Finding Joy in Him

Through Every Season

My GriefShare Story: Why I believe in Christian Grief Ministry

My husband, Mike, and I are the proud parents of three boys and a girl who were all still living at home while working their way through school in 2012. Our oldest, Josh, was working towards his masters in biology. James, our middle son, was studying computer science. Joel was finishing up his third semester of college and had just settled on studying engineering and our youngest, Judi, was preparing to apply for nursing school. We had no idea that when God called us to move to Huntsville in 2009 and told us we would be launching our kids into adulthood there, that our youngest son, Joel, would be launched straight into Heaven. 

Joel was 20, thoughtful, intelligent, tender, and joyful. He had an enthusiasm for life that was contagious and never lost his boyish sense of wonder. His relaxed and playful demeanor put everyone around him at ease. He could heartily laugh at himself then tease you with a wholesome grin that left you feeling disarmed and genuinely loved. He had a way of putting his arm around you, listening intently to your heart and making you feel like the most important person in the world.

As a little boy, Joel purposely set time aside from exciting boy things like playing dinosaurs, sword fighting, and building legos with his brothers to play doll house with his little sister. As a teen he was becoming a proficient classical guitarist and filled our lives with a beautiful, soulful song called “Night’s Sorrow” which he played constantly; while working math problems in his head, while writing English papers, while watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns, and while waiting for video games to load. Constantly.

Joel playing “Night’s Sorrow”


Joel spent most of his last day at home studying for finals and, of course, playing his classical guitar. I woke up before Joel that morning to give myself time to practice my little harp before he filled our home with his worshipful song. When Joel woke up, he  joined me in our hearth room and I excitedly demonstrated how I had learned to play “O, Come Let Us Adore Him,” my first Christmas hymn. “Oh, yeah, I learned that one years ago,” he teased while playfully calling me a “nube” with his disarming grin. He was proud of both of us. 

My plan for the day was to decorate our Christmas tree and to set up my large collection of Fontanini nativity figures. Joel surfaced from his studies in the music room periodically throughout the day for a breath of fresh air and to visit with me while I unboxed and set up my nativity collection. That afternoon, he stood in our kitchen and surveyed the work I was doing with the Christmas decorations. Smiling, thankful, full of longing and anticipation, he said, “Normally it feels like Christmas, but it doesn’t yet because I still have these final exams.”

Later that afternoon, a new friend Josh had met playing football Thanksgiving weekend came to our door to see who might come to a birthday party he was putting together for a friend. And about 4 PM, Josh and Joel grabbed our Apples to Apples game excited about making new friends and drove an hour to the little town of New Hope, AL. The party tragically ended early that evening when an assault rifle was fired into a group of kids there. Several were injured. Our youngest son, Joel, ran straight into the loving arms of Jesus. 

Everyday Joel is experiencing in Heaven must feel like all the best holidays plus your birthday rolled into one. Our days, especially our holidays, since our last day with Joel are filled with longing and anticipation for Heaven’s arrival. We are thankful when we survey the redemptive work Jesus has done on the cross for us, and we smile when we set our eyes on the preparations Jesus is making for us in His Father’s house, but it doesn’t feel like Heaven yet because we still have these final exams.


From the very beginning I could easily see Joel smiling happily in Heaven and believed with all my heart that God loved us, was good, and was sovereignly working all things together for our good, but the second evening, I had a long moment where I questioned if God understood how painful His choice to allow Joel’s death was for us. Was He sensitive to our hearts? Did God really feel the pain and suffering a parent experiences when His own Son, Jesus, suffered and died on the cross for us?

It was then that we realized we had a choice. We could turn to God with our questions and sorrow or go to a very dark place. My husband, Mike, asked me privately, “How is your hope?” I was stunned to realize my hope had been so crushed that I didn’t know what the word meant any more. Mike gently pointed me towards an eternal perspective. Jesus had not come to give us a life free of earthly sorrow. He came to share in our suffering and die for our sins that one day our “Night’s Sorrow” might be swallowed up by Heaven’s joy. 

Choosing to turn to God with our sorrow and place our hope in an eternal perspective was not a one time decision. It was often a moment by moment intense like final exams struggle with our volition. I needed people who understood to lend me the light of their faith and heavenly hope and point me to the cross and our eternal perspective. 

