When Defeat is Better than Death

The king (David) covered his face and cried out loudly, “My son, Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 19:4)

Anyone with a child can understand David’s emotional toil at the death of his son, Absalom. It didn’t matter that his son had become his enemy by forming a coup and would have killed David for the throne. At the news of Absalom’s death, David was heartbroken and grieved loudly at the sudden news. David would have rather lost his kingdom then lose his son.

When I reflected on David’s grief, I seen many comparisons to the grief we experience today. Even though, we rarely have adult children take over our kingdom or attempt to kill us for economic or political gain, many have experienced adult children maliciously causing parents’ harm. Adult children today can steal money, take over a business, or cause bodily harm.

In addition, parents are grieved by children becoming estranged. Or the opposite situation, whereas, you are the child who has become estranged from a parent(s), siblings, or other relative. Any time a significant relationship is fractured there is insurmountable grief. We grieve the raw, constant pain of the incident(s) and we mourn the lost future of how our relationship could be now and in the future. Whether the time is measured in years or decades, the pain is intense and never ending.

This is David’s grief. When her heard of Absalom’s death, he mourned the broken relationship and the unrealized hope for reconciliation.

The king then became very upset. He went up to the upper room over the gate and wept. As he went he said, “My son, Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! If only I could have died in your place! Absalom, my son, my son!”

Can you relate to David’s grief over the fractured relationship? What have been your emotions? Are you angry? Bitter? Depressed? Many of these are signs of grief expressed in seemingly more acceptable emotions. Whatever your emotions, you can bring them to God. Be honest with Him and tell him exactly what you are feeling. God will understand the unrealized lost experiences and the painful disappointments. Whether your loved one is still living, or like David, death stole reconciliation away, share your feelings with the God of comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, the broken relationship with ___________ [insert name] has caused me pain and suffering.  Help me bring my heart to you, so that I can lean on You for comfort and wisdom. Amen.

Suggested Reflections:

  • Write out the relationship losses you have experienced through the broken relationship.
  • Psalm 3 was written by David when fleeing from Absalom. A few key themes are fear, crying aloud, retribution to those who cause you harm, and others. There is also hope, confidence, and trust in God to provide care. What feelings are you similar to David? What additional emotions are you experiencing? Find a way to express them through journaling, recording audio/video, drawing or some other media.
  • This verse reminds us of God’s comfort through others who are experiencing the same “hard time”. I encourage you to seek counseling and/or support group. Please see my post entitled Seeking Counseling on finding the right counselor as a Christian believer.
    • All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort-we get a full measure of that, too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5. The Message).
  • Nearer, My God to Thee This beautiful hymn speaks of the pain and hope of grief.

Seeking Counseling

I am a big advocate of seeking a professional counselor. The right person can be a place to talk, explore and dive into your emotional issues. When my sister suddenly died I was a wreck! With the support of my husband and daughters, I was managing until the holidays. My backpack of grief (that was how I explained it) became heavier and I was a weeping, depressed mess.

I had barely made it through the holidays, when the first anniversary of my sister’s death slapped me with anxiety! I wasn’t sleeping, couldn’t concentrate, and was barely functioning. I knew I needed help. I reached out to my workplace and was given the resource for mental health counselors. The list were professional counselors and not necessarily Christian counselors. In the past, I have learned excellent counselors don’t necessarily need to have the same faith.

Here are some tips when looking for the right counselor/psychotherapist:

  • Pray: Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you to the right counselor. Seek out your family, friends, and church community in praying for your healing and the best counselor for you. In fact, pray through the entire process of counseling! Jesus is the Great Physician and the Holy Spirit is our Counselor!
  • Review Counselor Specialties: Many times counselors will have a website that provides their qualifications and specialties. Look through the list and choose one that has experience with your issue. If you aren’t sure feel free to call or email them.
  • Choose same gender: I know this sounds archaic, but I feel strongly about this. Counseling sessions are very private, intimate and personal. Thus, as a Christian woman or man, you should connect with a professional of the same gender.
  • Be clear/respectful: When you reach out to make your first appointment with your counselor, let them know about your Christian faith. I don’t expect them to tell me to pray/read my Bible, attend church, etc., Instead, I let them know my faith is important to me and I will talk about it during the sessions.
    • Your email may say something like this:
      • I am a Christian and my life with Jesus is an important part of my life and therapy. Let me know if you lack experience or would prefer not to see me.
    • Notice how I gave the counselor a way to “decline.” I trust God and want the best person. If someone feels uncomfortable, then it this is not the right person.
  • Your healing: Remember that the counseling session is for your healing and for no other purpose.

