February 1, 2013

God Defines Life by the Day

17 “I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

Sometimes Death works extra hard to make its presence known. Four fathers, three brothers, one husband, and one child of people I know have left this world in the last eight weeks, most without warning. So many precious people are left behind to rebuild their worlds in the absence of a loved one they never imagined having to exist without. I have been where they are, forced to redefine my universe after tragedy. Oh, the unstable footing! The confusion. The oppressive fog of despair! It is a most bitter sentence. My heart is heavy.

19 “I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.”

I am 37 years old, five months, and four days. Why do my days keep climbing when some are called home at six years old, some 16, some 30? How long will my days keep counting or the days of my parents, my siblings and friends, the support I cannot imagine living without?

When will the roster cycle through again and I return to bat to swing blindly at redefining my universe after loss?   How can I prepare?   How can I reach out to steady the arm of my neighbor currently under fire of the merciless pitcher, Death?

21 “Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:17-23

When you are deprived of peace (v.17), when all remembrance of prosperity has fled, (v.17), when splendor has vanished (v.18) and hope has shriveled and died (v. 18) – this one shining sliver can be called to mind (v.21), “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.” (v. 22)

You are not consumed! You are not! You may feel utterly crushed. It may look as if your life is in shambles. The voice in your head may tell you that all is lost. But you are not consumed. You are still breathing.

Maybe you are not doing much more than breathing, but that is okay. You have permission to do nothing but breathe. Sleep. Wake. Continue breathing. Do it again tomorrow. When rational thought returns to you, take your first swing at living armed with this encouragement,

“ . . . His compassions never fail.
They are new  every  morning. . .”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Motivated by compassion, God redefines your life daily as if He were starting creation from scratch just for you. God does not define life by what is not, but by what is.

“He is not the God of the dead,
but of the living,
for to Him all are alive.”
Luke 20:38 

Those who no longer live among us on earth, live alongside the Lord in Heaven (or stand apart from Him in Hell). Death has been overpowered by life. Our present benefit is limited only by our belief in that triumph. God’s compassion will swallow the stench of death which hovers over the earth if we allow it into our lives through faith.  

Redefining a personal universe after loss is a shapeless pursuit because we can’t create structure around an absence no matter how hard we try. We want to preserve a hole in our new world shaped like the departed loved one but God says,

         “No. I am not the God of the dead. Your loved one lives, I have simply relocated him. My compassions do not accommodate death. Today’s definition of life for you is new. Then when you lay your head down tonight, let that definition go. I will wake you to new compassions and introduce you to a different life tomorrow.”

God selectively redefines your life each day. The changes are often subtle, but not so subtle that you cannot discover them. Desire to see. What is today’s new compassion? How has God defined your life differently today from yesterday? These are not difficult questions.

Here is my attempt.

This morning, life is defined as sunny but cold outside. There are no clouds in the sky. I am the grateful owner of two dogs and one fish. God created them and entrusted their little lives to my care. In a few more weeks, the now naked trees in my yard will start sprouting leaves and flowering buds. Life at my house will look much different then.

I am employed and navigate the same sea of faces most days. Yet, one with a 40-year tenure at the company retired yesterday. Another is leaving at the end of next month. The definition of life even in the workplace recycles if you pause to notice.

Outside of work I interface with a small circle of people I frequently have the opportunity to bless and be blessed by. Today I will serve two of them and schedule a visit with a third. I have no children, nieces, or nephews, but God’s compassions are new every morning. Check with me next week, I may have one dog less (hope not!) or one bird more (hope so!). Check with me next month, I may have a nephew. Check with me next year, I may have a husband.

God does not distribute His compassions in universes for us to clutch, but in days for us to spend. He doesn’t allow us to construct our own universes either; no wonder that effort is so futile and fleeting. Life is not defined by what is not, but by what is the substance of today’s mercies. Tomorrow with the sunrise, His compassions will be new, and therefore, the definition of your life will also be new.

Dwell on your fresh dose of life as God has prescribed you for today. Then wake up to a new life tomorrow. It is a challenging mindset to embrace, but the secret to coping, surviving and thriving as an eager recipient of God’s compassion.

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