Receiving New Good Gifts from God

I have grieved the loss of my daughter because I love her. And at times, this has tempted me to believe that my grief and love are coextensive. But actually, my love for my daughter goes far beyond my grief.

The Freedom to Grieve or Not Grieve

As the intensity and frequency of my grief experiences have lessened, love has continued to persist. In love, I am set on my daughter’s good—and because of heavenly glory, I have the unshakeable hope she already has all good. Remaining here, because I do not equate grief and love, I now have no conflict of love when experiencing new joys in this life. 

God has been faithful to lead me forward. For none of His guidance contradicts—no calling He puts on my life in one area causes conflict for how He has designed for me to live in another area. He has given my first daughter for me to love. As He has given me new breaths and days for me to move forward here. To live seamlessly between these two callings is a demonstration of the trustworthiness of His ways. I can love, and I can move forward. 

Resolving the relationship within me between grief and love has been vital to gaining the peace to move forward in life. For I am called as God’s redeemed to love well—especially love those so dear as my own family. 

The Freedom to Love God by Receiving 

As this inner conflict has been resolved, God has shown me that receiving good gifts from Him after loss is part of loving and worshiping Him. To freely receive all of the goodness that God gives means I also have no conflict between my love for my daughter and my love for God. 

If, conversely, I felt resistant toward new good gifts of God because they seemed to negate my love for my daughter, in what state would my love for God, my Maker, Creator, and Redeemer, exist? Instead, because I know that love for my daughter is not contingent upon experiencing sadness, I also know that I can joyfully receive new gifts that God does desire to give.

Receiving, and Loving Him More

When all I have is considered, God gives countless good gifts to me. James 1:17 teaches, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” In grief, I once had difficulty remembering the beauty of God’s goodness. Now, five years later, perceiving it without feelings of grief or sadness is overwhelming—evoking within praise that never did God change. Though my sight was shadowed, never was there a shift or shadow within God. How good He is—and how glad I am that I worked and waited for the day I could perceive so without the grief-veil before my eyes! 

Now, as I receive the “yes” of new gifts from His hand, He helps me do exactly what I desire—love Him more in response. 

  • I affirm God’s goodness. In being willing to receive good gifts from God after my loss, I acknowledge that death came through sin—sin with which God cannot be tempted and cannot tempt. Instead, God is the Father of lights who cannot change. Receiving good gifts from His hand that He does decide to give—and receiving them with decided joy—is an affirmation of my trust in God’s goodness.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.
James 1:13

  • I help keep myself from sin. The more I love what God loves, the more distasteful sins become to my desires. I was not born holy—I must continually learn the beauty of holiness and righteousness. Dismissing the goodness of God’s Word, people, promises, and continued purposes in this life is no way to train my desires toward the goodness of His light. Being content with all of the good gifts He does decide to give reminds me of how kind He is, and makes me desire to reject sin.

But each person is tempted when He is lured and enticed by His own desire.
James 1:14 

  • I grow in humility. Insisting upon my own way for my life is only a legitimate aim if I am in charge of my life. But God is the Father above me. By His will I was created and reborn in Christ; I belong to Him. Receiving good gifts from His hand that He does decide to give in this life—and not only insisting upon the gift(s) I sought—brings me closer to Him through submission.

Of His own will he brought us forth by the word of truth
James 1:18a

  • I love God’s glory. As much as selfish thinking prompts me to live with myself as the center of my world—God and His glory is the center, the point. I have been created and redeemed to serve Him. God is glad to give me good gifts that I enjoy because He is a good God. He is honored when I receive with thanksgiving. So when I do welcome from the hand of God what He does decide to give, I promote His glory. 

…that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
James 1:18b

When God has not given me, presently, the life with my first daughter I desired, will I receive from Him what He does desire to give? Yes. In order to do so, I first worked to resolve the tension I felt between grief, love, and moving forward. That opened my heart toward fully receiving from the Lord. 

Now, as life continues to move forward, I will continue to receive because God is unchangingly good, because by this I am kept further from sin and closer to Him, because my life is not my own, and because His glory is the very focal point of living. As I have done this receiving, I can also testify that God has been faithful to draw me near in the “yes” of new good gifts from His hand, even as He walked with me through the “no” of loss.

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Lianna Davis
Church Is Home for the Grieving

The kind people at my home church would have been able to tell you that I cried through nearly every service—that is, every service I had the physical strength to last through—for weeks after our daughter went to glory. 

A Home through Song 

At the mention of heaven, the sound of “weary” or “grief” amplified by the church’s speakers, or the proclamation of Christ’s triumph over death: tears. 

I sobbed listening to this stanza[1]

When we arrive at eternity’s shore 
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more 
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring 
Your bride will come together and we'll sing 
You’re beautiful 

I was stilled, with wetted cheeks, by these words[2]

Dear refuge of my weary soul, 
On thee when sorrows rise; 
On thee, when waves of trouble roll, 
My fainting hope relies. 

To thee I tell each rising grief, 
For thou alone canst heal; 
Thy word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel. 

Hast thou not bid me seek thy face? 
And shall I seek in vain? 
And can the ear of sovereign grace 
Be deaf when I complain? 

No, still the ear of sovereign grace 
Attends the mourner's prayer; 
O may I ever find access, 
To breathe my sorrows there. 

The list of welcomed input for my grieving heart from church could go on—for there, I was understood. Life and death were central to the proceedings. The precise themes treading within me were on full display before me. Church presented the relief I needed—the words I heard there testify to it. 

A Home through Ordinances 

On our first Sunday back at church after my daughter’s body failed her, once singing was done, I soon became transfixed on the pastor and an elder. They stood at a familiar table in the front of the sanctuary. What did he say? It sounded new. 

“This is my body, which is for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:24

Then I listened in again, my thoughts in grief slow to recuperate: 

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26

Taking the bread and cup, my spirit remembered: His body was given to death. He is with me in this grief. It is being proclaimed. 

Witnessing a baptism for the first time after my loss was much the same. 

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5

My heart swelled: In Christ, death leads to life. That joy transcends grief is a promise. 

Reader, if you grieve today, perhaps you feel as though the world moves ahead without you. Know that Christ speaks to you at very point of pain. Before my daughter went to glory, I had not given much attention to the prominence of death in church ordinances, the Lord’s supper and baptism. But as I witnessed service after service, I could believe that my Lord would not brush past me or scurry my wounds to patched-up, peripheral healing. Through his death, he would deal directly with the core of the wound. At church, I would find reassurance that he alone can heal like that. 

A Home through Christ’s Headship 

In my experience, the love of the people in my local church was exceedingly sweet and evident. I could not have dreamed into being a better local gathering of God’s family to be a part of amidst the loss of our daughter—and I have heard this experience to be widely shared by others in their churches. Yet, I also cannot necessarily promise others the same. I cannot guarantee the same absence of insensitivities or utter outpouring of acts of service and genuinely shared mourning. 