My final thoughts are from my testimony. Over 30 years ago when I came to know the Lord, I needed to leave the pain of my past behind and learn to walk in the new life Jesus had given me. My life verse is Luke 5:25 Immediately he stood up before them, picked up the stretcher he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. What isn’t part of the account is the man had to learn to walk in his healing. That is what counseling did for me. It opened up the pain from my childhood and allowed the healing touch of Christ to heal past, present, and future–Amen! Hallelujah! Even today, as this world continues to bring pain and suffering, counselors have helped me to open my heart to the healing balm of God.

Resources:

10 Myths Keeping Christians from Counseling

NCFI Cares: A Friend with You in the Fire

I am sure many of you are familiar with the popular modern worship song by Hillsong United entitled “Another in the Fire” (2019).  The opening lyrics are:

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire

Another way when the walls are closing in

And when I look at the space between

Where I used to be and this reckoning

I know I will never be alone

There was another in the fire

Standing next to me

Hillsong United

The title and major phrase refers to the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace. They had been placed in the furnace for refusing to bow down and worship the idol of Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 3). Our favorite passage is Nebuchadnezzar proclaiming, “But I see four men, untied and walking around in the midst of the fire! No harm has come to them! And the appearance of the fourth is like that of a god!” How we rejoice with the miracle and stand firm on the promise that we will never be alone.

I love celebrating the miracle, but I also am thankful for the love and support of friends. There are three friends who were willing to die for the Lord together. I am sure there was much prayer and praising going on PRIOR to their big push into the furnace. Especially when the guards were immediately incinerated when the door was opened (Daniel 3:22).  What scripture doesn’t tell us, is what was Daniel doing? Since prayer was an integral part of his relationship with God, we can be confident that Daniel was praying for his friends. I imagine his prayer was for his friends to maintain their faith, not give in to pressure, and have courage in the face of certain death.

We have the assurance of Jesus staying faithful, even when we are wavering in our faith. Some of the ways Jesus encourages us is through our faithful friends; and He uses us to encourage our friends when they are experiencing “times of fire”.   

The Psalms were a prayer book during Daniel’s time and is a prayer book for us today. Search the Psalms for a phrase, section, or entire Psalm that you can use to pray for a friend, colleague or patient “in the fire” of life.

Find the song by Hillsong United here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmNc0L7Ac5c

A Mother’s Gift

As he approached the town gate, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother (who was a widow), and a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and those who carried it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” So the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Luke 7:12-15

Imagine the scene: a woman whose only son has died is following the procession down the street towards the burial place. She is surrounded by family members, friends, and members of her community, yet she is alone on her grief journey. Can you imagine the despair and shock she has experienced at the loss of her only child, a once young, vibrant man who had brought her happiness and filled her heart with the joy of motherhood. Her heart was broken, and her spirit was fractured by the seemingly unfair hand of God.

Jesus, who had been going about his business, came upon the grieving mother and her dead son. Scripture says, “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her.” Jesus had seen and felt her pain. The biblical usage of the word “compassion” signifies “felt in his bowels,” –a deep heart-felt agony of love and sympathy. Jesus understood and felt the hopelessness and despair she felt. His deep compassion was not just as God in man, but also as a human son with a mother.

Jesus comforted the woman with kind words, a miraculous healing, and by raising her son from the dead. Luke, the writer included in the account, “Jesus gave him back to his mother” as a heartfelt reminder of Jesus’ compassion in performing the resurrection. The simple sentence speaks volumes on how much God loves moms (and dads)! Jesus feels the pain at the loss of a child, and He deeply grieves when mothers (and fathers) experience the horrible tragedy. This is my God. And this is your God.

Maybe this is you and your child has died. Like the mother, you may feel alone and in despair and shock. Your child, whether a toddler, teenager or adult, had a vibrant life filled with a hope and a future. Now, instead there is an empty cavern void of purpose and meaning. The grief is raw and unrelenting.

