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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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32

Tuesday 31st May 2016

The Secret to Dealing with Hard Times – #tellhisstory

This story begins at the side of a deathbed. It was 2014.

But this isn’t a sad story about dying, as much as it’s a hopeful story about living.

I was standing there – at the end of a life, at the side of a hospice bed, leaning over the dying woman. She was frail, but wide-eyed. And she was smiling – the kind of smile that came from the inside.

Our faces were so close that I could feel her breath on my cheek, like a small, warm fog coasting in and out of her.

Our gazes were locked. Though clumsy with grief, I fought for words to express my love.

janetandme

She was my godmother. She had loved me well. And it pained me to say goodbye, though she was thoroughly ready to meet Jesus.

Her eyes were thick with faith, the way they always were.

And her body was tired, the way it always was.

I told her how much I loved her. I told her how big of a difference she made in my life, even in her suffering. She was like a wounded healer, bringing love to the hurting.

I always thought that God gave her special eyes. She could see the hurt in others, because she had felt it so deeply. I am no theologian, but I don’t believe that God wastes the pain in our lives. I believe, with all my heart, that God is redeeming all things.

And part of the reason I believe it is because I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes.

Maybe you know someone like my godmother, whose journey on earth was pockmarked with potholes of painMaybe that someone is you.

Maybe, right now, you’re sitting on the other side of a really awful diagnosis. Maybe you’re struggling with chronic pain, a layoff, a bad breakup, or a terrible misunderstanding with someone you love.

Maybe you’re in the middle of a long week, in the middle of a long year. Maybe you’re somewhere at the end of a life. And it hurts.

All of it hurts, and when you’re in the middle of it, it can be hard to see the good in any of it.

If you’re like me, you may have grown up in a time when you were told to have a stiff upper lip, to hide your pain so no one sees how bad it hurts. You might try a common technique called “Just Move On.” That sort of stoicism may work for a time, but what if we thought about our pain differently? What if we looked our pain in the eye and said: “This hurts terribly, but out of the ashes, shall come greatest beauty.”

What if we used our suffering to heal others, and to heal ourselves, through Jesus?

Frederick Buechner called it the “stewardship of pain.”

Keep in touch with your pain, Buechner advised. “Keep in touch with it because it is at those moments of pain where you are most open to the pain of other people – most open to your own deep places. Keep in touch with those sad times because it is then that you are most aware of your own powerlessness, crushed in a way by what is happening to you, but also most aware of God’s power to pull you through it, to be with you in it.”

We can be stewards of our money, of our time and talents, of our gifts. But could we – like my godmother – also be stewards of our pain? Could we see anew how God suffers with us, just as He suffered for us?

suffers

At times, it’s difficult for me to see how dealing with pain in this way is even possible. Except that I’ve seen it happen – most notably in our Savior.

And I saw it, in the life of my godmother, and in her dying. The hands of suffering seemed to tighten their grip on her in the final years of life. But that only seemed to strengthen her grip on Jesus.

Up until the very end, she poured out her love on dozens of people, like me, who bent over her hospital railing to say, “See you later.”

It was not we who comforted her. It was she who comforted us. She was a steward of her pain, and a giver of His comfort.

The Apostle Paul had something to say about that.

“[God] comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”
-2 Corinthians 1:4, The Message

That day, when I leaned over my godmother’s bed while tears tore paths down my cheeks, she looked at me with eyes that knew both heartache and healing. And before I left – just as she’d done for so many others during her years on earth – she lifted a hand to wipe my tears.

Q4U:

Let’s encourage one another in the comments. What song, verse, comfort, or idea do you know to help you get through hard times? Do you know someone who has practiced the good “stewardship of pain?”

#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Jennifer Frisbie. She writes a beautiful piece on the power of prayer. Find Jennifer here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer


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  • Two songs that encouraged me through a painfully dark season were “Srong Enough” by Matthew West and “Stronger” by Mandisa.

    A verse that encouraged me was Proverbs 23:18: “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

    Thank you for this beautiffuly encouraging word for the hurting, Jennifer. The Dunbars have faced a great deal of loss over the last 5 years, and we have a heart for the grieving at our house.

