Luke 14: 25-27 (MSG) One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.
Mark 10: 29-31 (MSG) Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.”
Zechariah 9: 12 ESV
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.
Have you ever sat with these Scriptures for an extended period. Have you ever reconciled them with the message that our families, where they have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, will have Christ unwrapped in them fully, once they reach heaven?
And have you ever considered that to lose our families, our homes, even ourselves, to let our grip go, could actually mean to grasp hold of their and our true selves, in all of their Christ-filled-glory? That what we are in fact only letting go of is the evil that resides in each one of us and surrendering it to the goodness God has placed within each one of us?
As a preteen, I sat listening to a friend speak of her own incredible loss of so much, and while weeping for her, internally I actually wished I had known such deep pain and heartache because I so longed for the strong trust and faith that I saw pour out of her. I could literally feel the incredible Anchor that held her tight and I wanted in on that. I wanted more than the easy, everything is okay trusting in God, I wanted the nitty gritty Strong as a Rock faith I saw in her.
Now, many years later, God has been unraveling my grip on both myself and those dear to me. I’ve experienced the loss of my (pseudo) control as I’ve watched those dear to me suffer and been unable to make it all better, I’ve witnessed my Mum’s departure to heaven, the loss of my ability to function properly as PTSD took hold of me, my identity as a teacher, the loss of the all-consuming anger that had allowed me to repress deep pain, the loss of what I’d been hoping those dear to me could provide, the loss of idols and pedestals … but in these very real losses, my heart, in being opened wide by grief, has also begun to be filled, more and more … by Christ.
The act of grieving, the act of naming and taking ownership of all I’m holding onto, all that my heart so yearns after, is unraveling something unexplainable. God has been opening my eyes to the Truth I’ve been blinded to for so very long. To lose everything, is actually to truly gain much more than everything. For to lose all, is to gain … Christ.
In stepping into the heartache of loss, I’m meeting the God of Hope, Comfort, Counsel, Safety, Loving and Gentle Discipline, the Good, Good Father. And this One True God is not encouraging me to forget or numb the loss, not to lower my expectations, but in fact to admit their depths, to cry real tears, to kick and scream like a little toddler, to admit all I have been seeking that has not been found, to let all that resides within me, out.
And so I am beginning to name each loss, all that my heart yearns for that has either been ripped from me by the evil of death, disease, rejection and shame … or that was in fact never there to begin with: real expectations for love and approval from others that they could never meet. And in the naming, the feeling of deep loss, the ownership of it, He is then turning me to Himself.
“Behold me, Anna. Here, I am. Look at me, Anna. I’m the Love that poured into you all those years from your beloved Mum. I’m the Wholeness that has restored your mother’s cancer ravaged, broken body to full health again in the heavenly realms. I’m the Healing Word that is restoring those wounds of rejection deep in your soul. I’m the Shield of Protection moving into those frightening memories of yours. I’m the Rock of Truth, tethering you to the as-yet-invisible heavenly realm through each and every crippling fear, flowing and aching tear. I’m the seal of approval and worthiness, breaking down the wall to your heart, smashing the idols of human shaping that are keeping you from my beautiful Love. I’m the Comfort, Counsel, Hugs, Kisses and Physical Presence pouring out of those I have placed around you. I am Goodness, all of it.
So, Anna, feel the very real pain of loss and then enter my Joy, the pang of loss taken captive by the Hope of Full Restoration. Keep beholding Me and you’ll truly find all your heart so yearns after: the eternity I have placed within your heart.”
Yes, LORD. YOU ALONE are the Goodness. We join the choirs of heaven in worshipping You, our mighty Goodness:
Ecclesiastes 3: 11 (NIV)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
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 may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
“I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.
“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?
“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. –
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [or Comforter] to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth.”