But, here is what I can promise: Christ is the Head of his church (Colossians 1:8). And the theological realities from the Word coming from his pulpits and through the ordinances he instituted are a constant—they emanate from the rich pillar and buttress of truth he established (1 Timothy 3:15). Through what he gave his Church to do and hear until he returns, we can be assured that he understands how intrinsic to the human experience death has woefully become. 

Grieving brothers and sisters, as you seek God’s face in grief, see how he attends the mourner’s prayer directly through sound assemblies of his own people. In these churches, be refreshed by the proclamation that though death is a shadow of darkness, a great light has dawned through the Lamb who was slain (Matthew 4:16). 

A Home through One Unique Death, Proclaimed 

One day, death will only be a memory. Yet, death will always be a memory. One day, in glory’s worship services, thoughts of death will not prompt sobs and sorrowful silences. Thoughts of death will not be a hovering shadow, but they will take on a different significance. They will evoke light that has scattered every shadow we have known because the death that will matter to God’s people will be his victorious one. 

As the Church on this earth awaiting glory, God’s people proclaim his death: The core of our wound—sin—has been cleansed and pardoned; God’s wrath is turned away. So, we can anticipate eternal life from death. Here, when we feel depleted by death, he is with us—having been given there for us. As God’s people, we assemble beneath our Head, and proclaiming his unique death, we find a home when we grieve until he comes again. 

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Lianna Davis
“Made for a Different Land” Release and Highlight Trailer

Today, I am sharing the newly released Made for a Different Land highlight trailer by Anchored Films in partnership with Hope Mommies.

Thinking and dreaming about my little babe
Left with so few memories made
Caught thinking, “After she comes home…”—but she never can

A balloon released across the skies
Watching, nearer than I think, my God all-wise
Having hope of my baby made safe by His sacrifice

A mother with no child to mother
An announcement with no introduction to follow
A nursery, but no baby to swaddle

Thinking about a different land
A place of perfection, worshiping the Lamb
I grieve, but for my baby I see the gracious plan

For a different land we were both made
“So long for now, precious babe!”
We’ll worship Him together when I too am heavenly awake

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“Made for a Different Land” Contributors Interviews

For the first time this year, Hope Mommies—a 501(c)3 non-profit organization sharing the hope of Christ with women who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss—will offer a free gift for those who want to donate to the ministry through the annual Giving Tuesday campaign starting November 27. The gift is a book I have written, Made for a Different Land: Eternal Hope for Baby Loss; the book also includes chapters from several contributors.

Today, I hope to provide an opportunity for the contributors to the book to speak from their hearts about this project and their ministries of words. I asked them to send a paragraph about their mission behind writing for grieving mothers, what chapter they contributed to Made for a Different Land, and what they hope women will take away from their writing. Here were their responses:

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Her Stillborn, Him Sovereign

There in the ground was a pristinely carved—yet, stark—rectangular hole. Lowered into it was a pink casket far too pretty for this spot and not nearly pretty enough for the body inside. Within was my darling newborn’s frame.

The day her body lowered into the ground, we sang, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” to conclude the service that marked her departure from this world. Fixed on our faces as we finished the doxology were expressions of steadfast knowledge flowing from our convictions about God’s grander purposes for the world. Anguish and confidence met to form sonorous, singing agreement: our God in heaven is sovereign. 

Not many days prior, a monitor made her heartbeat audible. Our preparations for her arrival had been in sync with this beat. Our feet drummed to its rhythm as we readied our home; our baby was coming. One day after hearing the textbook heartbeat from the doctor’s monitor, I went into labor naturally. We drove to the same hospital to be monitored by the same machine as the day before. But the results were different. A perfect, pale-pink nursery at home, an already-doting father, a glowing and bonded mother, but there was no heartbeat for our little girl. She was born one day later.

Staring at a motionless image on an ultrasound machine’s screen, my mind reverberated with a refrain I had been taught long before I was pregnant or married. A college systematic theology professor—Kevin Zuber—had delivered a lecture that powerfully set in my heart this theme (I am paraphrasing): “Do the work in advance to know that God is sovereign because when difficulties come, this is what you will need to know.” Thanks to the Lord, this was the message I remembered with clarity those seven or so years later. 

In the hospital, I held precious weight born from my own body. There were no pounds and ounces like hers. Her hands and feet wore many wrinkles; death was already taking over her body by the time we were face-to-face. 

 I beheld beautiful her while His sovereignty kept me alive. As I looked down to my lifeless newborn, there was no other answer—she was not made for this earth at all. While my eyes poured over her for the first time, the first sight I have hope she already beheld was of Christ. I said these words aloud, wanting to verbally etch a permanent memory into the blur of labor and delivery: “She was made for a different land.” My surrounding family nodded in heartfelt agreement.

Weeks after her burial, still fixated—in my mind’s eye—on the hole in the ground and the baby body far too beautiful for it, still, this question poured from my inward being:What more could I ask Him to do than He has already done? What more could I ask Him to do than He had already sacrificially done for me on the cross? What more could I ask Him to do than what I had not deserved: His part in the precious transaction of my salvation—a salvation to which I contributed only hell. 

 April was my daughter’s month—the month she was born and the month she was buried; April awakens us with her spring, but buries us with her rain. The literal skies emptied on me the day she was lowered into the ground. Tears threatened to bury me too. But instead, through each torrent of grief, He caused me to know Him—to trust His sovereignty and see His goodness at the cross.

He birthed something new in me that April, which sprung from the soil of burial to become purpose. He birthed an intimate knowledge of Himself; a longing to unambiguously share His faithfulness in the deluge; and the unrivaled, undeserved comfort of His sacrifice. Because of His salvation, our April meant joy. These were not the gifts of birth and growth that I anticipated and longed for that April. But this, God sovereignly yielded.

I do not know the total sum of sovereign goodness He plans from our child’s early departure from this world; His ways are mysterious. But I do know enough of Him to be sure that, whatever the sum is, He will yield it: “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3).

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Lianna Davis
Still Together in Christ

Feeling my first baby in my arms, all 7 pounds and 7 ounces—I had previously held no weight like hers. These were precious pounds, but entirely still. In that moment, I experienced that death is an enemy.

Remaining on a Fallen Earth

For months afterward, I could not bring myself to say the word, “death.” More, I called her gravesite her “marker” in the ground. In the intensity of those days, I was beholding the grave painted upon the landscapes around me; I saw decay—even decrepit buildings brought remembrance that this earth is wasting away, and in it, my baby was born without life at all. 

Failing buildings and structures appeared often along the roads we traversed on the route to her marker. I would gaze to the skies on our travels—to that relieving blaze of golden-blue when my eyes had already met their fill of less-than-scenic evidence of Adam’s historic fall. I was comforted to lift my sight with hope of the joy of my daughter in glory. 