Bring your grief to Jesus. He is with you now, crying over your pain and feeling your despair.

Prayer: Oh Lord, comfort all the mothers and fathers who have lost their children. There is a hole in their heart and a fracture in their spirit. Bind up their wounds and give them hope and strength for tomorrow, one day at a time. Amen (Psalm 147:3; Romans 15:3)

Suggested Reflections

  • Read the entire account of the woman’s story in Luke 7:11-15. Write down thoughts/feelings you have when you read the passage.
  • Write a letter or record an audio/video addressed to Jesus. Feel free to start from the beginning and provide an account of the circumstances that lead to the death of your child up to today.
  • Tell Jesus your feelings, your anger, and include the unfairness. He will not be shocked and you will not disappoint Him. If you struggle with sharing your feelings with God, do a word search for “tears” in the book of Psalms. Then write out your feelings mirroring those recorded by the writers.

Resources

A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching out to God in the Lost Language of Lament by Michael Card. Read my book review here.

Steven Curtis Chapman’s interview about the accidental death of his daughter on ABC news

Steven Curtis Chapman’s amazing song after the death of his daughter Heaven is the The Face.

NCFI Cares: Three Gifts of Nurses

They entered the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh

Matthew 2:11

This is a wonderful time of year. We celebrate the miracle of the birth of Christ more than two thousand years ago. We ponder the magnificent events with shepherds, angels, and wisemen. The incredible wisemen followed the Christmas star that led them to Jesus, the future King of the Jews.  Upon their arrival they bowed in worship honoring this glorious infant. 

The treasures they carried on their journey were valuable and perfect for the Son of God. The gold, a gift for kings, recognized Jesus as King of Kings. The gift of frankincense, a substance burned as incense during worship, acknowledged Christ’ divinity as God. Myrrh used to prepare bodies for burial, indicated Jesus’ humanity and preparation for His future suffering. The gifts were significant for worshipping the Christ, as well as expensive and practical.

As Christian nurses we honor the King of Kings, Holy Son of God and Savior through previous gifts:

  • The vastness of our knowledge, skills, and experience, as well as our economic gains represents our gift of gold. We generous bring this regal gift to the King of King, who rules our nursing practice.
  • Our daily nursing care, inspired and sanctified by the Holy Spirt, is given as a fragrant offering and represents our gift of frankincense.
  • Our work among the suffering, the marginalized, the underrepresented, and poor represent our gift of myrrh. As Christ surrendered to the suffering, we surrender to care for humanity.

This Christmas season, take a few moments to reflect on these precious gifts given in truth and faith to our Lord. Our gifts in nursing are no less precious, practical, and priceless. The most mundane or disliked treatment is a fragrant offering to the Holy One. Our caring hands comfort the hurt and suffering of whom The Savior is kindred to; and, all our work points to the future reign of the King of Kings.

We Three Kings (with lyrics)

NCFI Cares: The Power of Intercessory Prayer

Amazement seized them all, and they glorified God

Luke 4:26

In Luke 5:17-20, we read about the determination of a man’s friends to bring him to Jesus. The man is paralyzed, and his friends are trying to bring him to Jesus for healing. Jesus is in a house, but there are too many people. Everyone is crowded around the doors and windows and the friends are unable to bring the man to Jesus. They do not give up. Instead, they climb on the roof, cut out a large hole, and lower the paralyzed man into the house to Jesus. Jesus heals the man of his sins and his paralysis.

            What has struck me as amazing is the determination of the man’s friends. I wonder how far they carried him? Was it down the road? across town? or through the countryside. Just, so that their friend could possibly be healed?  Also, when they were confronted with obstacles to seeing Jesus, they climbed to the roof (carrying the man), cut a large hole in the roof (large enough for the man to fit through), and then lowered the man into where Jesus was sitting. These are strong, determined friends.

            Yet, the friends’ determination wasn’t just physical strength needed for the journey, nor creating an access to Jesus. Their determination is also in their faith. They believed that Jesus would heal their friend! They didn’t doubt, nor sway in their determination. Their belief was so assured that they overcame all obstacles.