At first, I was afraid attending a grief support group would only make our grief worse. When our pastor told us about GriefShare and how it features 13 video seminars made up of short clips of respected grief experts, pastors, and counselors, we decided to give it a try.

To our relief, we learned were not alone, our overwhelming emotions were normal and we weren’t going crazy. Each person in the videos shared stories of how they struggled with grief and what helped them. We learned from their hard-won wisdom and helpful suggestions how to work through our own grief in healthy ways. 


The group members began to feel like family after a few short weeks. We all understood the pain of losing someone we dearly loved and were able to encourage and show compassion towards each other as we discussed how to handle our “Why?” questions and regrets, how to find the strength to keep going and hold onto our faith in the dark and other relevant topics from the curriculum. 

The short daily exercises in the workbooks helped me to  find comfort in God’s Word and slowly begin to untangle my shattered heart. Hearing how God was ministering to others in their suffering gave me the encouragement I needed to keep turning to Jesus, our ultimate source of hope and comfort. 

Near the first anniversary of our son’s death, we attended GriefShare’s special “Surviving the Holidays” Seminar and learned practical strategies for how to navigate the holidays while grieving. We were invited to stay for our first candle lighting service there and to attend their 13 week program a second time through.

Towards the end of our second semester, I began to notice several group members’ growing faith and hope. I couldn’t see my own progress, but the light I saw in their eyes encouraged me to attend GriefShare a third time through and to eventually start a group of our own.

We heard a pastor say, “God is near the brokenhearted. If you want to be near the heart of God, be near the brokenhearted.” I think most people imagine like I did that attending a grief group would only make their grief worse. We do bring tissues to our meetings, but most of our conversations are actually filled with smiles and laughter because they revolve around how we are learning to live lives filled with the hope of our growing eternal perspective.

Our group members are often surprised by how much they learn and humbled by how God uses their faith and perseverance to encourage others. I am constantly amazed by the stories of how God is protecting, providing for, guiding and faithfully comforting each group member. GriefShare has given me a front row seat to little and big miracles of faith and hope and light each semester. God’s heart is tender, He is sensitive to our pain, knows the brokenness one bereaved parent feels for another, suffers and grieves with us, tenderly cares for us and carries us through all the years. 

We still have these final exams, and our holidays are especially filled with longing and anticipation for Jesus to return and take us Home to be with Him, but we are learning to trust our caring Heavenly Father with our “Why?” questions and regrets and to turn to Him for the strength we need to keep going and hold onto our faith in the dark because we have experienced His nearness in our brokenness and fixed our eyes on the great love He has shown us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

If you would like to know more about GriefShare, or other grief resources you may visit our GriefShare page on our church website @ RedlandHills.org/GriefShare

In His Love,

Jenny Coleman

Quotes, verses, and encouragement:
Our RHC GriefShare Facebook Page
Our RHC GriefShare Instagram Page
My Life Preserving Verses Instagram Page

GriefShare’s Free e-devotional and more


Perspectives from Heaven

Happy 10 years in Heaven today, Joel!

Joel, I love you so, so much. I am SO grateful for you.

You must be so proud of how bravely your big brother, Josh, and his wife, Cora, are enduring the great suffering he is experiencing. We are so proud of the way he is fighting for his life as he searches and waits for someone healthy enough to qualify to donate a kidney on his behalf and in doing so gives him the gift of life.

I know you can’t wait to see him again, but I am really hoping that I get to meet you and Jesus at Heaven’s gates before he does. He and Cora would really like to welcome children of their own into their family and raise them to live well for Christ. I hope that it is part of God’s plan to use them to start giving me lots of grandkids one day soon. It breaks my heart that Dad and James and Judi and I are not healthy enough to donate a kidney for him.

I’ve been thinking about the perspective you and the other saints in Heaven must have on the unseen things here on earth and above and how you know how immensely important and intense the battle against the forces of darkness is and the consequences that hang in its balance. You see the passion of Jesus burning like fire in His eyes. You see our heavenly Father’s face and His incredible love and tender care for us. You see His angels and saints and hear their stories and see the glory Jesus is winning through them all.

I’ve been thinking how you and other saints in Heaven must be so moved to pray for us and how puny and apathetic my prayers must seem in comparison. I am so thankful that Holy Spirit is working on that in me.

Dad and I started reading a new book by Randy Alcorn on Heaven this week. It’s called “We Shall See God.” Randy shares many of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons on Heaven and comments on them in it. We’re only on chapter three and it is Ah-MAZING! I can already tell I am going to want to read this book over and over again.

