“How Awesome is That?”

I was reminded of Sarah’s last journal entry this morning as I was having my quiet time. I once again found myself in 2 Peter 1 seeking much needed encouragement to persevere.  As I read verse 4 I could hear her voice shouting the exclamation she wrote in her final journal entry that day, “We get to participate in His divine nature!  I mean how awesome is that?”

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 2 Peter 1:2-4 [NASB]

I had memorized 2 Peter 1:2-3 a few months before the accident, they are such rich verses. They are why I was back in 2 Peter 1 this morning, reminding myself of the truth I know I must meditate on to survive.  “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord” (vs. 2).  As never before, we as a family stay in constant need of grace and peace, knowing they are the only balm to our wounded souls.  What beautiful truth in this verse that they are present, not only present but multiplied through our knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  Grace and Peace are multiplied to me through my knowledge that my precious savior is interceding on my behalf today, that He and the Father know my pain, that the Father is saving each of my tears, that my Father will uphold me with His righteous right hand, and that He will not leave our pain unredeemed.  Grace and peace come in knowing that my Father knows every situation that faces us, that He recognizes every scheme of the enemy swirling about us as we remain in the fire.  Though the enemy taunts us with words and thoughts of hopelessness or despair, our loving Father has already provided the way of escape from those temptations through His Word and His promises.  Our escape from the hopelessness and despair that the enemy desires to ensnare us with is through the grace and peace that is readily available and multiplied through the knowledge of Him.

I don’t believe it is by chance that the Lord prompted Sarah to write in that final journal entry of the need to “be alert and of sober mind”  because of “the devil prowling about seeking whom he may devour, which he will especially be doing on this mission trip.”  The mission trip she was called to became our “mission trip” at her departure, and she is so very right.  Satan struck our family a devastating blow that day, and he continues to wage war through relentless attacks.  As his fiery darts continue to strike about us and we walk through multiple strategic attacks at once the temptation comes to say “I can not do it all.”  “I simply can not.”  “It requires too much energy, too much pain, too much sacrifice, I can’t.”  Praise Him that through knowledge of His Word He provides a way of escape from this temptation as well.  I am immediately reminded of Elisha when his servant was afraid as they were under what seemed like an inescapable attack, encircled by their enemies.  Elisha said to the servant, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2Ki 6:16 NASB).  Elisha then prayed to the Lord that He would open the servant’s eyes so he could see.  The servant eyes were opened and he beheld angel armies, the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire all around them.  Grace and peace are multiplied as I meditate on this account, this is the God I serve, the God of angel armies.  The God who delivers and sustains though the enemy pursues with death and destruction in his eyes.  Grace and peace are multiplied through knowledge that my tender Father, my Defender, my Refuge, The God of the universe holds us in the the palm of His hand where no one and nothing can pluck us out.

Grace and peace are multiplied even further, though.  Though His Word testifies we have His omnipotent external provision in the form of His righteous right hand and His angel armies gathering about us, we also have mighty internal provision through the gracious imparting of His divine nature.  “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (vs. 3-4).  Not only is He in front of me, behind me and beside me, but through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He and His divine power are in me. He has granted to me everything pertaining to life and godliness.  That means He has given me, through His divine nature, everything I need to walk the path before me, not only to walk it, but to walk it in godliness.  In my own strength I can not do what He is calling me to do, it is impossible.  He can, though, and it is only through His divine power in me that I can.  It is not easy, but He warned us it would not be easy, He warned us there would be fiery trials even unto death.  In the midst of the fiery trials we must continue to daily take up our cross, to crucify our flesh, thereby escaping “the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (vs. 4) 

So moment by moment, hour by hour and day by day we face the same choice.  Will we indulge the selfish desires (lusts) of our flesh, succumbing to the fiery darts of the enemy and in so doing deny the divine power that is within us? Or, will we crucify our flesh and cling with all our might to “His precious and magnificent promises” knowing that through this His divine power is unleashed in us to victoriously withstand every assault launched against us?  May I never fail to appreciate the incomprehensible magnitude of the gift of power available to me through the divine nature.  May my heart cry always resonate with that of my precious daughter in exclaiming with heartfelt excitement, “we get to participate in His divine nature! I mean how awesome is that?”

