Jean Shumate

Choosing Life Doesn’t Necessarily Make Things Easier Instantly

I love summer! I love the freedom of non-heavy clothes, the ease of dinners cooked on a grill, the sounds of neighbors who’ve come outside! What I don’t like (in addition to winter!) is sweating – and I’ve been doing plenty of that this week! Why? Because I like flowers! And they need tending! And the sun is out . . .

When you’re walking through grief, it can feel like sweating all the time! (Or snowing all the time!) There will be times when it seems like it’ll never finish – when it seems like you’re living in two worlds: the world you feel, and that second world you believe. You believe God is there, you know He is – yet there are days when you feel the heavy sweat or the deep coldness of aloneness. On those days, and they will come, there are things to remember which will help you leave your alone state and move into the company of what you really do believe:

1. Remember God’s past kindnesses. Recount them over and over. They will remind you that you have a future and a hope!

A few weeks ago, before I celebrated the 32nd anniversary of my husband’s move to heaven, I sat in my bedroom “alone,” grappling with a change in my body that did not bode well in its self-prediction to me. I fully recognized what it “could be,” and then I turned my thoughts to, “Lord, I remember . . . and how You turned it around in a way that just couldn’t have happened on its own!” and “Lord, I remember . . .” and I remembered in detail three incredible moments of my life’s history – separated by 27 years of time – where God intervened and turned life around for me, and peace filled my being! “You did. . . Lord, and I believe I’ll see it again!”  We do sorrow, but we sorrow with hope! This is not all there is!

2. Remember to choose life today. Choosing life doesn’t necessarily make things easier all at once.

The young virgin, Mary, chose to let God’s Word happen in her and endured the stigma of bearing a Son out of wedlock all the rest of her life. Jesus Himself chose to leave heaven to become our Redeemer and was hated by those He’d come to save. Yet both reaped great reward later for the life choices they made! How do you “choose life?” By saying, “Lord, I don’t understand Your ways. I don’t even like them sometimes. But I know You know things I don’t, and based on that, You made decisions that make me feel ripped wide open – I’ll trust Your heart when I don’t get Your actions!”

3. Intentionally keep moving forward. Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss.

And then take whatever time it takes for you! You’ll have conflicting masses of feelings – there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just reacting to the end of familiar patterns that you didn’t want to end. Keep the Lord involved in all your feelings; don’t hide them from Him or yourself.  As long as You keep Him involved you’ll come out alright. You’re normal for where you are.

And remember that, above all, you are loved by a Love who really does know what grief is like!    

The initial command from God to men who become husbands is that they love their wives – and not just emotionally.  Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” Notice that this is not a taking love but a giving love – a self-giving love. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about God in thirty-three years of walking with Him it’s that He never asks us to do what He doesn’t do!

When my husband died unexpectedly, 3 months and 8 days before our 25th wedding anniversary, I missed his expressions of love terribly. Those expressions weren’t always perfect, any more than mine were to him! Humanity has a way of doing “less than.” But he loved me, and I knew it – and I needed and missed them!

If my Maker, my God, in real fact was to act as a husband to me now, how would that look?

May I give you one example?

The first Sunday of May, 1991, I came in from church feeling emotionally exhausted from dealing with my new “widow role.” Philosophically I wondered how that “widow role” fit in with the scripture I’d discovered in Isaiah 54, “Your Maker is your husband . . .” but I was tired on that Sunday afternoon, and I didn’t want to think anymore; I decided to take a nap.

I don’t know how long I slept, but as I felt myself coming awake I was aware of these words in my consciousness: “You’ll be alright!”

I could hear the wind escalate alarmingly. I got out of the rocker where I was sleeping, walked across the room to the sliding glass doors opposite me and watched as what the news would later call a “just below tornadic storm” ripped across the lake at my yard’s far edge, its center seeming to be on the next street over from my house. I watched in awe as that heavily wooded street laid down its tall pine trees in rapid order so that houses barely visible before now stood in plain sight. As suddenly as the storm came up, it abated, and I opened my door and stepped out to walk around and see what had happened on my street. None of my trees were down, and no damage was visible to the house – a neighbor’s tree had come down on my driveway but my car sat safely in front of my garage. The street next to mine was closed for 3 days while the city harvested the trees that had fallen during that heavy wind. If you look at the newspaper for those days (Columbus, GA), you’ll see that the city actually sent buses out to pick up the residents who needed to go to work but couldn’t drive out because trees were down everywhere.

Hours later, in the evening time, I really “took in” what had happened that day. My Maker, my God, had shown His love for me on a scale greater than my earthly husband ever could have. Little by little we learn that though our roles have changed and our husbands are no longer in their place in our lives, we are not “out there” on our own!

God is an absolutely Fascinating Being!

On the evening of June 5, 1986, my husband died unexpectedly. You may have experienced something akin to what I did in those early days following his death – facts were horrifyingly all too real, and unexplainably miles away at the same time!

Mostly I still felt like “me.”  I felt like I was thinking clearly and making right decisions. And in some ways I was, which is why it surprised me more than anybody to discover I was off kilter in other ways!

When a nationally-known evangelist, who was in Columbus at the time, asked me two days after Bob had died to secure a bank loan for him as “God had told him to build a church in Columbus,” it seemed right to me and I did it. Is anybody surprised to learn that he put the money in his pocket and left town?

At first I was sure he would make it good. He had a reputation as a “man of God;” he had looked at me with tears in his eyes as he shared how God had called him to build this church. Then I grew really angry as I came to grips with the facts that the money was gone. I didn’t tell anybody what had happened – my boys had just lost their father; they didn’t need to know about any other losses.

Early one morning in January, 1987, I was out walking and talking rather animatedly, though silently, with God about what this man had done when He brought me to a total standstill. Very, very clearly He spoke into my heart: “You don’t think what this man did is going to change what I can do, do you?” And honestly it didn’t take me very long to assent – “No, I don’t believe what he did will stop You from doing what You will do.” And I had no idea what He meant to do.

Skip forward a year: Remember I said I hadn’t told anybody about the loss. I still hadn’t! One of my husband’s cousins, a person with whom I had no deep association – we saw each other mostly on Thanksgivings – died, and for no reason I can give except that God “did it,” left me in her will one-half of what had been stolen from me!

Skip forward another eleven months: And, no I still hadn’t told anybody about the loss. The sister to my husband’s cousin died and left me in her will more than one-half of what had been stolen! God had returned all that “evangelist” had stolen, with interest! I have absolutely no reason to believe these cousins had conspired together to make up the loss. They didn’t know there was one!

I don’t know what has happened in your life. What I do know is that when a fisherman-disciple needed tax money, Jesus put it in a fish’s mouth and he paid the bill.  When a widow needed food for herself and her son, God gave it to her through a flour bin and an oil bottle that never ran dry. What I do know is that God didn’t promise to take care of us only if we never did anything stupid!

“Call unto Me,” He said, “and I will show you great and mighty things that you can’t even imagine!” Jeremiah 33:3