Randy’s wife, Nanci, joined you in Heaven earlier this year. Have you met her? I imagine Mamalene and Granddad introduced you to Charles Spurgeon a long time ago. They loved his sermons.

Last night, these portions of Spurgeon’s sermon stood out to me:

"Brothers and sisters, we are like warriors fighting for the victory; we don't as yet share in the shout of triumph. Even up in Heaven [the saints] have not yet received their full reward."

I knew you must be praying because you are with Jesus in His Father’s House and Jesus declared, “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer’” (Matthew 21:13) so it must be so.  I have personally experienced the powerful effects of the prayers of the saints (both of those cheering from Heaven and of those still running beside me on earth). Knowing that you are apart of the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on has helped me tremendously to endure and to keep turning to and fixing my eyes on Jesus the “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

I had not considered that you were still waiting to receive your full reward though I’ve meditated on these verses since early in our journey of missing you:

“And when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they had upheld. And they cried out in a loud voice, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You avenge our blood and judge those who dwell upon the earth?’

Then each of them was given a white robe and told to rest a little while longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers, were killed, just as they had been killed.” – Revelation 6:9-11


I know that waiting means enduring and enduring, cheering and praying are all ways that we battle for the Heavenly Kingdom. You are a brother warrior fighting for the victory with us. What a beautiful thing to realize as we continue to battle on the 10th anniversary of your entrance into Heaven!

Spurgeon goes on to say:

"Those in Heaven are blessed, but they have not had their public entrance. They are waiting till their Lord shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel and the voice of God. Then their bodies shall rise; then the world shall be judged; then the righteous shall be divided from the wicked. And then, the Prince at their head, the whole of the blood-washed host, wearing their white robes, and bearing their palms of victory, shall march up to their crowns and to their thrones to reign forever and ever!

For this fulfillment the believing heart is panting, groaning, and sighing."


He is right! Romans 8 tells us this is so. You and others who were slain are still resting, waiting and longing for the Lord to avenge your blood and judge those who dwell on the earth. You are waiting for the full number of saints to be killed. You are waiting for our resurrection and the Lamb’s victory fulfilled. You are waiting, and groaning with all of creation, the Spirit and all of the saints for the shout that will accompany the Lord’s descent and the “redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:18-27).

You are blessed. You no longer suffer or die or mourn the way those on earth do. You cheer and wait and groan in battle with us through prayer.

Spurgeon continues:

"A Christian's experience is like a rainbow, made up of drops of the griefs of Earth and beams of the happiness of Heaven. It is a checkered scene, a garment of many colors. He is sometimes in the light and sometimes in the dark. The text says, "We groan." ... We groan within ourselves. Our sighs are sacred things..."

Isn’t that a beautiful way to express it?! On earth we experience the “beams of the happiness of Heaven” mixed with drops of grief. Our good Heavenly Father shines His glorious Light through our sorrows and we remember His promise that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Your faith has become sight in Heaven. You continually experience only the “beams of the happiness of Heaven” there, yet you continue to wait and cheer and groan. Our groans and sighs are sacred things that reach through the veil.

A friend at church shared with me Sunday that she recently had a vision where the Lord pulled her into Himself and so far into the universe away from her problems until the earth looked like a tiny speck. She said she resisted being pulled away at first, but then everything was so beautiful. Jesus pointed at her life on the earth and asked her, “What do you see?” She answered, “It’s only a minute.” She saw the smallness and brevity of her earthly life and problems compared to the vastness of God and eternity.

Our life is but a vapor. I want to use my minute well. I want to make you proud that I am on your team battling and groaning, enduring and waiting well on behalf of the Kingdom of Heaven. I want an eternal perspective that sees the unseen eternal things that hang in the balance. I want to continue to endure and fix my eyes on Jesus and run my race for the joy set before me as He did. I want to see the passion burning like fire in His eyes. I want the steadfast lovingkindness, compassion and mercy of our heavenly Father to burn in my heart through the power of Holy Spirit so that my prayers might be set ablaze, no longer embarrassingly puny and apathetic. I want my minute to become a story that glorifies our Great and Victorious Lamb of God.

I love you, I am proud of you and I am looking forward to seeing you again soon!

