Kairos Ministries is really a family ministry. My wife Dorothy has been my constant companion in ministry. My daughter Joy has been my administrator for some 20 years. Hayley, my granddaughter, also serves in typing up the material, and more recently, my grandson Mitchel has joined me in writing articles for the Langstaff Letter.
My daughter Joy recently wrote a letter for her Caring Bridge. I was so touched by it that I felt I should turn it into a Langstaff Letter, believing it would bless others. Let me give you the background to her letter. Joy was married to David Plaisted a little over 20 years when he unexpectedly died suddenly from a congenital heart condition, that had only recently been diagnosed. Joy was left with the task of raising four children alone. All of them have come to faith in Jesus Christ. The oldest two have a call to ministry and are preparing themselves for the calling. The other two, I am sure, will follow on with them. Then, this year, our daughter Beth, Joy’s sister, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Beth was not only Joy’s sister but her best friend. As a result, Joy has felt an enormous loss. She herself is suffering from cancer and is not able to walk due to the condition of her hip. It is with that background I present her article.
By Joy Plaisted
When describing loss and grief, C.S. Lewis, author and theologian, stated, “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I’ve already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago.” This ‘circling back’ again and again was not just characteristic of Lewis’s experience of grief but of most people’s experience of grief and loss. Again and again, the same questions, feelings, and thoughts emerge. And again and again, they have to be waded through, questioned, and reconsidered.
When David died 11 years ago, I struggled to see God in the darkness surrounding me. I knew God was there, but I couldn’t feel His presence. Desperate, I searched for a path that would help me work through how I was feeling . . . a series of steps that would help bring me to a place of healing and wholeness. I didn’t want to ‘circle back’ over and over again; rather, I wanted to see myself moving forward. I slowly learned that God had a different plan as He showed me that the way to sort through my grief and pain was not linear. Instead of attempting to move forward one step at a time, He desired that I ‘be still’. . to sit where I was . . . to be brutally honest . . . . to ask questions sometimes over and over again, even when there were no answers . . . . to not run from my grief and pain, but to sit still and at times even soak in it, to ‘circle back’ again and again. And, in doing so . . . in sitting still and not running away, I found Him beneath it all . . . my unshakable foundation, the rock on which I stand; He had been there all the time, even when I couldn’t see Him in the darkness.
Well, the last seven months have found me ‘circling back.’ My sister’s death in spring, the continued loss of my physical abilities and independence in my day-to-day life due to the progression of cancer in my physical body, my mom being placed on hospice . . . . I found myself face to face with the reality of loss and grief. . . again and again. And it beat me up. It pushed emotional buttons, bringing back so many memories, and I struggled again to see God in the midst of my darkness.
Knowing that I shouldn’t run, that there was no step-by-step list to get me through my emotions, I immediately chose to ‘be still’ and just sit. It was hard. It was painful. It took time, and it was a fight, as there were moments when I wanted to run away, to hide in any distraction I could find, especially those that would help shut off the constant train of thoughts in my head. For, if I didn’t think, then I wouldn’t feel. And if I didn’t feel, it wouldn’t hurt so much. But choosing to be obedient, I just sat!
Recently, I was going through some old journals of mine, and I read an entry that I had written about ten months after David’s death, entitled ‘Lift My Hands to Believe Again.’
I have cried out to God. I have thrown everything at him . . not in anger, but rather in an attempt to let go . . to distance myself from the pain, the hurt, the agony and emotions that are currently drowning me.
I have silently screamed. I feel so helpless. Unable to do anything . . change anything. I don’t understand. I want to understand. Something has to make sense.
I have cried what feels like a thousand tears. At times it is the only way I have to deal with the pain that is so intense . . . so constant. I am not one to cry. I rarely cry . . . but this last week I can’t find the strength to stop my tears. I am so overwhelmed . . . so exhausted.
Each day I choose to get up and keep breathing. I choose to search for the good in my day . . . to thank you. I choose to trust you . . to praise you . . . to celebrate each moment that I can.
But I am struggling. Struggling to continue my journey. Struggling to carry this pain. Struggling to see you in my storm. Where are you God? It is not that I don’t see your hand. I do . . there have been so many times your provision has amazed me. But there are other times. . . times when I have been so desperate. . . when I have been hurting . . . when I have cried out to you for an answer and heard nothing . . . It was like you have suddenly left the room and I was alone. I know that you have not abandoned me. But at the times I need you most, where are you? . . . . . . When I don’t understand. Where are you God?
I have learned that the only way through this is honesty. But honesty is hard. It is so hard to admit that I am struggling. That I can’t see the good some days. That I feel like I am being suffocated . . that the life and strength I once had is being sucked out of me one moment at a time.
I constantly choose to be honest. But even in the depth of complete honesty . . when I am questioning everything . . . I find myself landing not on doubt and unbelief. . .instead I find myself landing firmly on my faith.
I believe in my God. I believe that He has not abandoned me. I believe that He has a future and a hope for me. I believe that He will not leave me. I believe that He is. I believe that my God is greater than any challenge that I may face. I believe that He conquered the grave. I believe that He is here.
My emotions may lie to me. The circumstances may contradict everything that I know to be true. I may lack the understanding. Pain may surround me.
But my God hasn’t changed.
There have been days in the last few months when I could have so easily written these words . . . again. Maybe not with the same intensity that I had after David’s death, but with similar emotions and questions, as I found myself ‘circling back’ through the same sort of country I thought I had left miles behind me. But God is so good, and as I have ‘circled back’ through my grief and pain, I again landed firmly on my God . . . . He is my unshakable foundation. He is my hope. He is my refuge. He is my strength. I may not understand the path I find myself on, but I believe my God. He is with me in each and every moment. I am not alone! No matter what I face, God is faithful!
Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms are a fortress for the weak
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, You are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God
You are faithful, God, forever
– Lyrics from ‘I Lift My Hands’ by Chris Tomlin
A CLOSING THOUGHT FROM PASTOR ALAN
I trust that this letter has touched your heart. I know it touched mine. I thank God that Joy has that “unshakable foundation,” and I trust you do too. God bless all of you when you experience grief as a link in “a long valley, a winding valley.” God is faithful. He will bring you through.
Thanks for sharing Alan. Joy’s writing is deep and profound. Surely our Jesus is acquainted with her sorrow and grief. The realization that Almighty God would become incarnate and choose to become a helpless little baby whose purpose was to die and suffer for each and all of us world wide totally causes me to become undone.
Out of my family of 6 children, now only two of us are left. I miss them and still find tears welling up in my eyes. And yet knowing they are Living in Glory with Jesus brings sheer delight to me. I love my life here and fight to keep going till my appointed day arrives. But oh, I am heartsick and have this longing to be with my Bridegroom Yeshua for real.
Messiah’s love in me for each and all of you. I am at your service if need be. Shalom.
Mighty Jesus, our rock, our refuge, our high tower into which we run, like Peter we say, but who else is there to go to but You. God speed.