Faith on a Thread

AmberOBrien"


Dear Sweet Sister,

Has there ever been a time when you almost lost Your faith? How did you reconcile your relationship with God?

I was recently approached with these questions and as they intrigued me, I thought I would share my answers with you.

Has there ever been a time when you almost lost Your faith?
I remember vividly the time when I held onto my faith by just a thread. It was about four months after my baby girl Megan had died and I wrestled with this troubling thought, “Why didn’t God heal my baby after I had prayed and begged for the 40 days she struggled to stay alive in the hospital NICU?”

This time of wrestling occurred during my 28th year, but my love relationship with Jesus had begun 12 years before when I was just 16 years old. While attending a summer Young life camp, a talk was given on how Jesus physically suffered on the cross for my sins and I remember asking Jesus in awed gratitude, “You did that for me – what can I do for you?” I heard in my soul the answer, “Give me your life,” and I wholeheartedly did just that. I decided to follow Jesus and seek to know Him and to trust Him with my future. What an exciting time of adventure and growth as I joined a bible study and witnessed firsthand a personal God who took an interest in every detail of my life. I witnessed over the next twelve years a God who intervened in miraculous ways as He moved in my life and in the lives of my Christian friends.

Now, as I sought answers with empty hands and a broken heart, the heavens seemed silent. I felt God’s peace the day she died in my arms and in the first weeks to follow, but as the shock lifted, my questions and emotions started to build, and I tried to push them down.  Finally, feelings of anger, guilt, hurt and sorrow that I had been stuffing down finally erupted one day as I stood at the sink washing dishes. I screamed out loud to God,

“Why did you give her to me only to take her away?”

I felt hurt and rejected as I knew of other premature babies that weighed less or were born earlier who survived and were alive and well.  Each time I heard of another premature baby that survived, it was as if salt were rubbed into a wound. Were my prayers not effective because I did not have enough faith? Had God turned His back on me? My faith, hopes, and dreams crashed when my husband and I helplessly watched as her small white coffin was silently lowered into the cold, hard February ground.

A few months after her funeral, a well-meaning relative gave me the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner.  The author’s thesis stated that while God is good and loving and suffers with His people, He has no control over the universe and could not prevent this “bad thing” from happening.

I wrestled with this non-omnipotent thinking as I read this book. At first this sounded as a logical way out from my conundrum, for if God has no power then I could no longer be angry at Him.  However, the more I thought on it, the more I decided that I didn’t want to serve a God who had no power. Who would want to follow a God who did not have power? Didn’t Jesus claim be the Great I Am? Didn’t he conquer death when He rose from the dead? Wasn’t the reason I had peace as I held her and she took her last breath because I knew she was now free of pain in Heaven, and the reason Heaven exists because Jesus broke the chains of sin and death? Yet this book said that He had no control or power.

So my choices were that either God has no control and He wanted to help me but couldn’t, or that He has control and could have healed my baby and he chose not to. Ouch. I didn’t like either choice.

The scripture that seemed to parallel my dilemma was in the Gospel of John when some of the disciples turned away and deserted Jesus. Jesus turned to the Twelve who were left and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

Simon Peter replied,
“Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe and know you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6: 66-69.

Similar to the twelve disciples in the above passage, I had to decide if I would follow and trust Jesus, even if I didn’t understand what He was doing — even if I didn’t like was He was doing. For what is the definition of Love? Love means commitment. Love is not based on feeling or circumstances.

How did you reconcile your relationship with God?
I thought I had “wholeheartedly” given my life to Him at 16, but now I needed to recommit my life to Him and trust that He who is LOVE and sitting on the throne allowed this for my good. I had a choice between continuing to grip onto to my anger, hurt, and disappointment with clenched hands, or to surrender my daughter with open hands into the loving hands of God.

As I worked on climbing out of the pit of all those negative emotions — self-pity, anger, hurt, disappointment, confusion — I started focusing on what I could be thankful for while I waited to see the good that could come out of this. I slowly came to realize that Jesus was suffering with me and caring for me during this tough time through many people and through His Church. A priest came to the NICU to baptize Megan when she was first born. What a gift to have a priest come and visit the hospital and offer the sacrament of baptism. My home church had a full graveyard but found a small plot so we could bury her and gave her the respect of a full burial and service. What a great comfort to visit her grave through the years and my husband found relief tending the garden around the grave as his way to actively grieve. St. Ignatius Church also gave us a room to dedicate to our daughter since she wouldn’t have a room in our home. We hired a muralist to paint a Noah’s ark themed room with carefully selected bible verses to go with each scene. Noah endured 40 days of rain similar to the 40 days Megan spent in the hospital. The biblical meaning of 40 days as a “time of completion after a period of trial and testing” gave me great comfort, as did the rainbow that God gave as a sign after the storm dissipated.