Much love,

Mom


Josh and Cora
Josh learns about IgA Nephropathy and his need for a kidney transplant
Josh Resting with a Friend
Josh and Joel a few days before Joel was murdered by a stranger with an AK-57 before Josh’s eyes
Joel, Josh, Judi and James on a homeschool field trip
Camping is Fun!
Antlers are Cool!
Caves are for Exploring

Meditations on Psalm 84

How lovely is Your dwelling place, Yahweh of Hosts!
My soul longs, even faints, for Yahweh’s courts;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Psalm 84:1-2

Psalm 84 is one of my favorite psalms. It mirrors my heart’s longing for God’s courts. Joel and I used to run around the house singing and dancing verse 10 with all our might:

“Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere!”

Psalm 84:10

I was working on memorizing the psalm one day when verse 4 stood out to me:

How happy are those
who dwell in Your house;
they are ever praising You. Selah.

Psalm 84:4

O, LORD of Host, How happy are those who trust in You!

In the depths of my longing, it’s easy to forget “how happy” Joel must be living in God’s house. Happy. Joel is not sad that he died. He’s running around God’s house singing and dancing, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere!” with all of his might.

The next few verses say:

How happy are those
whose strength is in You,
hearts set on pilgrimage.

Passing through the Valley of Weeping
they make it a spring
Yes, early rains cover them with blessings.

They go from strength to strength;
each appearing before God in Zion.

Psalm 84:5-7


This December will mark 10 years of happy days for Joel in God’s house and 10 years of deep longing and even fainting for God’s courts for me. A huge part of my heart went with Joel to Heaven. The part of my heart that remains is not torn apart forever, but set on a pilgrimage towards wholeness in appearing before God in Zion and having Him tenderly wipe away the last of my tears.

My strength often fails, but God’s strength never does. When I turn to Him for help, He is faithful to comfort, strengthen and cover me with the blessing of the early rains of His Spirit. His presence in my Valley of Weeping fills me with joy. Living in the dichotomy of it all is hard which makes me oh so happy that I am only passing through. Knowing that God will supply the strength I need for every situation is carrying me from strength to strength to the courts I long for. My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God!

For the LORD God is our sun and shield;
the LORD gives grace and glory:
He withholds no good thing
from those who walk with integrity.
O, LORD of Host, How happy
are those who trust in You!

Psalm 84:11-12

In His Love,

Jenny Coleman

Spiritual Warfare: Developing Resilient Faith

My husband, Mike, led a community group in our home this summer called “Resilient Faith” by Mary Jo Sharp based on 1 Peter. The questions were very thought provoking and hearing from and getting to know the individuals in the group was such a blessing. 

As an introduction to our topic in our first meeting, we watched Paul David Tripp’s video on Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense:

One thing really stood out to my husband and I when we watched it this time: 

“Suffering is spiritual warfare.”

Paul David Tripp

I wish every believer understood this and surrounded suffering believers and unbelievers with prayer, encouragement in the faith and loving practical support through suffering.

In our last discussion on the last part of 1 Peter, this truth came to light: 

Loving God and loving others is spiritual warfare. 

Our Community group

Hearing each of these bookend statements honestly blew me away.

I had never heard this in 50+ years of my Christian walk.

Meditating on this and allowing it to take root and bare fruit in my life could be so transformative. 

I spent some time meditating on the last part of 1 Peter and reviewing my notes from our discussion and started this list of things that I am seeing now as spiritual warfare: 

Humbling your self
Surrendering to God
Abiding in Christ
Faithfulness in spiritual disciplines
Casting your cares
Trusting God
Being sober
Resisting the devil
Devotion to prayer
Knowing that others are suffering
Caring for orphans and widows
Serving others
Staying the Word 
Learning what is good 
Living to please God
Leaning on God’s grace
Coming to Jesus for rest
Standing in faith
Growing to understand your hope
Taking joy in your salvation
Looking forward to glory


I also wrote a short list of things we war against:

Selfishness, pride, discouragement, worry, fear, our flesh, and our adversary the devil. 

How? (see previous list)


I am so grateful for the examples and wisdom that was shared in our group… for the spiritual warfare that was waged and I am excited to see the lasting fruit that comes out of it for the glory of God 💕 

In His Love,

Jenny Coleman
RHC GriefShare facilitator

Ways I am Kind to My Grieving Heart

Our youngest son, Joel, will turn 29 on Saturday. It will be his 9th birthday in Heaven. We are so proud of how he has lived his life for the Lord and can’t wait to see his beaming face again in Heaven and to hear about all the adventures and people he is now enjoying.

