The Hopeful Answer
By Marie Morrow

Hate is so loud, and so easily gets our attention. It is amplified and surrounds us, overwhelming our senses. Looking at the news, it was all I could see, and I despaired at the state of our world.

Yet for every single act of evil, there are many more good people appalled at the atrocities and wanting to make things right. For every lone bomber, there are hundreds willing to jump into action to help save their fellow man. Media creates such hype about the acts of hate. Yet with each terror attack, countless stories emerge of ordinary people being heroes, making sacrifices for complete strangers, and reaching out to offer aid and comfort. Compassion and kindness are most revealed in times of pain and trouble.

Hate may be loud, but goodness is so very bright. It is the silent sun that rises every morning and the soft colors that bathe the world at sunset. Love shines on in this world day after day, through loving mothers, doting fathers, dedicated teachers, brave firefighters, and caring nurses. It is the person who donates a kidney, adopts an orphan, digs a well, rescues the helpless and fights for justice. We can see it in a kindly grandmother or the innocence of a child’s eyes. It bursts forth in the creativity of an artist and the inspiration of a writer.

I have come to see that a portion of love and goodness are innate in our very humanity, a faint imprint left by the one who created us in His image. Perhaps just laying dormant, waiting to be fully realized.

Love is not loud. It does not seek attention or boast of its power. Goodness does not make a big splash on the evening news. For the most part, love and goodness go quietly, unseen, as they daily wrestle against the tide of evil. Yet despite great opposition, goodness fights on all around us. An addict decides to try one more time and a victim gets back up again. A couple works to restore a broken marriage and a city rallies to rebuild after a tragedy.

Pain and sorrow are very great. Yet joy remains abundant in this world, the laughter of children, the excitement of newlyweds, the family playing tag in the park, and the joyful worship of praise to God. Our differences are many, yet across the globe, countless people are crossing ethnic and societal boundaries, aligning together in common cause, to stand against prejudice, to guard our freedom, to protect our environment, and to fight for change where ever it is needed. No matter how dark the night, the dawn silently pushes back the darkness and defiantly says, we cannot be beaten.

This is the overlay of grace, the light that cannot be vanquished and the songs that cannot be silenced. Yes, Satan may make a lot of noise. But this is God’s world, and it is good.

The Painful Question
By Marie Morrow

Heavenly Father, I ask that you teach me to see the overlay of grace. I want to see good that is in this world but all I see is pain. When you finished your work of creation and said, “It is good”, did you know what would become of this world? Did you see a fallen world destroying itself by greed and withering in pain? Did you see the cruelty and hate that would trample the weak? When you rested on the seventh day, did you not lament how Satan would seek to steal and destroy everything that is good?

How can you call it good, when the seeds of such pain had already been planted? How could it not break your heart to see what they have done to your beautiful world? If this is your world, how can you have resigned lordship over the “kingdoms of this world”? Why is Satan allowed place to rule over your creation?

My heart is so broken by the pain in this world. I try to heal and see beauty again but every day I see more pain. I used to be able to handle it. I used to have strength to do some good. But my heart has been so broken and grief has shown me depths of pain I never felt before. Now empathy is so painful, for I have known the depths of great sadness. The pain I see in the world now, hurts so much more. The suffering of the weak and the cruelty of the strong, each story in the news, each person’s grief, each one’s pain, falls heavily on my already broken heart. Yes, empathy can be so painful.

I used to offer so much hope, always full of faith. I used to believe that any pain could be turned into good. I used to see the beauty and potential all around us, waiting to be discovered. Now I feel the pain of a hurting world reflected in my own broken heart. For the first time, I see the world in its full depravity and all the heartache that it causes.

Death steals the ones we love. Friends we trusted betray us. Families and churches are divided. People are criticizes and judged for their differences. Good people try hard only to be trampled down. Young and innocent are abused with no defense. Wounds inflicted leave lifelong scars, beyond our power to overcome. Violence and crime, war and hatred abound on every side.

Where is the Kingdom of Heaven to be found on earth? Where do we see Your kingdom come and Your will being done, on earth as it is in Heaven? If Yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, shouldn’t we be seeing some of it here? The God I believe in is not impotent or indifferent. You would not have created this world with such care and wonder, only to leave it to crumble in its own devices. In a world where evil has such a stronghold, surly you must have a powerful resistance.

You said your kingdom was not of this world. Yet you came to tell us that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. So if your kingdom is “in the world but not of the world”, then two parallel universes must somehow overlap. “Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds.” I understand that it is there but I want to be able to see it again, this overlay of grace. To see pain overlaid by joy, hate overlaid by love, and sin overlaid by grace.

God, I ask you to open my eyes, to see your grace in the overlay.

