Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thoughts from a Modern-Day Psalmist

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.
 
One of our pastors used this text in his sermon today. And on Ben's second-month heaven anniversary, I felt every word.
 
It seems unusual to have passages in the Bible - much less entire chapters or books - dedicated to people complaining to (or about) God. Frustrated when things don't go their way or when it feels like He has somehow remained quiet in our pain. Especially when we know how capable He is of turning things around completely. It almost feels unspiritual. As if we should only be pointed to examples where people blindly accepted God's master plan, even when they didn't understand. 
 
But I know that I am not alone in saying how comforted I am by many words of the psalmists, who have been given the opportunity to voice their pain, to question God's plan, but always end their rant in praise. The Bible is FULL of stories where people struggled with what God appeared to be doing. It's as if we needed those stories included in God's holy book to reassure us that it's okay to be human.
 
You see, none of us live absolutely perfect lives. Not a single one. There's not a single human in this world that could exclaim that everything has always gone as planned and that God has always provided everything they wanted, at the moment they wanted it. At least they couldn't do it with a clear conscience. It just doesn't happen.
 
The only thing we are guaranteed is that in this world, we will have trouble. We will get sick. We will have pain. We will struggle. But Jesus continues in that same verse to say, "But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
 
Perhaps that's why passages like this one in Psalm 13 bring me comfort. It doesn't end with pain and suffering. Death doesn't have the final say. God does. Not only is He the ultimate encourager and comforter, but in conquering death, He literally overcame the world!
 
We have HOPE!
 
Shortly after Bed died, I had breakfast with a long-time family friend and pastor. All along our journey, she empathized with our pain and her heart also cried out to God for Ben's physical healing. Her oldest grandson was just two months older than my boys and we had great memories of the three boys playing together last summer. She said that the news of Ben's aggressive diagnosis frustrated her and was one of the very few times in her life where she was literally mad at God.
 
I knew exactly what she was saying. I had had those feelings, too. I have been a Christian my whole life. I always felt His blessing on my life and so it was somewhat easy to trust Him. And yet, the moment when things started to look bleak, when it looked as though I could lose my son, I was ready to just throw in the towel and give it all up. I was very angry. And I definitely let God know.
 
But then she went on to say how beautiful it was that somehow, God had been using our gifts to tell the world about His goodness and even the joy that can be found in the midst of so much difficulty. If we were willing to acknowledge Him. "You're a modern-day psalmist, Mindy," she told me. "We read your cries to God and we feel your pain. And yet, you're reminding us to come back to Jesus. Because He's the only one that can heal our wounds."
 
A modern-day psalmist. Yes.
 
I am just as imperfect as the men who wrote those psalms. I get angry with God and question His motives. I wrestle with my emotions just as much as the psalmists struggle to see God in the midst of their afflictions. David, the writer of this psalm and many others, was far from perfect. He fell in love with a married woman, got her pregnant, had her husband killed in battle to make his death look like an accident, and God STILL used him to reach many people for Christ. Because God is not looking for perfect people. He's not looking for people who don't struggle, whose feelings don't fluctuate on a daily basis. He just wants us. As we are. To be honest with our humanness so God can do the rest. When we're willing to be used by Him, there is just no telling what He can accomplish.
 
Like David, I like to think of myself now as a psalmist. A regular imperfect person who's used a platform to complain, vent, scream, and yell my frustrations to my God. But because I've been walking with God for a while, I am far too aware of His goodness and grace to just stop there. Even as I acknowledge my wounds, I have so many good things around me to point back to His never-ending faithfulness and generosity.
 
As our pastor reminded us, "Faith isn't the absence of questions. It's knowing who to ask."
 
That's why I won't allow my psalm to end when my rant ends. I can't help but come back to God's sovereignty and power. To be reminded of His mercies that He provides every morning. To celebrate the life of my four kids: in heaven, on earth, and in utero, and just be in awe of His goodness. He is still God. And He is good.

 
God, even though I am so angry that this had to have happened... even though I hate the pain that my family had to suffer in losing my child... even though I hate knowing that I will never see that beautiful boy on this side of heaven again... I am so grateful that You allowed us to care for him, even for a short time. I am grateful for the ways you remind us of the mark he has left on our family. And I am very grateful that you are a God whose mercies are brand-new every single morning. I will continue to praise You in the midst of my pain. Because You have always been so very good to us.
 
