The Father’s Embrace

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5

These past four years I have been a caregiver and advocate for my father who has needed extensive care in a nursing facility. In the last few months his health had severely declined. About a month ago he passed away. A few weeks before he died, he began trusting in Jesus Christ and was baptized. All his life he had never believed in the origin of his existence; he had never believed in God. Thus far, it was the greatest joy of my life to be there at his bedside with my pastor as my dad squeezed my hand to indicate that he wanted forgiveness for sin and to trust and follow God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Each day following, he continued to confirm his trust and peace in Christ through conversations of hand squeezes. It is in this way that he said yes to be baptized. Years of prayers by myself and many others came to fruition in the last days of my dad’s life.

I rejoice that my father is seeing The Father in heaven, that the salvation of my dad is being celebrated in the glory of God’s radiance in heaven. Still, I miss him terribly. I miss his smile, how he would look at me, the way he used to laugh and the way he made me laugh. I miss his hugs, and I miss looking into his eyes. We have the same eyes. I look into the mirror and I see him. I carry my father with me. I am who I am in part because of him.

In his passing, I contemplate that I no longer have an earthly father, but I am not fatherless. The Father in heaven has never left me, he has never forsaken me, and it is that much clearer now in the absence of my earthly father that God is the one who sustains me, loves me, and carries me. I miss my earthly dad, he will not return to me, but one day I will go to where he is – with the Father in heaven.

Through the ups and downs of the last few months, I climb into the arms of my Heavenly Father and rest. I share my joys, and I cry my tears. Friend, with your sorrows and heartbreaks fly to the arms of the Father. With your joys run to the Father and celebrate in His embrace. When you stumble and fall, don’t hesitate, run to the Father. In Jesus, He is always yearning to clean up your wounds, shower you with His daddy love, and set you walking again. He is your good Father, and He knows all these things before you come with them, but He wants to be in relationship with you and to hear you tell Him all about it.

Gospel yourself: In Jesus, you are a righteous child of the Father in heaven, with all its joys and benefits, solely based off of what Jesus has done for you. There is no greater treasure than simply enjoying the Father; simply resting in His arms (if my earthly father was here right now, I wouldn’t want anything more than to embrace him and rest in His arms). Run to Him and he will gather you into His arms in the best daddy hug you can imagine. I can imagine a pretty amazing daddy hug, because my dad showed me what it was like (a big bear hug – the best!). That hug is only a tiny reflection of the joy, peace and respite found in the Fathers arms. Enjoy.

Truth: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11

Added reflection: Some have not had even a taste of the good heavenly Father from the example of their earthly father. And even the best of earthly fathers fall terribly short of God’s absolute goodness. Here are some scriptures to meditate on the goodness of God the Father to stir our affections for what He is really like…

  • Luke 15:11-32 (“…When he came to his senses, he said… “I will set out and go back to my father…”  –Luke 15:17)
  • Matthew 6:26
  • Matthew 18:12-14
  • Luke 6:35-36
  • Luke 12:32 John 14:1-2
  • John 16:27
  • Romans 8:15-16
  • Matthew 7:9-11
  • 1 John 3:1

…and many more.

Life is a vapor

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

I had adopted this as my “life verse” in my final year at Bible College. One, I thought it seemed hard core, and two, I really meant it. God’s love had so radically grabbed my heart, that I knew this life didn’t matter as much in length as it does in content. I didn’t know what would happen roughly four years later.

This time last year I went into the hospital with extreme hip pain that had then spread to my whole body. I could barely walk or dress myself. I kept saying I would go to the hospital in another day or two, really praying and hoping things would get better. My friends intervened and took me to the hospital. The last thing I remember until they induced me into a coma for about a week was eating a hummas plate with my friend in the hospital bed.

All of my vital organs started to shut down. What none of us knew at that point was that I had blood poisoning. I remember suffocating, then thinking I had died. Back in the hospital room they had put me on a breathing tube and induced me in a coma. I won’t go into all of the dreams, but I dreamt I was no longer in this world. Much of my dreams were affected by what my body was experiencing in that hospital room. I do remember thinking that all of my dreams were not really heaven because I kept saying, “There will be no more pain and no more tears, and it will be all about Jesus”, and my succession of dreams were not these things.

When I awoke and began to realize that I indeed was still alive, it took me a while to sort through those dreams.

I wanted to come through this experience with all new goals. I would live my life to the fullest! Health began to return, I began to walk again, to gain back the 30 pounds that I had lost, the memories of the event began to fade like a bad dream – one I learned a lot from and grew in my relationship with God in, but hard to say the least.

I am reminded of the simple truth in those dreams – it is all about Jesus and the gospel. It is about loving God with your whole heart, soul mind and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:37-40) It is about turning the other cheek, because life is too short, and sometimes shorter than we think. It is about reconciling with one another along the way, and never going to bed angry. Life is tough enough without reciprocation and perpetuating hurt. Jesus came so that he could share in our suffering and take on our hurt. (Isaiah 53:4-5) Life is about Jesus, what He has done, and how He has called us to love Him and one another.

Christian sister, gospel yourself, life is too short and God’s love too precious to ignore and too contagious not to share. We need Jesus through the gospel, and we need one another. Share the good news in word and deed with a coworker, family member or friend, tell your husband and babies (where applicable) that you love them, and show them that you do. Tell a friend how much you appreciate them, give love, because that is what Jesus gave to you to the point of giving His life. Jesus did not live a long life on earth as a human, but He made a way for those who have faith in Him to live eternally to know the Father and the Son. (John 17:3)

Truth: The Sermon on the Mount – Matt. 5-7 (This is a longer one but if you have not read it in awhile, now is as good a time as any)

With Whom Does Your Identity Abide?

Like so many women, I can let “my victories” make me think that I am awesome, and I can let “my failures” make me think that I am unworthy. It is a constant yo-yo from day to day. Will today bring more “victories” than “failures,” or vice versa? But it is God’s joyful intention that we, more and more through his grace, remain in the center of the gospel – the good news that Jesus has granted us salvation and freedom through his perfect life, dying in our place on the cross, conquering Satan, sin and death, and restoring us in right relationship with the Father, our Father.

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:30-31)

We are all prone to connect our victories as well as our failures to our identity, but it is by the grace and mercy of God that for those who believe in Jesus Christ, their identity is found in Him and nothing else.

Christian sister, if you find this week that you are feeling down from actions or words you said, take the time to repent and believe that Jesus is your identity, your “failures” are not your identity. God can use those “failures” to show His greater grace and mercy in transforming our minds through them. (Rom. 12:1-2) If you are having a week where you are boasting in “your victories,” realize that there is nothing that you have that you did not first receive. (1 Cor. 4:7) If you are having a week where you are being raised on a pedestal of praise, or you are under the weight of criticism, these as well are not where your identity abides. Through the gospel we settle into what Timothy Keller calls “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” (a book I would highly recommend if this is an area you struggle in as well). This “self-forgetfulness” connects neither sin nor accomplishments to identity. Sin should be addressed and accomplishments celebrated, but neither defines who you are. Should you believe in the truth below, you are a daughter of God, and that is your identity. Meditate on the gospel daily so that you remember who you are and with Whom your identity abides. The gospel will be your anchor when victories and failures try to muddy the water of who you are.

Truth: “...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)