“I’m doing fine.” “We’re getting by.” “Slowly getting back on our feet.” I could not tell how many times I have said these words when well-meaning friends inquire. What could I really say? Grief has so many faces, it’s difficult to even understand it myself, much less explain it to someone else. Grief comes in waves and stages, fluctuating and contradicting over time. Emotions overwhelm the senses, some lasting for days, others for months, and multiple feelings compound together all at once. My experience has been a journey unlike anything I had imagined or encountered before. I used to think grief was only the sad feeling of loss. Now I understand that it can be so much more.

Some days grief is a wrenching pain screaming out from the depths of my soul.

Some days it is a numbing paralysis, suffocating the very life out of me.

Some days it is a tangible ache in my arms, longing to hold my child.

Some days it is exhausting fatigue that feels as though the weight of my body is too heavy to lift.

Some days it is a deep sadness imploding my world into a small dark space.

Some days it is a punch in the gut that knocks me off my feet and leaves me gasping for air.

Some days it is an uneasiness that twists my stomach and makes my nerves flair and heart race.

Some days grief is the soft sweetness of precious memories held close and kept alive.

Some days it is the close bond of family, supporting each other in a shared sorrow.

Some days it is seeing your kids walk out the front door and wondering if that will be the last goodbye.

Some days it is a state of hypervigilance, feeling as though another tragedy could strike at any moment.

Some days grief is floating through an empty space, grasping for something to hold on to.

Some days it is self-loathing and self-hatred.

Some days it is a tornado of confusion hurling around in my head.

Somedays it is a black void where neither thought nor word can come together cohesively.

Some days grief is an ordinary day, going through the motions as though nothing ever happened.

Some days grief is an ocean of tears that cannot be contained.

Some days it is Netflix bingeing for hours on end in an effort to escape my world.

Some days it is craving every good food and some days it is being unable to eat at all.

Some days it is being unable to talk to anyone, ignoring calls and texts, and leaving unopened emails.

Some days it is being unable to even go to the store, afraid I might see someone I know and have to talk.

Some days it is having family over for a BBQ and keeping it together so well that I look fine.

Some days it is being friendly and talkative, a little glimpse of the old me trying to peek out again.

Some days it is wondering aimlessly around town all day to avoid the pain of being at home.

Some days it is watching the ones you love hurting as bad as you and being powerless to help.

Some days grief is an avalanche of self-doubt, so as to make me not even know who I am.

Some days it is staring blankly out the window, seeing only a world that is cold and grey.

Some days it is seeing a glimpse of my daughter everywhere I turn, expecting her to still be there.

Some days it is feeling the memory of her face slipping away where I cannot find it.

Some days it is holding her personal belongings, as though each one held a remnant of her presence.

Some days it is wanting every reminder of her kept out of sight, blocking out any trigger of a memory.

Some days it is being angry at God and questioning all I believe.

Some days it is unshakable faith and sweet communion with my God.

Some days it is feeling like an island alone, unable to connect to anyone around me.

Some days it is deep mutual understanding, laughing and crying together as one.

Some days grief is reaching out to my child and feeling that Heaven is so close and so real.

Some days it feels like the other world is beyond reach, a million light years and a lifetime away.

Some days it is being devoid of any coherent word or creative thought.

Some days it is a focused expression, an outpouring of emotion through paintbrush or pen.

Grief is so many conflicted feelings coming and going that it can never truly be explained, but it is deeply understood by another who has walked a similar road. Each one’s journey is different, but we share a common bond, and in time, we will get through it.

By Marie Morrow

Even the black of the darkest night
Loses strength at the coming of dawn.
Eventually spring must be born anew,
Though the winter seams so hard and long.

In spite of the fury of the raging storm,
When its deafening winds rage against you,
Peace will come in the stillness again,
When sunlight breaks through to refresh you.

There’s no sorrow too deep for God’s love to reach.
There’s no pain that His hand cannot heal.
Even the seeming impassable road,
Has a way through which He can reveal.

So hold on to hope, though the hope is so dim,
That its glow cannot even be seen.
The sun is not gone, it will soon rise again.
Things are never as bad as they seem.

By Marie Morrow

Don’t sit around with a sorrowful frown,
And wait for the storm to refrain.
You poor hurting dear, get up off your rear.
Go out there and dance in the rain.

The water that drenches, cleans out our trenches,
Washing the old down the drain.
So sing with the flowers, enjoying the showers.
Get up and go dance in the rain.

Watching and hoping, while silently moping,
Will not make the sun shine again.
So move with the beat of the rain at your feet.
As you learn how to dance in the rain.

It’s flooding the yard, but don’t take it hard.
The stress will just drive you insane.
Try it and see how much fun it can be,
Dancing around in the rain.

