Grief & Grace

Today I was reminded of something in the past that had hurt me down to the bone because it was a permanent loss of something dearly anticipated. It was taken away and will never come again. I cried and grieved again for that loss.

A little later I looked at the Bible reading for today. It was Luke 23–24, and I remembered the post I wrote some eight years ago that started in Luke and ended up in 1 Peter with Edmund Clowney’s translation of 1 Peter 1:6: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief.1 Once again I saw that God knows the circumstances of my life, and He knew that in today’s grief I needed to be reminded of yesterday’s comfort. Not only does His truth provide comfort, but His timing provides assurance of His love and care for me in my grief.

Sometimes things we have gone through and suffered are brought to a close and any loss we may have had is restored. There are other things that even when forgiveness and reconciliation has occurred, leave us with unanswered whys and remaining loss. That loss cannot restored, but it can be entrusted to God whom we know we can trust. Why? Because He “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us.” And when we trust God with grievous loss we don’t understand, we put our hand over our mouth and rest as Job did. We learn as Paul did, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

The loss remains, but His grace is sufficient for our grief.

“I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”2
1 Peter 5:12

Read the Bible in 2011Week 30: Saturday

“Then He opened their minds to understand the
Scriptures, and he said to them,

“Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Luke 24:45–49

Saturday’s Bible reading is Luke 23–24. In these last two chapters, Luke writes of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He also tells of Jesus’ journey on the road to Emmaus with two of His followers, and Jesus’ charge to those gathered with the eleven remaining apostles.

As I was thinking over the mission of the apostles as eyewitnesses to Jesus, I thought of these words Peter wrote as an eyewitness some thirty years later,3 to those who had never seen the Lord Jesus:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:3–9

In their distress over their various trials, those who had never seen the Lord Jesus needed the comfort and assurance that Peter, an eyewitness, could provide. In his commentary on 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney writes:

“…Peter knows that his witness is true, that Jesus Christ is real. He has tasted that the Lord is good, and that his goodness will not fail. ‘This is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it’ (5:12).”4

Clowney translates, “have been distressed” as “have had to suffer grief.” I think that’s a much more graphic description. Our trials leave us grieving and suffering pain. We need the words of an eyewitness to tell us, yes, Jesus is real; yes, this is the true grace of God; yes, stand fast in it.

A Huguenot Cross

Clowney tells a very moving story about the suffering of some who had never seen Jesus, but believed in Him:

The Museum of the Desert in the Cevennes mountains of southern France commemorates the sufferings of the Huguenot martyrs. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes is 1685, Protestant public worship became a crime. Men caught at secret worship services in the fields were sent to the galleys. Chained to a rowing bench, they slaved at the oars until they died. A replica of one of the great galley oars hangs in the museum today. Underneath is a model of a galley. Beside it are inscribed the words of a Reformed Christian galley slave: ‘My chains are the chains of Christ’s love.’

“Peter reflects on the love that his readers have for Christ, love that makes them ready to suffer so that their proven love can be his tribute. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Peter, of course, has seen the Lord. His love for Jesus could bring pictures to mind…Through the witness of Peter and the other apostles we learn about what Jesus said and did. They bear witness through the Holy Spirit, and by the witness of the Spirit we are brought to know and love the living Lord.

“We did not see Jesus; we do not now see Jesus; but we shall see Jesus. Peter contrasts the past and the present with the future (1:8). The day is coming when Jesus will be revealed. In that day the goal of our faith will be realized. Our eyes will behold the One we have trusted and loved.”5

I want to tell you another story. During my life I have suffered the loss of my hearing, lengthy illnesses, the death of my brother to AIDS as well as afflictions of varying intensity because of my Christian beliefs (nothing like the Huguenots!). The shock of the last few years was piled on top of those events of prior years, and that impact combined with the severity of recent loss and abandonment has made my grieving like a hemorrhaging wound. I have never gone through such storms of doubt as a Christian, and I have never gone through any affliction with so little comfort. When something like that happens, you keep going, you persevere—but the grieving is real because the loss is real.

This morning as I was praying, I told God my grief was a wound that kept hemorrhaging and would not stop; I could not end it, and I asked Him to stop the bleeding. I knew I was to read these last two chapters in Luke, and because I’ve read them before I generally knew what they contained, but I didn’t know how they could help me. As I read, however, I thought of 1 Peter, and then because I’ve been helped by Clowney in the past, I turned back to his commentary. I reread the story of the Huguenots and I reread his translation: “have had to suffer grief.” Grief, the same word I had used. It is so descriptive of how I have felt.

