Today I am meeting God in His word, and He is engraving Himself upon my soul. I am passionately overwhelmed and excited by the Truth He brings in His word, that we share much of His heart. Deep down, you and I share the stamp of His image upon our soul.
Have you ever pondered the heart of God? Have you ever wondered how, with our impossible imperfections, we can be created in His image? How is it possible that we are like God–similar to the One who is so much bigger and holier than us?
To me, it is usually quite apparent how different I am from Him. There are ways we are not like Him at all, and the grace of His Son and His love covers those gaps. However, being created in His image is a Truth we can count on. We are aligned by His grace to the very heart of the LORD. Like with like. Me. You. Him. In some ways, we are so much the same.
The other day, I had mined the news headlines, perused my newsfeed with my usual down-arrow-held skimming, and held prayer requests texted and e-mailed in my heart. I became a little overwhelmed with grief on behalf of others, whose lives held unexpected and unwanted sorrow.
In general, I have a spirit that is positive, aware of the joy that surrounds me—tiny successes in nature and living that cry out God’s holiness and victory over the world’s soiled existence. But some days, I am pressed with reminders that at the exact same moment I am experiencing the joyful gratitude of God’s Yeses to my prayers, others are crushed with frustration or despair, or sudden mourning. I scan headlines or prayer lists, or read a blog from the trenches of suffering, and my heart breaks. I see their hurt, or can imagine their mourning, or wonder at the depth of sadness they must feel that I have never experienced. It’s a helpless feeling. The only possible role for me here is to offer broken-hearted prayer, and in this, join them in mourning and hope-seeking.
From this place, as I drew close to God, He prompted me to seek His heart a little more. To understand Him even better. To increasingly love and trust Him.
Don’t we all have corners inside our hearts that beat slow and heavy, laden with the
agony of disappointment and grief? Like you, in places, my heart is quite wrecked. For me, there is a corner that is darkened with the sorrow of loved ones living away from the grace of God, with sadness for a mom whose brain is just plain worn out and doesn’t think straight, and a long list of beloved friends who struggle. I ache for the damage in the world.
Do you ever have a heart that bows in sorrow? Have you ever grieved over the wreck someone else made of something you valued? Long ago, it may have been a piece of crayoned artwork, given with sticky, but love-intended hands that was found later, tossed underfoot. What you had hoped, and believed, was that it warranted the tender acceptance and care of a Rembrandt.
Has something precious to you become broken by the carelessness of others? Perhaps a relationship you invested in deeply has been upended, or your children have hit a snag that most definitely wasn’t part of your parenting plan.
I believe that in this way, when we suffer grief of the undesired that is an unwelcome guest to our plans, we are united with God’s heart, and bear His image.
One spring, during the early stages of our marriage, my handyman husband, intent on major renovations of the house we hoped to flip, trampled on my heart just a little bit. This was before flipping real estate was trendy, just before the market tanked and our house became a money pit (which is a cautionary tale and journey for another day). It was also at the point in our relationship that he hadn’t a clue about how hard-wired my heart is into needing nature and beautiful places. I say this to let you know my wonderful partner did not upset me intentionally. This was one of those accidental, we-are-wired-so-differently kind of steps in the marital adventure. However, the wound felt shocking and my heart grieved.
On the side of our driveway, over the edge of the dilapidated stone wall, lay a beautiful ground cover of periwinkle. Well, actually, it was just a long area of low, green plants that had yet to bloom. But I knew their potential. In the spring, for a short season, sweet violet-colored flowers would blossom in the bed, brightening up what was otherwise a non-descript area of bramble.
I came home from work one day, to discover my guy had made great progress in scraping off the layers of paint on the house siding. Hurrah for him! (That’s genuine, by the way. He truly is an impressive workhorse.) At some point, probably days later, I discovered he had dumped all the paint chips just over the little stone wall, on top of the myrtle bed. If you garden, you’ll get my reaction. If you don’t, just roll your eyes and skip down a few paragraphs. I’ll understand (but I won’t let you near my flower beds.) Upon viewing the periwinkle, suffocating underneath a layer of non-biodegradable (and probably lead-laden) paint chips, crying out for mercy, my heart broke. I knew what this carpet of ground-covering could become. I was looking forward to its unfurling. More importantly, I valued its beauty. Distraught, I began to imagine picking out individual paint chips for hours during the rescue, in order to reclaim the beauty. I imagined the poison of paint leaching down into the soil as a forever-heritage.
The point of all this is not to garner sympathy for my Crazy Gardener heart. In a world of social and spiritual strife, this event is small and unimportant. When I remember that moment, though, I am in touch with the holy image-sharing soul God placed in me, in each of us. The point is, I valued something. I saw its potential. I eagerly anticipated its fullness. Even if no one else would view the myrtle bed in the same way, its damage cut me, for no other reason than I deemed it precious. To me, that unkempt, non-descript area of wild was important. The fact that my husband (and probably most of you) would never see its importance, did not lessen the impact its destruction had on me.
Such a trivial example of a wonderful, greater truth.
Is this not like our LORD and Father? He sees value in His creation. He sees potential in His work. He deems every human as precious. He eagerly anticipates the unfurling of His plans. No one else views His beloved in quite the same way. He grieves when something wounds what He loves. Who He loves. Even as He sees the train wreck happening.
Isn’t it exciting, and well, a huge relief that our holy LORD shares this ache of our hearts? When words fail, He is already there, like-hearted. Understanding.
God is the LORD of all. He gets to place value on what and who He chooses. He says that Mankind, all of His creation, is very good. (Genesis 1:31)
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 1:5,6
In the RSV, it says: “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.”
Jesus wept over Jerusalem. There is a great example of grievous disappointment in potential unachieved.
In our sorrows, whether small and short-lived, important only to us or life-changing, our hearts cry out for understanding and comfort. The wonderful truth is, we can trust that the LORD is exactly who we need to provide that–more than an earthly friend, or spouse, even. While no one else can walk in our footsteps, and get inside our grieving hearts, He can. When we don’t have the words to articulate how we feel for an empathic listener, or even to Him, He grasps them from our heart. He understands when our plans are wrecked. His own plans have received near-fatal wounds and intentions have been bent and misshapen. When our dreams are broken or trodden upon, His Holy Spirit searches our hearts (Romans 8:27) and intercedes with holy, comforting, understanding companionship. Sometimes we don’t need “fixing” in our sorrow, but what we crave is to be held in good company, and understood. He who knew us first, even before we were born is the Perfect One to provide what we need.
What about you? What are you grieving over? What do you value that’s been torn in two? Maybe a friendship, a marriage? Is it the health of a loved one, or yourself? The dementia-confused mind of a parent? Perhaps it’s a project or act of service you spent hours planning that imploded upon execution, or worse yet, didn’t meet your expectations? Maybe it’s been carefully orchestrated family gatherings or holidays? A career? Dreams for your child? Dreams of a child? Maybe this season of your life is totally not what you anticipated, or hoped, and your heart is broken over the loss.
“Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones” Isaiah 49:13
Today, SHOUT FOR JOY with me! In your grief, may your heart burst into song because the LORD shares your heart. It is He who can completely understand you and walk with you.
Be blessed, my friends. He is ours.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrew 2:17
And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:27
I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20