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Heartbreak and Joy

Heartbreak and joy are the two sides of loving.
I woke up this morning heartbroken over my husband’s suffering. The last week has been much worse for him physically and emotionally. There is some hope that a procedure he has scheduled will give him a respite from the worst of his physical symptoms right now. But his symptoms may indicate that the end is nearer than we had hoped.
Intellectual denial and emotional denial are two separate stages of grieving. In the first you cling to the belief that medical treatment will relieve the worst of a condition. In the second you recognize intellectually that suffering and loss are inevitable, but do not let that knowledge set off an emotional response. Once you respond emotionally, there are times of deep sorrow and heartbreak. But also recognizing that while God may not take away this suffering, God is in it with you. And in the midst of heart break there are moments of joy.
I have several small daily devotional books I read most mornings. But with the stress now, my memory is getting even worse and I find I can’t keep the helpful thoughts in mind. So, this morning I decided to just randomly chose one book and repeat that teaching over and over to keep it in my heart and mind all day. This morning I chose “The Upper Room.”
Today’s writing was by a woman from Nigeria about her husband dying though she had prayed to God to save him. At the end she takes comfort from 2 Cor. 12:9:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I don’t believe my choice of what to read today was a coincidence. God is with us in this.
This weekend I drove an hour away to pick up a grandchild that we have not been able to spend much time with since the first of the year. She gets carsick and was pretty miserable during the trip. She had also been exploring the woods all day and it had set her allergies off. I was afraid that I had chosen a bad time to bring her to visit.                                                                                                                                                   Her parents are divorcing and she has become a very solemn and quiet child. My husband has been heartbroken that she never smiles anymore and I have missed the long conversations we used to have. She and I were sharing a bed and for the first time in a long time, she was very talkative. It was a lovely blessing and a sign that she is recovering from her world being shaken. But after sleeping a couple of hours her allergies became so severe, she was having trouble breathing. She hadn’t brought her medicines, but fortunately I found some Benadryl for children and it gave her relief and allowed her to sleep. The next day she and my husband renewed their long competition at cards. And after trouncing him thoroughly, she rewarded him with one of her brilliant smiles. His smile matched hers.
When you love deeply, you are vulnerable to heart break, but that love also brings great joy in seemingly small events. And when you have reached the end of your strength there is God.

Hitting Bottom and Finding Gold

Religion begins with personal spirituality. Spirituality begins with the question: Is there meaning to life? If so, what is it? How does that play out in my own life? And is this life all there is? In seeking meaning in life, inevitably we come to the question of the reason for suffering. No religion seems to have come up with an easy answer to that, but many including Buddhism and Christianity have come up with similar ways for dealing with suffering. The core spiritual response to personal suffering seems to be acceptance in the sense of embracing it. Much of the time we are unable to bail out of the actual situation that causes us pain, but we can and often do seek the means to dull the pain or at least pass it on to those around us. A few of these escape attempts are emotional denial, depression, addictions, self-pity, resentment, anger, or the delusion that if we can somehow overcome a particular difficult situation, then our troubles will be over. Unfortunately, these responses to suffering will eventually cripple us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Acceptance/embracing is scary. It means going down into the snake pit of our feelings, into the black bog of our fears and sorrows and actually experiencing them, even feeling the overwhelming pain of them. But at that point, we find solid ground, the fire tested gold at the core of our being. And while we may go through the pain of this process many times in our life, it is no longer a terrifying free fall into the unknown. In letting go of our own will by embracing reality, we find God, grace, strength, peace, even joy, within.
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