            Jesus took notice, Jesus seeing their (friends) faith, he healed their friend. Notice, it was not the man’s faith, nor his determination. Instead, Jesus saw the friends’ faith. This is the power of intercessory prayer—belief. Belief that God can do anything for our friends, our families, and for our patients. The person we pray for doesn’t need to believe. We believe for them and are determined to show them Jesus.

            When we are determined in prayer and belief, we witness the hand of God touch lives.  Amazingly, the man was forgiven and healed, and the crowd was amazed and glorified God. So much was accomplished. All because of the determination and faith of a few friends.

            Here is a challenge—commit to pray for one person every day for 30 days and see all that God does through your faith and determination.

NCFI Cares: Doing Good to Our Faith Family

While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Galatians 6:10

As nurses and midwives, we have been doing a tremendous amount of good during the pandemic: long hours and multiple shifts, too many patients who are very ill, increased time away from family, and others.  In Galatians 6:10, Paul instructs us to continue to do good to all people, especially those of the family of faith!  I love this reminder. Our priority in doing good is towards our fellow Christians, brothers and sisters of the faith. 

Some of suggested ways of “doing good” to one another are found in the previous verses:

-gently restore someone discovered in sin (verse 1)

-carry one another’s burdens (verse 2)

-don’t compare one’s work with someone else’s (verse 4)

-share personal instruction from the word with others (verse 6)

I would add to Paul’s teachings and say the “doing good” we can all do for our Christian family is prayer. We are living with a prayer crisis for our brothers and sisters of faith in Afghanistan. The world is praying for the Afghan and non-Afghan people who are innocently caught up in a power struggle and political war. But, how many people of the world added to their prayers, specific concerns for the Christian Church? Only fellow believers. Our hearts and spirits ache for our brothers and sisters, who are threatened and persecuted for their faith. Simple things we take for granted: attending worship, fellowshipping with other believers, and owning a Bible.

Yes, we are hurt and devastated by the atrocities to our family members of the faith. However, we can pray longer, harder, and more purposefully. Let’s follow the 1st Century believers who fervently prayed for Peter in prison, knowing the prayer of righteous person has great effectiveness. (Acts 12:5; James 5:16).

NCFI Cares: Blessings & Arrows—How to pray on the run.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

In an article published in the USA NCF journal, Journal of Christian Nursing, author Marsha Fowler shares 2 simple prayer styles.  “In the crazy-busy days of nursing care, forms of prayer that are crisp and concise can sustain, nourish, and center us.”

The first one is based upon a Jewish tradition of 100 blessings. At first it sounds overwhelming to think of praying or thinking of a 100 of anything, let alone something specific like 100 blessings.  Instead, the idea is to point out various blessings to the Lord related to our pleasurable experiences. The prayer begins with the words, “Blessed are you, O Lord, who _____________ (fill in the blank). Amen.”

A few examples may be:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, who cares for my family. Amen.”

“Blessed are you, O Lord, who gave me a physical body to work. Amen.”

I would encourage you to start with simple and obvious blessings, like the examples. The idea is once you get started your heart and spirit will open up to bless the Lord for all he has provided.

The second simple prayer discussed by Fowler is arrow prayers. These prayers are “very short, a phrase or a sentence only, usually taken from Scripture, often from the Psalms.” A few examples, might be:

 “Lord gives me strength and protects me; You are my deliverer.” (Psalms 118:14)

“Oh, God of hope, fill me with all joy and peace.” (Romans 15:13).

Inserted in each of these arrow prayers is the personal pronoun, me/my to remind and emphasize how the Lord is an intimate provider of all we need.  Next time you are too exhausted or stressed to pray, start sending blessings to God; or repeat an arrow prayer focused on bringing the truth of Scripture with the reality of God to your spirit.

In addition, we can teach these simple prayer techniques to our patients, who may be too ill or anxious to pray, or are unfamiliar with praying. 

“Arrow prayers remind us that God is near, that help is at hand, that we are cared for no matter the trials and demands for the day.”

Fowler, M.D. Prayer from the Cauldron, JCN/January-March, 2021 p. 13-14

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Published! CARES II: Reflections for Nurses

CARES II Front Cover

Yes! It is true. There is a second compilation of NCFI CARES Devotions is available.

