Four Practical Steps for When Devastation Hits

We all face times in our lives when things are so intensely difficult, it’s almost too much to bear.

Whether it’s the loss of a job, a loved one or an unexpected devastation that shakes you to your core (like the senseless tragedy in Orlando this past week or the tragic death of the two year old child at Disney), the pain is sharp, deep and very real.  The problem is that most of us have little to no training in how to deal with these challenging times or this level of pain – emotionally, intellectually or spiritually.

In this video I share my perspective on what it takes to turn our tears into triumph.  It’s a lesson I learned not overnight, but slowly in the aftermath of my father’s suicide.  While your particular situation might be different, the principles dealing with sudden and devastating loss are the same.

If you or someone you love is experiencing one of those deeply challenging times, I invite you to watch this video and share with others.  Even if you’re not in a particularly rough time, you know those times are coming.  It’s been said we are constantly in a storm, just coming out of a storm, or about to go into one.  And I want you to be ready the next time one comes along.

If you find this helpful and would like to learn more, (for example, what to say and what not to say to someone who is grieving, how to replace the “if onlys” with truth, confidence and hope, and how to fight back against despair and depression), my book Falling Up, is available on Amazon.

"Falling UP"“A powerful resource for anyone facing grief and loss.  Connie’s story will bring encouragement and healing through practical steps and solid Biblical truths.  A must-read and must -share!”  SANDRA STANLEY, NORTHPOINT COMMUNITY CHURCH, ATLANTA

 

With God on our side, we can do more than just survive grief and loss.  We can make it to the other side…stronger in our broken places.

Love,

Connie

How Letting Something Go Gives You Something Better

My friend Jayne recently discovered a spot on her leg.  What began as a spot was discovered to be a rare, aggressive cancer and within weeks she heard the doctor say, “The leg needs to go.”  Our town’s premier wedding planner was stunned at the news.  Jayne is a vivacious, positive thinking trooper, but this was a devastating blow.  The doctor admonished her, saying, “You will die if you don’t have the leg removed.  And soon.  Now don’t you be stubborn about this.”  “Stubborn?!” she exclaimed in her beautiful, way southern drawl. “I’ve got livin’ to do!  Set the date!”

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My friend David tells the story of having his second leg amputated.  Due to diabetes complications, the first had been removed years earlier.  Then the fevers came and the second leg burned hot with infection.  There was much more David wanted to do in life. But in his thinking, to be completely without legs and stuck in a wheelchair would make him an invalid…of little use to God or others.

So for seven years, he held on to his second leg.  Then sitting in a fast food drive-through line one day, David came to a place of surrender…a place of letting go.  “I was exhausted from recurring fevers caused by the infected leg”, he explains.  The encounter with God he had was undeniable.  He heard God ask,”Why are you holding on to a seven-year anchor?”  Suddenly he wasn’t afraid.  Immediately he made the phone call to set up the surgery.

Sometimes we need to let go of something so we can move to the next good thing. 

Maybe your spouse has left and you never thought you’d be here, starting over.  Maybe budget cuts at your company have caused you to lose your job.  Maybe a dear loved one has died and your life is suddenly far different than you imagined it would be.

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I don’t know what you’re facing, friend, but it seems to me in each of life’s storms, there is a common denominator…something we need to let go of.  And though our circumstances may be different from one another, the thing we need to let go of is the same. What is it? Control.

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As you relinquish your sweaty death grip on your circumstances, something beautiful begins to happen.  You are freed from the burden of trying to be God!  You realize that God is doing something in your storm…something you may not fully understand.  And you begin to sense that He’s at work for a good purpose in your life – and in the lives of others. It may not be the way you wanted your prayer answered, but there’s real comfort when you remember that His great love for you was settled on the cross.  And because of that great love, He’s working for His glory and your ultimate good.
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It was a Wednesday night at choir practice.  Hearts were heavy with the knowledge that David had lost his second leg that morning.  As the choir director, I asked, “Has anyone spoken with David today?”  A hand went up. “How is he?”  I’ll never forget the sagging shoulders, the downcast expressions as I scanned the room.  Everyone there loved David. The choir member replied, “He’s busy deciding how tall he wants to be.”