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Addendum:  I wrote this post sitting in the car waiting on Sophie to get out of class.  I finished just as she got in the car to leave, as we pulled out of the parking lot the song “Same Power” by Jeremy Camp came on, God is so faithful to teach and encourage us!

 

“Thank You” is Not Enough

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Most of the gifts and cards people have sent us since Sarah’s departure are still stacked on the hearth in the kitchen.  They are a constant reminder of the love that has been lavished on us by the body of Christ at large.  I bought three big boxes of thank you notes a few weeks ago with intentions of writing personal notes to share how precious each expression of love is to us, but I have failed to muster the fortitude to do it.  My stomach turns every time I try to force myself to start, the thought of having to acknowledge the end of my child’s physical life over and over again with each note pains my heart.  I try to refocus myself by saying that each note is simply a celebration of the love we have been shown, but my broken heart refuses to be fooled in such a way.   I have had precious friends offer to help me write them, but I am so thankful for each card and gift that I can’t bear for them to not be acknowledged by me personally.  And so the unopened boxes of thank you notes are still sitting there, repeatedly pushed back as a conquest for “tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow” will eventually come and they will be done, because the gestures of love mean far too much to me to go unacknowledged, but for today I offer this feeble “Thank You.”  Thank you for each card that was simply signed with a name because the pain of compassion was too great for words to flow.  Thank you for each card with handwritten expressions that flowed out of heartbreak and love for us.  Thank you to those precious prayer warrior friends who have sent multiple cards, some no doubt tear stained, they never fail to be perfectly timed with words of encouragement, and most importantly the message that we are remembered and loved.  Thank you to the stranger out of state who has sent so many cards I have lost count, each simply signed “lovingly” with her name.   Thank you to all the precious brothers and sisters in Christ in churches we’ve never visited across the Southeast who have sent us cards with dozens of signatures inside to say they as a group are praying for us.  Thank you to multiple groups of precious ladies ministries who have sent us the sweetest and most thoughtful care packages and handmade blessings.

Thank you to the dear friends who have given precious thoughtful, creative gifts that celebrate the life of Sarah, her testimony and her legacy.   Thank you for the precious throws and wind chimes that each bless us.  Thank you for the flowers that surrounded Sarah at her service. Thank you to each person who helped at her service, those who set up, helped with security, childcare, transportation, food preparation, media, clean up, and I’m certain many other tasks that my numb mind was completely unaware of.   Thank you to those who fed us when we were too overwhelmed to think about food for our family.  Meal after meal each delivered with expressions of love and support.  Thank you for the gift cards for restaurants that have been such a blessing in carrying us through.

Thank you for loving us so well.  Thank you for hurting with us.   Thank you to many of you for weeping with us, your shared tears testify we are not alone and that you are longing to carry the pain with us.   The first few weeks were so overwhelming, and I was so very numb that I failed to keep good records, plants and gifts ended up being disconnected from accompanying cards, I completely failed to record who brought us food, and I have no doubt there were many other oversights on my part with my muddied thoughts in those first weeks.  As a result, if I fail to personally acknowledge how you ministered to us, please know that every single expression of love has been a healing balm to our broken hearts.  “Tomorrow” will eventually come and I will send those thank you notes, but for today know that we are forever grateful to be a part of the body of Christ where love is lavished and the Holy Spirit within us compels us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  ‘By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.'”  John 13:34-35 [NASB]

 

Intermingled Joy and Suffering

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;  but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”  1 Peter 4:12-13 [NASB]

I have been very reluctant to write what the Lord has been teaching me this week because He is still teaching me about pain and suffering.  I am fearful of wearying those not currently afflicted by continuing to discuss suffering, but the hope of potentially encouraging someone walking through a similar valley compels me to share now.  Prompted by ongoing staggering waves of pain, the past several weeks I have spent a lot of time meditating on scripture regarding suffering.  It has been such a blessing to go back to well worn scripture and understand many passages much more deeply through the lens of affliction.

