Thursday, August 28, 2008

Good Grief

In the twilight of my day, my daughter came to me, broken and longing to talk about the pain of her winter of grief. My heart knew that I was entering a holy place as she began to talk. I moved carefully and slowly as this beautiful young princess of my heart poured out grief from the cracking edges of her heart. As painful as it was for us both--there, just over her shoulder, stood joy. The joy of knowing that she would soon feel deeply satisfied to have spoken the unspeakable. Her tears will help her sleep this night. Her sorrow will soften her pillow tonight. Her sheets will feel fresher because of honest confession. Her soul will rest because of God's grace. Sleep will come, peaceful sleep, as winter slowly fades from our lives.
The loss of your love is not good in itself. The pain is piercingly chilly, but the warmth of spring comes. Flowers bloom and hope gently and fragrantly fills your air. This is good grief.
Ed Litton

P.S. My name is Kayla Litton and I approve this message!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Land of the Living

Ps. 118:17: “I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”

There comes a point in grief where you realize God has allowed you to live and you must live on. Why? Why have you taken my love and left me? Why her and not me? Oh how often I wished it had been me. I’ve never thought God was obligated to answer my questions, and I’m sure I’ll someday appreciate His refusal to give me the desires of my confused heart. I have no intrinsic right to know anything—and I couldn’t pretend to understand what His answer might be, even if He gave it.

What I can see, and determine to live out, is the second part of the verse. I’m in the land of the living for a purpose. That purpose is to proclaim what the LORD has done. What the LORD has done for me is amazing. With great patient love and tenderness He meets me daily and provides my bread. He is the living water and I no longer thirst for other drinks. He is faithful and true to His own nature and dependably acts on my behalf. He is my intimate shepherd LORD. I feel His presence in the land of the living where it is painful to really live. He leads me with His eye upon me.

Do not fear if you should walk this way. If the LORD is your LORD, He cannot be anything but faithful. I won’t promise a painless walk. Sometimes following Him produces more pain.

Ps. 116:10: “I believed; therefore I said,
‘I am greatly afflicted.’"

Because He shows us how to love more deeply, it follows naturally that the pain of loss is more intense. But the fear is gone, because He promises to deliver us from death and its power forever. My testimony of God's grace is that He is doing this today—not in some distant tomorrow.

Ps. 116:8: “For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.”

Today I walk in the land of the living by the grace of God. I walk before Him and with Him and for Him. My God is faithful and true. As the anniversary of Tammy's death drew near, I had no idea what I would feel or experience. I found that my God was once again faithful to sustain me in the land of the living. There was an unusual peace and even joy.

Praise His Holy Name!

Ed Litton

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Dark Side of the Moon

When Apollo 13 suffered an air-tank explosion in the middle of their historic flight to the moon, they had to stay on course and follow their orbit around the moon and then allow the gravitational force of the earth to draw them home. On the back side of the moon they lost radio contact for some time, cutting off communication with their home on earth.

In grief you often feel like Commander Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise must have felt. Disconnected from all they were familiar with and as far away as any humans have ever been from home. They didn’t know how extensive the damage from the explosion was or what would happen upon reentering Earth's orbit. Grief takes you to dark places that are frightening for the ones going, but also for those who love the ones going there. Now that a year has passed since Tammy's death, let me share some of the things I’m learning from the dark side of grief’s moon.

First, God is faithful. Twelve months ago I looked down a very dark corridor, and the only things I saw were painful realities of more and greater potential losses. In those moments fear was so real, and in my grief I often had a loss of confidence in myself and even in God—which made the whole experience even more painful. Today I say I have survived what I utterly feared, and frankly it isn’t so bad. Why? Because looking this way twelve months ago, I left one very important thing out of my calculations: God. A big oversight, one might say. Yes, a very big oversight indeed. God reveals Himself to us in the present, and when we look too much to the future, we miss God and all He brings to bear upon our fearful unknown. When your future arrives He will be faithfully there, and He makes all the difference.

