Sunday, December 26, 2010

Why Does it Hurt More at Christmas?

I was surprised by the fact that Christmas was harder for Tonya and I, from a grief standpoint, than a "regular" day.  I certainly understand why that is the case for people who lose loved ones, especially children, with whom they have shared previous Christmases.  They have memories that probably make things harder.  But that wasn't the case for us as we were never given that blessing.  So I didn't think we would feel any differently on Christmas than we would any other day.  But we did.  It hurt more.

Maybe it was because there was a stocking hung on our mantle with Anastasha's name on it, but it remained empty.  Or maybe it was because we baked her a birthday cake for Jesus too (all the kids make one), even though she wouldn't get to lick the frosting.  Or maybe because we couldn't tie a little Christmas bow on her head like I've seen on so many cute little baby girl patients of mine in recent weeks.

I'm not really sure why, but I suspect the main reason is because, for us, Christmas is such a "huddling up" time as a family.  We really try to minimize outside distractions and, for a least a few days, spend some very good quality a family.

Yet this year there was a void...her void.  Yes, I know we have 8 other children.  That should be enough, right?  It isn't a numbers thing.  We are of course so blessed with the living children that we have.  I often tell Tonya that she has made me richer than a king because of them.  It is just that one that we love deeply isn't with us, and we desperately wish she was.

Christmas is, first and foremost, a time to remember Christ's incarnation and look forward to His second coming.  And we did both...with joy.  But is also such a sweet time of family fellowship - tender, giving, selfless, and innocent.  And to do it for the first time as an "incomplete" family was just plain hard.

We visited the cemetery where our baby girl is buried.  I kissed her cold, hard headstone and said "Merry Christmas" with tears in my eyes.  The kids wondered how or if Christmas is celebrated in heaven.  I suspect it isn't, but I also know that everyday there is more glorious than we can ever imagine. 

May Jesus return again soon.  Come, Lord Jesus.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Letter From Big Brother At Christmas

Charis wrote this sweet little note to Anastasha and put it in her stocking.  It has been neat for Tonya and I to see the children, with their simple faith, grab hold of the reality of heaven.  And the result of that is great peace, and even joy that they know where their sister is right now and, more importantly, Who she is with right now. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

He Never Dropped the Leash

The Book of Job has been a family favorite of our for years.  It has taken on even greater meaning this year as we've walked through our own great trial.

We were delighted when we discovered that our favorite Bible teacher, John Piper, wrote an illustrated poem on the Book of Job.  We were blessed by it.  You can find some excerpts under the section of this blog called Precious Quotes

Below is a portion of the forward of the book.  It describes God's role in our human suffering.  Piper eloquently expresses that regardless of who the afflicter is in any given situation (Satan or God), that God is ultimately responsible and, therefore, in control.  As a result we can trust in His Omnipotence and Goodness.  We pray that whatever difficult situation you are in, you will find comfort in knowing that God is in ultimate control.

"It is a great sadness when suffers seek relief by sparing God his sovereignty over pain.  The sadness is that this undercuts the very hope it aims to create.  When all forty-two chapters of the book of Job are said and done, the inspired author leaves us with an unshakable and undoubted fact: God governs all the things for his good purposes. 

The text says Job's brothers and sisters 'comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him' (Job 42:11).  This is the author speaking, not a misguided character in the drama.  Whatever Satan's liberty in unleashing calamity upon us, God never drops the leash that binds his neck.

Jesus' brother James rounds out the picture with his interpretations: 'You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful' (James 5:11).  In other words, the Lord is sovereign, and the Lord is sweet.

Pain and loss are bitter providences.  Who has lived long in this world of woe without weeping, sometimes until the head throbs and there are no more tears to lubricate the convulsing of our amputated love?  But O, the folly of trying to lighten the ship of suffering by throwing God's goverance overboard.  The very thing the tilting ship needs in the storm is the ballast of God's good sovereignty, not the unburdening of deep and precious truth.  What makes the crush of calamity sufferable is not that God shares our shock, but that his bitter providences are laden with the bounty of love.

I have written for sufferers. I pray that you will be helped to endure till healing, or to die well.  One who suffered more than most wrote: 'To live is Christ and to die is gain' (Phil 1:21).  Which of these will be our portion, God himself will decide. 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that' (James 4:15).

The great purpose of this life is not to stay alive, but to magnify - whether by life or by death - the One who created us and died for us and lives as Lord of all forever, Jesus Christ.  I pray that his sovereign goodness will sustain you in the unyielding joy of hope through every flame of pain and flood of fear."