As an adult converted to the Catholic faith, I came to appreciate the memorized prayers of the Lord’s prayer and the Hail Mary as I fell back on them when I didn’t have the energy to pray conversational prayers while I spent time in the NICU. I also realized the gift of having the Mother Mary advocate for me as she is so close to his throne. Just as I called my best friend Janice to pray for me, I realized that we have so great a cloud of witnesses up in heaven close to Jesus’ throne that we can ask to carry our prayer requests up to God’s Throne.

Yes, God had not rejected me but had been there every step of the way: Grieving with me. Collecting my tears. Assuring me of Megan’s home in Heaven through scripture.   

I realized one momentous day that God did answer my many prayers for Megan’s healing, for she is now “healed in Heaven,” free of all pain, sickness, and sorrow. She is now praying for me and my family as we are still left in this broken, sinful world.

I still do not know all the reasons why our baby only lived 40 precious days. But I have learned that after the 40 days of testing in the Bible, there is always change and growth. My young toddler faith, which expected God to answer all my prayers, slowly changed to a more mature faith, with roots that, especially during this dry period, went deeper down into the ground. My spiritual experience is similar to how in a marriage one must navigate going from the infatuation stage to a deeper long lasting sacrificial love. Love is commitment and, for better or worse, rich or poorer, whether my prayers are answered the way I want, sickness or in health, I have chosen to follow Jesus.

I still believe God can heal and answers our prayers on earth, but I also know that He doesn’t always give us what we want because He is God and knows more than we as to what is best for us long term. As a result, I now always end my prayers with, “Thy will be done,” for I believe that God is good, God is love, and God is in control.

Just this weekend, twenty-one years after Megan Elizabeth’s death, God is still assuring me in miraculous ways of how He is in control. After my granddaughter’s baptism, I was reminded that my husband and I gave an envelope with money in it to the two men who dug Megan’s grave, as it was such a bitter cold day and we were so appreciative of their service. They told us that they could not accept the money but would use it as the first money to be put in a fund for the new larger church to be built near the graveyard — seed money.

On Sunday our granddaughter, who was named after Megan Elizabeth, Megan Elise, was baptized in that new church. She was baptized from death (original sin) into life in the church built with the seed money given to dig her namesake’s grave. Who but God could orchestrate such a beautiful analogy but the God who gave the rainbow after Noah’s 40 days and nights?    My many tears have turned into such overwhelming, goose-bumping Joy.

Psalm 126: 5-6
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow,
Will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them.

So my prayer for you, Sweet Sister, is that you will be honest with God through the years and share with Him all of your thoughts and feelings (in your mind, or better yet in a journal). He wants a real relationship with you, and that will include some wrestling.

Most of all, I pray you will always know that anything that happens is always filtered through His loving fingers and He works all things out for those that Love God and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

He is good          He is Love          He is in control.

Ask your Generous abba (daddy) for help, but always end your requests with, “Thy will be done.”

His Forever,

Amber O’Brien

#3 The Woman that needed healing Man…Does Jesus love His women

AmberOBrien"

 

Are you tired my sweet sister? Weak? Feeling alone and that no one understands what you are facing? Physically drained from the burden of Pain? Or maybe drained from grieving a loss? Are you so weary that it takes extra energy to do normal everyday activities?  I have been there my sweet sister and so has our sister we study today.

Our tired sister reached out in faith and she was healed. She traveled 30 miles to touch Jesus despite a twelve year long illness. She traveled alone as she was considered “unclean” because she continued to bleed.   I hope and prayer this small study will bring you one step closer on your journey to touching Jesus. May you find healing for your weary heart, body and soul.

Please join me in reading about our sister in Mark 5:25-34

Read this dramatic interaction again slowly as you put yourself in her lonely and desperate shoes.

 

  1. What do you think her ailment was?  (twelve years of bleeding so she is referred to as the hemorrhaging woman)

 During our discussion one thought was perhaps she had fibroids or         was in perimenopause? Could her bleeding have been from polyps or colon cancer? This is all speculation as the bible gives           no more detail except that she has bleed mysteriously for 12 years.

