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Merry Monday Southside. Today, marks the 36th anniversary of my mother’s death at the young age of 50. I wish she had lived much longer. She was a sweet woman who was always there for us growing up. She was a traditional Southern mother — her dress or blouse or top had this invisible print on it that said, “I don’t play!” She was strict and we all knew where the line was, but she was loving.

Each year for all of you, an anniversary rolls around of a parent or a spouse you have lost. Many people may not know what that day is for you. It is not that they do not care, they do. It is everyone has so much on them these days. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (NLT). Jesus said this in Matthew 5:4, I had thought when I was younger my mother would live longer because the women on her side lived long lives. My grandmother, my mother’s mother lived to be 100 and my grandmother had sisters who lived to be over 100. 

Losing the people we love takes something from us. Even when we know they are saved and have eternal life, a void is there that cannot be filled by anyone else or any other thing. When we say, “Time heals all wounds,” I understand what we mean by that. Life goes on and you have to go with it, or you will simply grieve yourself to death — something your loved one would never want you to do.

Time can heal some wounds, but not all of them. There are some experiences that occur in childhood for example that we carry the affects and consequences of them with us for the rest of our lives — especially if there was abuse, neglect, violence, substance use and etc. For those experiences in which time does not heal those wounds, I recommend using your current time to learn from them, to go to God’s Word for help, and have close godly friends who you can talk to about it. 

We cannot undo loss, abuse, neglect, hurt, harm and grief, but we can use them to make us a better person for the glory of Jesus Christ just as the Apostle Paul expresses in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11:

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.[b] This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (8) We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. (9) We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. (10) Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. (11) Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies” (NLT).

When we do not, our thoughts and feelings can and will turn on us in a very dark way. I want to share with you two totally opposite approaches to dealing with grief. The first one allowed the darkness to turn on him — Robin Williams and the second did not — David Kuo. Read below how Robin Williams handled his grief and darkness:

"Robin Williams's August 2014 suicide was devastating to those who knew him best—and it also came at the end of a long and difficult decline. According to a new biography by Dave Itzkoff, in the months that preceded his death, Williams faced daunting challenges, both professionally and personally. His film career had stalled, and his comeback sitcom, The Crazy Ones, was failing to find an audience on CBS. He was still harboring guilt about his divorce from Marsha Garces, his second wife and mother of two of his children, and adjusting to life with his new wife, Susan Schneider, whom he married in 2011. Williams tried to find solace and significance in working more. But work and busyness did not heal the deepest wounds in his soul. Itzkoff writes:

But what proved more powerful than the pleas from his colleagues and from family members to slow things down—even more powerful than Robin's desire to sustain his life with Susan and to be a good earner for his managers and agents—was his own desire to keep working through the pain, the one cure-all that had helped him cope with past troubles.

"I don't think he thought he could blow up what he built for himself," Cheri Minns, his makeup artist, said. "It's like he didn't worry about anything when he worked all the time. He operated on working. That was the true love of his life. Above his children, above everything. If he wasn't working, he was a shell of himself. And when he worked, it was like a light bulb was turned on” (Source: Dave Itzkoff, "Inside the Final Days of Robin Williams," Vanity Fair (5-8-18).

Second, is how David Kuo —former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives—fought cancer with dignity and courage handled his grief and darkness:

“He endured 10 years of chemotherapy, radiation, alternative therapies, and clinical trials. Yet he never stopped fighting. To survive, we had to immerse ourselves in Scripture to reassure our hearts that God had a plan in the midst of our suffering. We never stopped believing that God could heal David—and if not, that God would use him fully for as many days as he had.

Three separate times, starting in 2003, David was given anywhere from 6 to 12 months to live. But we soon learned that people—even doctors—are ill-equipped to play God in determining the end of life. After the doctor's diagnosis and timeline, David went on to live 10 years. During that time, we had two beautiful children, while David wrote a book, struggled, fought, and touched many lives. No one below the throne of God can predict how the journey of life will go, and we shouldn't pretend to.

David had severe seizures. Over time he lost the ability to walk, then to write. His personality changed markedly due to the vicious side effects of surgeries, radiation, and medications. And the end was brutal. Every function of his body slowly collapsed. Still, every day of David's life mattered. Even in semi-lucid deterioration, David challenged his ICU doctor to read Mere Christianity. His conversations with his neuro-oncologist resulted in her later starting a ministry to homeless cancer patients. David's last days healed divides between political enemies and deep wounds among friends and family. Especially in suffering, we can dive below the shallow waters and touch another's heart and soul.

We had many moments when we thought we couldn't take any more. But the hard truth is that our experience transformed our hearts and radically challenged many others. If our lives are truly about glorifying God, then our only option is to glorify him where we are” (Source: His wife — Kim Kuo, "Assisted Suicide and Real Death with Dignity," Christianity Today (9-15-15).

I miss you so much Momma. I know that one day I will see you again. Thanks be to Jesus Christ!

Questions To Consider

  1. What “anniversaries” of a grief roll around each year for you? Do you just keep yourself busy during the day so not to think about it or do you take some time to remember? Why or why not?
  2. As in the article above about Robin Williams, as long as he could stay busy, he felt his life had meaning and significance. Work was his life and when he felt work was failing him, the darkness overtook him and he committed suicide. If you had been a close personal friend to Robin Williams, what biblical and godly advice would you have shared with him about this?
  3. When these “anniversaries” of losing someone rolls around, do you share it with others or do you simply try to just get through the day? Why? What do you think God wants you to do?
  4. What do you think you “lost” other than the person when they either died, or divorced you and simply left you?
  5. Comparing Robin Williams’s approach to life with David Kuo’s approach to death, what does each one teach you?

Scripture To Mediate On: Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (ESV). 

Prayer To Pray: “Dear Jesus, I need You — every day I need You. Help me to honor You with my life and eventually even with my death. Help me to let go of hurt, grief, anger and resentment I may have towards others and myself. Thank you for the promise in Your Word that says in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (ESV). I love You, Jesus. I ask all of this in Jesus’ name, Amen!”

I love you Southside! — Pastor Kelly

1 Comment

Chip Fetner 27 days ago

Jill and I just read your devotion regarding your mother. Two things: 1. I would've loved to have known her. 2. We certainly need more mothers like her in this decaying society.
Obviously, Jill and I have to face anniversaries each year having to do with Daniel. But we are also deeply grateful to have our relationship with Christ and also the knowledge that Daniel had that as well. I remember a few years ago when Barbara Maisenhelder told me that, despite the fact she sorely misses John, she would not wish for him to be able to come back in physical form as she knew he was in a much better place.
It's always sad to see the despondency among many of the grieving parents we meet with at the support group meetings Jill and I attend every month.
I could go on for hours but, like you, got lots to do.

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