No More Separation

We love because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:19

How I wonder about that far-off land! I wish I could catch a glimpse of it as Moses was allowed to catch a glimpse of the promised land. He led others to it but in the end,  he was unable to enter into it with them. He could only view it from a distance. 

I also feel very close to that promise land, as if I too have come to its border.  I have led others through the long wilderness journey of cancer and have arrived at the border with them, but I am unable to cross over. It is not my time. I can only look on from a distance. I feel the authority of the Lord’s hand weighing down on my  shoulder, both comforting and restricting me as I watch them go.  They cross over and slip away with a last sigh.  In a moment they are gone and all that was physical about them is left behind. Their bodies, appear as empty worn out shells, discarded and abandoned like a forgotten glove left behind.  A mystery. A reminder.

We are now physically separated. No longer able to touch. No longer able to hold conversation together.  No longer able to hear the other. No longer able to embrace. No longer able to see their smile outside of memory or hear them laugh. Even their scent slowly begins to fade from clothes and pillows. Their favorite spots remains empty now and no longer even acknowledges they had often frequented it.  All trace of them vanishes and is gone except for mementos that silently speak only to the person who carries them.

Physically they are gone. Yet something new awakens, an awareness of their presence. A presence without form. A presence without words. A presence without sight.  Physically we are separated unable to touch but spiritually in Christ there is yet life. We are still remotely connected. We are not completely severed but wait in anticipation of being reunited again. As I know my own spirit lives within my body unseen, I know their spirit lives without the body unseen and waits now even as I wait  for this separation period to end.

One thing I have learned about grief is you only grieve those you love.  When a friend of a friend dies, we may become somewhat saddened and express our condolences but we ourselves are not deeply grieved. We did not know them. We suffer no pains from their being separated from us or this world.  However, when someone we know and love dies, our soul is ripped apart by the separation. A part of us is amputated and we struggle to maintain ourselves to survive daily. Inwardly we struggle in our spirits from our loss. We face extreme fatigue from being forced to carry the dead weight of our spirits sagging within us throughout our daily routines. 

Death is the ultimate separation. The Bible speaks of our being spiritually dead and separated from God because of sin entering the world and into us. Spiritually we died and were separated from God Himself. The idea of being separated from God can hit us as factually as hearing that a friend of a friend of a friend has died. The truth causes us no grief for in our hearts. We feel nothing. We do not grieve for God for we never truly knew Him or loved Him.  

However, God himself knows us and loves us deeply. He loved us before we first loved Him. God grieves us. He feels the weight of our loss and separation from Himself even if we do not grieve our loss of Him. Only the living grieve.  God grieved the separation between us and Himself, between our spirits and His Spirit. He sent Jesus to end the spiritual separation to give us a spiritual life through the Holy Spirit for us to be reunited to Him and to come to know Him.

It is as we begin to truly know God that we begin to love Him and as we begin to love Him we begin to grieve our separation from Him. We become awakened and finally start to feel the pain of His absence from us physically. We want to see His face. We want to hear His voice. For once in our lives we begin to realize our magnificent loss. We  begin to grieve God and our separation from Him and begin to look forward to heaven.

Grief reminds us of this great separation between God and ourselves, between heaven and earth that we must temporarily endure.  Grief reminds us that we are living apart from someone, from someplace.  It causes us to lift our eyes up to look beyond this world and to look in the distance for but a glimpse of the other. It  awakens our curiosity of that far off land making it more and more familiar to us,  as all our friends and family are slowly moving there one by one. Grief does test our faith. However, instead of destroying our faith, it can strengthen our faith and our relationship with God as we come to a new understanding of His own grief over the separation of sinners from Himself and the great love He has toward us that He would send his own son Jesus to build a bridge between us and Himself through the work of the cross. 

Finding My Way Through Grief

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. – Psalm 16:7

I had a dream about a month after I returned home from Arkansas after care giving for my sister during her 10 month battle with cancer that helped counsel me through a very dark period that I endured afterwards. The grief over the entire year’s events, the loss of her, the loss of my father earlier that year, even the loss of my 17 year dog finally found opportunity to lay it’s full weight on me once she was gone and I returned home.

I found comfort in the dream as one finds comfort in having a map when they feel lost . Perhaps it may help another find their way out of grief as it has helped me.

I dream that I fell down into a very deep and dark underground tunnel. Not a speck of light could be seen. Everything was pitch black, absolutely nothing of my surroundings were visible because of the thick darkness. However, I somehow knew I had landed in the midst of an amusement park. It was an inner awareness I could not explain. I knew I was surrounded by rides, tents and stands, but I could not even make out their slightest outline. There were no sounds and no movement. The amusement park was still and completely deserted. The darkness was so complete it engulfed me. I felt the floor beneath my feet but I could not see it. For a moment I wondered if this great darkness was but an amusement itself. Was it an illusion that I had to find my way out of? Was there an end to it?

I started to walk forward through the darkness slowly making my way, feeling my way with my feet one small step at a time. I wondered how long the tunnel would be like this?

After some time had passed and I had progressed some distance through the darkness, I came to have a small light in my hands, like a small personal candle. The light was very small and not very bright, but it lit my hands and brought me comfort by having it to hold onto in the dark.  I continued my way through the tunnel holding that tiny light in my hands as I walked cautiously forward.

I kept walking until I found myself on an empty street on a small sidewalk lit by street lamps. There were several glass storefront shops on either side of me lining the streets. The little shops were all closed and deserted by their owners but their windows were gently lit with lamps shining down on various items and novelties the shop owners were displaying to anyone passing by as they walked along this street. I began to curiously look into each of the windows as I walked and their miscellaneous items and amusements began to catch my eye and distract me as I walked forward.