By Marie Morrow
Sometimes the fiery trials of life seem to go on for soooo long. We are tempted to wonder, “Is there an end to this? Why does the fire have to be so hot? Why is it that when things have just started to cool off, I find myself back in the fire – hotter than ever?”  While I was in the heat myself it was difficult for me to see it. But now that I have come out of it, I can see what the fire was all about. We were being baked in God’s oven.

        Jeremiah tells an interesting story. 

 1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : 2 "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message."
3 So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand. (Jeremiah 18:1-6 NIV)

        We refer to this as the breaking and remaking process that God often allows us to go through to shape us into the man or woman that we are destined to be. O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (Romans 9:20)

        To take this illustration a step further, let’s look more closely at how pottery is made. First the object is shaped, and possibly re-shaped. Then, before it can be of any real use, it must go into the oven.

        Firing is the process of heating ceramic wares at high-temperatures to make their shape permanent. Earthen pottery must be baked at temperatures between 1,000 – 1,200 degrees Celsius. That’s really hot. Beautiful porcelain must be fired at even higher temperatures than earthenware or stoneware. Then it is coated with glaze and sent for a second firing at a temperature of about 1,300 degrees Celsius, or greater. This process is what gives porcelain its strength and beauty.

        This concept recently came to me when I was praying for a brother of mine and his wife who were going through a particularly difficult time that did not seem to be letting up. I prayed, “Lord, why are these battles so long?” He replied, “They are baking in the oven.” It was clear to me what He was talking about. The oven is a tool needed for a specific purpose, a set temperature, and a designated amount of time. When something goes into the oven, whether it’s a beautiful vase or a birthday cake, it comes out completed.

        Understanding this principle is important in helping us to endure the fiery trials of life. 1 Peter 4:12 tells us, Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you. To give you a simple play on words, Jesus said that if we stay faithful to the end, He will tell us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” So if you feel that you’re still in the heat of the fire, be patient. God’s not done cooking you yet. He wants you ‘well done’. 

Courage is not the absence of fear.  It is forging on in spite of your fear.  So how do we have courage?  Courage to face the road ahead, courage to do what we are afraid to do?  I think the answer can be summed up in one word, Vision.  Why?  For the same reason they say, "don't look down," if you're scared of heights.  You have to keep your eyes on the goal.  Look beyond the fear.

There is a popular TV show in the United States called Fear Factor, in which opponents will compete in various test of courage.  They have to accomplish certain feats under terrifying, grotesque, or horrible conditions.  Why would anyone in their right minds willingly submit themselves to such torment?  It's all in the goal.  –A $25,000 goal, to be exact.

But they are not the only ones.  Mountain climbers risk life and limb, under grueling conditions; enduring cold, hunger, exhaustion, and deprivation.  They climb for the goal; the thrill of reaching the top.

The apostle Paul tells how he was persecuted, stoned, imprisoned, beaten, and troubled on every side.  How did he find the courage to endure?  In Philippians 3:13 he tells us his secret.  "Forgetting those things which are behind (don't look back), and reaching forward to the things which are before.  I press toward the mark of the prize, of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord."  That's the secret.  Press toward the mark. Keep your eyes on the prize.

This world is filled with sorrow and pain, and is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  We must look beyond this life and focus solely on the prize.  For many of us Heaven seems so far away.  It is difficult to place a reality to it.  But the Heavenly vision is at the very core of faith, courage, and endurance.

Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”  Like any athlete, you have to picture that trophy, that prize.  As Paul said, "I have run a good race.  I have finished my course. Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness…"

This is what will give you the courage to make difficult choices to follow God, to face your fears, and to look beyond the troubles of today.  When fear takes hold of us we must have something solid to hold onto.  When our courage is weak, we must keep our eyes focused on the goal, the prize, the Heavenly vision.

Posted by Marie Morrow 

What is the point in all this suffering? I sometimes found myself asking. Surely this wasn’t supposed to happen. Where did I go wrong? Can anything good come out of the mess that is my life? When I was stuck in the middle of it, surrounded by confusion and pain, it didn’t seem to make any sense at all. But little by little, as the broken pieces of my life came together, I saw that out of this mess God was making a masterpiece, worked together with love and care.

     When I was a child I remember walking along the paths of the local sports center. I used to laugh and point at their pitiful bushes lining the walkways. Purchased at the same time as ours, from the same nursery, theirs were small and bare, never growing over two feet tall. Yet our bushes grew huge and plush, with beautiful shades of green and purple. If we did not trim them regularly they would be well over our heads and fully overgrow the walking paths.

Amused at their bewildered gardener, I knew the secret. We had many animals on our little village farm, animals which produced endless amounts of foul smelling ‘muck’. The muck was removed from the pens every day and collected in wicker baskets at the far end of the farm. Then every so often we would have what we called a ‘muck-out’.