But that joy alone could not deliver me through grief—for in the days when I exclusively thought of her gain, I also exclusively wanted to join her. I would tell God that if he wanted to take me to heaven where my daughter lived, then yes, I would desire to fly ahead too. But after every similar prayer, I was still on earth, surrounded by each death-foretelling shadow.

Enlivened by Heavenly Good

When my hospital nurse wheeled me out of the delivery room without those most precious pounds, she told me and my husband that she needed to re-evaluate her life based upon the strength she had witnessed in me. I had never felt closer to death than when within those four hospital walls—in fact, within that room I first envisioned that I might soon reside heaven-side. The strength this nurse witnessed was most certainly not my own. 

This conversation was my first experience of the heavenly good God can bring from this kind of devastation. And so, from that early hour, I knew to my core that closeness with my daughter was in our joint union to the Lord whose purposes enliven us both. 

Yet, when two people share a life-altering experience, a nearness can develop. In some sense, that is what I felt with my daughter; we had both endured a life-altering experience together, her earthly life ending within me and my life carrying her death. To venture into recollection of that grief was also to revisit my bond with her. If I could not join her through death, I could still “join” her in the magnitude of my sorrow over those last moments. But in time, I gained the full impetus to surrender to God the sorrow of the loss, should that be his will—content to remember my daughter outside of the pain.

United in Christ

Since the day her body went devastatingly limp, I have gained more time and capacity for the inner reception of Christ’s love. This I know: What could possibly draw any two people closer than the Lord himself—and the shared eternal love of the almighty One, which produces the most life-altering experience of all? 

My nearness with my stillborn daughter does not come from thinking her “spirit lives on with us”—for I believe she is literally with the Lord (Luke 23:43). Closeness is not out of a belief she looks down on us from above—the Scriptures do not reveal her activities at present. And I do not sense a bond with her because I somehow see appearing in the world around me signs or symbols that I interpret to be from her—for it is the Lord, not my daughter, whom I can be sure communes with me. Rather, the Lord and his love unite us—his love forever evidenced by the cross (Romans 5:6-8).

Death, an enemy, separates relationships; physical death separates us from each other. But closer to the core, spiritual death has already separated us from God—the source of life and love. Being joined one day with my daughter will happen as a result of a more primary truth: reunion with fellow man is the result of being fully united together, one day, to Christ.

Under the present shadow of death, without hope for life, I am powerless to unite myself with him (Romans 5:6); but from one death comes reconciliation with God, and life (Romans 5:10). Mankind’s otherworldly reunions are first spiritual in nature—spiritual joy in Jesus Christ, the necessary first cause for joy and unity with each other. 

For there is one body to which all who are in Christ belong:

Let it be considered that the church on earth is the same society with those saints who are praising God in heaven. There is not one church of Christ in heaven, and another here upon earth. Though the one be sometimes called the church triumphant, and the other the church militant, yet they are not indeed two churches. […] they are all united: for there is but one body, and one spirit, and one Lord Jesus Christ. (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. II)

Presently “militant” amidst a wasting-away world, I am soon to be resting “triumphant,” glorified in Christ with his people. 

Continuing Life in His Perfect Love

But even this day, my hope in the One I have yet to see does disappoint. For I already have his love—evident in history, and poured by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the gift of faith, into my soul (Romans 5:5). 

When my daughter became triumphant, while I remained militant, the theme of spiritual reconciliation with God was the source of my continuing life—the bright renewal of my inner spirit when earth seemed all decay and when sorrow was a connection to my daughter I could not envision my life without.

Though loss brought my strong and true motherly love for my daughter into focus, his love is perfect and incomparable. I have the great hope that my daughter and I share his love in forever-unity. His love came mercifully to us first. And his love does not ever disappoint.

Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

By continually receiving of his sacrifice, the cross could regain more predominance in my view than earthly loss, and my life on this fallen ground could soldier forward with heavenly purposes.

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Lianna Davis
“Made for a Different Land” Teaser Trailer

“they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one
Hebrews 11:16a (NIV)

With Hebrews 11:16 coming to mind, I uttered the following words in the hospital room after the stillbirth of my first child: “She was made for a different land.” Soon, we announced online the death of our child instead of her birth, and the same words were written across the title of our blog post. As the years have gone by, this is the phrase I have written on balloons released in memory of my daughter. And most recently, “Made for a Different Land” is the title of a forthcoming collaborative book from Hope Mommies, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization sharing the hope of Christ with women who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss.* So, these have been significant, thematic words in my thoughts and life for the last five years—right up to the present day. 

I think I have carried them so closely with me because of the hope they continue to communicate to my soul: First, “She was made”—she was! God made my daughter, and I thank Him that He did. Her existencewas an act of God, full of meaning because divine hands formed her. She grew within me—she would not breath outside of the womb or ever take steps on this earth. But she was made here—and I owe that joy and the treasure of calling her my daughter to the Lord, her Maker.

Second, “She was made for”—she was made to serve the purposes of an almighty God. The God who knew every one of her days, in utero, before even one came to be—she was made for Him. And her life, days, and existence—though not what I originally expected—were for a reason. They were to serve the plan God had set—purposes of His glory that I will see and deeply enjoy in the fullness of eternity.

And third, her purpose involves being made “for a different land.” Specifically, there has been good reason for her not being made to stay on earth for very long, but made to go quickly to glory. And because I have the hope that God ordained her life to bypass much of what is here, I also have hope that He set this limit for her earthly days for a reason that will prove to serve Him best.

She was made; she is a treasure to me with indisputable value because of her divine Maker. She was made for a sovereign King, for reasons worthy because of who He is. And her purpose involves her having gone quickly to a different land in order to best fulfill His calling on her life.

So, every time I think or say these words—“Made for a Different Land”—I remember all over again that there is an intense, beautiful hope beyond the brevity of these earthly days that cannot be compressed into words. Though I do not know the full reasons for the brevity of her days, I am proud as her mother that she has fulfilled God’s great calling in her earthly life. Though she has been spared much of the pain and sorrow of this life—especially spared the worst sorrow of choosing to sin against her Maker—I also do not think her calling was entirely easy. She was called to so helplessly pass away in the womb without her own mother being able to rescue her. My dear girl! How I would have helped if I could have! And yet, this has served the glorious purposes of an almighty God; this I know.

I am proud of her, thank God for her, and love her too dearly to express. I raise my arms in thanks to my great, beloved God that He has ordained for His people to have the honor of bringing glory to Him through their lives, and receive this heavenly purpose with a swell of hope for life beyond this place.

When I think of my daughter, made for a different land, these are the words of my heart for her:

My child, my treasure,

I love thinking of you, by God’s mercy, in that place where you are alive—full and free.

For you were not made for this land at all.

You were made for a different land, a better land, a heavenly one.

And here, I have gained greater love for the Lord and His life through the gift of knowing you.

