I suppose I should pick up from where I left off in my last blog, which means I’m back-tracking a little to finish off what happened on Day 1.
Since the plane took off late from Houston, we didn’t arrive in Costa Rica about 40 minutes late, and by the time I got through customs and grab my checked bag from baggage claim, it was 3pm. I went out and Ruth was there waiting for me with a sign that has my name on it, like she said she would. As we drive home, I look through the car window to see the mountains surrounding the busy, overcast and humid city. All plant life that I can see is lush and green, and even here in the developed parts of town, there are tons of public parks with no color but green adorning their landscapes.
We get to the house, and Ruth shows me my room, gives me a tour of the house, and introduces me to the other girl renting a room here, named Lily. She is from Germany, working at the German Embassy here in San José, and speaks not only German and Spanish, but pretty good English as well. I want to connect more with her, and have her show me around a bit, but this weekend and coming week her family is here visiting, so her free time will be devoted to them. The 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms monopolize the majority of the space in the house, but there is also a small kitchen, laundry room, large open combined dining and living area, and small backyard patio with a table and chairs outside. Along with Ruth and her tenants, her sons Pedro and Oscar and her daughter Graciela live at the house. As I unpack, Ruth makes me a pancake for dinner (I haven’t eaten much in the last 16 hours or so) and some coffee – black. I am still unsure about the food here, and I really do not want to be sick on my first night, so I decline the offer of milk in my coffee until further notice. I’m also not sure about the water, since I’ve been to Mexico and know it’s definitely not safe to drink the tap water there. But later, when I am thirsting for liquid and have a headache from dehydration, I try a sip of the water and don’t get sick. I drink a whole glass and my stomach feels fine, so I decide the tap water at the house is perfectly safe for me to drink (haha). I take a much needed shower after the long day I’ve had, I decide to just go to bed because I’m exhausted.
Day 2 – Saturday, July 7th:
I started writing everything that’s happened down in my journal partially to help me remember this experience as best as I can, and also because I have so many thoughts and emotions coursing through my brain that I have to get them out somehow in order to calm down and organize my what is going on inside of me. I guess I needed some rest, because I slept 10½ hours, when usually I sleep about 6. My room doesn’t have a window or anything, so it gets really stuffy and hot, especially at night. I took another shower this morning because I was so sweaty, then mostly hid in my room all day, spending lots of time freaking out about being here and how scary it is. You don’t expect things to be so hard when you go on an adventure, but so far, this experience has been a difficult one for me. I feel alone and purposeless here, even though I know it isn’t true. The enemy attacks my mind and plays on my vulnerable emotions, and it’s a battle to remember that I’m not alone because God promises He will NEVER leave me (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) and that it’s okay to be scared because it is a new place and I’m still adjusting. I just cannot stay in that frightened mindset forever. I have to put on my armor, take captive every thought, and fight back because this is a war we’re fighting against Satan! I have my Bible with me, and decide to follow a “read through the Bible in a year” guide so I would have a suggestion of where in my Bible to read each day. I read both the English and Spanish translation, in my head and out loud for an hour tonight before I went to bed, and I realized that I’ve been really hungry for the word.
For various reasons since school ended and I came home for summer break, I have not spent much time talking to God or reading His word. Of course I know how important seeking after God and staying in communication is with Him because I’ve had to depend on and trust in Him for everything – even my very breaths each moment – when I was at Mercy. But tonight was a really clear reminder for me tonight of how imperative it is to stay spiritually fed by God’s word – through going to church, praying continually, and reading and studying the Bible on your own. Unfortunately, we humans are fallible and often forget even the most important things. I have heard that most people only use 2% of their brain’s capacity. That isn’t because they are stupid, but I believe it’s a function of the fall. Our brains are limited in their understanding now, even though God designed us for so much more.
I could write a whole lot on light and darkness, because it is covered extensively in the Bible; but I’ll try to keep it short for now in order to make my point. God’s Word is a powerful thing; keep it ever present in your mind and hidden in your heart. In Psalm 119:105 the writer says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (ESV). The Psalmist says right here that God’s word lights his path. We are constantly surrounded by darkness in this crooked and twisted generation (Philippians 2:15). We cannot possibly see anything clearly – especially the path upon which we walk each day, without illumination in the blackness. There are tons of verses in the Bible about light and darkness!
In Luke 11:33-36 Jesus said, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” In chapter 1 of John, it says that “the Word became flesh,” referring to the fact that Jesus came to earth in a human body. In addition to the written word of God that we have in the Bible, according to John’s account, Jesus is also the Word of God. This means that the word of God is our light, and without knowing the written word and knowing Jesus himself personally, we cannot see clearly! This is why God’s word is so essential to our daily survival.