I am so grateful to serve a God who is big enough to handle our questions. Our frustrations. Our bouts of disbelief and sadness. This world is full of so much sadness: friends move away, people die, kids get sick. And we, as Christians, are nowhere near exempt. The fact that we grieve, mourn, and hurt only mean that we are human. And we should take comfort in the fact that that is precisely how God designed us. But we also need to be reminded that that's only the first part of the story.
 
God is still God. And He is good.
 
The pastor ended the sermon with this:
 
"God has a perfect track record. He has never let a single person down. And He's not going to start with you."
 
Amen.

42 comments:

  1. wow just what I needed to read today thank you Mindy for keeping up your blog, it makes me laugh cry and smile and most of all gives me HOPE that I will see our Ethan on the other side. Please keep writing I am going through personal struggles of surrender and faith and you inspire me to be a better person.
    Missy Dixon
    raggedyanna6@aol.com

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  2. Thanks for the encouragement Mindy. I am walking through my 6th miscarriage. Two of my babies I lost in the 2nd trimester. I am having a hard time seeing God through it all.

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    1. I pray for you, Amanda, for life over your womb. May the fruit of your womb be blessed. Lay your hands on your tummy everyday and speak "life" to it because there's power in our words and God's Word- after all is formed this world.

      Lori

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    2. Bless you, Amanda. My dear child had many miscarriages too before she had her precious son. I pray that you will be blest with a child too. I will hold you in my heart, prayers and thoughts.

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    3. Dear Amanda I am so sorry for your losses. A friend of ours had 6 miscarriages. One was a set of twins at 6 mths. The Lord blessed her with a girl in between. Then yrs later they had a boy. My daughter lost a baby and it is very hard. It has been 3 yrs but I still grieve for that little one. But I will see her or him in heaven.

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    4. Amanda I also suffered miscarriage I had a wonderful doctor walk me through this time. I was very young and very distraught. He sat on the edge of my bed held my hand and explained to me that women's body's are Gods garden. As gardens are all seeds do not grow and only God knows why but that child would be with me forever. Trust in The Lord trust he knows what your plan is. May God bless you with beautiful children and when he does please cherish them.

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  3. Mindy,
    Thank you for allowing us to share Ben with you. I don't know you personally but we share some mutual friends. Thank you for sharing God's word with us all. God is still God!
    *hugs*

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  4. Dear Mindy,
    Thank you for sharing your heart. Your honesty and transparency are beautiful tools in the hand of Abba!

    I hope this song ministers to you.

    "Love Will Have The Final Word"

    When the voice of fear rages in my head
    Reading down the long list of my regrets
    When the ruins are all I see
    Remind me that it only means
    That love isn't finished speaking yet

    Of all the things I've ever heard
    Let me remember when it hurts
    That love will have the final word
    As long as God is on His throne
    I am carried by the hope
    That love will have the final word

    When the place that broke inside you will not mend
    And you wander in the dark without a friend
    When the night goes on and on
    Remember when it all goes wrong
    That this is how we know it's not the end

    (Refrain)


    Sorrow may close the chapter
    But the story will end with laughter
    Cause the worst thing is never the last thing
    No, the last thing will be the best thing

    (Refrain)
    Jason Gray

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So1J9T5xv4k

    Thoughts and prayers are with you!!!

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  5. PS If you copy the link and paste it into your browser you can hear the song by Jason Gray

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  6. Mindy,
    Please continue to be a light for Christ to so many. Your words are so encouraging as well as glorifying to the Lord. Your sweet children are a blessing to us all, especially Ben. We cannot begin to know & love Ben as you do but we all have taken a little bit of him & tucked it away in our hearts. I look forward to meeting him in heaven. Thanks again for sharing your life's blessings with us all. Every time I read your blog I want to go smother my boys with hugs & kisses.

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  7. God chose David as a little boy, a shepherd boy, out of a whole family of strong boys, to be his chosen one. God anointed David, and made a promise to him:
    "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah. (Psalms 89:30-37)"

    He promised David that his "seed" would sit on the throne of Israel forever. We believe that "seed," that Son, was Jesus Christ.

    God kept His promises to David, even though David did much wrong. God knew beforehand what David would do, how he was just a human and weak in many ways. But God stands firm and strong, and David and all of Israel, including us, can rely on His promises. Because God does not lie, or break His covenant with us, even when we falter.

    Mindy, when you said "yes" to God's invitation as a young girl to follow Him, He made a pact with you, a covenant. He promised if you would keep His commandments, He would save your soul, and bring you into heaven with Him when you die. He does not lie. He does not break His promises. Ever.