Sharing our beloved Lord Jesus unites us, in time and in eternity.

Forever yours,
Mom

*For the first time this year, Hope Mommies will have a free gift for those who want to donate to the ministry through their annual Giving Tuesday campaign—the new book Made for a Different Land: Eternal Hope for Baby Loss. More details on the campaign are to come at Hope Mommies. The book will also be available for purchase at Amazon on January 1.

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Abide with Me

Abide with me; falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers, fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, abide with me.

Thou on my head, in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious, and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, though I oft left Thee,
On to the close Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence, every passing hour.
What but Thy grace, can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless
Ills have no weight, tears lose their bitterness
Where is thy sting death? Where grave thy victory?
I triumph still, abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross, before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, Lord, abide with me.¹

When human comforts failed to reach my grieving soul, I triumphed still. 

When in my quiet home I felt the passing of each hour—no, minute—I triumphed still. 

When death, so near, blanketed my sight, I triumphed still. 

When that enemy drained my firstborn’s life, I triumphed still. 

Triumph is a promise from the Lord for His own: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). One commentator writes on this verse,

even if the last resurrection is still future, the basis of the victory is a present gift, providing grounds for present exultation and thanksgiving. It is not a mere present of future certainty about resurrection; it also expresses the present gift of grace to believers for whom the destructive potential of sin, the law, and death as a terrifying prospect has been broken.²

Gratitude in the present moment can be found because part of Christ’s gift to us is the ability, this day, to look squarely at death and know decidedly within our souls that ours is the victory. The certainty of the future resurrection means that sin and death need no longer be feared. The fulfillment is still future, but the imprint of the future in the present is itself a triumph to be celebrated. 

With the present ministry of the Holy Spirit that is directing believing hearts to the truth, Christ abides with us through His living words that grow roots within our hearts. The hole left by the ravaging enemy, death, cannot triumph in us—no, the hole becomes a wider, deeper venue for the holy roots of Christ’s truth to grow in us until we are filled. This reality is akin to laughing in the face of the enemy, death—that it has no lasting hold upon the believer in the present, and it will not have its way in the future. 

As Hope Moms, we have known real pain. We can also know more of Christ through this pain in the goodness of His abiding presence. For the truth of victory is not eclipsed by so near an experience with death as for our own children to have fallen asleep. We and our children, with Christ as our Head, triumph still. This truth is comfort with full reach into the soul; it is hope that climbs above despair; it is triumph that prevents being overcome; and it is victory that excludes the enemy’s domination. 

And so, days after death was cradled within my own body, I read these words and exulted in my inner spirit:

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless
Ills have no weight, tears lose their bitterness
Where is thy sting death? Where grave thy victory?
I triumph still, abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross, before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, Lord, abide with me.

Though the memory of death may be a companion, Christ’s victory overpowers the night. And, like Charles Spurgeon, we who are members of Christ can say to death—the shadow that will flee—“you do not win; ours is the victory”:

Death, we tell you again that your sting is taken away as to the friends we have lost. The widow, weeping, tells you that she does not feel your sting, for her husband is in heaven and she is following him as speedily as time can carry her. The mother tells you, Death, that through Divine Grace you have no sting in her thoughts concerning her infants. She rejoices to know that at her breast there once did hang immortal spirits that now behold the Savior's face! And we say to you, Death, concerning all beloved ones who have gone, that we sorrow not over them and would not—
            “Break their placid sleep,
             Nor lure them from their home above.”
We devoutly thank the Father of spirits, who has safely housed them beyond fear of damage and brought them to the desired haven where no rough wind or tempestuous wave shall ever rock their keel again. “Blessed,” we say, as we repeat the voice from Heaven, “blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”

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Lianna Davisgrief hymns
Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul

Anne Steele knew grief well: “She lost her mother at age 3, a potential suitor at age 20, her stepmother at 43, and her sister-in-law at 45. She spent many years caring for her father until his death in 1769. For many years, she exhibited symptoms of malaria, including persistent pain, fever, headaches, and stomach aches,” according to Chris Fenner, writing for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s The Towers.¹ She peacefully found her refuge in the Lord when her own final moments came, expressing trust in Jesus, the Redeemer who lives.² 

“Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” was one hymn raised from her aching, trusting life into word. Below, following each verse of this hymn, are some of my notes and reflections on the themes she raises.

Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On thee when sorrows rise;
On thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.

My hope—the expression of it—is different from the hope, the truth. And when my expression of hope in Christ has been left nearly breathless underneath the rolling pounds of stormy grief, how blessed I have been to remember through this song that my soul may yet rely upon the source of hope and the originating cause for why I can, at all, express hope, Christ Himself.

To thee I tell each rising grief,
For thou alone canst heal;
Thy word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel.

How reserved I became in grief! During grief, I was sweetly reminded by a friend to express my grief to the Lord, how I could. The words of this song coordinated with that counsel to become an anthem of sorts for me—“To Thee I tell each rising grief.”

But oh! when gloomy doubts prevail
I fear to call thee mine;
The springs of comfort seem to fail
And all my hopes decline.

After one experience of sweet relief from God’s Word is grief all resolved? Not for me. Help was continually needed. Further, some will be especially helped to read: “Springs of comfort seem to fail.” While God’s comfort doesn’t fail, it may require believing truths that could be challenging, at first, to accept.

I have wondered about the meaning behind the author’s fear in the second line of this stanza—my thought is that she feared to call the Lord hers because she considered Him worthy of a more faithful follower in suffering that she believed herself to be (for in the following stanza, she calls her Lord gracious).

Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust;
And still my soul would cleave to thee,
Though prostrate in the dust.

By the help of the Holy Spirit, I too have felt utterly unworthy of the Lord. In and of myself, Iaman unworthy sinner. And more, I am unfathomably miniscule compared to the God of greatness; the Psalmist writes, “O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?” (Psalm 144:3). If I stood as one worthy of or great enough for God, grace could not be grace—by definition, undeserved.

Hast thou not bid me seek thy face?
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace
Be deaf when I complain?

Yet, God gives sustaining breath, life, and capability this day that I might seek Him. What will God’s answer be toward me, aching person in bare need of Him? 

No, still the ear of sovereign grace
Attends the mourner's prayer;
O may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there.

Yes,grace.He has opened a way to His everlasting, holy throne, apart from the law—apart from working for or being personally worthy of this access (Romans 3:28). The perfection of Christ provides admission. The One whose works on this earth were perfect—He is the way. Knowing this God of grace means that my dearest hope is, May I never lose Him!

Thy mercy-seat is open still;
Here let my soul retreat,
With humble hope attend thy will,
And wait beneath thy feet.³

What audacity for me, a sinner in and of myself, to come before God’s throne with confidence! This is a shocking thought: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). But it is an unalterable provision for those in Christ that can be trusted with joy; His perfect works have been credited to believers, and therefore, being made worthy by union with Him to draw near to God becomes a holy, joyous reality (Romans 4:5).

