The downward spiral.
I have. November several years ago a couple of traumatic events plunged me into a season of anger and deep grieving.
My mother was on her deathbed. I lived in Virginia and my parents lived in Florida. I talked with my father on Saturday evening the week before Thanksgiving. My mom had lost 12 pounds in one week. She was losing her battle with a long-term lung disease. I told my dad I would be there as soon as he needed me. I told him I loved him.
Sunday afternoon I answered a phone call from my brother, Bill. “Beth, Dad just died.”
I collapsed on the floor. Not dad! Dear God! NO!
I went to Florida for my dad’s funeral; a massive heart attack had taken his life.
We celebrated a not so thankful Thanksgiving, my mom went on hospice care and I returned home to make plans for my children so I could return to Florida to be with my mother.
Sunday morning, three days after Thanksgiving, I received another call from my brother. “Beth, Mom passed away this morning.” NO—I never made it back to tell her goodbye. She died alone without me there.
I returned to Florida for a second funeral within a week. I came home angry and in deep grief.
My dad, knowing the care my mom needed—and always the protector, provider—had said many times, “Beth, pray that I out live your mother.” I prayed that prayer often. I wanted more time with my dad, but instead, he was ripped away from me suddenly, also without a goodbye.
Not only did I not understand why the one prayer my dad had ever asked me to pray for him was not answered, but I was also angry at God, so very angry. I cascaded into deep grief and depression. I couldn’t sing at church, my mouth would not open, I could hardly pray, I went to counseling, and took antidepressants. Grief over dad and regret over mom had left my heart shattered.
Did I doubt that God cared? You bet I did.
I felt like the disciples in the boat with Jesus. He had told them they were going to cross the lake to the other side. He had fallen asleep in the boat on a cushion when a violent storm came up. The disciples were scared they would all drown and there was Jesus, asleep! What the heck!
“Wake up! Help us bail water out of the boat. This is a violent storm and we are sinking. We are all going to die! Don’t you care???”
That was how I felt. “Hey God, didn’t you hear my prayers for dad? Did you fall asleep at the wheel; I’m going though a scary time here. Help me! Don’t you care???”
Jesus did care.
The upward spiral!
But Jesus did care about his friends. He rebuked the wind and calmed the waves. He took care of the physical turbulence. But that was not all—he spoke to their emotional turmoil as well. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Through counseling, I realized I needed to let God help me deal with my grief. I went to the woods to walk and talk with God.
Three Small Stones
Walking on a trail I heard God tell me to pick up three stones (my husband had recently resigned from our church, another large loss for me)—one stone for the church, a larger stone for mom and the largest stone for dad.
I prayed over the small stone, giving God the pain of lost connections and friends, and threw it into the woods. I prayed or the medium stone and gave God the loss and regrets I felt over my mom’s death.
I walked a long time holding onto the large stone. I told God how unfair it was, how angry I was that he did not answer my prayer. I cried for the loss of time to be a daughter to this kind man and for him to father me. His time had been so consumed with the care of my mother. I did desperately want him to outlive my mom. But I couldn’t throw the stone into the woods. I cried. I walked. I prayed. I knew I needed to release it all to God, especially the anger. Finally I tossed the large stone away watching it disappear into the foliage beneath the trees.
In the following days, my grief subsided and the depression lifted.
Now I understand—that day I physically and emotionally did “cast my cares on God.” And he rebuked the storm in my soul and calmed my heart. And even through I did not understand why I lost both of my parents a week apart, I knew without a doubt that I trusted God to work all things out for good, because that’s who he is—he’s a “good, good father; and I’m loved by him.”
(Enjoy a time worshipping our good, good Father while you listen to this song by Chris Tomlin)
God Cares for you!
It is interesting that the word “cares” (melei), used in Mark 4:38 when the disciples ask Jesus, “Teacher, do you not CARE if we perish?” is the same word for care in 1 Peter 5:7 “he CARES for you.”!
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (NIV)
Here is what this verse is saying:
- Cast (epirito): throw upon; throw away; throw off once and for all (an act done only once)
- All (pas): All!
- Anxiety (merimna): care, distracting anxiety, drawn in different directions. (Found elsewhere describing the seed sown in thorny soil where the “cares of the world choke out the seed.” Mt 13:2, Mk 4:19)
- Cares (melei): care that foresees and provides; the watchful care of interest and affection; concern.
1 Tim 5:7 could read like “Throw away from yourself onto the Lord, once and for all, every anxious, distracting thought or thing that shreds you and draws you in a multitude of different directions, BECAUSE he watches over you with concern and affection. He knows your needs and he always provides what you truly need.
Amen! Thank you Father!
Take time now to watch this short video beautifully depicting the downward spiral into doubting God cares being transformed to the upward spiral of trusting and knowing that GOD DOES CARE!