I joined in my family’s belly laughs but felt the sting of truth behind their laughter. Our Chevy Tahoe was filled with Ken and I, our daughter, son-in-law and their kids. Our road trip discussion focused on the difficulty of ministering grace to people who hold their cards close to the chest. If you don’t know that someone is in pain, it’s hard to empathize, right?
During that conversation, I jokingly said, “Well, you know me. I like to suffer in silence.” I said it knowing full well that I struggle fiercely with verbal negativity when I am sick or angry. I did not expect their laughter to burst out as forcefully as it did. They laughed hard. For a long time. They snickered about it several times later in the trip.
I laughed too. I also recognized a wakeup call to come up much higher. My family’s response spoke volumes. They are the frontline recipients of my reactions to illness, conflict and life’s setbacks.
I remembered this conversation when I read Matthew 14 yesterday. I celebrated the growth God has worked in this area of my life in the years since. The recognition of how far I still must go became obvious as I considered Jesus’ response to the death of John the Baptist. Remember, John wasn’t just a fearless prophet preparing people for Christ’s earthly ministry. He was family.
John languished in prison under the wicked reign of Herod. Abruptly, Herod orders his beheading so the king won’t lose face with dinner guests. After his disciples bury John’s body, they immediately run to Jesus to share the tragic news.
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Matt. 14:13 (NIV) The death of a loved one, especially a murder or unexpected death is a shock to our system. We are not surprised when people scream, pass out or go into shock when this kind of news hits. News outlets prominently feature people who are behaving irrationally and violently due to real or perceived injustices. Jesus responded quite differently.
He didn’t incite his massive following into an uprising against Herod. He didn’t preach about cruelty and injustice. He retreated to a place without people to spend time with His Father, the one who will ultimately right all wrongs.
Dear ones, may I encourage you to do the same? Loss is shocking. The demise of a marriage, job termination, catastrophic illness, death of a loved one and other cataclysmic life events can reduce us to rubble quickly. We struggle to form thoughts in a linear fashion. Our stomachs hurt, our heads pound, our hands shake. The seas of our emotions roil and curl inside us. What do we do?
Isaiah 30:15 says “In quietness and trust is your strength.” These aren’t just pretty words for a Facebook post. Quietness before the Lord and trusting Him will bring strength more than anything any human can offer. This attitude does not mean we are islands of stoicism, separating ourselves from the body of Christ. God sends companions to walk through life’s valleys with us, but true comfort originates with Him.
Our primary go to resource is the overflowing fountain of God’s sustaining grace and mercy. He is the keeper of our hearts, the master of our destinies. His plans are always meant to prosper us not to harm us. When we seek refuge, He is our strong tower and shield. Broken hearts and shattered lives can rest safely in His arms.
Whatever troubles you today, pour out your heart to the One whose mercies are new every day.