I find in Steele’s hymn the expression of a paradox; in humble hope, needy hope, that recognizes I can add nothing to a God who is fully satisfied in Himself and that accepts I have contributed nothing to gain my access to Him, I find ultimate confidence. This confidence comes to me from outside of myself, and is found in the Person of Christ. 

God has chosen to give broken hearts access to Him based upon His own kindness. From this truth comes steadfast hope to wait with patience for Him—for the fulfillment of His plans for His people and His world—and to live for Him with gratitude in the wait.

With an unworthy soul and, simultaneously, a soul deemed acceptable to God through Christ—He is my dear refuge too, my gracious retreat. “To Thee I tell each rising grief,” confidently drawing near through Christ alone.

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Lianna Davisgrief hymns
I See Your Care for Me

Love hopes all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7

One commentator writes on this passage, love hopes “what is good of another.”¹ Church father Augustine of Hippo also understood 1 Corinthians 13:7 in terms of “‘believing the best’ about all people.”² When others have sought to comfort me about the loss of my daughter, whatever they have said, I have learned to hope all things about their intentions. 

I have looked to their caring and questioning eyes as they wonder within themselves if what they have said would be accepted by me in grief. And I have noticed their care and willingness to abandon comfort for the sake of trying to help. Whatever their words, I have received all of their love

Those who grieve are often a conundrum, not only to those on the outside of grief circles, but also to themselves. I don’t have answers within myself for this kind of pain; I don’t fully understand my own heart. When C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed about the words of other people, he revealed the enigma: “I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they'll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate if they do, and if they don’t.”

Those who grieve often do want people to say something, to acknowledge the loss, the intensity, the gap, the pain. But if I am honest—could I not nearly always find what other people say lacking? Is there a perfect phrase? No human words or actions could bring my daughter back to me—this loss is not a problem others’ words can solve. No merely human words can withstand the high pressure of grief. Only the God who called light into being from darkness could one day call relationships severed by death into wholeness.

Yes, there have been more-helpful-than-not words others have offered me. There are talks and phrases from the earliest days of grief that are still memorable for me—that I hold near. And I do see the value in, at times, relaying those helpful perspective to others who want to know—who want to grow in blessing the grieving people/communities they have in their lives.

But for the present moment, I am going to refrain from giving the list because I am writing for a series called—“What I Wish You Knew.” 

And from the “inside” of being a griever, what I have personally always wished those on the “outside” knew—what I have wished that they would fully take to heart—is this: friends and family, if you have ever sought to comfort me, thank you. If you have ever sought to bless and encourage me, while having wondered if it was said or done correctly, thank you. You have helped; I have heard your words, and I have dearly appreciated that you spoke them. I saw your eyes, noted your tone. I saw your concern; I have fully received your care for me.

Friends and family, I noticed your promptness to reply right away after you heard the news—the promptness an acknowledgement of the shock of the loss. Or I saw that you waited months to send me anything or say anything because you were at a loss for words—the wait an acknowledge of the intensity of the loss. You have all been different, but I took all that I saw from you into my heart; I welcomed your love. And I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.   

And now, to those who are grieving and reading these words, I encourage you to hope the best about those on the “outside” of your grieving circles too—to receive all of the concern that you can possibly decipher, even if it is between the lines of others’ words. With that desire, do you think more people would approach you—taking that step outside of what is comfortable for them? And do you think you would be able to receive more comfort from a greater number of people in your life?

Love hopes all things.

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Lianna Davis
A Few Resources for Bereaved Mothers

“How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil,”  by D. A. Carson

This book can serve to re-calibrate according to a biblical framework our thinking about suffering. If you are seeking to work through your understanding of theology to come to terms with where suffering and grief fits into a biblical worldview, and how Scripture’s writers regard suffering, this is a go-to book. Allow me to quote from it at length:

“Death is not simply something that happens to me. It happens to me because I am a sinner. In that sense I have caused death; I am death’s subject, not just its object. In my transgression I have attracted the just wrath of God. […]

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am not saying that it is wrong to rage against death, or that Paul is wrong to treat death as ‘the last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15). The Bible everywhere assumes that those who are bereaved will grieve, and their grief is never belittled. Job grieves unbearably at the loss of his ten children (Job 1:202:13); so does the widow of Nain who lost her son (Luke 7:11-13), and she attracts Jesus’ compassion. And to our grieving minds there seems an inequity when wicked men live out their seventy years while little children perish.

It is essential to grasp the theological point that stands at the heart of our lostness, and therefore of our redemption: death is, finally, the result of our sin, and therefore rage directed against God, as if he were unfair for passing the sentence that our sin deserved, is inherently foolish, as foolish as criticizing a judge for passing a just sentence on a bank robber. Our rage is better directed at the ugliness of death, the wretchedness of sin, our sense of betrayal and self-betrayal. It may be a venting of our profound loss and frustration. But thoughtful Christians will never lose sight of the origins of death, and therefore will not, at least on this ground, rage against God himself.”

“How Would You Counsel a Couple Curious about IVF?” by C. Ben Mitchell  (see also: “An Interview with John Feinberg on Ethics for a Brave New World,” by Justin Taylor )

These resources are available to help those who are learning about IVF consider the facts surrounding this process.

“Relationships: Will We Know One Another In Heaven?” by Pastor Colin Smith

Here is a quote from the sermon:

‘“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9)

Notice that the distinct identity of every person in this vast crowd is maintained.  They are from every tribe, nation, and language.  The distinct individuality of every one of God’s people is preserved.  What makes us different no longer divides.  There is not a hint of conflict or tension.  Truly, in the presence of God, “out of many, God’s people will be one.”

This speaks directly to the question: Will we know one another in heaven?  Let me give you a one word answer, and then seek to support it from the Bible.  Will we know one another in heaven?  Yes!  You will be you.  I will be me.  We will all be like Christ, but each of us will reflect his likeness through our own individuality.’”

An excerpt from “Freedom of the Will,” by Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards provides an illustration and explanation about how to think about God “permitting” evil and pain in this world.  This subject can weigh heavily on our hearts and minds. So, if you wade through these words, I think they will bless your soul.

Christian Funerals Can Be Too Happy,” by Constantine Campbell via Desiring God

Here is this article’s introduction: “Have you ever felt guilty for experiencing grief? It might seem like a strange question — why would you feel guilty for grieving? But sometimes Christians do feel guilty, precisely because we believe in Jesus. Belief in Jesus, so it is thought, should remove any reason for grief. Jesus loves me. Jesus died for me. Jesus is in control. Jesus raises the dead. With such beliefs, how could any real Christian give in to grief? Believers commonly subscribe to this equation. But this equation is completely wrong — as seen in the life of Jesus himself.”

