“There is a time to mourn, but don’t stay there.”
Those words had gripped me since I’d read them in a blog post for our Esther Bible study earlier in the day. They played in my mind as I stood at the kitchen sink washing my dinner plate. Our house was quiet, it was a Monday, my husband Michael’s late night, and I was alone with my thoughts. I sat the plate on the drying mat, then stood staring out the window, watching the filtered light of the September evening slink in. The days were shrinking, summer fading. I was glad to see it go.
With those words still spinning through my thoughts I walked over to my desk and flipped up the screen on my MacBook. I clicked on the link to that blog post hoping to read to the end this time. My eyes scanned the words, looking for hope, “Mourn for the appropriate time, but don’t let your mourning take away your hope in God and linger to the point where God can’t use you.” I stopped reading, stuck at the period at the end of that sentence. Twice convicted, I shut my computer.
In our study, we’d just started reading chapter four of the book of Esther where we find out Mordecai is grieving, distraught at the knowledge that they have condemned his people to death. His mourning was justified.
Just like mine was.
It’d been just two months since we’d lost my 25-year-old stepson son. Grief’s barbed fingers had hooked into every facet of my existence. I couldn’t escape the ruins left behind by Ryan’s death.
While my husband and I wrestled with our grief, God was at work. He planted people in our lives who offered a listening ear or an invitation, even though we weren’t great company.
One of the invitations was to that Bible Study.
That night as I lay in bed unable to sleep I decided, I would finish the study, but it would be my last. God could never use me, my grief would forever consume me. I was nothing like Mordecai.
As the study of Esther headed into its final chapters, I found I looked forward to the focused daily Bible reading provided by Love God Greatly.
I enjoyed sharing with other women through the Love God Greatly community and my small group. Reading the weekly blogs and their SOAP’s each day gave me a deeper understanding of the message. Writing my SOAP caused me to fall in love with reading Scripture. Morning quiet time became a habit.
Last week I revisited the journal where I’d written my SOAPs from that Esther study. As I peeled through the pages, my heart skipped a beat at the picture painted there. In one passage I wrote:
I know my days of sobbing and sadness are far from over.
There will be more mornings when the temptation to withdraw is so strong I have to force myself to get out of the bed and face the day.
But the stretches of joy will get longer.
At least I pray they will.
Right now, joy for us is coming directly from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I didn’t know God wasn’t finished sending His people.
I met Debbie on Facebook that first year our family was grieving the loss of Ryan. Debbie had buried three of her four children. She opened up her own scars to weep with me. What impressed me most about Debbie was her choice to live her life faith forward as a tribute to her children.
In June 2015, she suggested we start our own Love God Greatly Bible study group on Facebook. She even had a name picked out, Beauty for Ashes.
On that Monday in September 2014 with my grief so fresh, I had no way of knowing I’d be sitting here getting ready to start my fifth year of Love God Greatly Bible studies.
In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined facilitating a study group.
Sadly, we lost Debbie to cancer last November. I miss her daily. Before her death, God planted over forty women in our Beauty for Ashes group.
This fall, we will gather to study—you guessed it—the book of Esther.
From Esther, we learn there is no such thing as a coincidence. God placed Esther in a specific place “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
Rereading my journal made me recognize the bigger picture of how God had worked in my grief, by placing that Bible study on my path, Debbie in my life, and now another chance to study Esther.
From Mordecai, we learn how to step out of our grief so we can be effective for God.
This morning, I went back and visited Whitney’s blog. As I read the title, I began to cry. It’s called, Preparing to be Used.
I breezed right through bullet point two, and that sentence that had stopped me short before, to the last line of the paragraph:
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” ~ Psalm 30:5
Stunned, my tears blurred the words. That Verse painted the picture of the divine beauty He’s given me for my ashes.
Five years ago, when my grief shattered heart made it hard to face the day, God had a plan. He was comforting me in my grief while preparing me for my next place of purpose, refining me for my calling. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
The morning light filters into my office as I sit sipping coffee, pen in hand, my heart filled with anticipation at what He will reveal to me through His Word today. I can’t wait to fire up my MacBook and click on over to Facebook to share with and learn from my friends in Beauty for Ashes.
Out of my splintered heart, new shoots of faith have grown.
It was no coincidence. He was preparing me “to be used” for His Glory.
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If you would like to join a Bible study group where you can pursue Christ through His Word while engaging with other women on the same journey we’d love to have you join us in Beauty for ashes. Our 6-week Esther study begins on Monday, September 16, 2019.