So I want to encourage you to remind yourself however you can – seriously, put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, write it on your calendar every day, set up an alarm on your phone – to stay in communication with God throughout the whole day, every day. Even this is a challenge sometimes, but it God’s call to us to be faithful and diligent in our faith. In Proverbs 8:17, Wisdom is speaking and says “I love those who love me, and those who diligently seek me find me” (ESV). We only gain wisdom, and by extension, intimate communion with God, when we diligently seek him. It does take work, but it’s worth every bit of the effort that you put into it – I promise.
Everyone at some point in their lives has read or heard of the 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 passage on love being patient and kind, not envious or boastful, etc. It is often included in wedding vows, movies, and is a prominent topic of church sermons. But what is love, really? I am endeavoring to dig into this word and its implications for living life successfully a little deeper. I wish I could cover all the things the Bible says about love, but there is simply not enough time or room here. So I guess for now you will just have to be content with this small sampling, and eagerly await the publication of my book. To begin, take a look on your own at just a few places in the Bible that love is mentioned:
*Note: If you don’t have a Bible, biblegateway.com is a great online resource to look up any verse in the Bible, and multiple translations are available to choose from. My favorite is ESV*
- John 15:12-17
- Romans 12:9
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
- 1 Corinthians 13:13
- Ephesians 5:1-2
- Colossians 3:14
- 1 Peter 4:8
- 1 John 3:16
- 2 John 1:6
These are only a small sampling of all the Bible has to say about love. But I want to take a closer look at what love looks like in a practical way by going over the definitions of love and its meanings in Greek.
So what is love, exactly? Since I am an English major, I love definitions. My natural inclination was to look it up in my Merrian-Webster Collegiate dictionary, which says that love is:
- (n) A strong affection for one another arising out of kinship or personal ties; attraction based on desire; tenderness felt by lovers.
- (n) Unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another person
- (v) To hold dear, cherish
- (v) To feel passion, to caress, to feel affection or experience desire, etc…
But these are all very broad definitions, because the English language has only one word for all types of love! Greek, the original language of the New Testament, however, has at least 4 words for love: Eros, Storge, Phileo, and Agape. Over and over in the New Testament Phileo and Agape are used, which makes me think they are pretty important. Let’s take a look at their definitions as well.
- PHILEO (verb): This is brotherly love in a sense of kinsmanship with those who you are not blood-related because love is from God (Romans 12:10, 1 John 4:7, 20-21). This is the “friendship” kind of love (Titus 3:15). However, like Jesus describes how the Pharisees love being noticed for their loud prayers in Matthew 6:5 (23:6) it can turn into a selfish love.
- AGAPE (noun/verb): This is God’s kind of love! It is His nature, unconditional love. The interesting thing is that it is a conscious decision, a choice. As Christians, Christ calls us to love others with this kind of love, even our enemies, as Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-44 (Love God, Love yourself, Love others). Jesus commands us to love one another (Luke 10:27, John 15:12, 17) and exhorts us to “abide in love” so that our joy may be full and complete (John 15:9b-11). Yet since we are imperfect humans, we often don’t do this very well. The only reason we can love at all is because God first loved us because He is love (1 John 4:7-8, 10, 19). The truth of God’s love for us is proved by Jesus’ sacrifice, death and resurrection to pay the greatest price for our freedom from sin (John 15:13). That is HUGE!! Christ is the ultimate example of the unconditional agape kind of love. And God calls us as Christians to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1-2) and to be known as Christ-followers by others because of our love for one another and those outside the body of Christ (John 13:34-35).
The 5 Love Language:
(definitions ©TheFiveLoveLanguages by Gary Chapman)
#1: Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
#2: Quality Time
For those whose love language is spoken with Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
#3: Receiving Gifts
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
#4: Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
#5: Physical Touch
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
Paul writes out in various letters in the New Testament that each of us has received different spiritual gifts which we can uniquely use to further the kingdom of God and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 1 Peter 4:10-11). Similarly, there are various ways to express love with which each of us is uniquely gifted. There is an official love languages quiz from the book by Gary Chapman that is available on the book’s website (5lovelanguages.com). However, my theory is that some people may have a different dominant love language for receiving love versus giving love to others. So I took the model of the online quiz and rewrote the two different versions of it to test my theory. The first quiz is to determine in which love language you most like to receive love, and the second is in which language you most like to give love. Remember, this is not by any means an all-inclusive test, and your results can vary due to various factors such as your current relationship with God, your self-esteem, your position in life right now, your perceptions of what love should be or look like, and even your past experiences with love or the lack of love. Keep this in mind and know that loving is a life-long process; we will never love perfectly like God does, but we can always strive to learn to love better. That is the point of the quizzes.
What is your highest scoring (dominant) love language?
Do you agree with the results? Why or why not?
Do you agree that love is the most important thing in the world? Why or why not?
Some questions about love for you to ponder on your own:
- How can you follow the commandment to “be imitators of God” as Paul writes in Ephesians 5:1? How can you model your love for God, yourself, and others after the example of Christ’s love?