The tunnel became more like a very dark evening, as if I were taking a midnight walk alone down it’s streets. It was very deserted and empty of any other soul but my own. However, I was surrounded by the handiwork of others so I began to feel in a sense that I was not completely alone. Other people had been here, worked here, even made it somewhat of a pleasant place to be despite the darkness and deserted nature of the place. However, I began to miss life, the breeze, the birds, the rivers, the heavens and sky above me and people. There was no life here, only empty places and lifeless objects left behind. Tied to them were only memories of life but not life itself.

I kept walking forward through the dark tunnel. The further I moved forward the more light I could see. There were street lights and more lit up storefronts in front of me but these were open. People were coming and going. People like me who have found their way out of the dark tunnel. They were very busy amusing themselves with items found in the stores, with conversations, coffee shops and food. There were many new shops ahead of me lining the streets that were open. The shop owners mingled among the people in conversation over their displays. It was the dawn of a new day.

The world was broader and eventually the tunnel was gone. I began to lose myself in daily amusements along with the others. I don’t know how much time passed before suddenly the ground gave way beneath my feet and I had fallen again.

I found myself once again at the very beginning of that dark tunnel. Not a speck of light could be seen. I was surrounded by amusements but there were no amusements, just darkness and the earth beneath my feet. I knew in a sense that it was all a great illusion. The awful darkness could not hurt me. There was no fear but emptiness and I had to find my way out of it again. I did not want to move but I had to. I begin to slowly step forward one small step at a time.

I recognize the tunnel. I did not want to be in it. I recognize the little light that eventually came and comforted me and guided me along the way. I held onto it once again. It was all I had for sight and understanding of where I was. It alone pierced the darkness even though it was weak. It did not allow me to see far, but it allowed me to see enough. I recognized it as the word and promises of God.

I made my way to those deserted storefronts again with their great windows and soft lamps shining. They offered me their own light as I had so little of my own. They brought me comfort with their previous presence. Their window displays spoke to me in silence leaving me alone to observe what they left behind for me to find and see. These were the books on grief I had been reading. They had been here before. They were no longer here now. They had left their lights on for me by publicly sharing their stories. I was alone but not alone. Their words encouraged me to trust God and counseled my grief when no one else could because they shared and understood my suffering. However, it took time for me to come to a place where I was ready to listen to hear their stories.

And in time, I began moving forward again. Seeking live comfort. Seeking distraction and daily amusements. Enjoying life and then suddenly I was falling again…

The dream repeated itself three times. I would have to make my way through that dark tunnel only to fall again into it’s depths and have to start over. Was it with each new loss that I fell again each time? Or is it the nature of grief itself, just when you begin to think you are finding your way out of it, in a moment you can suddenly fall and grieve like it was the first day all over again. There is no comfort at times like these. Even the light of God’s word and his promises provide little relief. But then there are times when God’s promises, our hope of eternal life and heaven, are the only bit of understanding and light you have and holding on to it is how you make it through each time one step at a time.

 

Not Lost, But Gone Before, by Margaret Gatty (1809-1873), Parables from Nature

NOT LOST, BUT GONE BEFORE

                “—Will none of you in pity To those you left behind, disclose the secret?”
                                                BLAIR’S GRAVE.

“I WONDER what becomes of the Frog, when he climbs up out of this world, and disappears, so that we do not see even his shadow; till, plop! he is among us again, when we least expect him. Does anybody know where he goes to? Tell me, somebody, pray!”

Thus chattered the Grub of a Dragon-fly, as he darted about with his numerous companions, in and out among the plants at the bottom of the water, in search of prey.

The water formed a beautiful pond in the centre of a wood. Stately trees grew around it and reflected themselves on its surface, as on a polished mirror; and the bulrushes and forget-me-nots which fringed its sides seemed to have a twofold life, so perfect was their image below.

“Who cares what the Frog does?” answered one of those who overheard the Grub’s inquiry; “what is it to us?”

“Look out for food for yourself,” cried another, “and let other people’s business alone.”

“But I have a curiosity on the subject,” expostulated the first speaker. “I can see all of you when you pass by me among the plants in the water here; and when I don’t see you any longer, I know you have gone further on. But I followed a Frog just now as he went upwards, and all at once he went to the side of the water, and then began to disappear, and presently he was gone. Did he leave this world, do you think? And what can there be beyond?”

“You idle, talkative fellow,” cried another, shooting by as he spoke, “attend to the world you are in, and leave the ‘beyond,’ if there is a ‘beyond,’ to those that are there. See what a morsel you have missed with your wonderings about nothing.” So saying, the saucy speaker seized an insect which was flitting right in front of his friend.

The curiosity of the Grub was a little checked by these and similar remarks, and he resumed his employment of chasing prey for a time.

But, do what he would, he could not help thinking of the curious disappearance of the Frog, and presently began to tease his neighbors about it again, What becomes of the Frog when he leaves this world? being the burden of his inquiry.

The minnows eyed him askance and passed on without speaking, for they knew no more than he did of the matter, and yet were loth to proclaim their ignorance; and the eels wriggled away in the mud out of hearing, for they could not bear to be disturbed.

The Grub got impatient, but he succeeded in inspiring several of his tribe with some of his own curiosity, and then went scrambling about in all directions with his followers, asking the same unreasonable questions of all the creatures he met.

Suddenly there was a heavy splash in the water, and a large yellow Frog swam down to the bottom among the grubs.

“Ask the Frog himself,” suggested a Minnow, as he darted by overhead, with a mischievous glance of his eye. And very good advice it seemed to be, only the thing was much easier said than done. For the Frog was a dignified sort of personage, of whom the smaller inhabitants of the water stood a good deal in awe. It required no common amount of assurance to ask a creature of his standing and gravity, where he had been to, and where he had come from. He might justly consider such an inquiry as a very impertinent piece of curiosity.