A gasp…then a collective hilarious belly laugh from everyone in the choir.

The evening of Jayne’s surgery, I dialed her number with a heavy heart.  “How are you, friend?” My beautiful, spunky, life-loving friend’s response? “I’m cancer-free! I traded my broken-down leg for LIFE, and before you know it, I’ll have a new, state of the art leg!” If I was stunned at the news of Jayne’s leg amputation, I was even more stunned at her victorious insight. Turns out the wedding director has a very important wedding coming up…that of her niece…and she is NOT going to miss it!

David and Jayne are two people that recognized it was time to let something go so they could move forward into something better. As David and Jayne each live life in their own bright, winsome ways, people walk away with this thought: “If someone with that kind of devastating loss can find hilarious joy in this life, maybe joy is possible for me, too.” They are making an impact for great encouragement in the lives of all who come in contact with them.

When David and Jayne relinquished control, they each lost a leg.  But they gained LIFE. And ministries that reach all kinds of people in all types of situations.

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David Duncan and Jayne Smith

I’d love to hear from you: What are you holding on to that God may want to exchange for something bigger?

Copyright 2016. Connie Carey is the author of “Falling UP”, a resource for grief and loss. You can reach her at http://www.conniecarey.com.

Beauty from Brokenness: The Marvelous Mosaic of Your Life

Built in the early 1900’s, my church’s building is a throwback to the days of tall arches, pews and stained glass windows. In the 1950s, a tornado shattered every one of those gorgeous windows.  Replacing the irreplaceable must not have been in the budget at the time, so the priceless stained glass was replaced with simple white, opaque glass.

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But that’s not the end of the story.

From those jagged shards, one inspiring, breathtaking window was created.  A masterful mosaic of extreme beauty!

At the right time of day, brilliant sunlight shines through, lifting the eyes and heart, reminding all that from brokenness sometimes comes great beauty.  

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What about you? Are there some painfully broken shards in your life? Does something from your past cause you hurt and sorrow?   Ask God to give you a glimpse of His perspective.  Then, try running the situation through the grid of Philippians 4:8.  Here’s how this works for me with the thoughts I have regarding the loss of my dad to suicide.

Whatever is true: True, my dad was broken and flawed.  But it’s also true that he is no longer! I choose to picture my father, not in the confused, tormented state he was in just before he died, but as the whole, healthy father he is now (Revelation 21:4).

Whatever is noble: I did not fall through the cracks with God.  His Word comforts me that “all the days ordained for me were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 138:16).  “No plan of His can be thwarted” (Job 42:1).  His plans for me are good, even when it doesn’t look like it (Jeremiah 29:11). What comfort to live free of the “if onlys”!

Whatever is right: To dwell more on my dad’s final moment than his whole life would be wrong, and a dishonor to him. I have many hilarious, tender and proud memories of my dad.

Whatever is pure:  Even in the midst of darkness that overcame my dad, God’s light triumphed in his soul.   I am one happy girl to have learned just weeks before his death that his trust was in the Lord Jesus Christ! It may have been the faith of a mustard seed, but God assures me that it is enough (Matthew 17:20).

Whatever is lovely: To realize that I don’t have to have it all figured out is very lovely indeed.    What joy to know that He holds life’s mysteries for us. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God… (Deuteronomy 29:29). His thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9) and one day I’ll understand (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Whatever is admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy: Through this, God has birthed in me a desire to bring comfort to others with what He’s done for me. “…[He] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).