You see, suffering hurts. There is grieving over what has happened. When we suffer we need those who will weep with us when we weep. Their identification with our pain eases ours; their love witnesses to us that God loves us when our life has fallen apart, and their love calms the storms of doubt. Those storms accelerate into hurricanes when the love of other Christians is not present. Os Guinness describes the struggle to trust God so well:

“…the hard question is whether we can say, ‘Father I do not understand you, but I trust you’ while we are still in the darkness….

“Can faith bear the pain and trust God, suspending judgement and resting in the knowledge that God is there, God is good, and God knows best? Or will the pain be so great that only meaning will make it endurable so that reason must be pressed further and further and judgements must be made?…To suffer is one thing, to suffer without meaning is another, but to suffer and choose not to press for any meaning is different again.

“…To suspend judgement and simply trust is the hardest thing. Faith must reach deep into its reserves of courage and endurance if  the rising panic of incomprehensible pain is not to be overwhelming.”6

Incomprehensible pain can almost overwhelm us. We need to read and know the words of the eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ to give us courage and endurance. God gave us His Word because He loves us, and He knew we would need to read what those eyewitnesses could tell us about the reality of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we suffer and struggle to trust Him. God knew the circumstances of my life, and that today I would read Luke 23–24 and remember Peter’s letter. God knew that Dr. Clowney had translated Peter’s words with the same word I had used in my prayer this morning: grief. So the Holy Spirit comforts my heart and strengthens me in the midst of my darkness to trust God.

The faith of those of us who have never seen Christ, but who love Him reaches back to those first eyewitnesses who saw Him, loved Him, and who yet witness to us about Him.

“I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”7
1 Peter 5:12

‘My chains are the chains of Christ’s love.’

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Croix huguenote au Musée protestant de la grange de Wassy (Haute-Marne), Ji-Elle: Cropped.
GNU Free Documentation License, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1988) 51, 22, 25, 51, 53–54, 22. Clowney dates 1 Peter as having been written in AD 62.
6Os Guiness, Doubt (Lion Publishing plc, England: 1976, Third ed.,1987) 206–207.

The National Huguenot Society has this explanation of the symbolism of the Huguenot Cross:

“The insignia consists of an open four-petal Lily of France — reminiscent of the Mother Country of France — in which each petal radiates outward in the shape of a “V” to form a Maltese Cross. The four petals signify the Four Gospels. Each petal, or arm, has at its outside periphery two rounded points at the corners. These rounded points are regarded as signifying the Eight Beatitudes.

“The four petals are joined together by four fleur-de-lis, also reminiscent of the Mother Country of France. Each fleur-de-lis has has three petals. The twelve petals of the four fleur-de-lis signify the Twelve Apostles.

“An open space in the shape of heart is formed between each fleur-de-lis and the arms of the two petals with which it is joined. This shape—a symbol of loyalty—suggests the seal of the great French Reformer, John Calvin.

“A descending dove pendant representing the Saint Esprit or “Sainted Spirit” — the guide and counselor of the Church — is suspended from a ring of gold attached to the lower central petal.”

The above small thumbnail picture of a Huguenot cross was created by Syryatsu: GNU Free Documentation License, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

John Calvin’s personal seal depicts a hand holding out a heart to heaven. The photograph at the link is from Dan Phillips’ post, The Extraordinary Life of John Calvin, Steven Lawson (PCRT 2009 Sacramento), at Pyromaniacs.

Original content: Copyright ©2011-2019 Iwana Carpenter

Posted in Adversity, Believe, Bible, Christian Life, Comfort, Faith, God, Grace, Guinness, Os, Holy Spirit, Hope, Jesus Christ, Perilous Times, Personal Distress, Read the Bible in 2011, Suffering | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Mother’s Day!

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Titus 2:3–5

God entrusts mothers with the stewardship of our children’s lives. We are called by God to love our children and to rear them to know and love the Lord.

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well….

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:5, 3:14–15

Children learn the most from the one who spends the most time with them. That’s an undeniable fact. What children learn of love and trust and relationships, and how they grow in comprehension and understanding of the world will primarily come from whoever is spending time with them. For children there is no such thing as quality time, there is only time.

