Feature Photo Credit: Justin Carnahan, 2019 Oklahoma Flood Victim
Only a few miles away, my community is in devastation. Tornados ripped through properties to the south of us wreaking devastation over the course of a moment, while just to the north, friends are experiencing the slow suffering of watching a river rage and swell over the course of weeks, eventually taking over their properties and homes - water literally made it to the roof of some.
Secondary loss accompanies tragedy like a best friend. Due to the floods, kids in our community didn't get to finish the school year, say goodbye to friends for the summer or clean out lockers. Baseball season was cancelled, parks will be in ruin for the entire summer, and, for many, a loss of significant amount of wages due to businesses being closed or, for my friends that are self-employed or don't have vacation built into the jobs; if they can't show up because they are taking care of their family or lost transportation - they simply don't get paid. Then there is a secondary loss that is often overlooked - the loss of words.
"I want to pray so badly, I just don't have any words."
These words are frequently uttered from people experiencing devastation and loss. It's as if we inherently know that it's the Father we should turn to, but intense and vacillating emotions stump our ability to express it to the only One who can actually understand and carry us through it all.
Losing words in the midst of tragedy need not create a new tragedy for us... meaning, just because we don't have words doesn't mean we have to lose our connection with the Father. Our brokenness and silence can be worshipful and beautiful. If you are experiencing a loss of words amidst devastation and loss, here are a few ideas of how to elevate your worship and communication with the Father while you grieve.
- Just know... - Hardly able to stand as I took a shower a few months after our son passed, I knew God was asking me to clear my mind and consider only one thing - that "HE IS GOD". I felt it to be an impossible task, until it hit me that because He is God, He could also help me to still my mind and my body enough to just meditate on the fact that He truly is God... Creator, Savior, Friend, Alpha and Omega, King of Kings. He is God and He is good. You don't need any words for this, you simply need to know. "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
- Posture - Whether crying, angry or stoic, consider getting face down on the ground or some other change of posture. Changing posture may can somehow release expressions. You may find yourself with words; if not, then just stay silent or whisper the words, "Here I am" over and over.
- Solitude - There are two extremes that often exist in tragedy: Chaos and Isolation. Initially there may be many people around, arrangements to be made, etc., but as days and weeks go by, the chaos goes away, the surrounding community seemingly forgets, fear may even set in and the natural response is often isolation or to create more busyness/chaos. Rather than letting chaos or isolation rule your world, consider intermittent solitude. Intentionally set aside time to be alone and experience stillness and the quiet, gentle presence of the Lord. You need not do or say a thing, just rest in His presence. This differs from isolation in that isolation can be debilitating and inwardly focused. Solitude is outwardly focused toward the Father and can be incredibly rejuvenating. And who knows what the Holy Spirit may whisper to your heart during this time!
- Groan - In times of suffering, our bodies cry out even when we can't, and the Holy Spirit will interpret and intercede for us - we simply just need to give any sound we can make or utter to Him. It's comforting to know, that even the Holy Spirit uses wordless groans when going before the Father. "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with wordless groans." Romans 8:26
- Write - Consider writing your prayers. When I am desperately grieving, I find it difficult to slow my mind enough to talk to God, but when I put pen to paper, my mind is forced to only think about the word I am writing at that moment. This is not a journal; it is more of a letter. Even if you do not typically enjoy writing, this is an opportunity to find your words and create a historical document of what you have shared and asked of the Father so that later you can be reminded of how far you've come in your grief and all the prayers He has heard and answered.
- Borrow Words - Sometimes silence is deafening so we need words, and sometimes those words will come from the mouths of others. Here are a few ways to borrow words from others:
- Allow and ask others to pray aloud over you so you can simply be in agreement with their words
- I have written out prayers for others to "borrow" during difficult times. Just CLICK HERE to find more.
- Write down or slowly read over lyrics of songs that express your grief, fear, needs and praise.
- Borrow from the writers of Psalm. Before tragedy struck, I didn't deeply connect with this book, but it is filled with lament, worship, confession, praise and requests that I desperately needed to communicate to God but could not do on my own. Read "This Old Photo Album" - an article I wrote regarding my experience with the book of Psalm during and after our tragedies.
When devastation tramples our lives, it will always leave it's imprint on our hearts and memories. The imprint doesn't have to be that of a scar; it is like that of a child's foot and hand print at birth. It will one day be a reminder of how fragile we were/are and a picture of how far we've come by the power and love of our Creator. I pray many blessings upon you during your grief journey; that you will have the freedom to fully grieve your loss with the peace, perspective and hope of Jesus Christ.
Below are some Psalms and links to songs that have been helpful to me.
"Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble..." Psalm 25:16-18
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14
"Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.'" Psalm 27:7-8
"Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever." Psalm 30:10-12
"Since I am afflicted and needy, let the Lord be mindful of me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God." Psalm 40:17
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. Gopd is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawn. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold." Psalm 46:1-7
"For my iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. My wounds grow foul and fester because of my folly. I am bent over and greatly bow down; I go mourning all day long. For my loins are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart throbs, my strength fails me; and the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me... For I hope in You, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God." Psalm 38:4-10,15