Monday, January 18, 2016

Thin Places

Single-digit air pricks my skin, as I let our dogs out for their morning romp. Thick strokes of frosty orange hues separate the dark of night from the rising of light. Against a shadowed sky, slender ringlets of smoke are rising from houses across the canyon and every roof sparkles with a thin dusting of snow that has settled across the entire landscape.

The light rises to meet the dark.

The stark places are illuminated by the glint of cold.

It seems like this has been a week of thin places, where the darkness in the world has done its best to overshadow light and life.

The news is hard to hear. So many impossible situations. From the fear driven beats on social media to the momma who is wondering how life could change so fast for her family and the boy who is now in a battle for life.

And that kind talented young man with his whole amazing life ahead of him? Gone. And in the shattered days that have shaken untold numbers of people, there are many whose lives are now altered forever.

The thin places in my soul are for the aching and the broken and the breaking.

Those who in no way pretend to have it all together. The ones who carry the weight of grief and addiction and rejection. Those who mourn and wail and cannot find relief from the pain. Those who try to walk the endless days and long nights of depression. The ones who can never get it all together.

My heart beats thin for people who are faced with no hiding place for their pain.

Those who are shattered by grief in whatever form it has been delivered.

My heart and mind and soul cannot forget the depths of it.

Grief is such an understated word. A single syllable.  Some people use it lightly when they joke with indignation, "Good grief!" I'm not sure that anyone who has actually lived through grief would ever use the word so casually.

For what I know of it, grief is an uninvited heaviness that arrives with a tsunami of uncontrollable crashing emotions that toss you into the depths of its turbulent waves and you think just the mental angst of it will be the end of you.

They say grief is sorrow of the mind, but it was the most physically altering thing I've experienced.

And then the ashes of your life blow over and you are left smoldering in the aftermath ––wondering what is even real.

Grief is what landed me in a crisis of faith. 

Because if God is real then life had become some terrible joke? It made me question everything.

I often think of Job, who in one day lost it all. His children. His wealth. His health. And his response? He fell to the ground and worshiped God.

Much of the book of Job, reveals how misunderstood he was by his wife and his so-called friends.

It's easy to think that the beautiful and the affluent somehow have a corner on God and His blessings, when in fact, God is close to those who are brokenhearted.

I think grief has a way of stripping away what isn't important. It dashes personal agendas and self-confidence and wanting to speak shallow words.

It asks the unspoken questions.

It demands a response.

As gracious as God has been to speak to me in some of those questions, Gods ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts the way of human thoughts.

For me, pretty religion did not answer the depth of my pain.

But Jesus is near the brokenhearted. 

Not the person with the plan or the power or the where-with-all to make another thing happen.

Oh, but those who are folded into a fetal position from pain? They are held by the God who unfolded His love for us by becoming a baby and dying on a rugged cross for all the darkness and sin of this world.

My grief is what brought me to the place where all the pretense was stripped away.  Some sorrow leads to a living death, but if we allow it, sorrow can bring real life.

My sorrow and pain and grief were the catalysts that brought me to a true and life-changing understanding of Jesus.

My weakness is where Gods glory is best displayed.

Everywhere I turn it seems like there is suffering.

But what if walking in a season of pain is a sacred place?

A place where something deeper is going on that we may not know the full story until we are no longer walking this earth. What if people need to see how you live it? Imperfectly. But leaning on the God who says, that what we experience here cannot compare to the glory that will be revealed.  

So keep I keep looking at the ancient story of Job, the man who suffered so deeply yet  responded in worship.

Grief and pain and sorrow are what made my hard heart, soft.

It makes thick places, thin.

And wherever there are thin and broken places, the Light and the glory of God will surely shine, making even the darkest places come into the light.

So draw near to those who are suffering.

Draw near in encouragement.
Draw near without words of advice.
Draw near in prayer.

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What are some ways that God has used to change your heart?

How can I encourage you today?


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© Rhonda Quaney