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Lianna Davis
Idleness, Patience, and the God Who Sees Each Step

“We urge you, brethren, admonish the idle […] be patient with everyone”
1 Thessalonians 5:14 NASB

I understand, firsthand, that grief can stall a person—it can take a physical toll that might, especially at first, preclude the amount of activity in life that used to take no thought. Though this may seem disconcerting and endless, in my experience, it is an aspect of grief that time does change with time.

But even further, perhaps you have been sitting, for a while now, with a sense that little is worth doing anymore in this life. I have had these thoughts. But the apostle Paul has practical encouragement. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, he instructs the believers: “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). God assigns significance to seemingly little tasks of “a quiet life” by making them a means of directly pleasing Him.

Instructions about idleness are placed within the context of a discussion on grief. Before teaching on idleness, Paul writes these comforting words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Thinking about heaven has been essential in order for me to know what to pursue in this life versus what is less important for me to see fill my time. I know that the gospel lasts, the Word lasts, God lasts, and purity and truth and holiness and love last. And my brothers and sisters in Christ—including future brothers and sisters—will be coming to glory forever where we will live together with Christ.

But at one point in my grief, I also twisted the comfort of my future hope described in the passage above into a reason to care little about my daily tasks in this world. Instead of seeing my future hope as a reason and an incentive to engage in my day-to-day tasks, with the joy He had given me, I saw my hope as a reason to diminish the significance of what only seemed monotonous.

But the God who I have hope planned the precise moment my daughter would join Him in eternity is the God who planned that I have not yet joined Him there. I am still to be here—pursuing what He has told me this life looks like when it is lived in a godly way. And that includes simply honoring him with my days.

There is further spiritual reason to not be idle. The days are evil; as believers are not children of the darkness, but are surrounded by darkness. So, Paul gives instructions to be alert and sober. Grief tempts me to sleep, but I am to be awake as a child of light and day.

“For you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”
1 Thessalonians 5:5-6

These verses above help me understand that if practical idleness becomes a habit and is given allowance in my life, spiritual idleness might not be too far behind.

If spiritual idleness comes, sins can creep in. I see at least three kinds of sin that Paul warns against in his letter: (1) sexual immorality, (2) drunkenness, and (3) retributive intent toward others:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

“For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.”
1 Thessalonians 5:7

“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”
1 Thessalonians 5:15

Idleness might seem like a less-significant sin to strive to overcome, at first glance. But it is significant because my good God has given me a day-to-day way to live in the light of my hope. And I can appreciate the wisdom implicit in these verses about being alert: compromise that slides discretely into my life could slowly give way to more compromises.

Right after urging the idle to be admonished, Paul teaches that believers are to be patient with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Not an excuse to be slow to obey, I think he is remembering, on his readers’ behalf, that all live unique circumstances with unique reactions and responses to pain. What is simple obedience for one might be a massive display of devotion to the Lord for another. I think the sense of what he is saying is this: urge others to recognize that even in light of eternity, their daily lives’ activities still matter to the Lord (and that He can be honored and pleased through each diligent step!), and recognize that the next step for someone grieving might not be the one you envision and might not be the one you once took in your grief.

Over four years after my daughter’s home-going, I am still discovering new ways to come out of this fog of living behind an eternal hope. But, along with resting well and being wise with my energies, I am seeking to take Paul’s unencumbering principle and pick up quiet, simple, employ-my-hands tasks—one step at a time. It has become an unexpected joy to serve God in these ways that are, perhaps, imperceivable to others. They are seen by Him.

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23

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Lianna Davis
Does Purgatory Exist?

GUEST POST

Purgatory is the belief widely held by the Catholic church (but characteristically rejected by Protestants) that a Christian will first go to purgatory “after death [to] undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”[1] The Catholic church also encourages undertaking ways of helping those who have passed away: “The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”[1] The word “purgatory” simply means to have the quality of cleansing or purging—and it is never used in the Bible.[2]

Instead, Scripture gives reason to believe a Christian’s spirit goes straight to heaven after he/she dies, rather than to purgatory. The Bible says a Christian will immediately be with the Lord after death. Look at the example of the thief on the cross:

And he [the thief on the cross next to Jesus] said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43, emphasis added).

Also consider the example of the Apostle Paul who equates passing away with being immediately in the presence of the Lord both in his letter to the church in Corinth, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, emphasis added), as well as in his writing to the church in Philippi:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better (Philippians 1:21-23, emphasis added).

The Bible teaches that for the born again Christian, all of God’s wrath was spent on Jesus, and thus, no additional purification is needed beyond what Christ has already done. Christ’s gracious salvation is to be received by faith alone—and not by works/penance/indulgences.

In Romans, Paul says that believers are free from condemnation: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, emphasis added). The Apostle John writes of the same truth: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, emphasis added).

The Letter to the Hebrews communicates that Jesus’ sacrifice is not limited to some of the sins of believers, but for all of them for all time: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Further, it is Jesus who has cleansed, once for all, those who are born again: “After making purification for sins, He [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3) and “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus Christ referenced the completion of His work on the cross:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:28-30).

With the single word in Greek, tetelestai, He spoke, “It is finished.” According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, this same word was used across receipts for taxes in Jesus’ time—meaning, “paid in full.”  Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for forgiveness and purity in order to usher believers directly and immediately into His glorious presence at the end of our earthly lives.

So how do we get into heaven? Trust (i.e. believe, have faith in) Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life, who purchased your forgiveness through His death on the cross—bearing God’s wrath on your behalf—and who clothes you with His righteousness. Repent of your sins and commit your life to God in obedience out of love and gratitude to the Creator and Redeemer.

“The Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:14b-16

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
Acts 3:19-20

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
Romans 3:23-25

“And He [Jesus] said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.’”
Luke 9:23-26

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Lianna Davis
Years Later, Most Thankful for Jesus

At your home, perhaps turkey, stuffing, and football will be the same as ever—but not all is the same for you as it used to be. Family gatherings are missing your child—and perhaps, like me, they have been for some years now. Your Thanksgivings have gone through many changes.

I hope that you know the comfort of Christ’s gospel in your pain—that the good news of His sacrifice on the cross for sins means you can believe and have the assurance of heavenly glory that far surpasses this earth. How good and wonderful it is to reflect upon all Christ has done for His people—winning an eternal victory over sin and death, winning us as believers to Himself so that we become family with Him! I am grateful for this, and more, that the Lord has done.

As you have your meal tomorrow and miss your child, the ache in your soul of loss means that you miss not only what your child has done for you—like, making you a mother (for the first time, or again) and giving you joy. You hurt because you miss the person, your child.

That reality is comforting in how it validates our experiences of grief over real people hardly known on this earth, and also helpful for how this truth can point to God. It’s worth think over—loving God also involves not only being grateful for what He has done, but also for who He is.

God of My Story

When John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus, he said, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matt. 3:11).