Still, such a chance of satisfying himself was not to be lost, and after taking two or three turns round the roots of a water lily, the Grub screwed up his courage, and approaching the Frog in the meekest manner he could assume, he asked–

“Is it permitted to a very unhappy creature to speak?”

The Frog turned his gold-edged eyes upon him in surprise, and answered–

“Very unhappy creatures had better be silent. I never talk but when I am happy.”

“But I shall be happy if I may talk,” interposed the Grub, as glibly as possible.

“Talk away then,” cried the Frog; “what can it matter to me?”

“Respected Frog,” replied the Grub, “but it is something I want to ask you.”

“Ask away,” exclaimed the Frog, not in a very encouraging tone, it must be confessed; but still the permission was given.

“What is there beyond the world?” inquired the Grub, in a voice scarcely audible from emotion.

“What world do you mean?” cried the Frog, rolling his goggle eyes round and round.

“This world, of course, our world,” answered the Grub.

“This pond, you mean,” remarked the Frog, with a contemptuous sneer.

“I mean the place we live in, whatever you may choose to call it,” cried the Grub pertly. “I call it the world.”

“Do you, sharp little fellow?” rejoined the Frog. “Then what is the place you don’t live in, the ‘beyond’ the world, eh?”

And the Frog shook his sides with merriment as he spoke.

“That is just what I want you to tell me,” replied the Grub briskly.

“Oh, indeed, little one!” exclaimed the Froggy, rolling his eyes this time with an amused twinkle. “Come, I shall tell you then. It is dry land.”

There was a pause of several seconds, and then, “Can one swim about there?” inquired the Grub, in a subdued tone.

“I should think not,” chuckled the Frog. “Dry land is not water, little fellow. That is just what it is not.”

“But I want you to tell me what it is,” persisted the Grub.

“Of all the inquisitive creatures I ever met, you certainly are the most troublesome,” cried the Frog. “Well, then, dry land is something like the sludge at the bottom of this pond, only it is not wet, because there is no water.”

“Really!” interrupted the grub, “what is there then?”

“That’s the difficulty,” exclaimed Froggy. “There is something, of course, and they call it air; but how to explain it I don’t know. My own feeling about it is, that it’s the nearest approach to nothing, possible. Do you comprehend?”

“Not quite,” replied the Grub, hesitating.

“Exactly; I was afraid not. Now just take my advice, and ask no more silly questions. No good can possibly come of it,” urged the Frog.

“Honoured Frog,” exclaimed the Grub, “I must differ from you there. Great good will, as I think, come of it, if my restless curiosity can be stilled by obtaining the knowledge I seek. If I learn to be contented where I am, it will be something. At present I am miserable and restless under my ignorance.”

“You are a very silly fellow,” cried the Frog, “who will not be satisfied with the experience of others. I tell you the thing is not worth your troubling yourself about. But, as I rather admire your spirit, (which, for so insignificant a creature, is astonishing,) I will make you an offer. If you choose to take a seat on my back, I will carry you up to dry land myself, and then you can judge for yourself what there is there, and how you like it. I consider it a foolish experiment, mind, but that is your own look out. I make my offer, to give you pleasure.”

“And I accept it with a gratitude that knows no bounds,” exclaimed the enthusiastic Grub.

“Drop yourself down on my back, then, and cling to me as well as you can. For, remember, if you go gliding off, you will be out of the way when I leave the water.”

The Grub obeyed, and the Frog, swimming gently upwards, reached the bulrushes by the water’s side.

“Hold fast,” cried he, all at once, and then, raising his head out of the pond, he clambered up the bank, and got upon the grass.

“Now then, here we are,” exclaimed he. “What do you think of dry land?”

But no one spoke in reply.

“Halloo! gone?” he continued. “that’s just what I was afraid of. He has floated off my back, stupid fellow, I declare. Dear, dear, how unlucky! but it cannot be helped. And, perhaps, he may make his way to the water’s edge here after all, and then I can help him out. I will wait about and see.”

And away went Froggy, with an occasional jaunty leap, along the grass by the edge of the pond, glancing every now and then among the bulrushes, to see if he could spy the dark, mailed figure of the dragon-fly Grub.

But the Grub, meanwhile? Ah, so far from having floated off the Frog’s back through carelessness, he had clung to it with all the tenacity of hope, and the moment came when the mask of his face began to issue from the water.

But the same moment sent him reeling from his resting-place into the pond, panting and struggling for life. A shock seemed to have struck his frame, a deadly faintness succeeded, and it was several seconds before he could recover himself.

“Horrible!” cried he, as soon as he had rallied a little. “Beyond this world there is nothing but death. The Frog has deceived me. He cannot go there, at any rate.”

And with these words, the Grub moved away to his old occupations, his ardour for inquiry grievously checked, though his spirit was unsubdued.

He contented himself for the present, therefore, with talking over what he had done, and where he had been, with his friends. And who could listen unmoved to such a recital? The novelty, the mystery, the danger, the all but fatal result, and the still unexplained wonder of what became of the Frog,–all invested the affair with a romantic interest, and the Grub had soon a host of followers of his own race, questioning, chattering, and conjecturing, at his heels.

By this time the day was declining, and the active pursuit of prey was gradually becoming suspended for a time; when, as the inquisitive Grub was returning from a somewhat protracted ramble among the water-plants, he suddenly encountered, sitting pensively on a stone at the bottom of the pond, his friend the yellow Frog.

You here!” cried the startled Grub; “you never left this world at all, then, I suppose. What a deception you must have practised upon me! But this comes of trusting to strangers, as I was foolish enough to do.”

“You perplex me by your offensive remarks,” replied the Frog, gravely. “Nevertheless, I forgive you, because you are so clumsy and ignorant, that civility cannot reasonably be expected from you, little fellow. It never struck you, I suppose, to think what my sensations were, when I landed this morning on the grass, and discovered that you were no longer on my back. Why did you not sit fast as I told you? But this is always the way with you foolish fellows, who think you can fathom and investigate everything. You are thrown over by the first practical difficulty you meet.”

