It’s difficult to see God as a giver of love when you feel like He ripped it away from you, pulled it from underneath you while you were floating on cloud nine. You quickly realized, there really is no sunshine when they’re gone. You were taught God is love but the evidence you possessed of that love has vanished so you’re forced to truly learn to believe in what you can’t see. You don’t do this overnight. There are times when it doesn’t feel like God’s for you. When you not only question if He’s love, but you start to wonder if He’s even good. These are dark days and long nights but time passes and things happen, and light starts to peak through. One smile turns into another and joy no longer feels like a stranger. You no longer equate proof with truth. God helps your unbelief. You find a way to have hope and wait patiently for what you don’t yet see. You cling to a faith you didn’t know you were capable of holding on to. And soon enough, God reminds you that He’s still who He said He was. That He’s good and He’s love. And He may take, but He certainly gives.
Keep believing in what you can’t see and one day you’ll look up and find love staring you in the face.
1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Those who know me well know that my favorite holidays are my birthday and Valentine’s Day. Both are real holidays so don’t try to convince me of otherwise; I’ll simply think you’re delusional. New Year’s Day is slowly slipping into this category of favorite holidays. I’ve always looked forward to setting goals and creating vision boards. It’s like no matter what happened the previous year, I made it to the new one and it’s filled with all these unknowns I’m excited to uncover. Of course I can’t predict the low moments and I don’t anticipate them; I choose to take them as they come. Those good times though… The ones I can’t even dream up if I tried, experiences that will unexpectedly etch a happy place in my heart, creating connections that will last a lifetime, this is what New Year’s Day represents to me: the hope of everything good.
I know we can choose any day to start new and make plans and set goals, but I like that there is a particular day we acknowledge something new, marking the beginning of whatever will be. On January 1, 2013, I was happy about the possibilities the year held, completely unaware my dad would die almost 11 months later but I won’t discount that moment on January 1. I’m learning not to allow an event, no matter how impactful, to define time. It may influence my view of a particular time in my life, but I won’t let it take the joy out of the happy days and the wonder that filled them.
I’m not sure what 2019 was like for you, how many wins and losses and everything in between you took but expect great things in this new year; I do, and God willing, I always will.
Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
Death always has a way of shaking my faith. Even before my father passed, I can remember being broken up when the singer Aaliyah died and crying real tears when my college professor’s father died. These are people I’d never met before but their deaths, along with many others, always made me give God the side eye. How were those closest to the deceased supposed to do life without them? Even before experiencing my own greatest loss, this seemed like an impossible task. And after living out the impossible daily, my faith is still shaken. Not broken, just shaken. This may be the thorn in my side and I’ll live with it, knowing God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 9:12).
So this week I’ve been waiting for the latter part of what Jesus said in that verse, for His strength to be made perfect in my weakness. A gifted producer and songwriter named LaShawn “Big Shiz” Daniels died in a car crash on September 3, 2019. He was not someone I knew personally, in fact, the only reason I knew of him was because my sister made me watch the show “Tamar and Vince,” and he made frequent guest appearances. I had recently stumbled across his Instagram and marveled at him and his wife’s love for each other. It’s what I love and hate about social media: it gives you access to people’s lives you wouldn’t regularly have access to, which most times brings a smile across my face. However, on Wednesday instead of bringing a smile, it brought tears I refused to cry in the middle of the day but would eventually let flow like a leaky faucet. It brought uneasiness and a restless night in which I tried desperately to find sleep. Every post I saw spoke so highly of LaShawn and how he brightened every room he walked into. He was unapologetically himself no matter what crowd he was in. If any good could come from the past five days, it’s that I am encouraged to be who and how God made me, wherever I am.
This wasn’t really my loss but I grieve the suffering those who know him are experiencing. It was their loved one this time, but it could very well have been mine. None of it makes sense and it doesn’t seem fair, but as believers even when faced with such pain, we still choose to trust God. It’s been hard to say that these past few days. Literally, bringing tears to my eyes because my heart and mind don’t believe it but my soul knows it’s true. I have hope and I pray LaShawn’s wife, children, family, and friends find a way to have hope too.