Is my heart ready to exult that I am not the mighty one—but He is? And does it quickly proclaim that I am not remotely worthy of Him—but He is worthy to be worshiped forever? Am I set on sharing my own faithfulness—or am I sharing my life as a testimony to Himthat others might know and praise Him more?

A heart ready to make much of Jesus, to be thankful for Him most, is just as ready to make little of self. He is God of my story, and the purpose of it. Thank You, Jesus, for being a God worthy of owning my unfolding days.

God of My Time

When Jesus spoke to Peter and Andrew—they immediately followed Him. The same happened with James and John. They stopped what they were doing to go after Him (see Matthew 4:18-22).

Is my heart ready to say that Christ is worthy of immediate trust and obedience? Do I confess that there is urgency to following the Lord, even if I have not always responded with it? Do I seek to decide, of myself, what is most important to fill my time, or am I giving of my time to Him?

A heart ready to make much of Jesus offers all activities, roles, and jobs into His hands, wanting time on earth to be used to praise Him however He chooses. He is God of my time, and the purpose of how it is used. Thank You, Jesus, for being a God worthy of owning every minute.

God of My Living

When someone approached Jesus, saying before following him, “Lord let me first go and bury my father” (Matt. 8:21), Jesus denied the request. Just prior, the gospel writer, Matthew, records Jesus as saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). Jesus teaches that the arrangements of this life are not the most important—Jesus did not come to build Himself a marvelous home situation here. He didpromise to build an eternal Church, rescued out ofthis world (see Matt. 16:18; Matt. 12:48-50).

Is my heart ready to say that nothing of this life needs to be settled, resolved, enjoyed, or experienced prior to following Jesus? Is there any one thing I want to know or do before casting myself upon His will alone, or am I all His—right now?

A heart ready to make much of Jesus makes arrangements with Him first and does His eternal will as the first priority—leaving arrangements, including those involving homes and families, to His sovereign choice. Thank You, Jesus, for being a God worthy of being followed ahead of the plans of this life.

There is so much I do not yet understand about Him, and about how to follow Him as God. But I am grateful that He is God, that He is now and will forever be—and this will never change. He will never change. I am in awe. How did I get to know and follow this marvelous, awesome, great One?

When you miss the person you do not have right now, rest in this infinite Person who has the whole world in His hands. Thank You, Lord, for being worthy.

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When Your Thanksgiving Is without Thanksgiving

The book of Psalms bears a title that means, “praise.” Yet, Psalm 88 does not follow the typical pattern of concluding with or moving toward praise. This rare psalm is in a context, within the psalter, of many words of thanks and praise to God, seemingly indicating that refraining from a conclusion of praise is not a posture to maintain, no matter the circumstance (see also 1 Thess. 5:18). But in the Scriptures, we do have these words as a part of the song book of the Israelites. They would sing these words to the Lord from beginning to end, and they would conclude the song without turning to thanksgiving at that moment.

Perhaps today on Thanksgiving, these are actually some of the most encouraging words you can hear. You can give the groans of your heart to the Lord. And if your expressions to God does not end in praise, then you can know that you are in the company of the inspired writer of God-breathed Scripture who wrote Psalm 88.

Maybe you know and acknowledge that there are indeed many reasons to praise the Lord—just as this psalmist indicated the truth that God is his salvation (v. 1). But today, your “companions are darkness” (v. 18b). You feel like Job who made his bed darkness and called the pit his companion, as near as a family member (Job. 17:13-14).

Faith is evident when your downcast expressions are taken to the Lord because you know He is the only King of the ages who still reigns during all of life’s circumstances. Take your feelings of hopelessness, and bring them before Him. Maybe your prayer would be something like this:

“My God—the only possible Savior for this world—I cry to You. I am here before You; please hear me. I need You so very desperately.

I feel as good as dead; my soul is heavier than it has ever been, and I have no strength. Not only do I feel dead, it feels as thought You have stopped extending Your goodness to me; I feel cut off from even You.

You take no enjoyment that death and sorrows ravage the souls of people made in Your image; You take no delight that Adam and Eve sinned in the garden [original sin] and pain was brought upon the whole world. I also know that You are righteous to punish sin—You are righteous to give consequences for original sin in this world. But, oh, it is heavy to be on an earth where these just consequences of sin are felt. Oh Lord, this overwhelms me inexpressibly.

In this suffering, it feels like no one enters near; no one around me can understand. Because of that, it feels like a trap. Because of Your just judgment of original sin in this world—and without being the Author of the evil that caused such sorrow—You have sovereignly placed me here, and it feels confining.

Every day, I cry out to You, Lord. But it feels pointless to even cry out. Of what use am I to You here in such suffering? I feel like my soul has abandoned my body, and like I am unable to utter any words that are of help or service to You. But if I actually die from this sorrow—and sometimes it has felt like I could—I will be of no more use to You in this world. And I want You to use me for Your glory while You appoint me to be here; make it so that You can use me even though I feel purposeless.

Lord, I stillcry out to You; I affirm that it is to You alone I can truly cry for understanding. Why, within Your sovereign control, do I have circumstances that only make me feel cast away from You? I know I don’t understand. Others do not understand either. Most people who look at my circumstances would assume that You have rejected me.

My impossible-feeling sorrow clouds Your face from me. It is as thought I cannot see You and Your goodness and glory like I used to. The righteous judgment You have brought upon this world for original sin, makes my friends feel far away. And my soul is cast away from the experience of Your goodness I so desire. My soul is in darkness today, oh Lord; You know this. You know all things. And I humbly place myself before You today.”

Lament keeps us communion with our God, who is our only hope, our salvation. Our honest and humble prayers prepare the way for the deeper assimilation of truth in our souls; for through lament we acknowledge before God our points of greatest weight and need, asking for His aid in a way that inherently agrees with Him that our personal feelings cannot deliver us.

Today, you are likely here reading these words because your Thanksgiving is without thanksgiving. Your thanksgiving is full of lament, and you cannot seem to find the way to praise. Here is the step forward I see in Psalm 88: Affirm that the Lord alone is your Savior by acting upon that truth in faith—through lamenting your pain, with an open Bible, directly and revealingly to Him.

And then, out of that, do not close the door on starting to develop another prayer that sounds like Psalm 89.

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Tears of Grief and Victory Songs

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
—1 Corinthians 15:57

Graduation ceremonies undo me now. At a graduation party recently, I watched pictures of a little baby grow to be a little girl, and then saw her step out onto the stage, a woman of God. I saw her—on a projector screen—suited in baby clothes, play in the sand, make friends, grow taller, and then, graduate.

My first daughter wasn’t made for that; she was made for heaven. And this is beautiful; my daughter has been given the gift of Christ. What better gift could any of us have? In a different sense, this also is beautiful to me: Children make memories with their parents here on earth, and grow and go to college and get married and live. They mature, and learn, and fulfill the purposes that God has for them here on this earth.