I have a long list of authors, artist and musicians to meet and thank in Heaven. I can see Joel walking arm in arm with me, showing me off to all his new friends, introducing me to saints who have helped me see Jesus with eyes of faith and telling them, “This is my mom, for whom we prayed. She persevered until the end.” 

My hope in Jesus, His work on the cross for us, His presence with me and His imminent return is what helps me through each day. It takes perseverance to hold on to faith on this fallen planet. In the midst of hard as I have turned to God, I have found  Jesus’ presence with me to be sweet. He is patient and kind and my daily prayer is to see, love and imitate Him more. Before I can be kind to others, I must receive His kindness and be kind to myself. 

I wrote this list of “Ways I am Kind to My Heart” hoping that it would give someone permission to be kind to theirs as well. 

☐ I guard my thoughts. (Philippians 4:6-8)
☐ I guard my heart. (Proverbs 4:23)
☐ I turn my heart towards Jesus, the Source of all Light and Love.
☐ I pour out all my thoughts and heart in lament to God in a journal.
      ➭ Lament held in my heart can quickly turn to bitterness. Pouring it out makes room for God’s love to flow into my bitter cup.
☐ I allow Jesus, Man of Sorrows, into my grief to sit with and spend time being sad with me.

☐ I ask Holy Spirit to lead me into all Truth.
      ➭ I don’t want to spend a second grieving because I have believed a lie. I have plenty of grieving to do without believing a lie. The devil is a liar. I am his enemy. I put on God’s full armor and stand in faith. I submit myself to the God of all truth and shun all darkness and lies.
☐ I spend LOTS of time reading, meditating on and visualizing God’s Word.
☐ I surrender my will (fears, struggles, etc.) and choose to turn to God with trust.
     ○ James 4:7 So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.

☐ I pray all the time: often without words, with tears, groans and wailing. (Romans 8:26)
☐ I LEAN into Jesus. He carries me. (Isaiah 63:9)
☐ I remind myself who God is: Faithful, True, Light, Love, The Lamb Slain, My Hiding Place…
☐ I remember that things others intend for evil God intends for good. (Gen. 50:20, Ro. 8:28)
☐ I remember that all my pain and suffering is temporary because God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for me. (John 16:33)
☐ I remember that all my suffering is creating a future glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
☐ I create an atmosphere of worship in my home and car by sending worshipers ahead of me into battle. (2 Chronicles 20:21)

☐ I give myself lots of GRACE by abiding in God’s love and receiving His grace.
      ➭ I cannot love others unless I have first allowed God to fill up my cup with His love.
☐ I refuse to condemn myself. (Romans 8:1)
☐ I quickly repent when convicted of sin then I receive God’s forgiveness and grace. (1 John 1:9)
☐ I give myself lots of time.
     ○ I honor the way God created me by taking time to grieve and process.
     ○ I take time to honor my son in Heaven.
     ○ Time to look at photos and remember.
     ○ Time for Sabbath. ○ Time to rest and recover.
     ○ Time to be creative. ○ Time to relax.
     ○ Time allowing God to restore my soul.
     ○ And time enjoying the joy God gives me.

☐ I remember that suffering is to be expected in this fallen world and ask God to use me to help alleviate the suffering of others.
☐ I tell myself the truth.
☐ I affirm who I am in Christ leaning on His great and precious promises.
☐ I have prepared mantras of truth that I use when battling doubt, fear, loneliness, etc.
☐ I practice gratitude. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
     ➭ I am thankful for little and big things.
         ○ I am thankful for my loved ones.
         ○ I am thankful that they are in God’s hands.
         ○ I am thankful that I have eternity to look forward to with my loved ones in Heaven.

☐ I think on good things. (Philippians 4:6-8)
☐ I walk every day. Fresh air, sunshine, movement; so many benefits.
☐ I spend time in nature.
☐ I cuddle with my dogs.
☐ I stop and smell the roses.
☐ I fellowship with believers.
☐ I spend time in solitude.
☐ I eagerly look forward to Jesus’ return and going Home to Heaven.
☐ I do all these things with intention to be kind to my grieving heart.

 

Jude 1:20-21 But you beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith, pray in Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God while waiting expectantly for the compassion of our Lord Jesus to bring you eternal life.

