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FAITHFUL LIVING: God stays with us during great struggles
Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide,
In Evry change He faithful will remain.
During my early childhood my parents hauled my brother and me to church on a fairly regular basis. My dad served on various boards and I recall my mom acting as treasurer one year because she kept incredibly precise books and loved rolling the coins and sorting the bills collected from the offering plates. We dressed in our Sunday best because it was appropriate and learned how to sit politely in the pews. We sang traditional hymns accompanied by one of the finest pipe organs in the area, performed in childrens choirs, attended vacation Bible school when it did not collide with our summer vacation plans, served as acolytes and attended catechism when it came time to officially join the church.
As I entered my teen years I grew frustrated with the traditional style of worship. The pace felt way too slow and the order of worship, fairly predictable in nature, bored me. I joined a youth group at another church that not only introduced me to the personal nature of Christ, but also exposed me to modern Christian music and innovative programming. I embraced these changes and continue to enjoy contemporary worship experiences to this day.
In April of this year, when my parents drove up to Washington to tell my family and me of their plan to dismantle their 47-year-old marriage, I went to bed that night engulfed in grief. I hugged my husband. Then I grabbed my Bible and began reading passages in the Old Testament book of Psalms, for I knew the anguish, pain, fear, frustration, anger, worry and helplessness described by the ancients would remind me that the human experience is filled with moments of great struggle. I drifted off to sleep in mid-prayer, asking God to make His presence in my life so clearly evident I would find ways to respond to the situation with grace and dignity when I had no reserves to draw from.
The next morning, as I began waking up, I realized God had heard my prayer, for my heart was filled with a song. I was singing, not audibly, but within the deepest parts of me. And it was not a new, contemporary song but an old hymn written 250 years ago by Katharina A. von Schlegel and sung by me as a child decades ago that filled my waking moments:
Be still my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
With a new understanding I now see that God began planting a message in my heart years ago that only recently has bloomed during a time when I needed some assurance that God draws near to me, feels my grief and will continue to reign Master over the most private aspects of my life.
It is a message meant not just for me but for each one of us.
I have no expectation that I will in this life see God stand before me, feel His physical touch or audibly hear His voice. I have, however, learned to detect His presence. At moments His presence feels like a sweet shiver. This happens to me when I am alone in my car or at home, listening to worship music. I also experience Him during times of corporate worship.
As I have ached and grieved over the break-up of my parents marriage I am learning to hand over my grief. Quite literally I cup my hands and take all that I am feeling and experiencing at the moment and thrust my filled hands out before me. It is during these moments that I have come to appreciate the quiet intimacy and the blessing that comes when I release all that is out of my control. It is why I can now talk about blessings in times of trauma with trust. The very moments I hand God my pain I immediately see evidence of Him everywhere. I indirectly feel Him when people drop by to offer me a hug. I grab hold of His wisdom when an unexpected note or phone call comes from someone who felt led to reach out and share his or her knowledge and experience.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
After some months my energy is returning, along with my natural eagerness to push forward and live fully. My heart fills when I sing those ancient words, and evidence of my own healing brings me relief and thankfulness.
No matter the sorrow, there truly can be a joyful end.
Freelance writer Joan Bay Klopes e-mail address is