Certain Facebook statuses undo me now too. Someone leaves this earth more quickly than expected. Tributes come. Hope is proclaimed. There will be a tomorrow. We will all gather together again who love God, closer than ever. Reading a status like this, I sat up in my bed one night at sunset to weep at the thought of it all coming near—while having a heart expectant and longing, yet, content.

But I don’t bother to wipe away my tears; it’s not the day for that yet.

Faith and Grief Are Not at Odds

My Christian faith plus my Christian grief—they mix and have their places in me. But they are not at odds. We know that death is not God’s end-story; thankfully sin—from which death came—has been defeated at the cross. But we do grieve here and now. And we have faith. Those are not opposed to each other on this earth. Instead, my best understanding of them has grown from seeing how they go together.

Earlier this summer, I was fixated on the TV account of one more Olympic hopeful who has overcome the odds and, now, has a shot at Olympic victory for the second time. Later, I was fixated on yet another status of earthly loss coming through my news feed, feeling it with them. The place in me that feels utterly defenseless at the thought of someone making it to a milestone, when my daughter didn’t make it through birth, or at the news of a family member’s friend who unexpectedly died, like my sweet girl—this place yields its tears still, years later.

Yet—

That place in me that gets hit over and over with these reminders—right there—I hear the sweetest refrains of eternity, experience the fiercest assurances of future hope, and am welcomed without fail by the unswerving understanding that my God is forever and his purposes can never fail. And because I know him, I stand for a meaning beyond myself—for his glory.

The longing place in me and the acutely bolstering reminders of the next world—they abide together.  Frankly, I don’t believe that they could possibly be separated on this earth. They are maintained together; and the maintenance is sustainable for me as a person who belongs to God. I experience this longing while simultaneously feeling the air of eternity within my soul; I am enabled to feel both, and still thrive with life in Christ.

Grief Is Different Than Despair

There is a difference between this and self-pity, or between this and despair. For in this, grief takes me beyond myself to Christ. It does not increase any pressure in me because it all pours over into him. And, of course, he can be the basin for every wet stripe down my cheek that reminds me I am not home yet. He is the basin for these tears—wet and waiting, but even more, purposeful and preparing.

I appreciate that he has made us for life here and that life here is supposed to point us to life ahead. The tributes come at death, and the victory celebrations ring at milestones. They both tell us that he is the Life and is coming, that he wants to take us home when the time is right. For even our sweetest moments are fleeting, carrying our thoughts ahead to when all the best will be lasting and eternal—not to mention more than we can presently comprehend. The Overcomer is coming, victorious. There is a better place where, graciously, we belong.

Jesus Sings His Victory through Our Grief

Christ is the lofty Overcomer because he has been far lower on his cross than my lowest, so that his life can ring even in the death of those we love; in my lowest—that is where I have heard his victory songs most resonant and clear.

Do you hear his victory songs too? Let your grieving tears fall into him and your lowest point be where he abides with you. For grief and faith—they go so well together on this earth. They both will be wiped away when we don’t need them anymore. Tears will be cleared and faith will be made sight.

All will be glorious in him at last; what we have trusted this day will not fail us.

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Lianna Davis
Our October 15 Experience

A couple of years ago on October 15—National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day—I released a balloon in memory of my first daughter, Noelle, saying in my heart again, We are grateful to have known you, we are so glad for you to be experiencing heaven with Christ, we dearly miss you, and we will see you soon.

At our family event, we gathered at a local park. We prayed. We ate cupcakes. The decorations and balloons were white, silver, and pink—bright, pure, and full of joy; Noelle has given us such pure joy. Noelle's family members who live miles away in Kentucky even joined in the day too by doing their own balloon release event, wearing their Hope Mommies October 15 shirts. It was a little too cold to see ours (thankfully for this Illinoisan, Hope Mommies is offering hoodies this year in addition to T-shirts!).

We released the balloons. They faded into the skies—out of sight. Of course, I can no longer see my daughter either—my sight is limited. But God sees her; He knows her. His sight and knowledge have no limits. I wait for her, but she is lacking nothing—I have the hope she is completely satisfied, full, joyful, and glad with Him.

I paused on our balloon-release hill last year for a moment, still watching what I couldn’t see. I was reminded of a novel I had read soon after my daughter went to heaven. In Crossing Oceans, by Gina Holmes, the main character is a mother who has been told that she is dying of cancer. This mom, reaching her final earthly days, has to tell her daughter that she will be going to heaven, but that her daughter cannot follow just yet:

“‘Look at the ocean.’

She [the daughter] hesitated, her eyes lingering on me as though I might disappear if she were to turn away.

‘Can you see the other side?’

She shook her head, making her curls, wild from the breeze and salt water, flounce.

‘You can’t see the other side, but there is one. Do you believe me?’

She nodded.

‘Mommy is going to heaven soon. Heaven is like the other side of this ocean. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.’

She frowned. ‘Today?’

‘No,’ I said, ‘but very soon.’

‘On a boat?’

I shook my head. ‘Jesus is going to take me.’”[1]

Those were some of the refrains that passed through my mind as I watched those balloons disappear; she is just on the other side of the ocean. My Noelle is just on the other side of the skies, and though we cannot see the other side, that doesn’t mean that it is not there. It is there. The other side is there and Jesus has taken my baby to the heavenly shore, just out of sight. Jesus will take all who are believers there too—right on the other side of this life.

Releasing balloons that fade out of sight reminds me that my life here does not depend upon what I can see; no, my life actually depends upon what I can’t: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1). Yet, I am called to live like I can see everything I hope for. I am called to live as if it wereall by sight, even though it’s not—hope is the conviction, the assurance of things unseen.

To choose hope this October 15 together is to choose faith. It is to choose that the conviction God has given me through Christ—that my hope is real—superseding even the tremendous pain of having watched my child fade out of my earthly life. What I hope for—being together with my child, experiencing a forever-union with Christ—will be reality; and it is better than the best of this life. Hoping is to choosing to base my life on the assurance that the other side is there, as real as if I can see it.

I am thankful to my daughter over and over for how she makes heaven seem more real to me; I have seen a dear person who now lives there, so she reminds me it is a genuine place. Though she is gone now, this is her message of overflowing life and hope to me: You can’t see the other side, but there is one. Do you believe me? Do you believe Jesus? 

“Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later’” (John 13:36). Jesus Christ went to prepare a place for all who believe at the cross through His sacrificial death for our sins and resurrection (John 14:3). And, so, we will follow Him. Though we cannot see Him now, we who love Him will see Him soon:

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

I have a hope that is at least as real as it is presently unseen to my eyes. I join under the “banner” of Hope Mommies this year again as we flood the skies with hope-filled conviction, assurance, and inexpressible and glorious joy!

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Lianna Davis
10 Devotionals on Psalm 19

DAY ONE

Warm Glory

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
Psalm 19:1-6

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