James 1:4 So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

1 Peter 1: 13 Therefore prepare your minds for action. Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:13 But in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

How are you kind to your grieving heart? Please, share 💕

In His Love,

Jenny Coleman
RHC GriefShare facilitator

GriefShare is a 13 week video seminar and support group offering help and encouragement for those grieving the death of a friend or loved one.

Learn more about our groups at: http://www.redlandhills.org/griefshare/ 

or by following our social media pages:

https://www.facebook.com/griefshare.redlandhills

https://www.instagram.com/griefshare.redlandhills

How to Experience More Life and Light and Peace in a Broken World

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were little?

Our imaginations are always active and continually influenced by things around us. As we grow older, we can forget how powerful they can be.

We learn in Romans 8:6,

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

In our broken world, it is easy to imagine that we are alone when we are afraid or angry or sad. It is easy to imagine that no one sees or understands or even cares about us. It’s easy to think dark thoughts in a dark world and to lose our peace.

Believers in Jesus live not only in a broken world, but also “in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Asking God to help us to set our minds on the Spirit and to “see” and be influenced by the realms of Heaven can be life changing.

I was meditating on these verses last week:

Ephesians 5:8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true, 10 as you try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord… 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself. 14 This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

I thought about the words over and over and asked God to make them come alive in me. He opened my imagination and I saw myself “full of darkness” before I knew Jesus. I was like the little girl in the Bible who died. Jesus came into my room where I laid dead in my bed, gently held my hand and said, “Wake up.” I sat up in my bed, awakened from the dead, and looked at Jesus smiling warmly at me. The light from His smile filled me with a light that was so bright that it shined right through me in all directions and filled the room with light.

Can you see yourself in that story? Ask Jesus to enlighten the eyes of your imagination. 

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” – Ephesians 5:8

Each day I have a choice to make. Will I walk in the darkness of the world with my mind set on fleshly things or will I live as someone filled with God’s light and presence? Will I imagine that I am alone, that no one sees me, understands, or cares about me; or will I see Jesus tenderly holding my hand, lovingly waking me from my dark death, and filling me with the bright light of His smile? Will I let that light fill me and produce “only what is good and right and true” as I try to learn “what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:9-10)?

From these verses in Ephesians, we learn that it pleases the Lord to fill us with light and what is good and right and true.

I learned in GriefShare that we can use our imaginations to facilitate healing from the flashbacks and nightmares caused by the trauma of losing a loved one by changing the ending of the story in our minds.

When our son, Joel, was attacked with an assault rifle, his life in this broken world came to an end, but his life “in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” continues forever.

Jesus said,

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Do you believe this?

One day, I asked Holy Spirit to help heal my mind by filling my imagination with more of Joel’s story. He opened my eyes to a vision of the incredible joy on Jesus’ face as He welcomed Joel Home.

Hebrews 12:2 says,

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Welcoming Joel Home was part of the joy that helped Jesus to endure the cross. Fixing my eyes on the vision of that incredible joy on Jesus’ face helps me to endure my cross as well.

Do you desire life and peace? Which realm will you allow to influence your imagination? Where will you set your mind? Do you hear Jesus asking you to awake and rise up from the dead? Will you live as a child of the light? Will you invite God to fill you with light and what is good and right and true? Will you invite Holy Spirit to fill you with visions of Jesus as you meditate on God’s Word?

The next five verses in Ephesians 5 reveal more secrets to obtaining light and life and peace:

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.

16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.

Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.

20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These practices can make a huge difference in your life.

If you are not sure that your loved one who died was a believer and went to Heaven, I have been praying for you and created this PDF explaining how you can have life and peace when facing uncertainty: tiny.cc/peace_when_I_do_not_know

This video by one of GriefShare’s hosts may also help: https://youtu.be/1MdPHuPjGnQ

In His Love,

Jenny Coleman
RHC GriefShare facilitator

GriefShare is a 13 week video seminar and support group offering help and encouragement for those grieving the death of a friend or loved one. Learn more about our groups at: http://www.redlandhills.org/griefshare/

Where is Your Hope?

I have a few confessions to make.

I loved this Facebook meme for the end of 2020.

The general consensus that this has been a bad year and that everyone just wants it over has been hard on me. Not that I thought that this was a particularly good year or that many of the changes that this year brought haven’t been hard on me or that I don’t want to see this year end. 

