Eighteen years ago today, my mother passed away. Even after all these years, I am unutterably sad and miss her so much.
My mother was such a bright light in my life. I felt like I was different and didn’t fit in, but she got me. She thought I hung the moon. She thought my children were awesome. She always saw the best in others. She made my burdens lighter, both by pitching in and helping, and by making me feel better when I felt down.
It’s so hard to not have that anymore.
Today is the funeral for my dad’s brother, Uncle Bill.
He was a special person in my life, and I know he meant the world to his family. He raised not only his daughter, but was really a big part of raising his granddaughter and his two great grandchildren.
Life can be devastating at times. It can feel like our heart is getting raked over ground glass.
As I’ve been reading through the Psalms in chronological order, I see how this was true for David. Here is part of the next psalm in the series, Psalm 56:
Be merciful to me, my god. For my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. . .
All day long they twist my words; all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, hoping to take my life. . .
Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?
This Psalm was written at the same time as the last psalm I wrote about, Ps. 34. David was fleeing Saul’s soldiers, and ended up in Gath, which was a Philistine kingdom. The servants of the king there recognized who he was, so, in desperation, he started acting crazy. His ploy worked, and by God’s grace, he was allowed to go on his way.
David recorded what he was feeling as he went through this: sorrowful, betrayed, cornered, mistreated. Emotions to which we can all relate.
But then he wrote this:
I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God in the light of life.
I love these verses! They encourage my heart.
But the thing is, I don’t think David had been delivered from his tough situation when he wrote them. I believe he was remembering about other times he was saved from peril: “You have delivered me.” He was basically saying, “God, even though I am in a dicey situation, I will remember who you are and what you have done, and present thank offerings to you.”
It reminds me Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
We HAVE to pray with thanksgiving, no matter how tough the situation is. More than that, we need to give thank offerings. Our life needs to be one of constant service, because we are so grateful for God and what he has done, even though we feel miserable at the present time.
Right now, at Christmas, we are feeling all warm and fuzzy at the birth of Jesus. We think of the stable, the star, the shepherds and wise men.
Yet when the wise men came, they set in motion a terrible situation. Herod found out from them that a Jewish king was being born, and to eliminate a threat to the throne, he put all of the boys ages two and under to death.
God rescued Jesus from this massacre, but it was a tragic time.
There always seems to be a juxtaposition of deliverance and tragedy.
The same is true for us. It usually feels like what Dickens wrote in Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
There are always blessings in the midst of adversity. If we are alive today, we must be thankful. We can think of all we’ve lost, and it is unbearably painful. Yet somehow through all of it, we know that God is also good. We can see the milestones of his goodness in our life.
I’ve had times when I could have died. I almost drowned when I was young. When I was in college. I was leaning over, trying to use a staple gun, and it wouldn’t work, and then I discovered it was upside down, and if it had been working, I would have shot myself in the head. It still gives me a cold feeling to think about it.
I believe God preserved me. I don’t know why it is the time for some to pass, and not for me, not for others. But I have been delivered, and now, as the psalm says, “I may walk before God in the light of life.”
That is my job today, to walk with God in this vibrant vitality that we call life.
To walk with grace. To honor my mother, my uncle, and all whose stories are complete.
I pray that the chapter God and I write today will be a good one. And I pray that amidst my grief, and troubles and worries, I find the vein of God’s goodness, and cling to it, as David did, in trembling soberness and purposeful gratitude.
Outside my front door, my camellias are blooming. It’s winter, and much of the vegetation is dead. Yet they are alive and bursting with beauty.
That’s what God calls me to do today: be alive and beautiful, even as I mourn. I don’t know if I have tomorrow. But God has given me this time and I vow to make the best of it.