    One time Mother Theresa responded to a questioner who asked her, in light of all the suffering in the world, and how her efforts hardly made a dent in them, even her own city, how could she think God was a good and caring God? And she said, "God does not ask us to be successful, He asks us to be faithful."

    He asks us to be faithful. He asked the same of King David. Amid our anguish, amid our joys, amid the seemingly fruitlessness of our work, or our herculean efforts to save a child that ended in a loss. He asks us to be faithful.

    Our sorrows, our human weakness, sometimes cause us to want to break our covenant with God. Where is He? Why doesn't He help me? Has He forgotten about me? Was I mistaken when I thought He was with me before? Why do I have to go through THIS? I have been faithful, but He is not responding to my pleas for help. Maybe He has abandoned me.

    So many people in our day and age believe in God, and try to follow Christ, but they do not have someone to help them as the road becomes difficult, as they suffer a reversal, as their faith is challenged. When you post here, you help so many people who are struggling to keep their faith in the midst of suffering and sorrow.

    Your faithfulness helps others to see the answer is not to run away from God, as if He is useless, when bad things befall them, but to run toward Him, and cling to Him all the more, because the sorrow threatens to break the bond of love from our side. The temptation is to reject God, our only hope, at a time we need Him the most.
    God bless you Mindy. I continue to pray for you and your family in this time of sorrow.

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  8. It's amazing and humbling that He does use us, just as we are. It drives me to my knees daily.

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  9. Today is the 8th anniversary of the passing of my first husband due to brain cancer. Praising him during the storm was the only thing that got me through that journey. He was faithful. He is faithful. I may not understand why things happened the way that they did. But God was faithful to us. Sending you prayers and hugs to you Mindy and your family!

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  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbV0vnkejRY

    Mindy, perhaps you will appreciate this song based on Psalm 13 written by a woman from our church. Praying God's overwhelming grace and unfailing love over you and your family.

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  11. Mindy, thank you for continuing to share. I am the lady with the 2 boys that introduced myself at Walmart. You have been such a blessing in our lives and we have gotten closer to Christ because of your family. Thank you again and may God continue to bless you and your family.

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  12. Mindy, thank you so much for sharing your heart. You are a blessing to so many of us who have prayed for you, but who will not meet you until we spend eternity together with our wonderful Lord! A dear friend's daughter passed away unexpectedly last week and this song has been a comfort to her heart. I hope the message will bring comfort to yours. God Makes No Mistakes. http://youtu.be/BFB_g8k0WQM

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  13. In your pain and sadness, you have inspired countless others to have hope and seek Jesus. You are indeed a modern day psalmist, and I am so grateful for your writings. Thanking God for you and your touch on my life.

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  14. Thank you for sharing, Mindy. Your words and your "type of faith"-- you know, "the type" that never seems to waver, is something I've learned to strive to have, because of you and Ben. People say the only constant in life is change. I guess that could be viewed as truth. You've helped me to see, however, that truly the only constant in life... throughout the many beautiful highs and sometimes heartbreaking lows is... God. And His goodness. What a blessing. You truly are a blessing too. Still praying for you and thinking of you.

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  15. We never know what our Heavenly Father has in store for us but find comfort in knowing He will not forsake us in all of our days here on earth. Prayers for healing and comfort for you and your family.

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  16. I feel like this song has to have been suggested to you somewhere along this journey, but have you ever heard the song, "Need You Now" by Plumb? As comforting as so many more traditional worship songs can be, I find this song to be a nice change of pace for when the pain is too much and God hasn't seemed to move in the way we hope He would. It's a song that just lets you express the pain and perhaps feel a little less alone. The chorus says:

    How many times have you heard me cry out
    "God please take this"?
    How many times have you given me strength to
    Just keep breathing?
    Oh I need you
    God, I need you now.

    There are other verses that seem to parallel your experiences, too. It's a beautiful song for imperfect circumstances. God bless all of you, and thanks for continuing to write. Your insights are beautiful and inspiring.

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  17. You are loved! Your words and your son continue to be blessings in my life. I am forever grateful for the impact that Ben has on my heart and in my life each day. Thank you, please keep blogging!