NCFI celebrates the publication of the second compilation of NCFI Cares devotions entitled CARES II: Reflections of Nurses. The Lord’s timing cannot go unnoticed. For, as the world continues to grapple with the Coronavirus Pandemic, stress for nurses and midwives is at an all-time high. As the heart and hands of health care it is important that each individual nurse feels assured as vital member body of Christ and the global nursing profession. Christian nurses need encouragement, support, and prayers to persevere and stand firm in their faith.

The reflections are written by diverse authors from around the world that inspire peace, strength, and hope amidst the challenges of Christian nursing. They include practical advice on staying calm, responding to conflict, and rekindling our joy while opening our hearts to how Jesus can guide our nursing practice. Whether you work in the hospital, clinic, university, or ministry, all Christian nurses will be encouraged professionally and personally. Each reflection begins with a central scripture and a brief teaching or insight. Unique to CARES II is the inclusion of an accompanying passage of scripture, reflective question, and a simple prayer.  They can be used for a personal prayer/devotional time or part of connecting a nursing fellowship groups.

CARES II is published in a bilingual English/Spanish book and an English only book. For a FREE PDF download visit the NCFI CARES webpage.

Or purchase from Amazon: English OR the bilingual English/Spanish

Be sure to check out Nurses Christian Fellowship International (NCFI) website for more information about the ministry to nurses around the world. https://ncfi.org/

NCFI Cares: The Lord’s Presence: A Two-Fold Response to Despair

…the LORD was not in the wind…the LORD was not in the earthquake…the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12

After Elijah received divine nourishment from the pre-incarnate Christ, he traveled for 40 days and 40 nights to a cave in the mountain Horeb. There he slept. The Lord awakened Elijah with the question, “Why are you here, Elijah?” Elijah once again explains his zealous service. This time, the Lord provided a two-fold response.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. Look, the Lord is ready to pass by (1 Kings 19:11).

 First, the LORD sent a powerful wind that caused landslides, earthquake, and fire. God was not in these powerful events. The presence of the LORD was in the soft whisper. Elijah covered his face recognizing the whisper as holy and divine. Bible scholars state the reason for the extreme weather events prior to the soft whisper, was to remind Elijah that God’s work is most often in the unseen things – like a changed heart.

            Then, the LORD provided Elijah with specific directions for his next steps in ministry.

“Go back the way you came…anoint Hazael king over Syria…anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to take your place as prophet.” (1 Kings 19:15-16)

The Lord was clear to Elijah. He was not done. In fact, my personal thought is the Lord had a sense of humor by saying “Go back the way you came….”. Repeatedly the Lord has asked Elijah, “Why are you here?” This time, the Lord just sent him back into the ministry. Elijah’s sacrifice and work has not been in vain. There is a future prophet to mentor and 7000 faithful followers needing a leader.

As we conclude our time with Elijah, the Lord has the same two-fold response for us who are weary and are saying “It’s enough.”

First, God is with us! We have the Holy Spirit within us. He speaks as a soft whisper that we will recognize. We don’t need to hide in a cave to hear His voice. We can just open the Scriptures and hear His voice. During the most challenging and difficult time of Elijah’s ministry, the Lord reached out with a personal, intimate voice. Himself. Thus, we are assured that out of our suffering comes a deeper intimacy with Christ. A connecting that fills us with joy, grace, and peace (Romans 15:13).

Furthermore, don’t become discouraged when we do not witness the fruit of our ministry.  God may not eradicate COVID, poverty, nor suffering; God is moving in the hearts of people to achieve a faithful following. Listen for the soft whisper of the Holy Spirit who is working within our clinics and communities. (John 6:37).

Finally, God is not done with us! No matter how discouraged, depressed, or exhausted you may be, you still have work to do! Your ministry is not over. Opening our heart to the work God has called us to will extinguish those arrows of doubt and despair. (Ephesians 6:16)

For further study: Two Articles by J. H. Keathly III

15. The Crisis of Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-14) https://bible.org/seriespage/15-crisis-elijah-1-kings-194-14

16. The Restoration of Elijah 1 Kings 19:4-18, Keathly III,  J. H. https://bible.org/seriespage/16-restoration-elijah-1-kings-195-18