Through His Word we know that suffering is to be expected (2 Tim. 3:12),  Satan is roaming around desiring to steal, kill and destroy, and a faithful follower of Christ will not go unnoticed by him (John 10:10; 1 Thess. 2:18).  We are not guaranteed deliverance from what afflicts us this side of heaven, but we are guaranteed abundant comfort in our affliction through Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:5).  He also promises to use what afflicts us and our resulting pain for good, to redeem both (Rom. 8:28).  I have touched on these points in other writings since the accident, but what has come into much clearer focus this week is the fruit of suffering.  While there is a variety of fruit produced, the fruit most prominent in my mind this morning is that suffering stimulates the eternal focus in believers.  Our affliction creates a deep and passionate hunger and longing for the return of Christ and our home-going.   Scripture tells us if we persevere through our suffering, rejoicing in Him and His provision, when He comes we will “rejoice with exultation,”  we will rejoice exceedingly.   The bitterness of suffering makes the sweetness of Christ sweeter.  Though we suffer now, we will be filled with joy, exceeding joy, rejoicing with exultation in “a little while” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). As our eyes are fixed expectantly on Him, longing for His return, that which is temporal fades away and a greater urgency for that which is eternal emerges. Through suffering the priority of knowing Christ and making Him known is heightened.  In this manner God is glorified through our suffering.

It is okay to mourn.  Mourning, grieving, pain, agony and sorrow are acceptable and appropriate reactions to death.  They in and of themselves are in no way indicative of hopelessness or a lack of faith or joy.  Scott and I regularly weep together.  For almost twenty-four years I was blessed to not know the feeling of my hair wet with my husband’s tears, but now I know it well.  We have been deeply afflicted by the enemy, and yet we have Hope.  We cling to the sure and certain Hope promised in His Word.  We have certain Hope we will see Sarah again, Hope that God will redeem the taking of her physical life, Hope that God will redeem our suffering, Hope that God will comfort and sustain us, Hope that because of our suffering we will “rejoice with exultation” at the return of Christ.  Because we have this Hope we have joy intermingled with our suffering.

We went on our annual beach trip last week, the first time for the rest of our lives without Sarah.  The very night Sarah left us we promised Katelyn, Kristen, and Sophie that we would strive to find joy as a family again and we would make every effort to continue to live life fully with them.  As a result we have already tearfully walked through many painful firsts.  Just a few being our first family walk, our first meal at the kitchen table, our first Sunday at church, our first time getting a table for five at a restaurant, our first 4th of July, and now our first beach trip, all without sweet Sarah.  Sarah, Sophie and Kristen sing together all the time, but especially when we travel.  For years it has delighted my soul to hear their voices melded together singing everything under the sun, anything from The Jackson Five to Veggie Tales, to hymns of old, to classic eighties, to modern pop, and always the Alabama Fight Song, of course.  We all knew the first long drive would be hard in the absence of her sweet voice, indeed it was extremely so, but Kristen and Sophie sang.  We shared precious memories of Sarah, we cried, but we sang, too.  Joy and suffering intermingled.

I confess, we are that family that memes are made about.  Every single beach trip requires a family beach portrait.  Our first family photo without Sarah was at Chick-Fil-A on #servelikesarah day.  The sting of that one slipped by me because of all of the activity, but I was painfully aware that the beach picture was coming.  At the same time we as a family have never been more aware of our not knowing what tomorrow will bring (Prov. 26:1), so we strive to celebrate life daily with one another, while at the same time deeply aching for Sarah.  As I took the pictures of the girls, for the first time three instead of four, my mom snapped the picture below.  My heart aches every time I see it, but I also rejoice because through Christ’s sustaining power Scott and I are keeping our promise to Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie.  We are confronting and pressing through painful moments, hours, days and weeks compelled by our desire to model for them and the world the Hope we possess.  Certain Hope that we will see Sarah again, Hope that God will redeem the taking of her physical life, Hope that God will redeem our suffering, Hope that God will comfort and sustain us, Hope that because of our suffering we will “rejoice with exultation” at the return of Christ, and Hope that provides joy intermingled with our suffering.