    • Hi Lyli,

      Thanks for sharing your heart in this place today. Out of your own ashes, I see such beauty. You steward your pain very, very well.

  • Paige Estes

    Some days the only thing that keeps me from huddling up in a corner and declaring “I’m done!” is remembering that One Day. One Day, Jesus whispers to me. One day, its not that none of this will matter, because it does mater, so so much. But One Day, Jesus will come and wipe out all the hurt that comes with it. One Day.
    Glorious Day – Casting Crowns
    One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
    One day when sin was as black as could be
    Jesus came forth to be born of a Virgin
    Dwelt among men, my example is He

    Word became flesh and the light shined among us
    His glory revealed

    Living He loved me, dying He saved me
    And buried He carried my sins far away
    Rising He justified freely forever
    One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day

    One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
    One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
    Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
    Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He

    Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
    And took the nails for me

    ‘Cause living He loved me, dying He saved me
    And buried He carried my sins far away
    Rising He justified freely forever
    One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day

    One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
    One day the stone rolled away from the door
    Then He arose, over death He had conquered
    Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore

    Death could not hold Him
    The grave could not keep Him from rising again

    Living He loved me, dying He saved me
    And buried He carried my sins far away
    Rising He justified freely forever
    One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day
    Glorious day

    One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
    One day the skies with His glories will shine
    Wonderful day, my beloved one bringing
    My Savior Jesus is mine

    Living He loved me, dying He saved me
    And buried He carried my sins far away
    Rising He justified freely forever
    One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day
    Glorious day, oh, glorious day

    Read more: Casting Crowns – Glorious Day Lyrics | MetroLyrics

    • That’s a terrific song. We just sang it in church last weekend!

  • Nancy Ruegg

    In1968, an eighteen-year old friend was killed in a car accident. She was a gifted pianist, an honor student, and soon would have been heading to Spain as a short-term missionary, following high school graduation. Her death didn’t make sense. I started leafing through my Bible, reading underlined portions, looking for something to re-establish my faltering faith, and there it was–Romans 11:33-36. The last verse says: “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” Her funeral was surely to God’s glory, as hundreds of students faced their mortality and heard the message of hope we have in Jesus. Ever since that day, and even now all these years later, my friend still comes to mind. I’ll bet others who knew her have thought of her, too. And frequently that passage from Romans has ministered to me as the decades have passed: Out of the riches of his wisdom God ordains events. He is in control, and nothing happens by chance. Out of the ashes he WILL bring beauty, though we may not see it until we’re with him. Thank you for this bittersweet post, Jennifer–a dose of reality sweetened by the guaranteed comfort and strength of our Almighty God!

    • What a beautiful testimony you’ve shared. Thank you, Nancy.

  • Mary

    My mom was very much like your godmother in how she loved and showed hospitality to others even when her pain was great. I did not understand the depth of how she ministered to others until after she was gone but it is a beautiful lesson to learn.

    Music has always been a source of healing, worship and understanding. Since I just saw Gungor in concert I am going to share the “You Make Beautiful Things” is a beautiful song of healing. Thank you for this space and for your words, Jennifer!

    • Music does the same for me, Mary. That day, the day the picture above was taken, Janet and my mother and Janet’s sister and a whole bunch of others were in the room. And we sat around for a good half hour and sang old Gaither songs.

  • Thank you for sharing this, Jennifer. I’m sure you must miss your godmother so much. What a beautiful testimony of how the more her suffering, the tighter her grip on Jesus. I am comforted by your reminder that God doesn’t waste pain and He will always make beauty out of ashes. Blessings and hugs to you!

    • I do miss her so. I still have the stuffed animal bears next to my bed. She gave them to me when I was ten or so. I recovered them from storage back in 2014, when she entered hospice. They’ve been at my bedside ever since, a reminder of my godmother.

  • Anita

    I hate change (it represents hard times for me, because I get so stuck in my ways), and Sara Grove’s ‘Painting Pictures of Egypt’ helps remind me that I should never long for what was but embrace the changes because even though I can’t see it, I know that God is working in me and through me.

    • Oh, I love Sara Groves. She’s a terrific storyteller and musician. And so down to earth!