Romans 8:24-25 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Per usual, I was having a conversation with a friend about grief and I told her that healing doesn’t mean not feeling. I thought about all the times I walked around not feeling anything because I didn’t have the energy or time to do so. There was always something more important to focus on. Work, church, family, friends, always something. I didn’t realize my cup was full and this grief was spilling over into every area of my life. I didn’t notice how many plans I cancelled or didn’t bother to make. I didn’t notice how careful my interactions were with others, afraid they’d ask too many questions. I didn’t notice how quiet my dreams had become.
I told my friend a lot of stuff that she probably already heard or wasn’t interested in hearing, but I wish I told her about Job. When my dad passed, I turned to the Book of Job, for what I thought would bring me hope and solace, after all, growing up in church I always heard how Job was faithful to God even after he lost everything… That’s not exactly how the story went. Job was not praising God all the day long while he went through. He wasn’t pretending nothing was wrong. To put it quite frankly, Job was not here for what God was allowing him to go through and he didn’t mind telling his friends and God about it. Maybe Job didn’t curse God, but he cursed the day he was born. He had no problem displaying his grief by tearing his clothes and shaving his head. In fact, in Job 7:11, Job says he won’t be quiet, but he’ll talk about his anguish and he’ll complain from his bitter soul. Job refused to suffer in silence like so many of us do. We think we’re doing everyone a favor, including ourselves, by not grieving so loudly, but it’s killing us softly. Job was as faithful as they come, and even he acknowledged the pain he endured.
Everyone’s process is different but I’m of the belief we can’t talk grief out in our heads. For some it means going to counseling, for others it means going to lunch with a friend, for others talking to God out loud, and still others it means writing a book about it. Or you may be like me and have to do all of the above (a lot of times). Just because you can’t “feel” grief or maybe you ignore it, doesn’t mean it’s not there, begging for your attention, wanting you to share it so you don’t have to bear the load by yourself. Your display of grief may not be as elaborate as Job’s, but its affect on your life can be just as impactful. I’m going to tell you like I told the little girl at my school who wouldn’t speak up for herself: “you better open your mouth and say something.”
Some years back there was a video of a little girl saying she wasn’t going to do it for the vine but eventually she does (one of my favorite videos). In our daily lives we are presented with a host of opportunities to do something for the Lord, and we don’t. It’s not comfortable, the other person doesn’t deserve it, or perhaps they do deserve whatever treatment you’re giving them, it’s not in the budget, it’s not part of the plan, or maybe you just don’t want to. I’ve been there more times than I want to count and often times felt justified in my not doing. But that’s not how God has called us to live our lives.
Colossians 3:23 says “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” As to the Lord. As to the Lord. One more time for the Holy Ghost, as to the Lord. Not my comfort level, not someone else’s “worth,” not my plans, not my budget… as to the Lord. One of my favorite songs is “For Your Glory,” by Tasha Cobbs and the lyrics say “For Your glory, I will do anything…” And every time I sing that part, I feel it deep down in my bones.
Unfortunately, that feeling leaves when my mom ask me to look up her flight information when she is just as capable as I am or when I’m asked to teach Sunday School when I would rather sit in the Senior class. “For Your glory, I will do anything…” I’m not doing my mother or the church a favor because everything I do should be as to the Lord. All for His Glory.
And I know: you’re ALWAYS doing for others. Shouldn’t you be allowed to say no sometimes? You definitely should say no sometimes but if you say yes, don’t blame anyone else because you made the choice to help. When we go out of our way or allow our day to be inconvenienced to help someone, we don’t get brownie points. Jocee, you don’t get brownie points. It’s my reasonable service; the least I could do because I’m doing it as to the Lord.
So when you’re asked to do something, especially when you don’t want to, remind yourself to do it as to the Lord. Don’t half do it because they asked at the last minute. Don’t expect something in return because you did it when you didn’t have to. Don’t complain about doing it. Do it as though God Himself were asking you to. Do it for the Lord.