Friday, December 03, 2010

Glimpsing God

Glimpsing God: Snapshots from one family's enduring faith through unbelievable trialsMy husband Jesse (who loves me enough to give me his permission to talk about it) has a dilemma. When his cousin Johnny died on Oct. 10, he changed his Facebook profile pic to one of the two of them together, but now every time he looks at his profile, he feels that stab of pain and grief from missing his best friend. He feels guilty about changing it; he wants to still honor Johnny, but at the same time, looking at the picture several times a day is painful.

Grief from the loss of a loved one doesn't have a time limit. Time is definitely a great healer, but sometimes the amount of time required is more than friends or family may be willing to give. I've found this to be true of my illness too. When I first became sick six years ago, everyone was understanding and sympathetic, but now there are many, even fairly close family members, who don't want to hear about it (not that I talk about it all the time). They need me to move on, to be done with it, because they are done with it.

My Grandma Bunn passed away in May of 2009, and just lately I've had a resurgence of grief about it. That's nothing something I would talk about with anyone other than my husband and mom, because we, as society, have placed a time limit on grief.

Because there truly is nothing new under the sun, this reminds me of Job's friends. They are best known for their accusations and attacks on Job in his suffering, but we often forget what they did first to comfort their friend:

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13

They grieved and cried right alongside him. Tearing the robes and sprinkling dust demonstrated deep sorrow, so his friends doing this shows their love for him. And when you are grieving, isn't that just what you want from your friends? To weep and cry and hurt with you, and then when all of the emotion has been exhausted to sit quietly. This is a truly beautiful demonstration of grief from friends. Unfortunately it didn't last. When Job makes a speech about his desire to die, indeed never have been born, because of his deep suffering, his friends, instead of sympathizing or encouraging or even just listening accuse him of hidden sin as the cause of his losses. Ouch! 

What a terrible way to treat a friend! His friends all take turn throwing their punches at Job, as he refutes their claims and calls on God to hear his plea, until finally God shows up, makes all of the men realize they have no idea what they are talking about, restores to Job all that he lost, and chews out these friends for the terrible things they said. God tells them that they will only be forgiven when Job prays for them. 

Even though Job is considered to be one of the oldest books in the Bible, we haven't changed how we treat others in their grief. We give them a time limit, and when we're sick of hearing about it, they just need to be done. True friends should support each other through it all, even when the grief never seems to end. I have a chronic illness, meaning it's never going away. I do my very best not to complain too often, and it's not something I even share with someone unless I do consider them a friend, and it's painful when I see their eyes get that certain glazed appearance that says, "Enough already! Aren't you better yet?" 

Grief is part of the human condition, something we will face until we meet Jesus and he wipes away all of our tears. Then we will be reunited with our lost loved ones, will never suffer another moment's pain, and will know joy beyond imagination. Until, let's all cut each other a little slack. Especially around the holidays as we glance around the table and note the empty places. Be the friend Job should have had, who listened to his cries, anger, and pain without judgment or annoyance. 

Glimpsing God by Rachel Alkire is a heartrending story of unbelievable tragedy one family faced. Rachel and her husband Charles always tried to live according to God's will. Raising their four children (age 7-two) to love the Lord and attending church regularly, they finally felt as though it was all coming together in their new home in Holland, Michigan. Their marriage was strengthened, and they were expecting the birth of their fifth child, so only good things were on the horizon. But in the time of just a few months, Rachel's heart stopped while in labor, their only daughter Esther's skull was fractured by a bully with a baseball bat, and their eldest son, Isaac, was nearly killed in a car accident that left him permanently changed with years of therapy ahead of them. As soon the family began to recover from one incident, another would knock them down. Rachel's faith was shaken when things continued to get worse and three of the children were diagnosed with a brain disorder. If it was a novel, the reader wouldn't believe the author would dare to pack this much tragedy into one book! The book could be just unremitting pain and heartache, but Rachel tries to keep the focus on her love of God, Charles, and her children. What really makes the book come to life is Rachel's interior dialogue. She talks to herself the way most women do, but are afraid to admit to, but in these disclosures, Rachel becomes a real woman, someone the reader can easily relate to and sympathize with. SPOILERS: The only flaw I see is that she originally ends the book after the second car accident and then offers a brief epilogue about Charles' injuries, but I think the book would have been stronger had she given them more time within the book and then discussed the family's reaction and learning to deal with the major change in circumstances, yet again. Alkire's book will make most people's problems look very small, and her faith in God is inspirational, not because it was never shaken, but because it was never truly lost.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book for review! 


kaye said...

Inspirational book. Beautiful.