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Suffering & Endurance

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  Romans 8:18 [NASB]

“For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 [NASB]

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10 [NASB]

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5 [NASB]

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,  so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”  1 Peter 1:6-7 [NASB]

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,  for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.  For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.  It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;  If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;  If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”  2 Timothy 2:8-13 [NASB]

“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;  in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.  For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,  experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”  Philippians 1:27-30 [NASB]

“For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.”  1 Thessalonians 3:4 [NASB]

“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Timothy 2:3-4 [NASB]

“therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.” 2 Thessalonians 1:4 [NASB]

“For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,”  1 Peter 2:20-21 [NASB]

 

“Live Redeemed”

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 “God’s highest aim in dealing with His people is in developing Christian character.  He is after creating in us those rich virtues that belong to our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is seeking to make us like himself.  It is not so much work that He wants in us.  It is not greatness.  It is the presence in us of patience, meekness and submission to the divine will.  He wants praying saints who bring everything to Him.  He seeks to create His own image in us.”  ~ E.M. Bounds, The Classic Collection on Prayer

I’ve been reading The Classic Collection on Prayer by E.M. Bounds, and was struck by the quote above that reminded me so much of Sarah.  It’s something I tried to articulate when I wrote about what it means to #servelikesarah.  We can be active doing many things, serving in many capacities, striving for spiritual greatness, but at the same time be void of the Spirit of God and lacking tenderness in obedience to His leading in our lives.  The busy-ness of service does not necessarily indicate a heart surrendered and fully devoted to the Lord.

“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  Psalm 51:16-17 [NASB]

Sarah’s heart was consumed with longing to “be” who He had called her to be.  That’s why her journals were full of challenges to herself to “Live Redeemed.”  She longed to be transformed to the likeness of Christ through the renewing of her mind, so she regularly and consistently spent time in His Word and prayer, recognizing the transforming power of both.  She understood the exceedingly high cost of her redemption and longed to live a life worthy of the calling with which she had been called.

“knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,  but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 [NASB]

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,”  Ephesians 4:1 [NASB]

With that in mind we chose the phrase she loved, prominently displayed on her laptop, “Live Redeemed” to go on the shirts, hats, blankets and decals we are selling to help raise the funds necessary to support a missionary for one year in honor of Sarah and her desire to Go and Tell.  The funds will all be donated through The Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board’s Lottie Moon Offering.

If you prefer to donate rather than purchase shirts you may donate through Mount Zion Baptist Church here by designating it to “Lottie Moon Fund” in the drop down menu, or by mailing donations clearly marked “Lottie Moon Offering in honor of Sarah Harmening” directly to Mount Zion Baptist Church at 228 Mt. Zion Road, Huntsville, AL 35806.

The fundraising sale ends August 20th, 2017, thank you for considering the opportunity to help us send a missionary out to continue Sarah’s mission!

Even if you do not feel led or are not able to help financially we would very much appreciate  your prayers that we meet our goal and are able to fully fund a missionary in Sarah’s stead to support and pray for in the year to come.

CLICK HERE to check out all the shirts, sweatshirts, blankets, hats and decals available

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Multiple T-shirts are available in a variety of colors VIEW OPTIONS AND ORDER HERE

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Reference:

Bounds, E.M. (2001). The Classic Collection on Prayer.  Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos.

Healing or Adapting?

“‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.'” Malachi 4:1-2 [NASB]

Lately Scott and I have talked a lot about what it means for us to be “healed.”  From almost the very moment Sarah left we have heard talk of our eventual healing.  It’s been almost eight weeks and the wound to my heart is still just as raw as it was the very first day.  Pretty much every day at some point, if not multiple points, I end up weeping, as does Scott.  How can we not?  Our child we have poured our hearts and lives into for seventeen and a half years has been ripped from our arms.  There is a gaping hole in our family, a searing open wound simultaneously inflicted on each of our hearts and the hearts of Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie, as well.

Friends and family have offered up countless prayers for healing for us from the moment she left us, many counseling and encouraging us that healing will certainly come in time.  I believe what they say in a sense, but in a larger sense I don’t.  I have a sure and certain Hope that the Son of Righteousness truly will rise with healing in His wings, and we will be completely healed at our reunion in heaven.  On this side of heaven, however, a precious, treasured, irreplaceable part of the body of our family has been severed from us.  We have suffered a traumatic amputation.  We know where that precious part of us is, but she is gone for this lifetime.  As I think of healing, I think of restoration of former health, a return to completion.  Healing in that regard is an impossibility for us, restoration of former health and completion as a family will not occur this side of heaven.  Because a precious part of us is missing, we as individuals and a family will never again be who we were prior to June 8th, 2017.