Second, the dark side of the moon is a lonely and barren place. The problem is we tend to focus on the words “lonely” and “barren.” No one wants to sign up for the lonely and barren. Yet it is the place God moves to reveal Himself most powerfully. Even if others tenderly care for you in your hours of grief, you may not be able to hear them. They may long to relieve your pain with great tears, but there is no guarantee their comfort will reach your wounded heart. On the dark side of the moon there’s another perspective. All of the heavens are open and blazing with glory. The Earth is blocked from view and the stars are amazing. There is much to see in the darkness of space. There is much to wonder at and be in awe of, that we would miss if we didn’t open our eyes. Traveling through grief, it’s often tempting to close your eyes and wait for it all to pass. God is in this journey. Whenever I struggled with difficult circumstances in life, Tammy would often say, "Sweetheart, God has you on a roller-coaster, throw up your hands and enjoy the ride."

Third, there’s a new kind of discovery. The Apollo 13 crew’s mission was to discover the Fra Mauro Highlands. This geological formation covers a vast portion of the lunar surface and is a rich discovery. As it was, another crew at another time would have the joy of that exploration. Death ends dreams and cancels missions. One of the most devastating aspects of grief is the sense of a new normal. Plans are erased, and you find yourself limping away from your dreams in a wounded lunar module. All seems lost, and you wonder if you’ll ever find your way home—much less ever have another dream. I’ve discovered that God is in the midst of new dreams and new directions for those who suffer loss. I can’t give you an example of all He has for my life. I’m still in the limping home stage on the dark side of the moon, but one thing is clear to me: I want to dream new dreams. I’m willing to try new things. This feels healthy.

I don’t declare anything with absolute assurance when it comes to my own grief journey. What I do declare with hope and confidence is that I am not alone. My Lord Jesus Christ has faithfully followed me all the days of my life, and He is with me now. His rod and staff comfort me. Yes, even though I walk through this dark side of the moon, I need not fear, for He is with me.

Ed Litton

I want to thank everyone who has prayed for me and my family. I have one simple request, "Please do not stop."

Friday, August 08, 2008

God For Us

I am sitting in one of the oddest times of my life. Full of joy and deep despair simultaneously. My emotions feel like a termite stuck in a yoyo. I do wonder when this thing is ever going to stop. Yet in the midst of strange, untrustworthy emotions, I find the only stability to be God's Word.

After Paul tells us in Romans 8 that God is working in all things for the good of those who are called, he then reminds us that if God is for us then who can be against us? It was the next verse that grabbed my heart and reminded me of all I needed to be reminded.

"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32)

There is no need in my life that He can or will overlook. If he has provided graciously for all I really need, then whatever worries me today is no worry. If He didn’t spare his own son, but gave him up for Ed Litton to secure my greatest need, then anything else I truly need will surely be given. When I’m tempted to doubt whether or not God is really for me, all I need to do is remember those hands. Those nail pierced hands tell me everything I need to know. His provision comes from his hand. Every time I look to his hands I am reminded by those marks that any provision is secondary to his ultimate provision. I can tell my emotions to shut up and sit still because I just remembered that my God has already proven His great love for me.

Romans 8 also tells us that the Holy Spirit groans before God for us. Then verse 34 adds this amazing truth.

"Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."

You and I, as God's chosen children, always have two who never fail to pray for us. Even if you think no one is aware of your sorrow or pain, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit share an "inter-Trinitarian" prayer language that I call "Groan." They groan on our behalf. The amazing thing about this special language is that they always know exactly how to pray for us according to the will of God the Father.

What more can I ask? What more do I need? The only thing remaining is for me to choose to trust a good God who did not spare His own Son. He will give us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. That comforts this hurting heart today. Let it comfort you! God need not prove His love for us any further. God is for us!

Ed Litton