Difficult Seasons

 

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

While we can experience physical seasons with the weather, I do know there are seasons in life too. Ecclesiastes describes this well. Recently, it has been a season of loss.

After I learned of my friend’s death, my sister had to make the decision to put her dog down. I know it was an extremely difficult decision to make. Kuma means bear in Japanese. When Kathy first got her dog, that’s exactly what he looked like, a little bear. He was a playful Lhasa Apso and I remember he loved sitting on my foot. He was a particular about who he let carry him, but for whatever reason, he always let me carry him. We were friends. As the years passed and after being gone for a few years, I returned home. Kuma was plagued with blindness, hearing loss, arthritis and apparently some level of dementia. My friend Kuma who once welcomed me to hold him, now snapped at me when I tried to pet him. Occasionally he would do the same to my sister. He cried often and was challenged just to walk. Up until the day of his appointment my sister held out hope that maybe he would be better. That morning as he walked out of his dog house, his legs gave out and his face hit the floor. She knew it was time, but it was a painful goodbye.

Not long after, I received an email that a neighbor and friend passed away. After dealing with several health issues, our friend passed away in the hospital with her family by her side. Due to her health issues, her mobility was limited. Walking up the stairs to her home was a challenge. The bright side to that was the conversations we were able to have as she took a rest at the halfway point of her stairway. She appeared to really find joy in our children’s energy. She was always thoughtful with gifts for our children. I’ll remember her always encouraging and positive conversations. She will be missed.

A couple days after the news of our neighbors passing, we prepared to say goodbye to someone that became a part of our family. “Aunty Lolo”, as our kids affectionately referred to her, is originally from Hong Kong. After her studies she got a job in the islands and was looking forward to the next year and a half working and living in Hawaii. Due to some major oversight by her employer, her Visa was not renewed. After a rollercoaster of emotional events, we found ourselves this past Monday tearfully seeing her off at the airport.

Along with a few other things, this has been a difficult season of loss. While it has been challenging, we can still find joy. As with seasons in the weather, there are challenges and there are joys. During winter we contend with cold and depending where you live, snow. The greenery fades to brown and blue skies become frequented with clouds. With cold outside, comes the welcome of warm homes and family to embrace you. As winter draws toward a close, you have the hope of the spring, new life.

On Wednesday nights our young adults are studying Revelation. A book of the Bible that often is approached with fear and apprehension. As I really study through this book for the first time, I have discovered something amazing, the joy of the Lord. In understanding the righteousness and glory of God, I find hope and celebration in His justice and judgment on the creation that has turned away from Him. Knowing that God is good and just and His justice will prevail, it’s amazing. The tribulation in Revelation is frightening. You can see these things unfolding in the world. Throughout history and in current times you see the judgment of God coming upon His creation. It’s rolling out and it will get more intense. Don’t you see it happening? Don’t you see the increasing destruction of our world? I believe we are in a season of judgment, a season of tribulation.

While the Bible tells us we do not know the time and place of the second coming of Christ, we DO know He’s coming. We know that there is spring, that there is new life awaiting those who have their faith in the Redeemer. It has been proclaimed, “the Kingdom of God is near.” With all that is happening in the world draw near to the Lord. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Word made flesh. Not that there are two God’s, but in fact is Himself God. Living untainted by the corruption of a fallen world, He died a perfect sacrifice for the sins of man. He became an offering of righteousness so that we might be atoned in the recognition and repentance of our sin revealed to us by His grace and mercy. Then rose from death and paved the way to new life. Sending forth His Spirit to sanctify those who follow in faith.

Friends, there is hope on the horizon of this season of hardship in the world. Things will only get worse. Winter will grow colder. I pray you find your hope in Jesus, the righteous and just Redeemer of all. Revelation tells us of a new heaven and new earth for those who have their faith in Jesus Christ. This also becomes the hope for shorter seasons of loss that we go through now. My assumed theology believes I will see Kuma one day as God will redeem His creation. Based on scripture I whole-heartedly believe I will be with my friends who have recently passed from this life. For Aunty Lolo, our time is not up. The strong bond of our shared faith in Christ will always keep us together and I have a feeling, will bring us back together before our time is up on this earth.