Slowly, God took the shattered pieces of my soul and piece by piece created a mosaic in my heart – one of restoration, healing and compassion for others.  I am the person I am today in part because of the wounds of the past.  I’m not a fan of digging up past hurts for the sake of wallowing in them.  But I do believe that if they are held up to the light of God’s truths, those very hurts become a window through which His glory can shine, for our healing and for the good of others.  Much like Joseph’s words to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done… (Genesis 50:20)”.

I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the very complex issue of emotional pain.  But a good start is to hold up the pieces of your life to God to let His truth shine through and create a fresh perspective on your life.

If you do, I’ll bet my church’s beautiful stained glass will pale in comparison to God’s marvelous mosaic in your life.

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"Falling UP"

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief or loss, get a copy of my new book, Falling Up, Lessons Learned on the Way Down, here.

“A powerful resource for anyone facing grief and loss.  Connie’s story will bring encouragement and healing through practical steps and solid Biblical truths.  A must-read and must-share!” – Sandra Stanley, North Point Community Church

Special Offer – Today Only!

I’m so excited to share with you what you and I are doing together.

Buying my book today, August 8, will help inner city kids go to camp (through the ministry of my church, Strong Tower Fellowship).  Strong Tower is a mission to the Pleasant Hill neighborhood of Macon, Georgia.

Here’s a little more info about “Falling UP: Lessons Learned on the Way Down”.

This is a great book to give away, have as resource to use now or have in your library for those challenging days of life.

I’m trusting God to use this book to encourage you and your friends! Click here to purchase Falling UP.

Three Responses to Suffering

You can’t live very long without getting a few “dings” to the heart. By that I mean trials, loss, sorrows of various kinds.

And when it happens, we tend to have one of three responses.

  1. Ignore and Stuff.  One response is to stuff the painful event far away, as if you put it on the back shelf of the closet of your heart, hoping the painful emotions will just go away.  But they won’t.  The heartbreak becomes lodged in our hearts and, as a result, we ourselves become “stuck”.  Stuck in our woundedness, our lack of trust, our belief that “life is hard, and then you die”.  That wound needs lancing.  The way to release the poison is in telling your story – not to just anyone, but to a trusted friend. There is a cleansing that comes from confession to a trusted friend.
  2. Tell Anyone and Everyone.  Another response is to repeatedly shout our story from the rooftops to anyone and everyone that will listen.   Not with the purpose of cleansing our hearts, but rather to declare over and over (and over again) how we’ve been “done wrong”, either by God or by others.  This response keeps a person in victim mode, always the helpless casualty of a particularly painful event, long after the event is over.  When confronted with these destructive attitudes and behaviors, this person is fond of rehearsing his hurts, then concluding with something like, “And that’s why I’m the way that I am.  End of story,”
  3. Your Story for His Glory.  And then occasionally you meet someone whose painful event has caused them to surrender, abandoning all hope of solving the problem or healing the pain on their own, becoming ever dependent on God, and always looking expectantly for His glory in their unwanted circumstance.  It’s not all wrapped up neatly with a pretty bow.  They still have unanswered questions.  There are tears on occasion.  But their painful event now serves, not as a justification for their behavior, but as a testimony to God’s grace in their lives.  Through the tears, there’s a submission to His will resulting in a more tender heart, an outward focus, and a compassion for others who hurt.  There is brokenness, yes.  But there is also joy.  Why? Their story is for His glory.

So, in which response do you see yourself?  

We all have a story of having been hurt.  But some people surrender their stories to God – and He uses them for His glory.  They confess their tears to God – and to others.  And it is those same tears that give them a platform of credibility and hope for others who are hurting.  They don’t claim to understand loss. Nor do they pretend to have it all figured out.  What I hear in their words is this declaration:  “God, I don’t know what You’re doing.  I don’t understand it.  I don’t like it.  But I’m Yours.”

May you and I declare the same, walking forward and seeing God do for us and through us what only He can do.

From “Falling UP:  Lessons Learned on the Way Down”, available on Amazon August 8.