encourage you to think about the difference between love and lust in romance.
Now lets talk a little more about love.
When I hear people talking about love, it's usually one of these three different statements: "I love my boyfriend" "I love my family" or "I love ice cream."
These show different types of love: Romantic, platonic, and an exaggerated like.
They all have something in common. They all express an affection, fondness, or attachment to something. When we talk about we love something we are referring to how much we like it or want it. "I love my boyfriend, of course I want him to be with me." I only love him because he loves me. If he were dating someone else I wouldn't love him so much. His attention makes me feel special. "I love my family because they take care of me and support me." If they didn't take care of me I wouldn't love them so much. "I love ice cream, of course I want some!" My love for ice cream is selfish because I only want the ice cream for me. Because I like to eat it. Because it makes me feel good.
While this sounds great on the surface, it isn't authentic lasting love. Yes when we love someone we do want to spend time with them. We should love the people who love and support us. You should love ice cream, otherwise you're crazy! But this kind of love is relative, It is caused by something else. I didn't just choose to love some random person, I love them because they do things for me.
1 John 4: 19 says "We love him, because he first loved us." Our love is relative. We love God because He loved us first. Our love for Him depends on His love for us.
Romans 5: 8 says "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." God's love is not relative. He loves us knowing we're sinners, knowing we might never love Him back.
You will never know authentic love apart from God.
1 John 4: 8 says "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
In 1 Corinthians 13 the Bible uses the word charity for love. I believe God did this on purpose. You may wonder why God would choose to say "charity." Isn't charity when you help poor people? Yes, it that is a form of charity.
When you give money or clothes to a rescue mission or homeless shelter you are showing authentic love. (If your motives are right.) You are giving without expecting anything in return. That is what love is! 1 Corinthians 16:14 says "Let all your things be done with charity."
What else is love? A very wise friend recently told me: "When I think of love the first word that comes to mind is honest. Loving someone requires honesty. It also requires kindness. You can be honest with someone all you want, but if you aren't also kind it won't do any good."
If you love someone you need to be honest with them. Without being afraid of what they will think in response. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4: 18)
Love cannot be afraid.
My brother has made some decisions in his adult life that I don't support 100%. He knows because I told him this. He isn't upset that I don't agree with him because when he asked me what I thought; I was honest and shared my true feelings in a kind way. I love him, and didn't let him go on with these decisions without showing him that. By saying "I love you" but also by showing him that.
A few years ago some friends that my brother and I grew up with decided to take a path contrary to what we believe God wants for His children. That was a really difficult thing to watch and still is. We love them. But we watched them walk down a path we knew would only lead to hurt. In this case they made their decisions for themselves, and we can only pray for them, and that "only" is extremely powerful.
Be honest, but also be kind. Brash, unfeeling honesty will defeat loving intentions.
My friend went on to say:
"The greatest example of love is of course, the cross. And so I think that one of the best ways to identify love is in that comparison of knowing that you would put that other person behind you, protect them, die for them even, rather than let some evil befall them. The willingness that you have to put that other person first. Whether the love be parental, platonic, or romantic, these aspects are often involved. The mantra of "actions speak louder than words" definitely applies here. Obviously love was meant to have a big part in our lives..."the greatest of these is charity"...and when I think of the love that Jesus has for me and for the whole world, I am thankful that I can simply have a part in it."
John 15: 13 "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus gave His life for us and said "This is love!"
So I leave you with this... "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." (1 John 4: 7)
Everyone loves a good love story right? We love to open up our novels and get swallowed up into the fairy tale romance.
As a girl, I have often felt it my duty to defend romance. When my guy friends talk about how "unrealistic" romance movies are, I have to say something in defense of them. Like the boy who defends his little brother against the bully and says "No one can push him around except me!" It took me a while to realize you can love something, and still admit that it has flaws. I realized how distorted the idea of romance has become, and it saddens me.
Don't get me wrong, I love romance.
But it saddens me that romance has become less about love and more about lust. You only have to look at the cover of a "romance" novel to know that.
Whatever happened to the beautiful romance where the brave knight sacrifices himself for the one he loved? Now people applaud explicit stories of men abusing women, and they say that is love? Like love is all about wanting something for yourself, instead of sacrificing of yourself.
That is most definitely not love. That is lust, selfishness and hatred wrapped up into a disturbing package and presented to the world as "romance." Somewhere along the line we lost the idea of what love and romance are.
Romance has become embodied as lust, but is labeled as love. Lust is the opposite of love. Therefore romance cannot be both, it has to be one or the other.
Maybe the reason we have changed what romance is, is because we are confused by thinking that love is lust. I wondered if anyone even knew what love was anymore. So I asked some people what love is to them.
A 20 year old guy told me: "Love is a personal commitment to look out for, or act in the interest of something. To always do what is best for the recipient regardless of possible consequences on yourself. I also think that appreciation is a part of it. People tend not to love what they don't appreciate, but that is not a requirement. It's possible to love someone you don't like, but it's not easy. There are many things that love can be, but it generally boils down to that. It's not an emotion or feeling, though it is emotional sometimes in it's communication."
He is exactly right. Love is not a feeling, but we can feel love.
Romance can be an outward expression of love. But if you don't have real love already, then romance is just a cheap imitation of love. Romance will only lead to hurt, unless its built on a firm foundation of love, trust, and faith.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us exactly what love is: Kind, envieth not; vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up(vs.4.) Beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things(vs.7.) never faileth(vs.8.)
We don't have to search any further than that.
If the romance doesn't match up to what God's word tells us love is, then maybe we need to ask ourselves what the point of it is. If it doesn't make me a better person, then it is pointless.
My challenge to you is that next time you read a novel or watch a movie. Ask yourself if this is a picture of love, or lust.
Together lets bring the love back into romance!