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    This is so beautiful, Jennifer! It is at the core of why I write – love this so!!! I feel if there’s any way any negative or pain I go through can not only help me but be of help to someone else, then it is not in vain and God has kept His promise. I am thankful for your godmother, that she poured into you. Now you are doing the same. God bless sister-in-Christ!

    • Thank you, Meghan. You’re right. This is why I write too. Thanks for that.

  • Elizabeth Giertz

    I really love Lauren Daigle’s Trust in your for hard times! It definitely helps me put things in perspective! xo, liz

  • Thanks for the gift of the Buechner quote. A more recent version of it would be Piper’s admonition not to “waste” our afflictions. Romans 8 – pretty much the whole thing – is my rallying cry, but especially the end where Paul is PERSUADED that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any creature will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is the foundation.

  • Anna Smit

    I remember you sharing of your godmother and being touched by the story you shared then as well. Yes, God uses our heartache, suffering and pain. That quote from Buechner speaks such truth. One of my favorite Scriptures is from Luke 9: 23 – 27 (MSG): “23-27 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels.” I too grew up believing in the need to hide the pain beneath, until God used deep grief and PTSD to unearth it.

    My friend, Wendy, and I are now hosting a blog series on it: Broken Light – God’s Treasure in Vessels of Clay through June and July, interviewing women from around the world who have known and continue to know deep pain, both physical and emotional, but who have also each been called into beautiful ministry to others and deeper community through their suffering. Wendy too carries a beautiful story of God’s Light shining through such very deep loss and suffering. And she has been such an amazing encouragement to me. It is such an honor and privilege to be entrusted with each of these women’s stories and I’m excited to see how God uses their hard to bless even more.

  • God is so good to give us certain people in our lives that show us His love. Your Godmother was one of those people. She was a good steward of her pain, and she has passed that on to you as you encourage and bless others through your pain. I appreciate your words … your heart … you!

  • Such a beautiful reminder of God’s place in our suffering. So often we think He is watching from afar with pity, but He is there crying every tear with us.

  • A steward of pain…..wow, that’s profound and something I will be chewing on in my heart and mind. Thank you for this beautiful post. I always come away wondering why I haven’t read your books by now – it’s on my list. I really like you!

  • Jennifer, such a beautiful post! I am so glad you shared about your godmother who sounds like she was an amazing woman right up until her very last breath. I so want to be like her! Thank you for sharing your heart and memories with us all! Blessings!

  • Susan

    I think of Kara and Sarah when I hear “stewards of pain.” My post today is on summer fun, I almost feel as though I shouldn’t linkup…

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  • What a precious story! Thank you so much for sharing and hosting this week’s linkup!

  • Jade from Henibean.

    Such a spirit filled post. Thank you for your words and especially the idea of being “stewards of our pain”.
    The natural man response to pain is to run away from it or hide it deep from the outside worlds view… but I agree with you that we should keep in touch with our pain and be aware of Heavenly father helping us through it… also, we can allow others to view it so that it can work for their good too.
    Have a wonderful day and thanks for sharing your heart. x

  • Karen

    Powerful post. It’s a reminder that God uses everything…. including that which we run away from… for His glory and our good. Let us learn to bring our heartache and pain along with our joy and celebration to Him so that we may honor him with our whole lives!!

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  • Thanks for sharing this beautiful, hope filled story with us. I know a little of joy and grief at the same time. My mother, the night before she died was so appreciative of my help and with a beautiful smile told me she loved me very much. She was at peace and went to be with her savior the very next morning. She was always making things for people and encouraging them. Blessings to you, Jennifer!

  • Niki Hardy

    This post is right where God has me – yet I had to confess that I wrongly assumed that because I have suffered I understand others pain. My post explains my journey and desire to sit with those that are hurting hold out my hand, clasp theirs in mine, hug them and say,“I’m so sorry your world has been rocked, and it feels like the ground has fallen out from under your feet. I understand a little of what you are going through and I am here for you.”

  • Danielle Richarz

    This was a very good post. It is amazing how we feel God is there. I really like how we can feel his presents. I had a time that was similar to your experience with my grandpa. It was a very touching moment from God. When it was time for him to go, he went in peace. He opened his eyes and looked up and then he was gone. My grandpa was a very strong believer in God. I knew that he would be in a better place once he left all the pain and joined God. I enjoy reading your blog!