“Your accusations are full of injustice,” exclaimed the indignant Grub.

It was clear they were on the point of quarrelling, and would certainly have done so, had not the Frog, with unusual magnanimity, desired the Grub to tell his own story, and clear himself from the charge of clumsiness if he could.

It was soon told; the Frog staring at him in silence out of those great goggle eyes, while he went through the details of his terrible adventure.

“And now,” said the Grub, in conclusion, “as it is clear that there is nothing beyond this world but death, all your stories of going there yourself must be mere inventions. Of course, therefore, if you do leave this world at all, you go to some other place you are unwilling to tell me of. You have a right to your secret, I admit; but as I have no wish to be fooled by any more travellers’ tales, I will bid you a very good evening.”

“You will do no such thing, till you have listened as patiently to my story as I have done to yours,” exclaimed the Frog.

“That is but just, I allow,” said the Grub, and stopped to listen.

Then the Frog told how he had lingered by the edge of the pond, in the vain hope of his approach, how he had hopped about in the grass, how he had peeped among the bulrushes. “And at last,” continued he, “though I did not see you yourself, I saw a sight which has more interest for you, than for any other creature that lives,” and there he paused.

“And that was?” asked the inquisitive Grub, his curiosity reviving, and his wrath becoming appeased.

“Up the polished green stalk of one of those bulrushes,” continued the Frog, “I beheld one of your race slowly and gradually climbing, till he had left the water behind him, and was clinging firmly to his chosen support, exposed to the full glare of the sun. Rather wondering at such a sight, considering the fondness you all of you show for the shady bottom of the pond, I continued to gaze, and observed presently,–but I cannot tell you in what way the thing happened,–that a rent seemed to come in your friend’s body, and by degrees, gradually and after many struggles, there emerged from it one of those radiant creatures who float through the air I spoke to you of, and dazzle the eyes of all who catch glimpses of them as they pass,–a glorious Dragon-fly!

“As if scarcely awakened from some perplexing dream, he lifted his wings out of the carcase he was forsaking; and though shrivelled and damp at first, they stretched and expanded in the sunshine, till they glistened as if with fire.

“How long the strange process continued, I can scarcely tell, so fixed was I in astonishment and admiration; but I saw the beautiful creature at last poise himself for a second or two in the air before he took flight. I saw the four gauzy pinions flash back the sunshine that was poured on them. I heard the clash with which they struck upon the air; and I beheld his body give out rays of glittering blue and green as he darted along, and away, away, over the water in eddying circles that seemed to know no end. Then I plunged below to seek you out, rejoicing for your sake in the news I brought.”

The Frog stopped short, and a long pause followed.

At last–”It is a wonderful story,” observed the Grub, with less emotion than might have been expected.

“A wonderful story, indeed,” repeated the Frog; “may I ask your opinion upon it?”

“It is for me to defer mine to yours,” was the Grub’s polite reply.

“Good! you are grown obliging, my little friend,” remarked the Frog. “Well then, I incline to the belief, that what I have seen accounts for your otherwise unreasonable curiosity, your tiresome craving for information about the world beyond your own.”

“That were possible, always provided your account can be depended upon,” mused the Grub with a doubtful air.

“Little fellow,” exclaimed the Frog, “remember that your distrust cannot injure me, but may deprive yourself of a comfort.”

“And you really think, then, that the glorious creature you describe, was once a–”

“Silence,” cried the Frog; “I am not prepared with definitions. Adieu! the shades of night are falling on your world. I return to my grassy home on dry land. Go to rest, little fellow, and awake in hope.”

The Frog swam close to the bank, and clambered up its sides, while the Grub returned to his tribe, who rested during the hours of darkness from their life of activity and pursuit.

* * * * * *

“Promise,” uttered an entreating voice.

“I promise,” was the earnest answer.

“Faithfully?” urged the first speaker.

“Solemnly,” ejaculated the second.

But the voice was languid and weak, for the dragon-fly Grub was sick and uneasy. His limbs had lost their old activity, and a strange oppression was upon him.

The creatures whom he had been accustomed to chase, passed by him unharmed; the water-plants, over which he used to scramble with so much agility, were distasteful to his feet; nay, the very water itself into which he had been born, and through which he was wont to propel himself with so much ingenuity, felt suffocating in its weight.

Upwards he must go now, upwards, upwards! That was the strong sensation which mastered every other, and to it he felt he must submit, as to some inevitable law. And then he thought of the Frog’s account, and felt a trembling conviction that the time had come, when the riddle of his own fate must be solved.

His friends and relations were gathered around him, some of his own age, some a generation younger, who had only that year entered upon existence. All of them were followers and adherents, whom he had inspired with his own enthusiastic hopes; and they would fain have helped him, if they could, in this hour of weakness. But there was no help for him now, but hope, and of that he possessed, perhaps, even more than they did.

Then came an earnest request, and then a solemn promise, that, as surely as the great hopes proved true, so surely would he return and tell them so.

“But, oh! if you should forget!” exclaimed one of the younger generation, timid and uneasy.

“Forget the old home, my friend?” ejaculated the sick Grub, “forget our life of enjoyment here, the ardour of the chase, the ingenious stratagems, the triumph of success? Forget the emotions of hope and fear we have shared together, and which I am bound, if I can, to relieve? Impossible!”

“But if you should not be able to come back to us,” suggested another.

“More unlikely still,” murmured the half exhausted Grub. “To a condition so exalted as the one in store for us, what can be impossible? Adieu, my friends, adieu! I can tarry here no longer. Ere long you may expect to see me again in a new and more glorious form. Till then, farewell!”

