take heart

12.14.2012: coming home

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea...
Psalm 46:1-2

My children stepped off the bus Friday afternoon and I breathed a sigh of relief. They were a sight for my sore, tear-stained eyes.  My wounded heart lept inside of my chest at the sight of the bus turning the corner at the end of the street.  I snapped a picture with my cell phone as if it were the first day of school all over again and they giggled at me, their gushing mommy at the bus stop.

They didn't know what I knew - and they didn't need to know. It is truth that is too difficult to bear. In another part of the country, there were twenty little boys and little girls that weren't coming home.  There were mommies and daddies wrought with anguish and grief that is beyond what my human heart can comprehend.  My heart was heavy, burdened, broken, crushed.  It was burning and physically aching by the news of the tragedy in Newtown.  I'd left work earlier that day with the intent of finishing up some last minute Christmas shopping and instead, had spent most of the afternoon praying ... and sobbing

For those babies, just like ours.  For those mommies and daddies, just like us, who had seen their children off onto the bus just that morning, or who had waved goodbye in car rider line...

Every moment of my own children's morning came flooding into my mind:  Chloe's sweet little face as she slept, I cupped her little face in my hands and kissed her cheek as I silently pondered her beauty, how much - and how fast - she is growing.  The giggling at Parker's bed head hair, picking out their clothes, struggling to get everyone out the door on time.  Laughter filled the car on the way to school as we played a silly game of Christmas trivia, there were half-hugs and kisses from the back seat as they stepped out of my car and onto the curb at school.
As they walk the sidewalk up to school, I always drive alongside them for a few feet with the passenger window cracked, waving goodbyes.  Sometimes, and this morning was one of them, I'll take one last glance at them in my rear view mirror and watch them as they turn and walk side by side through the doors.  With Chloe moving to intermediate school next year, this is their last year to be in the same school together until middle school, so I try as best I can to take it all in.  To freeze frame those sweet moments in my mind - and in my heart.

That afternoon, I cherished those moments - and those morning memories - immeasurably more.

Tragedy tears the veil of our comfort and our complacency, revealing both the brevity and fragility of our lives.  Tragedy awakens our slumbering souls, removes the scales from our eyes and gives us the clarity to see the ordinary details of our lives as what they are:  extraordinary blessings.  We aren't guaranteed our next breath on this earth.  We are not guaranteed when we hug our family goodbye in the morning that we will have the blessing of kissing them goodnight.

But we are guaranteed that this life isn't all there is. 

When there are no answers, there is Jesus. 

When we have no words, we have His word.

As I think about my own children, my own family, and my own mortality, I think about the truths that I desperately want them to know.  Several years ago I wrote this blog about the all-too-often taboo subject of death and dying, because the reality is, it's a matter of when and not if.  We all need truth that will carry us through tragedy, light that shines through the darkest days and the hope that comes with an eternal perspective... 

His word tells us that in this fallen and sin-wrecked world, we will have trouble - we will have tragedy and heartbreak - but He urges us to "take heart, for He has overcome the world". (Jn 16:33)

Take. heart.  In the greek, the word is θαρσεῖτε, which means that we are to be bold, confident, without fear, courageous and of good cheer.  This doesn't mean that we don't mourn and grieve in the wake of suffering, but it means that we "do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope" (1 Thess 4:13).  

Take heart, all you mommies who - like me - welt up with tears kissing your children this morning; whose voices cracked through the lump in our throats as we said our goodbyes.  The enemy would desire nothing more than to use this tragedy to breed a spirit of fear among us.  In the days and weeks that follow, we have an enemy who will use every lie and every scheme to imprison our hearts with fear, but "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:6) and "we are not unaware of his schemes" (2 Cor 2:11).

Take heart and rise up!  Rise up and counter the lies with the truth.  Counter the lies with Jesus, who is the truth (John 14:6). 

Take heart, and do not fear, "for God has given us a not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Tim 1:7).

Take heart, for our Redeemer lives!  Job, having lost everything - his children, his possessions, his own health - in a succession of tragedies wrote, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth" (Job 19:25).

Take heart, and live by faith, for "we must live by faith and not by sight, knowing that to be absent from our bodies is to be present with Christ" (2 Cor 5:7-8). 

Take heart and set your eyes - and your hearts - on Jesus.  We know all that we need to know about the tragedy that has occurred.  Let us take our eyes off of the sensationalized news coverage that continues and "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). 

Take heart, and intercede.  Pray your heart out.  Ezekiel 22:30 says, “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found no one.”  Through Him, we have the ability to cry out on behalf of those who are suffering unimaginable loss, for those who do not know Him, and for those grieving without hope.  "So let us come boldly to the throne of grace, where we will receive mercy" (Hebrews 4:16).  We stand in the gap on their behalf.  We pray according to His word that He is close to the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18), that He will bind up their hearts and heal their wounds (Ps 147:3), and that He will pour out His spirit on the suffering. 

Take heart and live with the hope - and the perspective - of eternity, for there is coming a day when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever" (Rev 21:4)

Take heart in Jesus. 

Take heart in His word. 
And if you don't know Him, take your heart - and give it to Him - and receive the comfort only He can give. 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
2 Corinthians 1:4


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