- Do you agree with 1 Corinthians 13:13 that when faith, hope and love remain, the greatest of them is love alone? Why or why not?
- Why are these different types of expression of love important and relevant within the body of Christ?
- How can you show agape love through these love languages to those not part of the body of Christ (non-christians)?
- What are some settings in your personal, professional or public life where you need to grow in or practice agape love?
Just like the Grinch, when you cry, your eyes “leak” salty liquid known as tears. Immense tear-shed is colloquially known as weeping, thus, weeping creates pools of salty water. The Dead Sea was a place where salt water pooled, and although fresh water continually flowed in, since there was no outlet, the sea became stagnant and everything in it died. No living plant or creature could possibly survive in that extremely salty seawater. No matter how much fresh water you poured into it, the sea would remain the same because there was no ebb and flow of the water to replenish its freshness.
Oftentimes I have felt like weeping in reaction to what I was going through at the time, but the Bible says that when you go through the hard times, you are blessed with God’s strength to make it through to the fresh, new day ahead.
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose hearts are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength, each on appears before God in Zion.” – Psalm 84:5-7
When we put our trust in God we are blessed with His strength, so even when we go through a valley of Baca, which means weeping, it will result in a new spring. Rivers and springs that contain fresh water remain fresh because there is constantly an influx and out flux of what is coming in and what is going back out. They receive and pour out new water regularly. In the same way, freshwater lakes have a spring source of fresh water by which they are replenished, but they must also have an outlet to allow their waters to come and go. The regular changes in the water are what keep them from becoming inert and stagnant like the Dead Sea.
Similarly, the salt from weeping is washed away by the brand new fresh water. The spring is also replenished by pure rainfall, which increases the number of pools and adds a new and interesting facet to the spring with each pool. When you draw your strength – the fresh, renewing, and even Living water (aka Jesus) – from God’s abundance and let it flow freely in and through you, you will be transferred from one level of strength to an even greater level of strength! You can then deal with and handle much more trouble when it comes your way. Some people refer to something refreshing as a “breath of fresh air,” but in this context, I like to call it a splash of fresh water.
When Jesus is your source of life, healing, restoration, and strength, your existence will always be refreshed, filled with hope, and abounding in steadfast love. I can honestly tell you every time I have leaned on God as my sole supplier of “fresh water,” I have never been let down. He was (and is) always faithful to provide exactly what I need(ed) at the time, and even more! Always look to the Source of living water to renew your strength and wash away your tears, because He is the only one who can truly fill you up to overflowing with His joy!!!
Last time I talked a lot about grief and what it means in a Biblical sense. But I realized the title I chose was despairing grief, not just grief. So I decided to make a second part to this post, and talk more about despair and what that means.
Despair is a feeling of hopelessness. And often we feel like there is no hope to continue on because your boyfriend broke up with you, you lost your job, or your cat died. But there is always hope, hope in Jesus Christ because he has saved us from the wrath of God. You may feel despair once, a few, or many times in your life, but remember there is always hope. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” This is a message of hope for all the people because in Jesus’ death we may have life and though you may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, I want you to not despair, because you have a loving Savior who will comfort you in your grief, and he will take away your pain and suffering when you turn to him. This does not mean you will have a perfect life; there will always be trials and tribulations, but know that your God watches over you and that you are not crushed, forsaken by him, nor destroyed by death because you have Christ in you. Jesus endured the ultimate punishment; he was crushed for your iniquities, forsaken by all, even his Father, and destroyed by death. But he rose again because of his great power and love for you. Jesus knew the ultimate despair and did not give up hope because he knew he would be victorious over death. Take heart in this today and remember you have hope in Christ.
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” -Isaiah 53:3-5
It is okay to grieve things. This may come as a shock, a surprise, or an offense to you. But it is true. According to Webster’s, the definition of grief is: suffering, a deep and poignant (emotional) distress cause by or as if by bereavement (mourning, sorrow). By this definition, you can see that to grieve is to be sad or sorrowful as a result of some deep suffering or pain experienced. And it okay to do this – to mourn over something or someone you have lost, or over an intense pain you’ve experienced. The Bible has a lot to say on this subject, so let’s take a look. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Jesus is saying that it is okay and even good to mourn, be sorrowful and be grieved, because He is the One who comforts them. Jesus loves his children and only wishes to comfort them in their sorrows and hurts. He says those who grieve and mourn are blessed because only those who have suffered can be comforted. Again, in Jeremiah 31:13b, the Lord says, “I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” The Lord promises over and over again the both the Old and New Testaments that he will turn mourning into joy, because he loves and cares about those who grieve.
