In the Wake of the Storm

img_2323At some point that evening I went from being exhilarated by the fierce summer storm raging outside, to fleeing in fear to the only windowless room in our home. I huddled with my husband in the dark while the wind roared and shook the house as if it were too close to a speeding freight train. Finally sensing a lessening in the storm’s clamor, we cautiously crept out to witness the utter chaos left in the wake of its violent tantrums. Broken tree limbs and debris littered the lawn, but worse was the uprooted cottonwood tree stretched like a slain giant across our crumpled fence into the yard behind, barely missing the neighbor’s house.

In the following days as we cleaned up the wreckage from the storm, I mourned the loss of the cottonwood tree. On hot summer days we used to rest in our lawn chairs under its cool shade, lulled by the lyric rustle of its leaves in the breeze. It had been a green sanctuary to myriads of birds which we enjoyed watching splash in our nearby birdbath. Our grandchildren once climbed the lower branches, safe in its woody embrace. Now an ugly stump was all that remained, and empty space where once a friendly giant stood.

My husband took a more pragmatic view of the loss of the tree. He saw how its absence allowed more sunlight to reach his vegetable garden, especially the rows closest to the fence which always did poorly for lack of light. We observed carrots and parsnips gradually flourish with more sunlight to strengthen them.

In her book, “Roots & Sky”, author Christie Purifoy writes, “God does not erase our losses, those empty places in our lives, but He does something almost more miraculous. He fills the loss with a sign of His presence.” Losing a tree cannot compare to losing a loved one, or a marriage or a part of who you are, but for me it was a picture of how loss opens up room for a new work of God.

There was a time in my life when I lost everything I had ever feared losing; my marriage, financial security, health and family unity. In the midst of these devastating losses, I could not imagine a future when all would be made new, even better than before. But God could. “His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of.” (Eph. 3:20 TLB)

God takes loss and turns it into abundance. In the ashes of my pain, I discovered the abundance of God’s love, His perfect character and His always faithful promises. When life left me hollowed out, He filled the space with His own presence. As I discovered, this is God’s specialty, giving beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isa. 61:3 NKJV)

In the equation of loss becoming abundance, He uniquely illustrates for each of us His supreme renewal project, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV) He was speaking of Himself as the Seed, abused, crucified, buried in a dark tomb. Then the Seed came bursting forth alive, His resurrection beginning a great harvest of souls for God’s kingdom. Death gave way to life. Decay became deliverance.

A mighty tree once stood in my yard where now there is just a weathered stump. However new light floods a healthy garden where many seeds now flourish in abundance. In our memory’s landscape, the scar of a loss does not need to be a place of pain forever. It may be remembered, even mourned, but more significantly, it is a landmark telling where God met us and how He brought restoration and renewal out of the darkest places of our world.

Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

By His Wounds

Wounded Heart HD WallpaperIt is an old scar, healed over a decade ago, yet sometimes it pulls and aches and I am reminded of that journey to death’s door and back. Close to that scar beats a heart once wounded by sorrow so fierce I thought I would die with every beat. Give me the scars caused by a knife over those inflicted in the name of love. They may twinge but they do not leave the ghosts of grief hovering at the edges of my present happiness.

I think of it as my “Job Period”, when God withdrew His hand and I plunged headlong into a marriage betrayed, children floundering, cancer stalking my veins. Years of trouble at my doorstep every day and nights of despair-soaked pillows brought me to this,
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10 NIV)

I could not turn my back on the very One I needed so desperately even though I often raged at Him. When everything I held on to in this world was whipped away, God flooded the echoing void with His loving presence. I did not need to know the reasons or the outcome for such suffering, only Him. Three years previous a hunger to know God more deeply sent me to feast on His Word, bask in His presence, be satisfied with His love. In this way He prepared me for the terrible wounding I had no idea was coming.

When the man I handed my heart to betrayed me repeatedly then left me destitute, the wounding felt mortal. “I heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds,” God promised.(Ps. 147:3) Later He breathed life into my shattered heart through the clean, pure love of a man who belonged first to God and then to me.

As my son sank into a depression so deep he no longer wanted to live, I cried out to the One who knew what it was to face the death of a child. He heard my prayers to bring my son back from the brink. “But for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2) I now can see the shadow of God’s healing wings in the wise, peaceful eyes of my son.

For 12 years now I awake each morning surprised by life. Cancer has been held at bay, so every day is a gift I will never take for granted. “I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25) Locusts devour everything in their path, like cancer. I do not know why God chose me to be a restored survivor. I don’t need to know, just rest in the blessing.

It is a mystery why the blood shed from the wounds of Jesus should be the very means of my healing. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) My eternal healing from sin and separation from God will be fully realized when I see Him face to face. I may recall the wounds I received in my earthly life, but they will no longer have power to cause me pain. No scars will be visible then, except those I see on the risen Christ, received for me.