Being home with children is a very necessary, worthwhile, and, in our society, courageous thing to do. Scripture enjoins women to love our children and to be workers at home. The church has lost sight of the importance of motherhood and home and family and has bought into the cultural notion that a woman must have a career. Meanwhile our children are suffering.

I know families can take a financial hit when mom is home with the children. The pressure of materialism and hearing things such as you’re wasting your time and education from family members can be difficult to handle. Yet I’ve seen the consequences of a mother’s working career, and I know that easy finances don’t keep heartbreak and estrangement from the door.

Motherhood can be draining, exhausting, tiresome, and frustrating, but times of bonding and mothering are precious blessings. Smiles, laughter; first words, first steps; there are so many things that you will want to be the one to experience. Watching your child grow and learn are moments that can never be regained. Children are not only a stewardship given to us from God—children are also a gift from God. Enjoy the blessings that your children are, and the blessings that your children give to you.

May God bless you as you are a mother to your children.

May God comfort those of you who have lost children or are estranged from your children.

May God strengthen those of you who have children in turmoil.

May those of you without children be blessed by those whom you have mothered in their time of need.

And for those of you who have been forsaken by your own mother:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.”

God bless you!

Other posts to read today:

An open letter to pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day)

Unconditional Love in the Messiness of Mother’s Day
Interieur mit Mutter und Kind, August Müller: Public Domain.
Forget me nots, cropped photo. Original:

Original content: Copyright ©2014-2019 Iwana Carpenter

Posted in Adversity, Children, Christian Life, Comfort, Compassion, Family, God, Hope, Love, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal Distress, Suffering | Tagged | Leave a comment

Journey of Belief

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.

Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.
Luke 24:13–35 ESV

Zünd Gang nach Emmaus, Gemälde von Robert Zünd: Public Domain.
Die Jünger von Emmäus, Bernhard Rode: Cropped, Public Domain.
ESV: English Standard Version.

Original content: Copyright ©2014–2019 Iwana Carpenter

Posted in Believe, Forgiveness, Grace, Jesus Christ | Tagged | Leave a comment

Race of Hope

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together…
John 20:1–4a

Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre
On his Facebook page several years ago James Gurney posted The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection by the Swiss artist Eugène Burnand along with these enlargements of the faces of Peter and John. He pointed out the complexity of emotions that Burnand caught on each man. You can literally see their thoughts chasing across their faces—the anxiety and hope against hope on John’s face, and the hope against hope tempered with sorrow and regret on Peter’s face.

In disbelieving shock, they run. Not knowing what they will find, they run. In hope against hope they run.

They run.

John's Face

Peter's Face

and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.
John 20:4b–8

Eugène Burnand, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection. Click on the painting for an enlarged view.

*The NASB Explanation of General Format has this explanation of their use of an asterisk in translation:

ASTERISKS are used to mark verbs that are historical presents in the Greek which have been translated with an English past tense in order to conform to modern usage. The translators recognized that in some contexts the present tense seems more unexpected and unjustified to the English reader than a past tense would have been. But Greek authors frequently used the present tense for the sake of heightened vividness, thereby transporting their readers in imagination to the actual scene at the time of occurrence. However, the translators felt that it would be wiser to change these historical presents to English past tenses.

Original content: Copyright ©2014–2019 Iwana Carpenter

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Dawn of Joy

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
1 Corinthians 15:3–4

Into the devastation of our world came the God-man Jesus Christ. A man who outrageously declared He was God and performed miracles to authenticate His claims. A man who confronted those who lived in self-righteous piety, and spoke with compassion and forgiveness to those who knew they were dead from the ravages of sin. A man who was nailed to the cross because of the debt of record of our sins that stood against us. A man who took upon Himself our punishment and the just wrath of God we deserved for our rebellion, dying in our place.

Christians know that our belief is in Jesus Christ, who is truly God and truly man. He was born into this world, He died, and He rose again. Because of Him we know what it is to be brand-new, forgiven, and clean. Because of Him we know that death will not hold us, for through Him the hold death had on us because of our sin is forever gone.

In the glimmering dawn of the first Easter, the women who came to minister to a dead man found instead an empty tomb.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead ….”
Matthew 28:5–7a

Empty Tomb by Leo Richardson

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55–57
…who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord…
Romans 1:4

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

Happy Easter!

Empty Tomb by Leo Richardson.
Original content: Copyright ©2011–2019 Iwana Carpenter

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