THE GOOD NEWS
May 30, 2018
Hearts Devoted to Hope wants to give a big THANK YOU to the South Church Women's Group of South Congregational Church at 277 Main Street, in Hartford for their donation of 60+ new stuffed animals in support of our ministry. My wife Helen and our children, Dannely, Thiago, and Elijah in turn brought those donations to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center Oncology floor to be distributed to the children receiving treatment. Thank you to Linda Connor, Susan Elphick, Carolyn Ford, Darlene Lisella, Ginny Pratt, Deb Robertson, and Pat Rossi.
Thank you again, ladies!
THROUGH PAIN AND SORROW "HOPE ARISES":
A Woman of Courage
Humanly speaking, I can't imagine anything more devastating than to bare the pain that accompanies the passing of your child. My heart goes out to every parent who has ever had to experience such sorrow. In the natural, it shouldn't be such a progression. There are so many unanswered questions we need and want God to respond to. The big one is, "Why my child, Lord?" Isaiah 55:8-9 says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." There is a reason for everything under the "Son," a greater glory: God's glory.
As a grieving mother, these words are hard to wrap your mind around, especially when it's your only son. Diego was my sister-in-law Miriam's only child. He was what made her heart beat to the rhythm of life. And on December 25, 2014 at approximately 5:30am, it seemed her heart would never beat again.
There was nothing Helen or I could say that could comfort her. What can you say? You feel helpless. So we prayed to our God, the "Father of all compassion and God of all comfort," asking him to somehow restore joy back into Miriam's life. For a year and a half, it seemed all hope to see Miriam smile again was lost; but during that time Miriam pressed into God's Word, seeking answers of understanding, seeking to build that relationship with Christ that, in her past, didn't exist. As days passed, Miriam's spirit began to change. The sovereign Lord began to reveal Himself to her through the people He placed in her path. Though life would never be exactly the same as it once was with Diego, Miriam's life was beginning a transformation - a transformation that only the Living God could restore.
You see, before Diego's diagnosis, Miriam and José tried to give Diego a brother or sister, and give José, whose only experience with fatherhood was as a stepfather to Diego, his first child. But Miriam was informed by physicians that having another child was not going to be a possibility. However, in the Gospels of Jesus Christ, in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus said, "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible."
On January 31, 2017, hope and the impossible arrived: David Gabriel Vera Delacruz was born... and the heart that seemed to have stopped beating to the rhythm of life once again began to beat.
Romans 8:28 in the Amplified Bible translation says, And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. All things to include an earthly life and an earthly death. God lets no life be lived in vain, there is a purpose. Diego's testimony of his love for Jesus brought many of his family and others to receive salvation through Jesus Christ. His testimony changed other believers to see life differently through the eyes of Christ.
My friends, we don't have all the answers to this life. I'm not certain we have any of them. 1 Corinthians, chapter 12: For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I am fully known [by God]. When perfection comes... When Jesus Christ comes, face to face, He will answer us and explain all of that which we could not comprehend.
May the Peace of the Lord be with you always. Let Your Hope Arise.
MIRACLE SMILE: A TESTIMONIAL
Fun in the Sun with Jayden
Many questions are asked of God, which scrutinizes His sovereign providence over His creation, man. One of those frequent questions is "Why does God allow children to be born with, or become afflicted with cancer, birth defects, and debilitating disorders. My answer to that question is "I wish I had an answer." God created man to have an intimate, personal relationship with each individual to which He gave life. In the beginning, God created the perfect environment for man to live in and enjoy - free from sorrow, pain, decay, and worry. And when He was finished, He said it was "very good." But at the completion of creating man and woman, God also gave them free will of the mind to choose - to choose between what their creator says is "Truth," or the lies of a strange and unfamiliar entity. Man was then persuaded away from the truth of God, causing sin to enter the perfect world that God created, and thus man was cast out of it, separated from the presence of God. Through disobedience, sin entered into the world and so too came the induction of disease, sickness, and affliction.
Because we were created in the image of God, by way of God's sovereign grace, His Glory can be revealed through us, His creation. "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me so that they may be brought to complete unity." (John 17:22-23)
This beautiful little boy is Jayden Casiano. Jayden is five years old and he is dearly loved by his mother Ashley and the entire Casiano family. Jayden has Cerebral Palsy. He has had it since birth. When you look into Jayden's eyes and marvel at his beautiful smile, a question to God arises: "Why, Lord? Why must a child have to experience such things?" In John chapter 9, Jesus, with his disciples, encountered a man who was blind since birth.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. "Rabbi," his disciples asked him, "why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents' sins?" "It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins," Jesus answered. "This happened so the power of God could be seen in him." (John 9:1-3, NLT)
Because someone has a disability or an affliction, society is quick to discount them as a means for Almighty God to reveal his glory through them. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I look at Jayden, I don't see his disability and the effect it has over the control of his body; rather, I see the expression of love in its purest form, as he gazes into his mother's eyes. An unconditional love that says, "I am happy to be in your presence, no matter what the circumstance." That is the glory of God being revealed through Jayden. It is the Lord who desires to be in our presence, no matter what our circumstance - but we must have ears to hear when he knocks on the doors of our hearts. And it is us who must open the door for Him to be present. It is the Lord Himself who proclaims this in Revelation 3:20:
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."