     All the baskets were loaded onto a wagon pulled by our stubborn donkey and hauled to a nearby field, where a very large pit served as a compost heap. There it had to be unloaded before returning for another load.  The muck-out was a hard and dirty job, taking many hours of work. The baskets often split open. One time the whole donkey cart tipped over spilling its smelly load. Yet those are fun memories for me, as I enjoyed the rare occasion of being able to help my brothers with the dirty work.

It’s hard to imagine that such gross and messy muck could become the rich, life giving compost which was the secret to our beautiful gardens. Eventually others wanted to purchase our fertilizer, and the local plant nursery would give us free plants in exchange for it.

I look at my life now, as full and vibrant in growth and color as those beautiful bushes of my youth, and I smile again because I know the secret. The pains and hardships have been as abundant as the muck at a muck-out. We wonder how anything good could come from such a mess. Yet give it some time and a change takes place. Smelly muck turns into rich fertilizer, changing the small seedlings of our lives into a plush and beautiful garden.

 I have always been told that "God does not give us burdens greater than we are able to bear."  Why then do our circumstances at times seem so unbearable? 
 They say, "If God allowed you to go through this, He must know you can handle it." It is in this very sentence, that we find the flaw in this thinking, and through it discover the secret of its meaning. 
             The truth is you can't handle it.  It is at those very times when life is sounbearable and we can't handle it that we find divine "grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:16)   "My grace is sufficient for thee."  (2Cor. 12:9)  He does not ask us to bear the unbearable.  He says.  "Come unto me… and I will give you rest."  (Mat 11:28)  He will lift our burdens.  He and I can bear it together.
             This is the miracle of dying grace.  This is the secret of the martyrs; Christ in us. He came to take our burdens on himself.  He came to get involved in our lives, to be our strength.  It is not when we are strong that we discover his power; it is when we are weak, when we are insufficient.  "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves.  But our sufficiency is of God." (2 Cor. 3:5)
             I have personally been in many unbearable circumstances.  When I had to come face-to-face with the possibility of losing my husband as we battled for his life; my fears as a young wife and mother of four children were overwhelming.  When I battled with cancer, the physical pain I experienced would definitely fit into the "unbearable" category.  Afterward, I developed fibromyalgia and have on many occasions felt that the pain and fatigue, coupled with the mental and emotional stress, were more than I could bear.
             But never once has Jesus failed me.  Never once has He left me alone.  There has never been a time when His grace was not sufficient for me.  I have leaned on Him, depended on Him, and when all else failed; fell helpless in his strong arms.  He is strong enough.  He does care.  He can work miracles today in your life.  Put Him to the test.
             Take that burden you are carrying, the weight that crashes down on your shoulders, and give it to Him.  He will take it for you.  It is at that moment that you will find His strength.  It is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we truly discover the sufficiency of Christ.  It is in this dependency on Him that we truly know Him in us.  "Christ in you; the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27)
             In this is our hope and our strength.  From this truth came the words of Paul, through terrible suffering and tribulation.  "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor 12:9)  We are weak, but He is strong.  We are insufficient, but His grace is sufficient.  Our troubles are unbearable, but He will bear them for us. "Surely He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrow." (Isa. 53:4)  "I will put my trust in Him." (Heb. 2:13)

Psalms 116:1-8
1.  I love the LORD, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications. 
2.  Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live. 
3.  The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. 
4.  Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
5.  Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
6.  The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and He helped me
7.  Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.
8.  For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

Posted by Marie Morrow 

Do you want to know where your prayers have gone?
The ones that you prayed last night.
When you poured our your heart before His throne,
And pleaded for help in my plight. 

You had prayed so hard that I would be healed.
The answer, it seems, didn’t come.
Had He closed His heart to your earnest prayer?
Or doesn’t He hear every one.

He gathered your prayers up into His arms,
And mixed them with His own tears.
Creating a mixture of purest Love,
And brought it to ease all my fears. 

He came to me in my room last night,
And He tenderly stroked my hair.
He poured the elixir to heal my soul,
In answer to your dearest prayer.

The pain didn’t seem so bad just then,
And the night not quite so long.
The joy of His presence that filled my room,
Then filled my heart with it’s song. 

I truly believe I am richly blessed,
As I bask in Heavenly glow.
The treasures I find in affliction’s cave
Are more than the richest can know.

Do you want to know where your prayers have gone?
Believe me, they’re never in vain..
They return with courage, comfort & faith,
And shower down on me like rain.

So please don’t give up in your prayers for me,
Although I’m not healed right away.
He answers your prayers in the way He knows best.
And gives me His grace for today.

                                                  --Maria Morrow