May 23, 2021

On Staying in Touch with Jesus

            Since confession is “good for the soul,” I will confess that since my wife died, there are days when grief wins. The chilling absence of Dean in my life pushes me toward depression and self-pity. In every waking moment I miss the joy of sharing life with her.

            Fortunately, I have been able to fight my way out of the darkness and pain of loneliness. Jesus keeps saying, “Walter, I love you too much to let sorrow ruin the rest of your life. I am going to help you be brave and courageous just like my Father and I helped Moses and Joshua. So, don’t give up. Take my hand so I can help you endure this sorrow. Walk with me and I will fill your emptiness with my peace and restore your soul.” So, with his help, I am winning more times than grief wins. I’m convinced the only way to beat grief is to stay in touch with Jesus.

            I read the Bible a lot because it’s there that I meet Jesus. He is in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. When in the 23rd Psalm David says, “The Lord is my shepherd,” that’s Jesus he’s talking about. The Lord Jesus is my Shepherd, guiding me, molding me, comforting me and teaching me how to serve Him. When the Psalmist says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147:3), he’s talking about Jesus, because that is what He does. Without Him, none of us can get through the valley of the shadow of death.

            I met Jesus in church. He had me in tears last Sunday. My eyes were suddenly moist when we began singing “Jesus is all the world to me.” Dean and I sang that song at our son David’s funeral. I choked with joy when we came to the words, “when I am sad, to him I go, no other one can cheer me so.”

I had to stop singing and just listen with a thankful heart as the people sang the final words, “I trust him now, I’ll trust him when life’s fleeting days shall end. Beautiful life with such a friend, beautiful life that has no end; eternal life, eternal joy, he’s my friend.” My heart was pounding with joy as I thought, “Yes, Lord, Dean’s beautiful life has not ended! She is with you, and while she can no longer straighten my tie and tell me how handsome I am, she is still cheering me on to victory in my battle with grief!

So far, my neighbors have not called to complain, but I go around the house singing loudly songs about Jesus. I am sure there are no roaches in my home now; weary of my loud voice, they have surely crawled outside the house. There is usually no one here but me and Jesus. And while I know Jesus is not hard of hearing, it seems to strengthen my faith to boldly affirm my faith in song. So, if you slip up outside my window one day, you may hear me shouting and singing songs like this one:

No one understands like Jesus,

He’s a friend beyond compare;

Meet Him at the throne of mercy,

He is waiting for you there.

No one understands like Jesus.

When the days are dark and grim;

No one is so near, so dear as Jesus.

Cast your every care on Him.

I often meet Jesus in a good book. I own two acres of land, one house and one car – and a lot of books. Books are some of my most treasured possessions. The Lord led me to pick up an old one last week, one I gave Dean on a day in May 41 years ago. I love to see notes she made in books. She made several in this book, A Gift for God by Mother Teresa. I found Jesus speaking to me on every page in that book; He was gently correcting my perspective on suffering, especially my suffering.

The world discovered Mother Teresa while she was caring for the poor and dying in Calcutta, India. Dean and I once visited Calcutta and never got over seeing the dead and dying on the dirty streets there. In the early days of her work in Calcutta, Mother Teresa was stricken with a high fever and became delirious. Later she wrote about it. “In that delirium,” she said, “I went to St. Peter, but he would not let me in, saying ‘There are no slums in heaven.’” In anger, she said, “Very well, I will fill heaven with slum people, then you will be forced to let me in!”

It rather surprised me to learn that Mother Teresa had a delightful sense of humor. Indeed, she insisted that the houses of her Missionaries of Charity (now 4,500 strong!) ring with laughter just as St. Francis and his friars once laughed their way down the highways serving Jesus. Peace begins with a smile, she often said.

When a friend who was seriously ill asked Mother Teresa for prayers, she replied: “Your name is up on the wall, and the whole house will pray for you, including me. St. Peter will be surprised at the avalanche of prayer for you, and will, I am sure, make you well soon. Maybe, though, you are ready to go ‘home’ to God. If so, he will be very happy to open the door for you and let you in for all eternity.” Then she added, surely with a twinkle in her eye, “If you go home before me, give Jesus and his mother my love.”

In her little book Mother Teresa reminded me that I meet Jesus in the poor.  In the poor we are touching Christ’s body. Her words began to chase away my lingering sadness: “In the poor it is the hungry Christ we are feeding, it is the naked Christ we are clothing, it is to the homeless Christ that we are giving shelter.” I thought, “In my remaining days I can wallow in depression or I can get up and offer love to the poor and in so doing, offer Christ my love.”

These words, however, Jesus used to loosen the grip of grief on my soul: “The best way to show our gratitude to God and to people is to accept everything with joy, for joy is strength and joy is love. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the risen Christ.”

Thank you Mother Teresa. Thank you Jesus. I believe I see the way home now. And with your help, and the prayers of my friends, I will not be taking another drink from the well of bitterness and remorse. The sweet water of your understanding and forgiveness is all I need. + + +