IT’S THAT THE EAGERNESS IS MISPLACED.

The hype at the end of last year about how great 2020 was going to be really bothered me as well.

You see, in December 2012, when Joel died, I learned not to put my hope in a year. 

Many years earlier, God gave me a verse for my kids that became my prayer and hope:

All your children shall be taught by the LORD Himself, and great shall be the peace of your children. – Isaiah 54:13

I prayed that they would be taught by the LORD Himself. I prayed daily that they would love the Lord and serve Him with all their hearts. My goal in homeschooling them was to teach them to be led by Holy Spirit. They are really great kids, hard workers. Ages 26-32 now. They love the Lord, are incredibly smart. The Lord Himself has truly been their teacher.

On a Wednesday night in November of 2012, someone in our church had our oldest and youngest sons stand up and spoke Jeremiah 29:11 over them: 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.”

The promise felt a little out of place. I thought, “Of course, God’s plans are good.” We were overflowing with hope. All three boys were living at home while working their way through college. My daughter was preparing to graduate from homeschooling. Everything was good. 

Then that awful day in December came. Joel died. My hope was shattered and I lost all sense of what hope was. No one can live without hope. I needed a different kind of hope, a more trustworthy hope.

I had never thought about how that wonderful verse in Jeremiah 29:11 was spoken to a people also promised 70 years of captivity. They would never see their kids graduate from college and live a long prosperous life this side of Heaven either. 

How did they live? What was their hope? I had to search the scriptures diligently with all my heart to learn what biblical hope really is. 

I learned to love verses that I had skipped over before. I held onto them for dear life. Job and Joseph and Paul and Jesus became my best friends. They had suffered long and hard. They understood.

Our hope was never meant to be in a year. It’s not meant to be placed in the things or people of this world. Yes, God has good plans for us. Yes, He wants to prosper us. But our treasures are not earthly treasures where moth and rust corrupt. They are Heavenly. They are eternal.

I had to learn to live this way:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not the things on the earth. For you have died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life may be revealed, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

I had to learn perseverance: 

So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you will become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way. – James 1:4

For a long time, I had to trust that perseverance would produce the hope I’d lost:

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Romans 5:3-5

I had to believe that my suffering was temporary and achieving a greater glory:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  – 2 Corinthians 4:17  

I had to learn to trust that God’s grace would be sufficient for whatever the new year would bring:

Each time He said, “My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I had to learn to aline my hope with our heroes of faith: 

All these people died in faith, without having received the things they were promised. However, they saw them and welcomed them from afar. And they acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Now those who say such things show that they are seeking a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13- 16

I had to learn to think soberly about this life and rest my hope FULLY on Christ and His return: 

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, rest all your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. – 1 Peter 1:13

My hope has grown eager and secure because it is no longer in temporary things.  

But you, beloved, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, eagerly waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 

How is your hope?
Is it misplaced?
Or is it only in our eternal hope in Jesus?

In His love,

Jenny Coleman
GriefShare facilitator at Redland Hills Church

We are starting two GriefShare groups this Spring.

Anyone grieving a death of a friend or loved one:
Sundays at 3 PM starting January 17th

Bereaved parents:
Wednesdays at 6 PM starting January 13th

Ask for details or find one by zip code near you at GriefShare.org

Struggling with Suffering

My favorite verses have become the ones where Jesus struggled with suffering… because through them I know I am not alone, I am not abandoned, I am chosen, I am loved.

He took with Him Peter, James, and John, and began to be deeply troubled and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is consumed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.” – Mark 14:33-34

Jesus gave into the sorrow.. He allowed it to consume Him to the point of death. And turned to “Abba, Father,” to Him who “all things are possible for.”

His friends… fell asleep.

He prayed the same thing again.. and again. – God never tires of hearing our prayers.

Until a few weeks ago, I believed this was the only time Jesus gave into His sorrow. However I recently realized that the trouble Jesus felt and tears He cried at Lazarus’ tomb are connected to the trouble and deep sorrow at the garden of Gethsemane. In the chapter following Lazarus’ resurrection Jesus told Philip and Andrew:

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? No, it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!’ … After Jesus had spoken these things, He went away and was hidden from them.” – John 12:27-28, 36

It’s okay to struggle… to be troubled… again and again… as you face your sorrow and turn to the Father, submitted to His will and longing for Him to be glorified. And it’s okay to disappear from the crowds. Jesus did more than once. 

