A Word of Grace – September 17, 2018

Jesus went up on the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. . . When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves and when he had given thanks, he distributed to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets (John 6:3-13).

I have received many unexpected gifts of delicious and nourishing food in the days in my summer of sorrow. And my dear next door neighbors, the Rudds, have kind of adopted me, inviting me over several evenings a week for dinner and conversation.

A friend and colleague gave me with a large pan of egg plant lasagna that was so fragrant that it attracted the attention of three neighboring households. The scent was a true notice of the delicious dish. It was a blessing that I shared in a meal with the Rudds.

Another sister in Christ gave me a tasty and nutritious vegetarian salad redolent with Indian spices that kept me going for a week.  And a dear friend and sister brings me healthy smoothies and healthy home baked goods.

I receive all of this nourishment with gratitude for the love it represents. I need that love. Faith and long-practiced spiritual disciplines of lifetime keep me centered in Jesus, but the person I shared my life with for 42 years is gone. I live in this odd twilight between hope and longing.

As I return to the everyday routines of living, I miss Patty all the more – especially the conversations, the planning, and the partnership.  Anxiety over events and tasks faced alone sometimes rise in me.

This is an alien and oppressive feeling since I am not anxious by nature. The vagueness tells me that God is not in the anxiety. I know what it is for the Holy Spirit to stir my soul, but the Spirit’s urging is a specific direction verifiable by Scripture and the counsel of others. God is light and he does not speak to us with dark and foreboding feelings.

I know these things, but knowing them doesn’t stop the fog of sorrow and helplessness from rolling in. So I praise him in thought and song to lift him up in my mind and heart. I accept the prayers and nourishment, both spiritual and physical, from those who minister Jesus to me.

When I am overwhelmed, grieving, and don’t know what to do next, Jesus uses the kindness of his people to get me through.

The story of the feeding of the five thousand speaks to me in my season of grief. It says Jesus wants to take care of my spiritual and physical needs and has a plan to do so, even when I can’t figure it out.

Friends wanting to help, but not knowing exactly what to do and how to do it, show up with the “loaves and fish” of their casseroles, salads and sandwiches and Jesus makes meals for me.

“I’m praying for you, Kent. It’s all I can do,” they say. Through his power, the current of their prayers turns into the flow of grace that carries me through the exhaustion of sorrow. And miraculously, I grow closer to Jesus and stronger in the ties of community.

Like Philip and Peter, we do our feeble calculations of our human resources in facing daunting challenges – things we never thought we would encounter, let alone have to resolve. Like them, he stretches our faith and deepens our trust.

Eugene Peterson says— “Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand is a sign of both his intention and his ability to provide for us whatever we need. His care is all-inclusive. His power is unrestricted. Body and spirit are equally sustained by his command” (Praying the Message of Jesus: [Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2017], entry for September 3).

Of course, we know this is exactly what Jesus will do for us! Do we really?

Patty used to say, “No one should read a book on suffering when they are actually suffering.” Grief is not something that can be experienced hypothetically. When you are in the midst of grieving you can’t insert the bookmark, close the book, and come back to it later.

The night can be described to you as a dark and lonely passage of time, but experiencing it is something all together different. Reading about the troubles of others and how they overcame their adversity, is not that helpful when you are going through the “valley of the shadow.”

It is dark in that valley. No one chooses to go there except Jesus. He makes the walk through the darkness with us. He brings along friends who feed us, pray for us and cheer us on.

I have experienced grief before, read many books about it, studied its phases,  and have written about it. But there are things we will never know until we are in the midst of the worst. That’s when the “man of sorrows . . . acquainted with grief” is at his best (Isa 53:3). I am grateful.

O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8).

Under the mercy of Christ,

Kent

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Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.

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Kent HansenKent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.

Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.

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