My thoughts on the tragic death of Rick Warren’s son

Rick Warren

I kept hearing bits and pieces about Rick Warren’s family in the news this week. I understood there had been a tragedy. I didn’t know the details, though I had my suspicions.

Last night, I was visiting with a fellow parent at my sons’ Tae Kwon Do class. He confirmed for me what I had already been suspecting. Rick Warren’s son had committed suicide.

How did I know? How had I perceived that in all likelyhood suicide was the “unmentionable” the whisperings were about? Because, I have been there. My family has been there. A prominent minister with a son that struggled with mental illness and took his life. Yeah…I have been there.

I suspect the church is more repulsed and intolerant of suicide than the rest of our American society. I imagine many faithful followers are asking, how can a son of man – a popular pastor who has sold millions of copies of a book that promises “a purpose-driven life” – take his life? How can that happen? What went wrong? Did He believe in God? Was his faith not strong? Why was he struggling when he had a dad like that? Where is God in this?

Oh, how I wish there were easy answers to these questions.

My immediate thought at the news was, “I wonder how this event will change Rick Warren’s ministry? I wonder what new perspective he will gain?” It will be impossible for him and his family to go through this and not question their faith, their core beliefs, their understanding of the power of God, and their understanding of prayer and divine healing.

I believe God can heal sickness, illness – even mental illness. I believe God can supernaturally stop events from happening – even prevent imminent death of an individual.

I also believe there are times God doesn’t intervene in ways we expect him to. And I really don’t understand how or why.

I have learned to sit comfortably with the profound mystery of it all.

___________________________________________________________

In the weeks to come, Rick Warren and his family will be featured in the news circuits. Articles will be written. People will gossip. And, his son’s photo will be flashed across the media over and over again.

My soul aches for the family.

I ache for them because time and time again, their son, their faith, and their honor will be misunderstood, scrutinized, and judged.

I pray that they will be protected from the onslaught of vultures that will come in the form of those wanting a “good” story or a “good” nugget for gossip. I pray God will shelter them from the storm that has errupted in their midst. I pray that those people who love them and loved their boy will surround them and remind them of the good times and of the boy he was in spite of the illness. I pray for the mighty hand of God to protect them from all evil that is trying to rain down on them.

Will you please join me in prayer? And, when questions fill your mind in an attempt to make sense of this tragedy, will you please lift them up to God instead of joining in the gossip?

There is something for all of us to learn here. If we allow the questions to arise within us and lift them up to the One who has the answers, He will reveal more of himself to us, and we will grow in deeper and more intimate understanding of Him and His Church.

So, let the questions come, just be sure to direct them to the One who has the answers.

newly purposed,

jana

 

OneWord365 | ANCHOR

Instead of a list of New Year’s Resolutions, I have picked one word to focus on for the year.

OneWord2013_Anchor

 

(Button Credit: Melanie @onlyabreath.com)

………

It came as I walked through a doorway.  A still small voice. A whisper.

The significance of hearing God’s voice in a doorway is not lost on me. I love doors. I have always been drawn to them.

Symbolically doors represent opportunity, hope, and change.

An end and a beginning.

A portal.

A time of transition.

That moment between before

and after.

I may have missed His voice. I was moving from one room to the next. Having finished one task. At the start of another.

Yet, as I passed through the doorway, in that moment, surrounded by the security of the doorframe, I heard these words spoken to my heart.

“Jana, you need to tell your

story.”

It was a command. An answer to a prayer I didn’t realize I had lifted up.

These words would forever change the course of my life. It was as if in the moment of hearing them, I had left one world behind and entered another.

A doorway is a safe place. A doorframe one of the strongest places in a home, bearing the weight of the roof.  An anchor.

I remember running to a doorway for safety during an earthquake. There I was holding onto the doorframe, believing in its ability to keep me safe, watching the walls, pictures, and world shake around me.

Anchor.

I anchor myself to that moment in the doorway, when I heard His still small voice, remembering when it all began: The Call to tell my story.

I chose this word because I want to be reminded daily to anchor myself to the cross. To the promises. To the source of all life. Jesus Christ.

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:19,20a)

I must anchor myself to the humble beginnings of it all. Always remembering the still small voice who called me to tell my story in the first place.

newly purposed,

jana

Do You Ever Wonder?

do you ever wonder

Do you ever wonder if all of the trials, suffering, and pain you are going through right now has a purpose?

