It was about a year ago that we had our last “normal” family meal to celebrate a family birthday. On January 21, 2017, our extended family came together to watch a church basketball game coached by my two college-aged sons, and then we went out for lunch to celebrate one of their birthdays. Birthdays were never missed in our family. My parents would call, usually early in the morning, to sing “Happy Birthday” to the one celebrating, and we always tried to have a family meal sometime around the birthday. Family time is important to us, and we have been incredibly blessed to live close to our extended family so that we could be together for these fun occasions.
Within four weeks, we celebrate three birthdays each year in January and February. So, when the next birthday came on February 16, 2017, we had planned a family dinner on Friday the 17th. But everything changed on February 16th. Mom had been having difficulty walking, and suddenly on that day, she could not walk at all, and she was taken to the emergency room at the local hospital. This was the beginning of many tests that would ultimately reveal the cause of her immobility: glioblastoma multiforme, a very aggressive form of brain cancer.
Mom fought a valiant battle against this foe. She bravely faced a surgery she didn’t want to have, treatments she didn’t want to endure, time in a rehab facility she didn’t want to occupy, and having others do things for her she didn’t want them to do. She left the cancer behind and greeted our Lord Jesus on July 10, 2017.
It has been a little over six months since her death, but with the upcoming anniversary that marks the beginning of her illness and what turned out to be a whirlwind crisis that rocked our family’s world, I cannot help but remember and replay the shock, stress and struggle we all experienced alongside her. When it seemed like things were totally out of control, I remember telling her that it was like our family were on a little boat in the middle of the enormous ocean with huge swells threatening to tip us over and dump us out. But I reminded her that our “boat” was anchored. We all knew Jesus and we held onto Him until He said, “Peace, be still” to our storm and took Mom to be with Him.
The Bible tells us we have an “anchor for the soul.” Our anchor is “sure and steadfast.” Our anchor is the “hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (see Hebrews 6:19-20). Our anchor is Jesus Himself. Our hope is in Him and what He did for us when He died for our sins. By doing that, He made a way for us to follow Him into the “inner place behind the curtain.” This is a reference to the curtain that enclosed the holiest place in the tabernacle and temple of God, the place where God’s presence dwelled on the earth during the Old Testament days. We have access to God Himself, with no barrier like a curtain, through Jesus Christ. This is: Sure. Steadfast. Hope. This is the anchor that keeps us from being tossed about in the worst of storms.
Still, I remember my affliction and that of our family during Mom’s illness last year. The grief just won’t go away. It wells up unexpectedly, overwhelming my thoughts and making it hard to press on at times. I agree with Jeremiah, known as the “weeping prophet,” who wrote the book of Lamentations in the Bible. The title of that book reveals the mood – it is sad for the most part. He writes, and I agree: “My soul continually remembers [my affliction] and is bowed down within me” (Lamentations 3:20).
This word, “but,” changes everything. I’ve learned to pay attention to it when I’m reading the Bible. The next verse, Lamentations 3:21, starts with “But.” Hear this transitional statement loud and clear: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.”
I have a choice! I can call something to mind and have hope! I don’t have to camp out in my grief and live with a downcast soul. I don’t have to continue to remember the hard situation. I can call something else to mind. What then, can I call to mind that will bring the kind of hope that changes my sorrow into joy? Let’s read on in Lamentations.
This I call to mind: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore, I will hope in Him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).
His love and mercies never end. He loved us before this happened, He loved us during the crisis, and He loves us now through the grief. This passage of scripture was important to us during Mom’s illness too. It was one the Lord gave us at the very beginning, and I remember holding onto the idea of new mercies each morning. I would wake up and say to the Lord, “New morning, new mercies!” I didn’t know what each day would hold, but I knew He held the day in His hands, and we would experience mercies for each new day, each step of her treatment, each decision we faced. He was our portion. We placed our hope in Him.
If you’re in a place where you need the kind of hope that will anchor you during the storms of life, be encouraged! No matter what your day holds today, the Lord offers you “new mercies” for this day. Lamentations 3:25-26 tell us how to hope in Him and experience His mercies: “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Seek Him with all your heart and soul. Wait quietly, with a submissive spirit, surrendering to Him and the salvation He offers. In Jeremiah 29:13, God says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Our family can testify to the truth of Lamentations 3:19-26. We experienced hope during the crisis of Mom’s illness and death, and we continue to experience hope now in the grief by calling to mind: God’s steadfast love for us, His daily mercies for us, and His great faithfulness to us. In fact, we had a portion of this passage engraved on Mom’s headstone: “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a lasting tribute to a woman who placed her faith in an incredibly loving and faithful God, the Lord Jesus, whose mercies are new every morning.
New morning, new mercies!
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.