  1. How old was the child who was ill in the story surrounded this one? Look up Luke 2:41-52 and see how old Jesus was when he was found in the temple teaching?

 Yes! The answer is 12 for both cases.  Twelve is the age in Jewish   tradition that a young boy becomes a man and is responsible for himself spiritual. More on this to follow. I have found that numbers    have great significance and importance in God’s word.

 

  1. Do you think Jesus knew who touched him? Why did he ask the question and what did his question give her the choice to do?

 Is God all-knowing? Yes…and Jesus is “God with skin” so of course   Jesus knew who touched him. He also knew her heart and all her sufferings. The mysterious bleeding and the time, money and    dashed hopes she had spent on doctors. How she bore this alone as she was considered in this culture to be “unclean” and if she              were to touch someone else they would be considered          “unclean” too.  She was most likely looked down on as in these times it was believed that her “sin” must have caused this illness. She not only needed physical healing but confirmation that God had not   abandoned her and was not punishing her with this ailment. By asking this question, she needed to exercise her faith once again by professing in public what she had done.

 

  1. Do you think it took more faith to touch his garment or to profess out loud what she had done?

 Absolutely. It took more faith to publicly profess that she had               violated “religious law” and put others at risk to becoming      “unclean” as well and risk a rebuking or even having the power be taken away. She showed great faith in not running off with her       miracle (stealing a miracle) but staying and trusting that Jesus   would be kind and loving.

 

  1. How did Jesus address Her? The only place in scripture where he used this word to address a woman?

Daughter.   Yes.. he called her Daughter.  This is huge              sister…don’t rush through this.

 If he calls her daughter, than he is saying that He is her father. If she is His daughter, she has rights to a royal inheritance as He is the King of Kings. She has the right to come forward and    ask for healing. God says in His word, that a Father will give to his children what they need when they come to him. (Luke 11:11)

 How thirsty she must have been to hear that she had faith, when she had been judged and looked down upon for so long. And to add insult to injury, she had been blamed for her illness.

 Jesus stopped his travels for a woman. An unclean woman who       was rejected, alone and considered an outcast.

He not only healed her instantly, but he called her “daughter” in         front of her accusers. He saw her heart and let everyone know that     it was not her sins that caused the illness but her faith in Jesus   Christ that resulted in her healing.

 

  1. What might the number 12 have to do with all of this? After twelve years of suffering what may have been happening within her soul?

 In Biblical times a young boy is considered to be a man at after the age of 12…think Bar mitzvah.  Bar means “son” and mitzvah      means “commandment.” So a young Jewish boy who turns 13      (Son of Commandment) is now spiritual responsible to know and     follow the commandments. (no longer are his parents           responsible for him spiritually.)   So after 12 years of growth   through suffering, she is now ready to  be called not a daughter      who still has the weak faith of a child but a daughter who has the    strong faith of a woman.  She is now a mature womanly daughter     who has a deep faith that has been tested and survived. Picture a mature tree that has been through a drought and its roots have gone down deep in the ground searching for water.  She persisted and did not give up until she found the living God  who came to heal the sick.

Man……does Jesus love his woman.

 

  1. Please look up James 4:8

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Look this up and underline it in your bible. Put next to it today’s date.

 

So my dear sister sister. This is what I hope you gleaned from this study.

  1. God wants us to draw near to him and reach out with our hands for Jesus.
  2. God see’s your suffering and notices you. He stops and turns to you and looks in your heart with kindness and compassion.
  3. Sometimes God doesn’t heal right away as with this woman of 12 years of suffering.  Sometimes God waits and “heals our bodies in heaven”.
  4. She was growing in her faith during this dry desert time. God is more concerned with our spiritual health than our physical health. Our souls will last forever, while our bodies are wasting away in this fallen world.
  5. Drawing near to Jesus can mean prayer and reading scripture, repenting/going to confession, attending church and spending time with your sweet sisters.
  6. How to be healthy physically? Eat healthy foods and exercise.
  7. How to be healthy spiritually? Eat the word of God……the bible and the Eucharist. Exercise your faith as this woman did as she drew near to Jesus.

Pray and ask with faith for Physically healing, but be most concerned is your spiritual healing.

because……………Man……Jesus loves His Women.