Or ask, What is the point?.

Or, How is God going to use this?

I have wondered…..

I remember in Fall 2006 saying to God, “I can’t possibly handle anything else. I can’t hold any more pain. I feel I have lived two lives, have been witness to and experienced more suffering than any one person should. How much does one person have to hold?

The following flashed through my mind when I made that statement:

  • Preacher’s Kid
  • Missionary’s Kid
  • Parent with Mental Illness
  • Lived in and traveled to Third World Countries
  • Military Spouse
  • Death of a Sibling
  • Trained as a Health Care Provider
  • A new mom with two little ones under the age of 3

Within a month of making that statement, I was diagnosed with Depression.

Did God put a stop to the trials? No.

Was I expecting Him to? Not really.

I accept that we will have trials in this life.

I was simply tired. 

Tired of struggling, tired of fighting, tired of hiding from my own pain.

…..

Rest assured, God knows exactly what you are going through. He has suffered like we have suffered. He has been tempted like we have been tempted.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9)

In case you missed it, let me restate this for you.

Christ is able to sympathize with us.

Christ has been tempted in every way we have been tempted.

He learned obedience through the suffering he endured.

Draw close to Christ with CONFIDENCE.

Draw near to Him and He will give you Grace. 

A Free Gift, no strings attached.

We will receive Mercy and find Grace IN TIME OF NEED.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

God understands the process of refinement our current suffering is bringing us through.

He gets us. He gets you. He gets me.

He knows us and wants to be known by us.

Suffering is not the end. It is the means to an end.

Suffering refines us. It’s a Good Thing. Do Not Run from it. 

…..

I have pleaded with God for understanding, wishing to see into the future in order to understand how what I am going through now fits in with His eternal plan. Desperate for grace, for freedom from pain and suffering, ready to be done laboring in this life.

I have been there.

…..

I can testify, as one of the Broken, that He will use you in your brokenness.

I look back at an old journal (I had just begun writing again after five years of silence after my brother’s death).

 In May 2007, I wrote these words:

“I am full of joy in Christ. I am confident that He is preparing me for a specific task for Him. All my trials I am going through, all of my thinking and analyzing and growing in Christ is good, and I am so thankful because I know the Lord is using all things for good and to His glory. The Lord is using me to bless others, and I am so excited! Lord, you are working on me. I hear your voice everyday and I am overflowing with Your Spirit. How is this possible? I literally feel I will burst if I don’t tell people the love I have for You.”

…..

I have walked through the darkness, and come out on the other side. And, now I can honestly say, it is worth it! I now understand James’ statement:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

My soul has changed. The scales have been peeled off of my eyes. I now see Christ where before I saw the scars of this world.

Press on, dear friend. Do not give up. Cling to Him and he will carry you through to the other side. Be patient and trust that He has you in the palm of his hand.

Rest in His assurances. 

…..

If I could, I would hold you right now and pray this truth over you and into you. Asking God to fill you with the peace that surpasses all understanding.

You can do this. You can trust that all is not lost. That in fact your labor today is worthy of eternity. 

My heart’s cry is to give you this word of encouragement today.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 41:31)

…..

It is a New Year. Maybe you have made a list of resolutions. Maybe you have even checked off one or two.

I challenge you today to add this Resolution to the top of your list.

Pursue Christ through the darkness.

Do not be afraid.

Lean into Him with all your might and Trust that you will not stumble.

He has you in the palm of His hand.

…..

This post originally appeared at Finding Purpose in the Pain where I am a contributing writer.

newly purposed,

jana

Opportunity | Five Minute {Friday} Saturday

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker.

Word: Opportunity.

Write for five minutes without stoping and without editing.

GO

Opportunity – a positive sound, a positive ring when I say it out loud. I seek opportunity all of the time. Opportunity to sleep, opportunity to have time by myself, opportunity to spend one-on-one time with my husband and my children, opportunity to work-out, eat healthy, and have quiet time with God.

But, opportunity often remains just beyond my grasp. When the boys were tiny-tots, opportunity was always so fleeting. I never had enough sleep, or enough time for myself, the opportunity to spend one on one time with my husband evaded us both, most of the time.

Is opportunity for the taking, is it always there, or do we have to go searching for it?

What does God think of this word {opportunity}? How does He view Opportunity differently from our limited, finite human perspective?

I learned a life-transforming lesson about opportunity. Opportunity can begin to look like a roadblock, a distraction, a diversion, or even an interruption, if I am not careful.