Languid, indeed, was the voice, and languid were the movements of the Grub, as he rose upwards through the water to the reeds and bulrushes that fringed its bank. Two favorite brothers, and a few of his friends, more adventurous than the rest, accompanied him in his ascent, in the hope of witnessing whatever might take place above; but in this they were, of course, disappointed.

From the moment when, clinging with his feet to the stem of a bulrush, he emerged from his native element into the air, his companions saw him no more.

Eyes fitted only for the watery fluid, were incapable of the upward glance and power of vision which would have enabled them to pierce beyond it; and the little coterie of discoverers descended, mortified and sorrowful, to the bed of the pond.

The sun was high in the heavens when the dragon-fly Grub parted from his friends, and they waited through the long hours of the day for his return; at first, in joyful hope, then in tremulous anxiety, and, as the shades of evening began to deepen around, in a gloomy fear, that bordered at last on despair. “He has forgotten us,” cried some. “A death from which he never can awake, has overtaken him,” said others. “He will return to us yet,” maintained the few who clung to hope.

But in vain messenger after messenger shot upwards to the bulrushes, and to various parts of the pond, hoping to discover some trace of the lost one. All who went out, returned back dispirited from the vain and weary search, and even the most sanguine began to grow sick at heart.

Night closed at last upon them, bringing a temporary suspension of grief; but the beams of the next rising sun, while it filled all nature beside with joy and hopefulness, awakened them, alas! to a sense of the bitterest disappointment, and a feeling of indignation at the deception which had been practised upon them.

“We did very well without thinking of such things,” said they, “but to have hopes like those held out, and to be deceived after all,–it is more than we can be expected to bear in patience.”

And bear it in patience they did not. With a fierceness which nothing could restrain, they hurried about in the destructive pursuit of prey, carrying a terrible vengeance in all directions.

And thus passed on the hours of the second day, and before night a sort of grim and savage silence was agreed upon among them, and they ceased to bewail either the loss of him they had loved, or their own uncertain destiny.

But on the morning of the third day, one of the Grub’s favourite brothers came sailing into the midst of a group who were just rousing up from rest, ready to commence the daily business of their life.

There was an unnatural brilliancy about his eyes, which shone as they had never done before, and startled all who looked at them, so that even the least observant had their attention arrested as he spoke.

“My friends,” said he, “I was, as you know, one of our lost relation’s favourite brothers. I trusted him, as if he had been a second self, and would have pledged myself a thousand times for his word. Judge, then, what I have suffered from his promise remaining still unfulfilled. Alas! that he has not yet returned to us!”

The favourite brother paused, and a little set in a corner by themselves murmured out, “How could he? The story about that other world is false.”

“He has not returned to us,” recommenced the favourite brother. “But, my friends, I feel that I am going to him, wherever that may be, either to that new life he spoke about, or to that death from which there is no return. Dear ones! I go, as he did, upwards, upwards, upwards! An irresistible desire compels me to it; but before I go, I renew to you–for myself and him–the solemn promise he once made to you. Should the great hopes be true, we will come back and tell you so. If I return not–but rely on me; my word is more to me than life. Adieu!”

The Grub rose upwards through the water followed by the last of the three brothers, and one or two of the younger ones; but on reaching the brink of the pond, he seized on a plant of the forget-me-not, and clinging to its firm flower-stalk, clambered out of the water into the open air.

Those who accompanied him, watched him as he left the water; but, after that, they saw no more. The blank of his departure alone remained to them, and they sank down, sad and uneasy, to their home below.

As before, the hours of the day passed on, and not a trace of the departed one was seen. In vain they dwelt upon the consoling words he had spoken. The hope he had for a time re-awakened, died out with the declining sun, and many a voice was raised against his treachery and want of love. “He is faithless,” said some. “He forgets us, like his brother, in his new fortune,” cried others. “The story of that other world is false,” muttered the little set in the corner by themselves. Only a very few murmured to each other, “We will not despair.”

One thing along was certain, he did not return; and the disappointed crowds took refuge from thought as before, in the fiercest rapine and excitement, scattering destruction around them, wherever they moved.

Another day now elapsed, and then, in the early dawn following, the third and last brother crept slowly to a half-sleepy knot of his more particular friends, and roused them up.

“Look at my eyes,” said he; “has not a sudden change come over them? They feel to me swelled and bursting, and yet I see with a clouded and imperfect vision. Doubtless it is with me now, as it was with our dear ones before they left us. I am oppressed, like them. Like them, an invisible power is driving me upwards, as they were driven. Listen, then; for on my parting words you may depend. Let the other world be what it will, gorgeous beyond all we can fancy of it, blissful beyond all we can hope of it, do not fear in me an altered or forgetful heart. I dare not promise more. Yet if it be possible, I will return. But, remember, there may well be that other world, and yet we, in ours, may misjudge its nature. Farewell, never part with hope. With your fears I know you never can part now. Farewell!”

And he too went upwards, through the cool water to the plants that bordered its side; and from the leaf of a golden king-cup he rose out of his native element into that aërial world, into which water-grub’s eye never yet could pierce.

His companions lingered awhile near the spot where he had disappeared, but neither sign nor sound came to them. Only the dreary sense of bereavement reminded them that he once had been.

Then followed the hours of vain expectation, the renewed disappointment, the cruel doubts, the hope that struggled with despair.

And after this, others went upwards in succession; for the time came to all when the lustrous eyes of the perfect creature shone through the masked face of the Grub, and he must needs pass forward to the fulfilment of his destiny.

But the result among those who were left was always the same. There were ever some that doubted and feared, ever some that disbelieved and ridiculed, ever some that hoped and looked forward.

Ah! if they could but have known, poor things! If those eyes, fitted for the narrow bounds of their water world, could have been endued with a power of vision into the purer element beyond, what a life-time of anxiety would they not have been spared! What ease, what rest would have been theirs!