It’s also okay not to feel all better even when the comfort comes directly from Heaven:

Then an angel from Heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And in His anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:43-44 

His sweat became like drops of blood while earnestly praying in anguish AFTER an angel from Heaven appeared and strengthened Him. Heaven’s comfort didn’t make everything okay. It didn’t take away the suffering. It appeared and strengthened Him in the midst of it.

During the days of Jesus’ earthly life, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. – Hebrews 5:7 

We are heard because of our reverence. Loud cries and tears do not disqualify us. They are not a sign of a lack of faith. We pray to the One who is able but not always willing to save us and our loved ones from physical death. Suffering and being separated from those we love causes anguish. Even Jesus asked why:

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

We are not alone. We are not abandoned. We are chosen. We are loved.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12 

You’re Invited

I was pouring out some pent up emotions (and tears) in prayer on my walk the other day. I noticed I’d been trying to live bootstraps pulled up, marching forward right over my heart. I know that is not the Father’s heart towards me, so I decided to declare the truth to my heart by praying through Psalm 23. When I came to “my cup runs over,” I “looked” inside my cup. It was empty. A tear plopped into my empty cup..

How are you? Are you taking your cares to the Shepherd of your soul? Are you speaking truth to your heart? Are you seeing Jesus rightly? Are you taking time to sit at the table He has prepared for you in the presence of your enemies? Are you allowing Him to fill your cup?

I asked the Lord, what had He prepared for me? What was at the table? Why was my cup dry? These verses came to mind:

And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you. – Luke 22:19-20

Jesus humbled Himself, suffered and died that we might eat and drink of Him. He is the sacrifice prepared for us in the midst of our enemies.

“I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is My flesh.” – John 6:51

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.” – John 7:37-38

Jesus is our Spring of Salvation; a flowing source of salvation that the thirsty can return to again and again.

Isaiah 12:2-3
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
For the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and He also has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation.

Jesus’ sacrifice and invitation to come eat and drink of Him is very good news to those who are thirsty and willing to come. Will you draw water with joy from our Spring of Salvation with me?

May you feel His loving embrace this Christmas,

Jenny

Choosing Where My Triggered Thoughts Take Me

I drove by a yard decorated with plastic tombstones for Halloween this week. It was hard on my heart.

It triggered thoughts of death, darkness, and the deep pain of losing someone you dearly love.

Innocent pastimes like Clue, the Mafia party game, and Murder Mystery Dinners are no longer innocent or mysterious for me. I do still really enjoy seeing kids’ creativity and joy in dressing up in some of the nicer Halloween costumes and I’ve already bought glow bracelets, temporary monster tattoos, candy and tracks to pass out to the neighborhood kids.

I dreaded the drive back home past the play cemetery the other night. Then flenched when I saw it a second time and I prayed for those I know who are hurting this season. I acknowledged in my heart that the decorations aren’t going to get any brighter as the years go by and determined that I needed change what seeing death celebrated triggers in me.

I asked myself, “What thoughts can I connect to tombstones that would help heal my battered soul?” My heart answered, “The death of death! The day God swallows up death forever! The day we will celebrate Jesus’ victory over death, our last enemy! The day God will tenderly wipe away every tear from our eyes!” Oh, how I long for that day!

I compiled a list of “Death Swallowed in Victory” verses to help my heart in those triggered moments. Training my mind and renewing my heart will take a while, but I know Jesus gives beauty for ashes. I included a photo above showing how I use Google Keep to keep lists like it in my phone. Sharing it here for those like me who may need the brighter thoughts they inspire:

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. For Yahweh has spoken.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Isaiah 60:20 Your sun will no longer set, and your moon will not wane; for Yahweh will be your everlasting light, and the days of your sorrow will be over.

Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is dismantled, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies; and every one who is living and is a believer in me will never, never die. Do you believe this?”

1 Corinthians 15:54-56 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Psalm 16:7-11
I will bless Yahweh, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.

I have set Yahweh always before me.
Because He is at my right hand,
I will not be moved.

No wonder my heart is glad
and my glory rejoices;
my body also rests in safety.

For You will not abandon
my soul among the dead,
nor allow your faithful one to see decay.

You cause me to know the path to life;
fill me with joy in Your presence,
everlasting delight at Your right hand.

Much love and grace,

Jenny

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