The Bible does have some things to say against grieving certain things or in certain ways, such as grieving the coming of the Lord, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, which says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Paul is saying that he doesn’t want those who know the Truth of the Gospel to grieve death (because those who have accepted Christ are saved and thus go to Heaven), like people who do not have the hope of Christ in which to take heart grieves their deaths. Again, Paul comments on grief in 2 Corinthians 7:10. It says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” The Bible also makes a distinction between Godly grief and worldly grief. There is a difference between the two, so grief is not always okay, of course. But know that it is not always wrong to grieve. Paul remarks that if you grieve in the world or for the world, it produces death. There is a right way to grieve, according to Paul, and that is to grieve in a godly way that leads to repentance (feeling regret, asking God for forgiveness, and making a clean U-turn in the opposite direction). This repentance will lead to your salvation in Christ, without having any remorse or guilt. See, it is okay to grieve things in a godly manner, just do not grieve worldly things.
Friendship is like a flower. It needs roots, soil, sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to grow. The roots you put down first and they must be embedded in the soil to have something to hold onto. The roots are the basis of your relationship, which is trust. The roots – your trust in each other – necessarily need the soil to grasp in order to be firmly ingrained in the ground. The soil is the things that make up your relationship: inside jokes, fun times together, meaningful discussions, etc. Once a flower is firmly rooted in the soil, the next thing it needs is sunlight. God is like the sunlight, which nourishes the flower, warms it, and towards which the flower grows. The more sunlight the flower receives, the more it grows closer to God. Thus, as two people in a friendship, or any relationship, focus and rely on God – their sunlight and source of life – they will grow closer to him. The fourth thing a flower needs to survive is water. Water is the river of tears cried, the flooding of emotions, the oceans of grief that the two people in this friendship struggle through together. Because no matter who you are, there will always be bad times that you will have to go through in life. And if your flower (relationship) is rooted on trust, in the soil of the good times, and growing towards God, your flower will always be able to weather through the rainstorms that come your way. Finally, the carbon dioxide. Plants need carbon dioxide to convert into oxygen, which we as humans need to breathe to live. So there is an input of carbon dioxide, and an output of oxygen that the flower will produce. The input – the carbon dioxide – that the flower takes into itself is the Jesus and Holy Spirit. Carbon dioxide is something that we cannot see, touch, taste, smell, or hear, but we know that it is there and that plants soak it up. When the flower – your friendship as a whole (meaning both people) – put faith in and have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then they let in the carbon dioxide – the Holy Spirit – to dwell within that relationship. Then, the output of that is the oxygen, which is the good works which result from a Godly relationship with one another. The flower – your friendship – necessarily needs the carbon dioxide – the Holy Spirit – to come within them in order to produce Godly oxygen – or deeds done according to the Word of God. Therefore, friendship is like a flower.
“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field…The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:6
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13.
There is a letter in a book I received recently called “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. It is a 365 day devotional with “letters from God” each day and Bible verses to back it up. While flipping through this book today, I found this letter:
“The world is too much with you, My child. Your mind leaps from problem to problem to problem, tangling your thoughts in anxious knots. When you think like that, you leave Me out of your world-view and your mind becomes darkened. Though I yearn to help, I will not violate your freedom. I stand silently in the background of your mind, waiting for you to remember that I am with you. When you turn from your problems to My Presence, your load is immediately lighter. Together we can handle whatever this day brings.”
This is so true, and I can see it in my own life every day. I get too caught up and worried over school, friends, meetings, problems, sleep, cutting – everything. I forget that I have Jesus right here, within me, and that he is here to help me!! I shove Him to the back of my mind and let the world and my sinful nature consume me, as I sit and cut myself, or worry too much over silly things like midterms that in the long run won’t matter so much. When I let the world consume me and my thoughts, my mind really does become darkened. And when my mind is dark, I don’t think clearly, I can’t see or even remember Christ’s sacrifice for me. There are a million reasons I cut. But sometimes when my mind is without Jesus’ Light, I turn to cutting to punish myself, to spill my blood because I can’t remember that Jesus’ blood was already spilt for me, on the cross!! He already took my sins away and forgave them. He knew I would cut myself and shed my own blood in place of His, though he had already done it!!
But when I am like that, when our thoughts get dark and we forget our Wonderful Savior, Jesus will never violate our freedom. If we don’t want Him with us, He doesn’t push. He stays with us but he will never force us to do what we don’t want to do. Jesus stands by and watches me cut, because it is my free will to choose to do it. But he STILL loves me, and waits for me to remember Him. Together is the key word. God will always still love me but only when I turn to him he helps me carry my burdens. In Psalm 55:22 it says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
Often times I forget and don’t believe that he still loves me. What I can’t fathom is that even when I don’t believe God loves me, he STILL does. It is a challenge for me to remember that God loves me even when I cut. I have to remind myself of it every day. And once already I gave up on God’s love and wished only to die. But I pray I never will give up on Him again.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10