But belief would, in that case, have been an irresistible necessity, and hope must have changed her name.

And the Dragon-fly, meanwhile, was he really faithless, as they thought? When he burst his prison-house by the water side, and rose on glittering wings into the summer air, had he indeed no memory for the dear ones he had so lately left? No tender concern for their griefs and fears? No recollection of the promise he had made?

Ah! so far from it, he thought of them amidst the transports of his wildest flights, and returned ever and ever to the precincts of that world which had once been the only world to him. But in that region also, a power was over him superior to his own, and to it his will must submit. To the world of waters he could never more return.

The least touch upon its surface, as he skimmed over it with the purpose of descent, brought on a deadly shock, like that which, as a water-grub, he had experienced from emerging into air, and his wings involuntarily bore him instantly back from the unnatural contact.

“Alas! for the promise made in ignorance and presumption, miserable Grub that I was,” was his bitter, constantly-repeated cry.

And thus, divided and yet near, parted yet united by love, he hovered about the barrier that lay between them, never quite, perhaps, without a hope that some accident might bring his dear ones into sight.

Nor was his constancy unrewarded, for as, after even his longest roamings, he never failed to return to the old spot, he was there to welcome the emancipated brother, who so soon followed him.

And often, after that, the breezy air by the forest pond would resound in the bright summer afternoons, with the clashing of Dragon-flies’ wings, as, now backwards, now forwards, now to one side, now to another, without turn or intermission, they darted over the crystal water, in the rapture of the new life.

It might be, on those occasions, that some fresh arrival of kindred from below, added a keener joy to their already joyous existence. Sweet assuredly it was to each new-comer, when the riddle of his fate was solved, to find in the new region, not a strange and friendless abode, but a home rich with the welcomes of those who had gone before.

Sweet also it was, and strange as sweet, to know that even while they had been trembling and fearing in their ignorant life below, gleams from the wings of those they lamented, were dropping like star-rays on their home, reflected hither and thither from the sun that shone above. Oh! if they could but have known!

Beautiful forest pond, crowded with mysterious life, of whose secrets we know so little, who would not willingly linger by your banks for study and for thought? There, where the beech-tree throws out her graceful arms, glorying in the loveliness that is reflected beneath. There, where in the nominal silence the innocent birds pour out their music of joy. There, where the blue forget-me-not tells its tale of old romance, and the long grasses bend over their pictured shadows. There, where the Dragon-flies still hover on the surface of the water, longing to reassure the hearts of the trembling race, who are still hoping and fearing below.

Jesus Calms The Storm Mark 4:35-41

 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 

Jesus had been teaching many parables about hearing the word of God to a very large crowd who lined the shore of the Sea of Galilee to hear him. He taught these parables, the parable of the sower, the lamp and the mustard seed from a fishing boat with his disciples that was put out a little ways from the shore.

When evening had settled in and Jesus had finished teaching, instead of returning to Peter’s house which was where they usually stayed in Capernaum, Jesus directed his disciples to sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

There is nothing like an evening boat ride to relax after a long day. The Sea of Galilee is 13 miles long and 8 miles across so it probably would have taken them 2-3 hours to row to the other side of the lake where Mark 5:1 says they came to the country of Gerasenes.

36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him

Jesus and his disciples left the crowd and began their journey to the other side of the Sea of Galilee in the boat they were already in. The text doesn’t tell us much about the boat they were in. We know several of the disciples were fisherman, Peter and his brother Andrew, James and John were in business together as fisherman. So it’s safe to assume they were in regular fishing boats.

1st century fishing boats are believed to have been about 27 feet long and could easily hold between 8-15 people. A few have been recovered, one in particular in 1985 that is often referred to as the Jesus Boat since it was found at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee and believed to be 1st century.

Other boats were with them. They would have been additional followers of Jesus. They may have drawn their boats near to hear his message and then when he set sail, not knowing where he was going, they followed him. 

They took Jesus, just as he was. Why do you think this might be important to record? What kind of condition would Jesus have been in been in after teaching the crowds all day from the boat?

 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling

The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world. It is 680 feet below sea level.  It is enclosed by hills and mountains. The hills on the east side are 2000 feet high. On top of these hills and mountains are cool, dry air.  Around the Sea of Galilee is warm, moist air. The extreme difference in in these temperatures and pressures, result in strong and sudden wind storms rising up.

The Sea of Galilee is a relatively small and shallow lake. It is only 13 miles long by 8 miles across and about 200 feet deep. This causes it’s waters to be easily stirred up by the great winds causing great waves and great dangers to boats that are on the sea when a storm suddenly rises.

This is what happened on this particular evening, a sudden fierce windstorm rose up out of nowhere with violent whirl winds and massive waves crashed against their boat in a continuous beating. One wave after another tossed the boat. The waves began to break into the boat, one after another. They were relentless. One wave had barely ended before the next was drenching them. They did not have a chance to regain their balance, to deal with the water and damage from the last onslaught before the next one was causing them to hold on for dear life.  The boat began to fill with water. There was no land or end in sight.

Remember Peter, Andrew, James and John all lived near the Sea of Galilee. They were familiar with its moody weather and sudden storms. They were experienced fisherman and could handle a boat, but this storm was more then they could handle. They were in over their heads.

Matthew 8:25 says they went looking for Jesus and woke him up saying “Lord, save us! We are about to die.”

38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Jesus was sleeping in the stern of this boat, which would have been the back of the boat. Probably a small hull below deck where he was asleep on a pillow but somewhat blocked from the wind and the waves that would be making an end to this relaxing, peaceful scene of this boat sailing away from Capernaum.

Even if the stern area was remotely blocked from the windstorm and waves, it  could not escape the violent tossing of the boat, the pandemonium on deck. It could not have been something easy to sleep through. Yet Jesus slept on a cushion, for all appearances quite indifferent and undisturbed by it all.

