Flourishing Story: Flourishing in Grief
By Lt. Colonel Sherryl Van Cleef (Retired)
North West Valley, AZ Corps – Southwest Division
“And my God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (KJV) is the first of three individual yet connected verses from God’s Word that have provided the foundation for how God is growing me in my season of grief.
The second was given me at 6:00 a.m., July 8, 2019, and at the time seemed like a very strange verse for the occasion: Psalm 90:1-2 (NIV) “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
The third verse was given me specifically for the events of July 2019: Psalm 91:1 (NLT) “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
In my late teens I became aware God was calling me to serve Him as a Salvation Army officer. It was in those days of questions and searching for understanding God gave me Philippians 4:19. It’s been a significant life-verse.
From the time that I became aware that Philippians 4:19 was for every area of my life, I have been discovering “all” means “ALL”! It meant “all” as God’s plan for me to be a Salvation Army officer unfolded. It meant “all” when He provided me a wonderful partner in ministry. It meant “all” as God gave us children and guided us in their rearing. It meant “all” in equipping us mentally and spiritually for the roles to which He called us! In short, “all means ALL!” To this very moment God IS the supplier of ALL my needs, including those for this journey through grief.
“THE” JOURNEY BEGINS
One of the thoughts that first came to mind when asked to prepare these devotional thoughts was that grief is probably the most common human event: everyone grieves at some point in life. And yet, grief somehow seems very solitary…like you’re the only one experiencing it. The reason for that is that grieving is a unique journey, marked by the myriad circumstances of each person.
At 6:00 a.m., July 8, 2019, the most terrifying day of my life, in a hospital emergency room the Lord gave me these words: Psalm 90:1-2 (NIV) “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Our son was visiting and earlier that morning he had left to go meet his daughter at the airport. Just after his departure I heard my husband screaming out, “I can’t move!” I’ve never awakened faster! I was at his side just as quickly, and almost without thinking I called 911 because I was profoundly aware “this” was way beyond me! Within minutes of his admission to the ER, the doctors, shared that he was in desperate straits… that he very possibly could die! That was the moment God gave me those verses — the profound, unspeakable assurance that I could trust Him with whatever happened in those minutes and hours!
I cried out to the Lord, “I’m not ready for him to be gone—please don’t let Al die right now!” All the while those words of who HE is kept repeating in my brain and heart!
Shortened version of the story is that Al had surgery and after 47 days of hospitalization and rehab returned home! What a precious gift that was! The ensuing months included many doctor appointments and learning new ways to “do” life. “Normal” was redefined. It included doing simple things together, enjoying each other’s company.
Also, God reminded me of my earlier prayer, that I wasn’t ready. Now was the time to “get ready.” That preparation included learning to manage our finances, keeping up our home, accessing community resources and, speaking with medical professionals realistically.
It was in those days from July 2019 to March 7, 2021, that God refreshed and reassured me often with the words of Psalm 91:1 (NLT) “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
“THE JOURNEY UNFOLDS”
I have “lived” in the shelter of the Most High since I was a young girl. In the weeks and months of this grief journey, begun on March 7, 2021, I have LIVED in that Shelter, not unlike the way that we live in our homes.
Truth be told, when it comes to living in my home, some might say I am a bit OCD. I like everything to be in its place. At the beginning of this grief journey, I wanted to understand how it would proceed and when I could expect to be “done”. But this journey of grief can’t be ordered and put into a tidy box. This was very disconcerting to me. Just when I thought, “I’ve got this under control.” WHAMEE ! I’m ambushed with floods of tears, seemingly from nowhere. I’ve learned that the tears, even the ambush tears, help my healing, so I let them happen. As a result “Living in the Shelter of the Almighty” I’ve come to really KNOW THE REALITY OF HIS REST!
As with every turn in life’s journey there has been/is much to observe and learn along the way. God is always true to His promises, He supplies ALL that is needed to navigate the twists and turns. I have gained a new appreciation and understanding of The Psalms; those songs in Scripture that record for our benefit the experiences of fear, anxiety, anger, fear and joy, wonder and awe of the God we serve and who loves us beyond our comprehension. I’ve learned with fresh awareness that staying in God’s Word keeps me steady and able to move forward in this journey, not necessarily through some in-depth study, but reading slowly and absorbing all God has to tell us about Him and us. Writing in a journal daily has been of great value to me as well; allowing me to get the words out of my head and on to paper.
I’ve learned a lot about being honest with myself, about not only letting, but inviting the help and support of other people. God has gifted me with an incredible family, and equally incredible friends, without whom this journey would be more difficult. He has placed people in my life who have helped me beyond their knowing. I’ve also become aware of a variety of Christ-centered resources. Journeying through Grief, produced by Stephen Ministries affirmed that my journey is not unusual, with suggestions for ways of thinking and doing. One of my friends made me aware of an international bible-based grief recovery support, GriefShare, and this group is a big help and blessing.
It’s a little over two years since this part of life’s journey began for me. I have learned these words: of “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations,” (Psalm 90:1 NIV) “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty,” (Psalm 91:1 NLT) and “… my God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 KJV) are certain truths. I can live in them joyfully
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