In addition, when I think of healing I think of the absence of pain.  When you’ve had an injury you generally don’t consider it healed until the pain has subsided.  In the initial days after Sarah’s departure the pain was suffocating and constant.  Now we find ourselves able to breathe most of the time, but the pain still remains constant.  We know from others who have walked this path before us that the pain will always be a part of our lives.  For the remainder of this earthly life we will bear in our souls a mark of suffering.

I find myself recoiling every time I hear mention of our “healing.”  It seems to me to be a lofty, unattainable goal, something I would have to constantly strive for all the while not really believing it possible for the aforementioned reasons.  For that reason my personal goal has become adapting.  It is liberating for me to say that because it gives me an attainable goal to set my sights on.  I don’t believe we will be healed here, but I know God can and will enable us to adapt to this new and different life.  Recognizing all the while, this is just part of a journey.  Sarah skipped ahead of us and we will meet her there, but for the remainder of our journey we must adapt to her absence and our pain.  We are learning to do both.  We are learning how to push through the pain to live this new and different life.  As we do, we are offering our pain up as another fragrant offering to Him, trusting Him to redeem it and use it for our good and His glory, just as He has been redeeming the taking of Sarah’s life.

We are already seeing some of His redemption of our pain.  The pain causes us to be constantly aware of our need for His grace and mercy.  Though we have never been capable of making it a day in the absence of His grace and mercy, through our pain our eyes have been opened and we are acutely aware of our desperate need for His sustaining provision.  At the end of each day we offer up prayers of thanksgiving for His having sustained us through another day in Sarah’s absence.   We thank Him for the comfort He provides through His Word, the love of family and friends, notes of encouragement and a myriad of other sources.  We are reminded though His Word that we are not promised to be spared from our affliction, but we are promised that the Father of mercies and God of all comfort will comfort us.  He chooses to allow us to bear this pain, but He faithfully undergirds, strengthens and comforts us in it.  Though our suffering is abundant, “so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 [NASB]

Through our suffering He has equipped us and called us to serve differently, and so we are adapting to this new role as well.   Through our pain He has given us a greater tenderness of heart toward those who suffer.  By allowing us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death He has made us His ambassadors there.  He is calling us to speak Life in the midst of death.  He has so graciously comforted us in our pain “so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  We as individuals and a family are all recognizing and adapting to our calling to be vessels of His comfort in a hurting world.

We as a family will not be healed, restored to former health, complete and free from pain, but we will adapt.  That is not a statement of hopelessness, to the contrary it is an expectant testimony of His ongoing grace.  The hole in our family and the pain will remain, but His comfort, grace and mercy are abundant and exceedingly sufficient.  He will continue to sustain us, just as He will continue restoring our joy, His word promises us so. We are learning as individuals, as a married couple, as parents and as a family to adapt to life here without our precious Sarah.  Sarah’s absence constantly reminds us that we are only sojourners here.  At the end of each day we rejoice that we are one day closer to our glorious reunion with our precious sustaining Savior and Lord and sweet Sarah at His side.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.  After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:6-10 [NASB]

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Sarah’s promises and challenges taped to her laptop

Waiting in the Pit

“For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. ”  Psalm 40:1-3 [NASB]

Last night I finally washed Sarah’s sheets and blankets and made her bed, neatly placing her favorite blankets and stuffed animals back in their places.   It shattered my already broken heart a little further.  So this morning I find myself still in this pit I’ve been stuck in for several days now.  I see the light of His new mercy in the morning as I spend time in His Word, but in the depth of the pit I don’t feel it fully washing over me as I do when I am on solid ground, for now the shadow of death seems to block its warmth.  I have no energy to claw or climb my way out, and even if I did have the energy to somehow get out it would never be sufficient to keep me from eventually sliding back in.  So as I sit here in the mire of this pit this morning I once again look to His Word longing for encouragement.