It was not the fact that Jesus was sleeping that bothered the disciples.  They probably let him sleep and tried to avoid waking him as much as they could. It was the fact that Jesus was or appeared to be indifferent to their plight that bothered them.  They were all about reaction right now. Quick reactions to save their lives. They were probably bailing water, steering the boat over the waves, barking orders, working and reacting like expert boats men that they were. Yet here as Jesus, indifferent, sleeping, while they were trying to keep him and everyone else alive in the boat.

They woke and asked “Don’t you care, that we are perishing?”

 They expected him to do something. They wanted Him to do something. 

Why is it that when we are in a panic it often appears that God isn’t doing anything?

Why is it that we immediately connect God’s inactivity with his lack of concern or caring about us?

The apparent indifference of God in times of trouble often bothers all of us. David struggled with this also.

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psa. 10:1)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. (Psa. 22:1-2)

Even Christ cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me!‘ (Mark 15:34)  Why do you think it is that God often seems so silent to us, distant to us, absent from the throne, asleep when the storms of life threaten us? It is as Sinclair Ferguson once said,

“There is an awful sense of being forsaken by God when you know you are on the cross.

Is God far off?  Doesn’t He care? I think this is the real question behind all the other questions of where is God and why is He allowing this to happen.  Something tells us that if God is with us, if God is on His throne as all sovereign and all powerful, if God truly loved us, then God would do something if He truly cared and He would not delay in His response. He would do something. He would make the storm go away. He would never allow such a storm in the first place.

Storms challenge our faith.

C.S. Lewis wrote in a Grief Observed:

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”

This quote has stayed with me and I have often recalled it personally going through my own storm of grief.  Storms test what you believe to be true about the meaning and purpose of life, about reality, about God Himself

Steve Larson said in a sermon I listened to that in a moment, a storm can reveal where your faith is, where your focus is, where your trust is, where your priorities are

Storms reveal if we are living what we are learning.”

Think how much the disciples had learned on that day alone from Jesus. All the parables about listening to God’s word and how to hear. How to put it into practice.  Where was their faith in practice?

God allows us to go through storms to test our faith. Our faith is more precious than gold.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, so that the authenticity of your faith — more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7

What is a current storm you are going through? How is it testing your faith? How are you displaying your priorities? Your trust in God?  What is your focus?

39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 

When Jesus awoke, he rebuked the wind, he admonished it. He spoke to both the wind and the sea. Be commanded the howling windstorm to “Silence!” or “Be Mute!” or “Shut Up!. He commanded the waves that were rocking and tossing the boat around around to “Be still!”

Suddenly, the wind stopped at his rebuke. It dropped everything it had been carrying. The waves disappeared, the lake became absolutely still and calm, not just calm but mega calm. The storm had been described as being a mega storm, it was replaced by a mega calm.  Nothing moved.

​​​​​​​“He calmed the storm,  and the waves grew silent. Psa. 107.29

​​​​​​​Just as no one has power over the wind to restrain it, so no one has power over the day of his death. Ecc. 8:8

Who has power over the wind? Who has power over the waters? God alone is ascribed as having this authority and power. All through out the old testament and Psalms.  It is a trademark of God that He commands the wind and the water according to his pleasure and will.

 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Jesus now speaks to the disciples. He asks them the million dollar question.

Why are you so afraid? Question

Why are you so afraid?  Whenever anxiety comes it is the question we should ask ourselves.

Proverbs 4 calls us to ponder our ways.

“Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Proverbs 4:26

 God ponders our ways.

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths
. (Proverbs 5:21)

We ponder our ways when we take time to search our hearts, to ask our own selves, why we are so afraid, what is it that we fear, what is it that we want? Behind every fear is a desire for something to happen or a desire for something not to happen. When we take time to ponder what’s bothering us through mediation, prayer, writing, talking we can then compare it God’s word to truth and align our thoughts.

David talks to himself in the Psalms all the time. Psalm 42 is one of my favorite psalms of David talking to himself. 

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Do you still have no faith?

Jesus is surprised at the lack of faith of his disciples. After all they have seen,

Fear is interpretation or view of any given circumstance. Timothy Keller provides the following

Situation+Self+God = N  

(View of Situation + View of Self + View of God

View of Situation was dangerous, deadly,

View of Self is taking into account our own ability, which is usually nonexistent causing fear to rise.

View of God.  What is our view of God? Do we see Him as present?  Do we see Him as caring? Do we see Him as Wise? 

Fear reveals our faith, how we view God.

 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The disciples went from one fear to another.  A greater fear can always cast out a smaller fear.

 An exceedingly great fear came over the disciples. They were afraid before, now they were exceedingly afraid and terrified now as they stood before Jesus. Something more terrible then the storm was before them.

Any time one of the old testament prophets stood before the glory of God, they were shaken with fear. Remember Isaiah? He was undone. Whenever an angel of the Lord appeared before man, the first words out of the angels mouth was “Do not be afraid.” Such is the awesome and terrifying nature of God.

But here was Jesus. He appeared as a humble man, sleeping like a rock, worn out, tired, hungry. Yet here he stood in all his power and glory. The demons obeyed him, diseases obeyed him and fleed from his presence and now the disciples see the wind and sea obey him and fall flat before him. The disciples see both natures in Jesus in this moment, his humanity and his deity.

Imagine you found yourself in a boat with God Himself, would you find comfort or fear?

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

You would think that the healing, the casting out of demons would have caused them to question who Jesus was and what manner of man he was. But it is at this moment that fear, a holy fear hits them, as they see God with them in the boat.  He who commands the storm is found to be much more fearful then the storm itself.