I thank You, Lord Jesus, for the gift of Jayden. I thank You Lord for revealing Yourself through him, and I thank Jayden, his mother Ashley, and his uncle David for coming and spending time with us. See you all next season.
May the peace of the Lord be with all God's people.
THE LONELINESS OF SUFFERING
Article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner
One of the hardest things for me about suffering is loneliness. Inevitably I feel isolated. Though my friends can help, they cannot share my sorrow. It is too deep a well. When loss is fresh, people are all around. They call, offer help, send cards, and bring meals. Their care helps ease the razor-sharp pain. For a while. But then they stop. There are no more meals. The phone is strangely silent. And the mailbox is empty. No one knows what to say. They aren't sure what to ask. So mostly they say nothing.
Sometimes that's fine. It's hard to talk about pain. And I never want pity, with the mournful look, the squeeze on the arm, and the hushed question, "So how are you?" I don't know how to answer that; I don't know how I am. Part of me is crushed. I will never be the same again. My life is radically altered. But another part of me craves normalcy. A return to the familiar. To blend into the crowd.
I Don't Know What I Want
I want to be grateful for my friends' support. And on the best of days, I can see and appreciate all of their efforts. But on the worst of days, I feel frustrated and angry. I wonder why people aren't meeting all my needs. Don't they know what I want? Can't they read the signs? Why can't they figure out what would make me feel better? They can't figure it out because I don't know myself. This is the crazy part of grief for me. I don't know what I want. I have no idea what will satisfy me. And somehow, whatever others do cannot meet my expectations. Expectations that are fickle. And one-sided. And reflect my self-absorption. Intense pain, physical or emotional, has a way of doing that. I become fixated on myself - my needs, my pain, my life. Somehow I forget that other people have their own pain and their own lives. They want to help, but they can only do so much.
Alone with God
While I am frustrated that others aren't easing my pain, I need to remember that there is a part of suffering that I must bear myself. Paul addresses that very tension. In Galatians 6:2, he says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." And then, three verses later, he reminds them, "For each of you will have to bear his own load." (Galatians 6:5)
The word Paul uses for burden implies burdens that exceed our strength. In Paul's day, travelers often had heavy loads to transport. Others would relieve them by carrying their burdens for a while. Without help, their loads could be crushing. This could be likened to the tangible help we can offer: our acts of service, our continual prayers, our physical presence.
His word for load is something proportioned to our individual strength. It could be a pack carried by a marching soldier. That could be the ongoing work of processing our grief. The parts of our suffering that no one else can carry for us. The burdens we must shoulder ourselves. Even the closest, most caring friends cannot be with us in our deepest pain. They may weep with us, but ultimately, they cannot walk with us. Jesus understands that. In his moments of greatest need, his friends deserted him. Friends who said they would die for him could not even stay awake and pray with him.
So in the garden, Jesus found himself alone. With God. Just like we are. In the end, we are all left alone with God.
Where Do I Go?
So what do we do when we feel drained and empty? When no one understands our suffering and no one seems to care? When we feel discouraged and tired and unbearably lonely? Read the Bible and pray. Read the Bible even when it feels like eating cardboard. And pray even when it feels like talking to a wall. Does it sound simple? It is. Does it also sound exceedingly hard? It is that as well. But reading the Bible and praying is the only way I have ever found out of my grief. There are no shortcuts to healing. Often I wish there were because I'd like to move on from the pain. But in many ways, I am thankful for the transformative process I undergo. A process that requires I read the Bible and pray.
Not Just Reading
When I read, I don't mean just reading words for a specific amount of time. I mean meditating on them. Writing down what God is saying to me. Asking God to reveal himself to me. Believing God uses Scripture to teach and to comfort me. To teach me wonderful things in his law (Psalm 119:18). To comfort me with his promises (Psalm 119:76). Reading this way changes cardboard into manna. I echo Jeremiah who said, "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart." (Jeremiah 15:16)
Not Just Praying
And when I pray, I don't mean a rote recitation of requests and mindless words. I mean really praying. Speaking to God as honestly as I would a friend. Praying through a psalm. Desperately crying out to him. Asking him for specific help. Expecting him to answer. What transforms me is spending time with Jesus, sitting with him, lamenting to him, talking to him, and listening to him.
As much as I would like my friends to comfort me, no one has ever met me the way God has. No one's words have ever changed me the way Scripture has. And no one's presence has ever encouraged me the way the Holy Spirit has.
My friends may help me, but they cannot heal me. It is only the living God, and his living word, who can do that.
This path of suffering, of heartache, of loneliness takes me directly to my Savior. Which is the lone path worth taking.
For only Jesus can heal me.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Lauren Pouliot, for creating our wonderful website.
Eric Banasiewicz; Shawn and Jen Williams; Rosa and Anthony Santiago, their sons Anthony and Joseph; and Aaron and Maiten Dion for your great spiritual and emotional support throughout Diego's illness and beyond.
Church of the Living God, our church family.