I am really posting what was shared on the other side of those doors to encourage all of my "without" children friends to think of the broken hearted all around us. Not to say to anyone reading this, "Please think of me," but rather to all of us, "Let's think of them." The whole time I listened to this sermon I was in awe of two things and in addition thankful for an encouragement for me personally. First thing, Doug nailed it. I think the Lord gave him great insight into this passage, Acts 12:1-19. There was half of a sentence dedicated to James and his beheading. There is a whole lot behind that one sentence...and a whole lot of hearts affected by the news given in that one sentence. I believe, the insight wrapped up in that short one lined statement is a lot of people's experience, but most people skip over it and focus on the Peter like celebrations. I am not going to tell you more, you just have to listen to the sermon. :) And if you don't listen to it, the rest of this post will make NO sense.
Secondly, I think he gives great insight on the perspective that I somewhat believe can only truly be gained by experiencing pain, heartache, or loss yourself. I thought it was such a good reminder. I had a list of people running through my head as he spoke. Infertility has given me those glasses. Sometimes I want take them off because it hurts too bad, but I am thankful to see people in a different way. Doug said, "When you are experiencing joy, you can be sure someone else is experiencing heartache." Sometimes it is exhausting, but in most instances of joy my heart is immediately burdened for someone in the room that might be extremely saddened by the celebration. Odd right? I felt like this sermon is my life experience. I have been that person in the room whose heart is shattering and I think it has given me such an awareness of those people...the Jameses (family and friends of James really) in the room. I thought it was such a great reminder to all of us (but directly speaking to my infertile friends) to put our life experience into practice. We know firsthand why the holidays make us sad in a lot of ways and usually it is the absence of a loved one in some form or the presence of an unmet desire for a loved one in some form. The joy that lots of people are experiencing highlight the absence of joy in many hearts. But we, I, often don't act to reach out to those people.
I am often afraid to act on the things God places on my heart to do for the Jameses in my life. I don't want to offend them or stir something that would make them sad. Doug shares a personal story about a friend that reminds him that his act of encouragement is no reminder, because he has never forgotten and minute by minute he remembers his loss. It couldn't be more true. I know that to be true for myself, your calling me when another friend announces a pregnancy or birth is not reminding me that we aren't. Trust me. You can pretty much guarantee we are processing through the emotions of all of that...thrilled for our friends, but broken too. But acknowledging blesses. You aren't reminding us of anything. And for some reason the acknowledgement heals and gives courage. YET, even though I know this firsthand, I am still fearful of acting all the time when I know a heart is breaking in a time of celebration. I fall short. Thank you, Lord, for grace and lots of it.
My challenge to you, my friends and myself, is to act on the heartache God opens your eyes to this Christmas and all year round. I have shared with my Common Thread girls that God has given me a heart for single people and widows. How are their hearts hurting this Christmas? How can I love on them? I CANNOT fix or change their situation, but I can acknowledge it. Acknowledgment comforts. Perhaps it throws a rope to the island where isolation is setting in? I think often people think that acknowledging is encouraging someone to wallow, and maybe in some unique cases that might be true, but it's not. You are simply agreeing that you are grieving with them.
Personally, in attempting to not let satan steal my joy this Christmas, I have to hour by hour put on and put off the thoughts that keep my eyes on me and my desires. As I was typing, I looked up at our tree (the one I had to battle to put up because part of my heart didn't really want to), I thought, "What I wouldn't give to have little ones around our Christmas tree!" As soon as I finished typing that sentence, the Holy Spirit whispered, "Oh, but how many children would give anything in the world to sit around your tree?" Put off, put on. Thank you for your perspective, Jesus. Ouch, I hear ya. So eyes off self and eyes on the Jameses in my life.
Christmas is about my savior being born. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord," Luke 2:11. And because He was born the Lord was able to, "...give his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life," John 3:16b. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast," Ephesians 2:8-9. And because a Savior was born, what does it mean for the Jameses?
"He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
"He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure."
How can we possibly comfort them? "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 affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too," 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. Simply by sharing the love and comfort we have received through our Lord and Savior. What a fight it will be to keep this perspective this Christmas. There are a lot of hurting people all around us.
In processing all of that, I was highly encouraged by Doug's statement that it is not sinful to be the James (or family members of) in the room. I beat myself up a lot. Okay, a lot, a lot. To say I am hard on myself is an understatement. My mom used to say she didn't have to punish me because I punished myself. :/ My sweet friend Melissa Price has to continually remind me that it is okay to grieve and that it is not sinful as long as I don't stay there. I get so mad at myself when my heart is not leaping for joy at every pregnancy announcement, or every baby picture, or family photo posted on Facebook. I get frustrated that my heart is even a little sad. I hear satan say, "You are so selfish." It was so nice to hear someone confirm AGAIN, that it is okay to grieve. "Grieving is not the absence of believing, but the evidence of loving," Doug Rutt...or for me, wanting to grow the love Brad and I have for each other, and to share that love with little ones. Grieving doesn't mean I don't believe every child is a good gift and that I am not rejoicing with them, but it does mean that part of my heart is burdened. And that is okay. God's word says, "Rejoice IN THE LORD always; again, I will say Rejoice," Philippians 4:4. I am commanded to REJOICE in the HOPE that I have in HIM. Rejoicing with hope means that there must be part of you that is broken and HOPING in Christ. If we were perfectly, fully rejoicing, why would we need to hope in Him? Maybe I can stop beating myself up so much.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weap," Rom. 12:15.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope," Romans 15:13.
On another note:
A sweet friend who I met by accepting an invitation to a spontaneous trip to the Keys, Lauren White, sent me a text a few days ago with a link to a most encouraging blog. I could so relate to this post and the pictures in it, as I am sure many of you could also. I was so excited to see the beautiful color her children brought to the pictures. :) A great reminder of God's PERFECT timing.
And then Lauren sent another...totally sucked in...
Hope these blogs encourage you too!