Monday Feature

by Debra L. Butterfield © 2011

Jacob stood stunned as he stared at the blood-stained coat his sons placed in his hands. He pulled open the folds of cloth now crusty with blood, and his heart sank.
                “Do you recognize it, Father? Is it Joseph’s?”
                “Yes. There’s no mistaking it.” Jacob faltered back and fell to his knees. “Oh, Joseph, oh Joseph, my beloved son. What has killed you?” He buried his face in the coat he had given Joseph and sobbed. Jacob mourned for many days and though his family tried to comfort him, he refused to be comforted.
                I understand the agony that life so often brings. The above story of Jacob and Joseph comes from the Bible in Genesis 37. My heartache began one hot August night many years ago. 
                “Why did you bring your daughter to the ER?” the nurse asked me.
                “We were in the middle of an argument when she put a knife to her chest and threatened to kill herself.”
                “Has this happened before?”
                The nurse escorted us to an examination room. Once there a doctor queried my twelve-year-old daughter with one probing question after another. I remember only one, and my daughter’s unemotional response: “Has anyone ever sexually abused you?” “Yes, my step-dad.”
The emergency room doctor sent us to a local psychiatric hospital, admission papers in hand. It was nearly midnight by now, and Jenny faced the same grueling interrogation at the psychiatric hospital. She appeared numb. I was in shock. I tried to listen, yet found myself severed from the painful questioning as if in the midst of an out-of-body experience.
“How could this be happening?” resounded unendingly in my mind as I said goodnight to Jenny.
I cried the whole way home.

When crisis bursts in on us, our first reaction is often shock, just as the body goes into shock after suffering traumatic physical harm such as in a car accident. This is natural and normal— the events we’re experiencing are too traumatic for our mind to deal with at that moment.
As we face life’s difficulties, we have a choice. Like Jacob, we can refuse to be comforted, or we can follow the example King David gave us. David was still a young man shepherding his father’s sheep when Samuel anointed him king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 16:11-12). He was thirty when he ascended the throne (see 2 Samuel 5:4). David saw his share of troubles during those intervening years, but he knew whom to seek when life bore down. “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1-2, NKJ).
Like my children climbed into my lap for comfort when they were hurt, for three years I approached God as a little child. I mentally climbed into my Father’s lap time after time as one crisis after another confronted me. I asked for strength. I asked for guidance. And I asked him to mend my broken heart. I knew he would listen and not condemn, comfort rather than reprimand, and provide the emotional healing I needed. Over and over again he did. Today my daughter is one year away from obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology. And our relationship that I thought was destroyed forever, God has healed.

Has tragedy pierced your heart to a depth you never knew existed? Have you cried so much you feel you have no tears left? I want you to know you are not alone. I’ve been there. Shock is a normal reaction. What is important is that you move beyond shock and into the process of managing the crisis.
“The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18a), and he catches your every tear (Psalm 56:8b). That is love in action! All may seem dark right now, but day by day things will get brighter, and the sun will shine again. You can and will get through this. God understands your pain. He invites you to seek refuge in Him. Climb into the Father’s lap and tell him where it hurts. He loves you and cares for you. He will bring a soothing balm to your broken heart.

“Pour out your heart before Him” (Psalm 62:8b).

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