by Sharon Betters
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:9 ESV
Glenn, my sister’s husband, learned that cancer would soon take his life. Five short weeks later Gayle called and cried those two simple words, “He’s gone.” All their well made plans to enjoy farming and woodworking after retirement fell to the floor of Gayle’s heart. Longing for her completer flooded every minute. Many days my sister preferred to curl up in a ball and stay in bed. Grief as a constant companion often sucked the life out of her and felt like a burden that was more than she could bear. Yet every time we talked during those excruciating days she reminded me, “God is good all the time. All the time God is good.”
During Glenn’s illness Gayle asked us to send her Scriptures. She wrote out each verse on a “3x5”card and when Glenn experienced excruciating pain or struggled with God’s purposes in his illness she read the Scriptures out loud. Glenn’s heart and body responded to them as pain medications for his soul. After his death, Gayle taped the verses all around her house and still trusts that the Lord will meet her need for a slow and steady flow of God’s grace.
Gayle chose life when death sometimes felt more inviting. She gets up every day, sometimes crying and unable to stop. Though she has not physically moved into a church like Anna did, I interpret her life as one of 24/7 worshiping and praying. She helps homeschool her grandchildren, befriends other lonely women, attends church, plants and tends a large garden, raises animals and chooses life every day, all through the grid of longing for what was. She functions in the context of deep grief and she continues to choose life. My sister misses Glenn and could easily turn into a bitter, old woman. Instead, I watch as every day she makes an intentional choice for life, breaking one more link in the chains of depression, anger, and bitterness.
Gayle sees her God making the clouds His chariot. Put this truth into the context of yesterday’s Scripture:
Sing to God, sing in praise of His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before Him - His name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Psalm 68:4-6 NIV
The Psalmist exhorts praise to our God in the context of the grief and loneliness of the orphan and the widow. When we read exhortations to praise God and extol Him, we often think that means verbalizing praise alone. I suggest that such intentional praise in the middle of life crashing down leads to action that reflects trust in our God.
A widow can confidently turn to her Lord, bringing her enormous grief, trusting that God’s plan for her is good all the time. Little by little, such verbalized praise will energize her to get out of bed when her emotions weigh down her heart. Extolling God when she doesn’t understand His purposes enables her to choose life, confident that one day He will completely break the chains that imprison her and fill her life with joyful singing.
Anna intentionally chose worship with no expectation of public recognition or gratitude from those she served. She surrendered to God’s waiting room and intentionally made it a place of worship and service that flowed over into the lives of others. Anna’s choice to move against deep grief with praise created a platform where she experienced the joy of being in just the right place at just the right moment to encourage a young mother, the mother of the Messiah, to trust God with her little baby boy.
Whatever your waiting room, don’t waste it. In Today’s Treasure Paul exclaims that imminent death drove them to Jesus, teaching them to rely on Him, rather than themselves. Let your waiting room teach you this same life-transforming truth. Don’t waste your sorrows. Instead, choose life.
Lord, choosing life often means dying to self, letting go of cherished dreams and goals. Open our eyes to how to make our waiting room a place of life that offers help and hope to others.