The woman in the commissary {grocery store} who just wants five minutes of my time to discuss the last church meeting. Opportunity  morphing into obligation or even annoyance. The child demanding my time once again. Opportunity blurring into hindrance or interruption to my original plans.

STOP

{But, there is more I want to add so if I can just take a few more minutes of your time.}

The alarm clock at 5am reminding me of my renewed commitment to giving God the first 15-minutes of my day – dedicated solely to Him. Opportunity begins to take the form of apathy, slothfulness, and a burden to bear.

Be careful! I tell myself. Nothing is an accident. I believe that all is orchestrated by God. I arrived at the commissary five-minutes later than I had planned. She and I came face to face in front of the rows of juice boxes and cereal bars. Opportunity for fellowship, for community, for listening with a patient, compassionate heart. Opportunity to offer another Hope and Encouragement.

The child seeking my attention right as I am sitting down {finally} to read scripture, to journal and to pray. Opportunity to Love like He Loves Me. He always has time for me. He never makes me wait for His love. Opportunity to show my child they are valued and important in my life.

I am given opportunities every day, every minute to  become more Christ-like in my thinking, in my actions, and in my words. Opportunity to alter my perception of this world, to Transform My Mind. Opportunity to see as God sees, to respond as God would want me to respond, to Love like God wants me love.

Father God, will you please give me the self-control, patience, and faithfulness to see interruptions, annoyances, obligations, and road-blocks through the mind of Christ – as Opportunity for modeling Your kingdom here on earth. Amen.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

newly purposed,

jana

Do you find yourself asking, “Why God?”…..Me, too

In response to yesterday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, I find myself asking, “Why God?”

Am I alone in my search for answers? No…I am certain of that.

Many are asking God, “Why?”. Many are questioning their faith in a God who is Good. I know this to be true, because in the face of my own tragedy, I questioned my faith in a God who could allow death and destruction of human life.

God I know you are Good. But…Why?

Why did you let this happen? Why did you allow so many young children to perish? Why right before Christmas? Why did this young man do this? Why couldn’t someone stop him? Why didn’t you do something supernatural to arrest his plan? Why?

I don’t understand. I don’t understand how you can be so good, yet allow something so horrible to happen.

I don’t think we will ever understand, or know the answer, or be able to comprehend in our finite human imagination why God – whom I believe knows my past, my present and my future, who holds this world in the palm of his hand, and who loves all His children {even those who hate and who do heinous things} – allowed yesterday’s tragedy to happen,

Until the day of Glory when I sit at His feet, I will hold that one question close to my heart and wonder why. Only when I am with him in Eternity will I then be able to ask him.

Until then, I must rest, ponder, pull closer to Christ – even in my doubt, my anger, my sadness and my confusion – and confess that I am a sinful human who cannot possibly understand His ways.

…..

I wrote the following words weeks ago wondering when it might be an appropriate time to share them. As I reflect and ponder the question, “Why?”, I am once again reminded of the lesson I once learned and want to share it with you.

May God’s blessing be on you this day anew. May you be filled with the Peace of Christ. May you rest in Him when the questions fill your mind, and you waver in your faith or doubt His goodness. Amen

…..

911 memorial

in the face of tragedy

We often find ourselves in the position of asking God, “Why?”.

When tragedy strikes.

When babies die.

When marriage covenants break.

When illness overpowers.

When darkness hovers over our souls.

Why?

Why?

Why?

…..

In John 11:1-44, we read the account of Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s brother, being brought back from the dead by his dear friend, Jesus.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him,“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said,“Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

…..

Before I share my thoughts on this passage, let me make it clear that I am not a theologian or Bible scholar. I have not attended college courses on Greek or Hebrew, or gone to Seminary. But, I will tell you this. I have been studying the Bible since I was a little girl. I have heard many sermons preached, read many books, and journaled for many hours in an attempt to sort out the meaning of Scriptures for myself. I am not alone, nor are you, on the journey to find Truth. The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts as we read and ponder on God’s Holy Word. I believe the Spirit lives in me and helps me discern meaning in the Holy Scriptures. I believe that the Word of God was breathed by Him, and is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12)

I believe this now more than I ever have before. Since that fateful day, when my tender faith came crashing down, I have labored endlessly and personally with God, My Father, to sort out my questions, doubts, and concerns. I stumbled along an arduous road of unbelief in order to finally arrive at a place of Absolute Belief in the Truths held in the Bible. God has been faithful to me along my quest for Wisdom and Knowledge.