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  18. Mindy, thank you SO much. I needed to read this today...everyday... You're starting to become my spiritual mentor. Hugs! Alexandra

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  19. My husband wrote music to Psalm 13. I'll post the link in case you'd like to take a listen.

    http://echoesofethos.bandcamp.com/track/psalm-13

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  20. Dear Mindy, we first found out about Ben when Georgie, our baby boy, was starting chemo for his aggressive leukaemia. Georgie died on the 5th of July. In the week preceding his death I kept telling him about Anne and other children who had died recently. I imagine Ben looking after Georgie in heaven like a bog brother. He was only 5 and a half months when he died...I understand your feelings completely, I have been blogging about our pain too recently. Big hugs.xx

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    1. My mama's heart hurts so much for you too, for every mom that has to endure this pain. I bet Ben is showing your baby all the best insects and animals! You and your family will be in my prayers as well.

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  21. Mindy, we never know what God is going to challenge us with from day to day. I know as I wake up every morning I thank God for another day. When I go to bed, I thank God for giving me, and my family and loved ones another day. I try to stay positive, but I do ask God Why? I do get angry, frustrated, cry but yet...... I still talk to God. I know one thing for sure Mindy, is I will never forget and always throughout my day will think about your family ( Mindy, Andy, Jack, Megan and new baby) and Ben, Well Ben will always be in my heart.

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  22. The other day I received a letter from a friend where she referenced a passage from II Corinthians on sharing comfort and suffering. Somehow, I had never heard or read these verses before, even though I have often heard Christians wrestle with the idea of suffering. What you wrote about in this post, and what you do through this blog, brought them again to mind. Thank you for comforting us, your readers, even in the midst of your own suffering, as we ask God to comfort you.

    "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for you consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation."

    II Corinthians 1: 3-7

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  23. In my prayer this morning, I felt led to pray for you and your family. Obviously, you don't know me --- but oh, thanks to your gift of sharing, so many of us know you! And what a blessing that is. I need you to know that there is another little boy with a terminal diagnosis that my 3 year old has been praying for. Two nights ago, he asked me a question that necessitated either a lie or a real answer about our struggling friend. I almost chose the lie, but then I remembered one of your blog posts about Ben and about how death is not the end . . . just a beautiful new beginning. I decided not to shield my 3 year old or to deify life (your words!) but to instead share with him the Easter story for the first time. I don't know if he understood it all, but I will keep sharing it with him over and over again. Thank you for this encouragement. You may not be able to see him in a physical sense, but I believe Ben is very much alive and ministering to his peers --- I have you and him to thank for our Easter opportunity. :) Thank you!

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  24. Thankful for your words and your perspective...

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  25. Mindy and family, I pray for you and think of you so often. Thank you for sharing your heart and your faith. I find it painful to the point of crying when I think of your sweet family and what you have been through and what you will always carry. Jesus has been Lord of my life for most of my 56 years and although I have had pain, it doesn't begin to compare to this. I consider myself mature in my faith (tho always growing) and a great believer in fervent prayer and God's promises. Your family's grief has caused me to question why God allows such suffering for some and not for others. Not that I haven't questioned it before-- but this has caused me to fear and to doubt. I'm somewhat angry at God and I don't even know you. I will continue to pray for your entire family and also for my own sad, tired, heart, that God will continue to mold me and make me into a vessel that can glorify him no matter what. I thank him for your gift of words and your willingness to minister through them to countless people all over the world.

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  26. Mindy thank you for continuing to write your blog I so look forward to each word you write. I still pray for strength for you and your family. Your words inspire me and have changed my life thank you again.

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  27. Mindy, thank you so much for grieving publicly with your writing. It is very in spring. Prayers for you and your family. I will never forget your courage.

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  28. Beautiful. Thank you, always, for sharing!

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  29. Thinking of you and yours this morning!!! Praying for peace and strength for each new day...

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  30. God is still God. And God is good. I love that! Your blog posts are just beautiful. I miss Ben and I never met or knew him at all! Praying for your family.

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  31. Thinking of you today!!! Though id come by and remind you that the imprint Ben left on me and many others is sooo strong and my thoughts are always with you and the rest of your beautiful family. Please continue writing! Your words inspire me !!

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  32. I hate that it took your public pain to bring so many people together, but I love that your sharing heart has blessed so many. As an author, I see the ripple effect words have on the human spirit, good and bad. Some use situations and their gift of words for evil... But Mindy, you have used yours for so much good. You and your family have blessed more than you'll ever see on the pages of a computer, and thank you.... God bless you! For doing that. You didn't just start a ripple of prayer, dear girl... you re-ignited a wave of belief.

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