Here we see the disciples questioning who Jesus really is.  Who is this? Who can this be? What manner of man is this? What kind of man is this? This was no ordinary man that the wind and the sea obeyed him.  Many of the Old Testament Psalms may have come to their mind.

You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. Psa. 89:9

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. Psa 107:29

The disciples probably remembered Jonah.  Remember how the storm was made calm by God when he was cast into the sea? The similarities came to their mind, only God was known to command the wind and the waves.  He did it at the Red Sea. It was God’s calling card.

When God Doesn’t Rescue (Philippians 1:12-30)

“It is the great support and solace of the saints in all the distresses that befall them here, that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels of motion, and governing the most eccentric creatures, and their most pernicious designs, to blessed and happy issues”. – John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence

Paul is writing to the church of Philippians from prison. Paul had started the church of Philippians and so they had a very special place in his heart and he held a very special place in theirs.  They loved Paul and seeing him in prison for so long was difficult for them to bear and understand. To the Philippians and many others, Paul was a very great leader and influence and it was hard for them to comprehend why God would allow a man such as Paul to be arrested and to be confined for so long.

It was in Philippi that Paul and Silas were arrested together as recorded in Acts 16. After casting a demon out of a slave girl, Paul and Silas were arrested by the authorities, because the slave girl’s owners were upset they could not profit off her any longer. Both Paul and Silas were thrown into prison by the magistrates. At midnight it was recorded that they were praying and singing hymns to God in their cell when suddenly a violent earthquake shook the prison and opened the prison doors and everyone’s chains fell off.  The jailer must have slept through the violent earthquake because the text says he woke up and saw the prison doors open. He was ready to kill himself before the magistrates would kill him the next day for the escape of the prisoners, but Paul stopped him and said they were all still there. Another miracle. Open prison doors, loosened chains but the prisoners were still there.  The guard immediately wanted to know what he could do to be saved. The guard and his whole household was saved that night.Continue Reading

I See Thee Still

This poem captures the hope I hold of of seeing my own sister again through Jesus Christ. Going through cancer our journey together was all about hope, hope dashed, hope revived out of ashes, hope that continually survived against the odds. Even when the doctors came to tell us they could offer us no more hope, they could never take away the hope extended to us by Christ. Grief, I have learned, is also all about hope. I still hold on to hope as I wait for that heavenly reunion.

I see thee still :

Remembrance, faithful to her trust,
Calls thee in beauty from the dust;
Thou comest in the morning light,
Thou’rt with me through the gloomy night;
In dreams I meet thee as of old :
Then thy soft arms my neck enfold,
And thy sweet voice is in my ear :
In every scene to memory dear
I see thee still.

I see thee still,
In every hallowed token round ;
This little ring thy finger bound,
This lock of hair thy forehead shaded,
This silken chain by thee was braided;
These flowers, all withered now, like thee,
Sweet sister, thou didst cull for me ;
This book was thine, here didst thou read;
This picture, ah ! yes, here, indeed,
I see thee still,

I see thee still :
Here was thy summer noon’s retreat,
Here was thy favorite fireside seat;
This was thy chamber — here, each day,
I sat and watched thy sad decay ;
Here, on this bed. thou last didst lie,
Here, on this pillow, thou didst die :
Dark hour! once more its woes unfold;
As then I saw thee, pale and cold,
I see thee still.

I see thee still :
Thou art not in the grave confined —
Death cannot claim the immortal mind;
Let earth close o’er its sacred trust,
But goodness dies not in the dust ;
Thee, O ! my sister, ‘t is not thee
Beneath the coffin’s lid I see ;
Thou to a fairer land art gone ;
There, let me hope, my journey done,
To see thee still!

– Charles Sprague

 

 

 

 

10 Things Not to Say to Those Who Are Hurting

beingthere

It’s tough watching someone you love suffer and being helpless to help them or to know what to say. We always want to do or say something to lessen their pain, to encourage them and to help them. However, our good intentions can go awry and instead of causing less pain, we can increase anothers pain through insensitive words or timing. We have a tendency to say things that naturally come to us in order to comfort those around us. Our words may be true enough and bring comfort to ourselves but the person we are directing them towards may be caused greater additional pain by them instead of being comforted. Our words touch super sensitive areas of the heart that are bruised, wounded, out of joint, unnaturally exposed and bring others tremendous pain unknowingly to us. We walk away smiling and unfortunately leave those hurting behind grimacing from our efforts.

When dealing with the human heart, it takes precision and wisdom of an experienced physician to bring about comfort and healing. It has been said that some of our greatest traumas and battles are not really those we experience outwardly but those we are experiencing inwardly. Our hearts have been inwardly amputated through loss, they are being smothered by the weight of grief, are paralyzed by fear, are sick with anxiety and worry, are burning with anger, are infected with bitterness, are slow moving being clouded with doubts and confusion.Continue Reading

Never Forsaken

Format Quote

Love this quote from “Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting” by Dave Furman A great reminder that God never forsakes our abandons us. –Continue Reading

How to Gain God’s Attention

What does it take to gain God’s attention?

Isa. 66:2b tells us this great secret to obtaining the eye of God on us. There are three character attributes that cause the eyes of God to stop their roaming the earth and to rest intently on those who displays such attributes. Humility, Contrition and the Fear of God. This is the person who God shows regard to.

“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” – Is a. 66:2b

1.  Humbleness
God sees the afflicted.  God looks at the poor, the weak and needy.  It is those who are bowed down, the lowly who are weighed down, depressed in mind or in circumstances that God shows regard for. His eye does not pass them by but stops and rests upon them.Continue Reading

What is Prayer?

I love this poem by written by Isaac Watts the famous theologian, logician and hymn writer who was born in the late 1600’s. This hymn is one of 750 that he was inspired to write. It is a worship filled reminder of what prayer is and why we pray.

On Prayer by Isaac Watts
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire
Uttered or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.Continue Reading

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