David “waited patiently for the LORD” in the pit.  That alone is encouragement to me this morning.  Not only did he, the man after God’s own heart, fall into the pit just like me, he also realized he was incapable of getting out by his own strength.  So he waited, he sat in the pit and waited.  He waited but he did not wait silently.  He says God “inclined to me and heard my cry.”  He was crying out to God from the depths of the mire of the pit, and God heard and inclined Himself to David.  Not only was David crying out, but as he was waiting, it says specifically that he was waiting “patiently.”  Some think the word for patiently here is better understood as “intently.”  Either way the implication is the same, as David was waiting in the mire he was expecting His God to answer.  The man after God’s own heart knew the character and nature of God just as we can through His Word, and He knew that His God prides Himself on His faithfulness and lovingkindness to His children.

“Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” Deuteronomy 7:9 [NASB]

My prayer through tears this morning before opening His Word was that He would remind me of His faithfulness, and that He would give me confidence to wait on Him.  I’m so thankful His Word is living and active, that through the power of the Holy Spirit He faithfully speaks exactly what our aching hearts need to hear.  So once again in the midst of this suffering I will entrust my soul to my “faithful creator,” and I will choose to wait patiently, intently, for Him in this pit (1 Peter 4:19).  Like David, I will cry out knowing He will hear and eventually answer me, “My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me” (Psalm 77:1).  I find courage in knowing He will lift me out, providing my way of escape, in His time.  In the meantime I know He is faithful and will supply my every need to endure however long He chooses to leave me here.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. ” 1 Corinthians 10:13 [NASB]

Eventually, in His time, He will once again “set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”  When He does He will also “put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”  May the world around us bear witness to His deliverance of our family from the pit.  May they witness His placing of our feet on solid ground, and may they hear the new song in our mouths.  As they do, our prayer for them is that they, too, “will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.”

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Artwork: Sarah Harmening

New Mercy For Today

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;  who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,  you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.”  2 Corinthians 1:8-11 [NASB]

This passage has become my personal prayer over the past week or so.  The numbness that initially shielded our broken hearts has now resolved and been replaced with excruciating reality.  We are acutely aware of how desperately we miss Sarah and how radically our lives were transformed on June 8th, 2017.  We are “burdened excessively” far “beyond our strength,” indeed we have “despaired even of life.”  We feel the sting of death in our souls, and we cry out in the depth of our grief like Jeremiah in Lamentations, “my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD” (Lam 3:17-18 ESV).

Thankfully Jeremiah’s testimony goes on to give us hope in the midst of our deep distress:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”  Lamentations 3:21-26 [ESV]

We cling to this hope, His mercies are new every morning.  We have learned the necessity of heeding His warning in Matthew 6:34 regarding “tomorrow” as we journey through this dark valley.  We must fight the constant temptation to agonize over tomorrow, we must not allow ourselves to fall into Satan’s crippling snare of trying to figure out how we will survive the next painful “first,” “second,” or “third” without Sarah.  We do not currently possess the strength, grace or mercy to meet the unthinkable challenges of tomorrow.  We praise Him that His Word promises to provide each and every morning the new mercy and abundant grace uniquely necessary for that day specifically.  We relate to the Word inspired through Paul in the 2 Corinthians passage above, “we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”  So we fix our eyes on Him and strive to rest in the grace and mercy provided for the day, knowing He has faithfully provided our every need each new morning for the past 45 days and trusting like Paul that “He will yet deliver us.”

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 [NASB] 

Also like Paul in 2 Corinthians, we continue to ask for prayer, that you may join “in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.”  People naturally watch those who suffer, so our prayer is that we may suffer in a way that points to God’s abundant provision.   May we keep our hope set on Him and He continue to faithfully deliver us daily.   May His mercy and grace be evident in us, and His surpassing power overrunning in our lives as a testimony to His faithfulness for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 [NASB]

We long, like Sarah, to finish well but the path before us is so painfully long, dark and daunting without her.   We covet prayers that our focus will stay fixed on Him and His provision for today, that we may receive the outpouring of grace, mercy and strength necessary to continue in Him.  May we also hold unswervingly to the hope we profess so that in the end we, too, may be confident and unashamed before Him.

 

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Text message from Sarah Harmening to Rachel Early 5/22/2017