If you see what I see, growing distress, increasing lawlessness, widespread suffering, and developing terror, I plead with you to turn to Jesus. It’s probably harder to see when you live in a country like America, but really it’s here. The many facets of the tragedy in Orlando serve as a clear example. Things will only get worse. Know the Redeemer, draw near to Jesus and seek to live in His sovereign will, for He is GOOD. I pray you will discover the hope of the final season that is promised to those who believe in Him, in the eternal glory of God.   -jason

 

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No Words

This past Friday I attended a memorial service for a friend. Ten minutes after the scheduled visitation time the line was already headed out the door and wrapped around the building with a constant flow of people adding to the line.

He and his wife were friends that I made through a church group. They were college sweethearts and were a really great couple. He was a good man and from what I saw and heard, he was a good husband and father too. He absolutely loved the Lord. We lost touch a few years ago, but I’m told Depression showed up in his life and never left him alone.

I thought about him and his wife as I stood there waiting to express my condolences to his family. I thought much about life. In front of me two women discussed their kids sports schedule. Sounded busy and complicated. My friend was an amazing athlete. That’s something I can remember about him. Behind me, a group talked about where he was working. One woman mentioned she would see him almost every day as they worked near each other. When I looked over the program for the service, he certainly achieved a lot and in many different areas.

Considering all I was hearing about my friend and remembering all the things I personally knew about him, I tried to formulate in my head the right words to say when I saw his wife. I imagined this poor woman having to revisit her grief with every person that passed through this seemingly endless line. As I drew near to the family the words came to mind. “I’m so sorry. He was a GOOD man and will be missed greatly. Please let me know how my family can support you in anyway.” Seemed simple, sincere and to the point.

After the two women in front of me gave their hugs and moved toward his parents, I turned the corner. When she looked at me we just kind of looked at each other for a second, but it felt like hours. Without words I felt myself saying, “I am so sorry” and in reply I saw in her eyes a conundrum of feelings and grief. Immediately she began to cry and I embraced her and finally uttered the words, “I’m sorry”, and tears begged to pour out of my eyes. All my rehearsed words fleeted from my mind and I was speechless. Awkwardness developed when I fished for something to say and probably blurted out some foolishness. She finally said, “thank you for coming.”

Sometimes there are no words. In Romans Paul talks about the grace and mercy of God. Only by God’s grace through the blood of Jesus are we considered righteous. When you live by the Spirit, you understand the hope that is set before you in the promises of God. The view of the ugliness and tragedy in this world become viewed through the hope we find in Jesus. Massacres, natural disasters, war, all these things and more are things that must come to pass before God’s final judgment and redemption of His creation. While many take to the Internet to offer their opinions and advice on how we should address or view these things, we should pray and take our thoughts to the Lord. Romans 8:26,27 says,

          “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

First we must hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the son of man and the Son of God. This divine reality is significant in understanding the saving grace of His sacrifice on the cross. The only man to live a sinless and righteous life put to death for the sins of humanity, and fully God to defeat the bondage of death for all who believe. The Holy Spirit, who regenerates our spirits from death to life, reveals this truth to us.

Now that the Spirit dwells within you, allow for Him to intercede on your behalf. There are certain things in life that no words on earth can express or address. Instead of seeking for those right words, instead of relying on your own knowledge to offer opinion and advice in situations that are beyond our understanding, just lean on the Holy Spirit in prayer to speak on your behalf. His intersession is beyond our words.

Looking at social media and other news outlets, I see many opinions on all the world’s events, most recently the tragic massacre in Orlando. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, and no doubt I recognize this is a personal and biased commentary in itself, sometimes no words work best. Free flowing opinion and the reliance on our own understanding often lead to an unproductive, even destructive path. Sometimes, as with this shooting, I would say the best thing for most of us is just to call upon the Spirit in prayer and allow Him to speak on our behalf, which will exceed the most articulate and educated words, any man could ever conjure up. -jason