In humble obedience, I share what I have learned with you.

…..

This account from John suggests to me that there remained, in some of His most devout disciples, Mary and Martha, measures of unbelief. After all they had witnessed, been taught, trusted up to this point, there remained some doubt in their minds.

Both women had believed in Jesus as the Messiah. We can see that illustrated in their statement,  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. Had Jesus arrived sooner after Lazarus’ death, he would have been able to raise him up. But, now it was too late. {I have been told that it was believed at the time that the soul left the body after the third day of burial. So it is significant that Jesus didn’t show up until day four.}

Mary and Martha both knew of Jesus’ ability to raise people from the dead.

…..

So, why didn’t Jesus show up until four days after Lazarus’ death? In fact, why did Jesus wait two more days to come after He had heard the news? Read again what it says in the Scripture,

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:5-6)

It states he stayed two days longer, because he loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. What??

Could it be that his staying longer and not coming to them right away was because he loved them? Really?

This is when it got interesting for me.

This is when my Why’s began morphing into What’s.

God, what does this mean? What are you trying to teach me here? What were you trying to teach Mary and Martha? What can I learn from them? What can I learn about You?

…..

Mary and Martha knew Christ to a certain depth. They trusted Him to a point. They placed their faith in Him…almost.

Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Their brother had died. Love of a sibling runs deep. Their grief was raw and fresh. They were not ready to say goodbye. They did not believe Jesus would be able to raise Lazarus from the dead at this point. Too much time had passed.

Yet, Jesus did, Lazarus was resurrected. Mary and Martha, as well as many other Jews, witnessed the miracle.

Is it possible that Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus so much that he wanted to grow in intimacy with them by revealing more of himself to them?

He showed them, that despite society’s belief, He had the power to raise people from the dead even four days later. Their depth of understanding of Christ as the Savior of the World had now reached a deeper level of intimacy. The foundation of their friendship was more deeply rooted and therefore would one day be able to withstand the ultimate pain of His death.

I believe, through the act of raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus gave Mary and Martha – and Lazarus – a Gift. A deeper, unwavering, firmer faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

…..

For me along my journey of grief, there was a shift from a Why? to a What?. It didn’t happen until I had exhausted the Why questions. I was weary from never getting an answer. Finally, giving into the wisdom I had been offered, my question shifted to “What God?”.

I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that is was a holy, tranquil, reflective moment where the heavens opened up and the sunbeam shined down on me. Nope. Instead, I remember the moment being more of a *%$#@ moment! {Insert BLEEP button here.}

Okay God, if not Why? then What?!! What could you possibly teach me about you?!! How could I possibly grow in intimacy with you in the face of this tragedy?!!

“finch-clenched, teeth-gritted, chest puffed out” moment- raging, yelling getting it all out until I was panting, shaking, and hot from the effort of ripping off the bandage, opening the wound once again.

However, this time I was ready to receive the Gift that would bring me through to the fullness of His Healing Light.

…..

Jesus makes three statements in the above text that confirms for me His Gift to Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

AND

To His disciples: “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:14-15)

AND

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41-42)

He did what He did so that God would be glorified and so that those who were witnesses might believe.

My conclusion? There is Divine Purpose in the painful and tragic events of this life. Even when I don’t understand the “Why” and even when I feel grief, anger, and rage. There is Divine Purpose. I believe that to the depth of my soul.

…..

I do not want to come across as trite. Nor do I want to dismiss the pain of those who lost loved ones yesterday in Connecticut and all those who are grieving the death of  a loved one right now. I certainly did not appreciate the “thoughtful, heartfelt comments” like, “He is in a better place, ” or “God has a plan”, or “At least he is no longer suffering”. While well-intentioned, they did nothing to ease my pain.

And, if your emotions are raw now, my words will not soothe you immediately. But, when you are ready, read them again. Find the Hope that is contained in them. There is a divine purpose and if you allow Him, God will draw you closer to Himself and reveal a deeper part of Himself to you.

…..

My prayer for you is that after the initial pain and shock of this tragedy subsides, your Why God? will change to What God? I am certain that if we remain in asking God Why? and never move towards asking God What? it will only cause us to be stuck on the wrong side of His Gift to us – the revelation of Himself, and a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ.

newly purposed,

jana

 

 

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