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“Tracing the Rainbow Through the Rain” – A Testimony of Hurting, Healing, and Hope by Bill Hellyer

October 27, 2012

John 11:35-36 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Judaeans who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Judaeans said, “See how he loved him!”

I have come to know grief this year since my wife Elton passed into Christ’s arms on January 6th. It is a deeply personal pain that is different with every person that goes through it. It is a pain like no other in this life, and I often questioned God why he took Elton and left me here with few answers. I prayed for healing, many others prayed for healing, yet she died that day. I stand here today though to tell you that those prayers were still answered, she was Healed in the ultimate way and she is now with Christ in heaven, pain free, treatment free and with a new body and a full head of red hair… this I believe with every part of my mind and soul, and I will see her again.

Grief is defined as.. keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.

Well… I have a better definition… “Grief is a unending rollercoaster of intense painful emotions, regrets and guilt” It is not neat and tidy, it hits you like the waves of the ocean, pushes you into depths that seem so dark and lifeless that there seems to be no way out.

I am sure there are many of you here today that have been in the dark and lifeless pit, and if you have  you haven’t you will be at some point in your life. For to Love in this world you risk the loss of that Love. God did not promise us pain free lives down here, we will have losses.

This does not just have to be the loss of a spouse, a child or any other loved one. It can be the loss of a relationship through divorce, the loss of one’s health, the loss of a loved pet, loss of a job, loss of one’s own mind as we age. they all lead to the deep, lonely place of grief.

As a nurse over the past 13 years I have seen grief handled in many different ways. some good and some very very bad. Unfortunately there is only one way to deal with your grief, that is to go directly through it. Yea I know, why would I or anyone go through grief… we could just deny it, hold all that pain in. We could go around it, trust me that does not work. We can stay angry at God for our loss, blame Him for all this pain, again trust me that does not work either. There is only one way and that is to face it head on, in all its blackness. Your world comes to a standstill for a time, you may feel you are in a deep pit with no ladder, no rope, and friends run away, afraid the will be sucked in with you… this is a time when even God can seem to have left you, you are Job…

So now that I have you scared and without hope…

What do we do… There are many practical things we can do, many of which I have done… See your doctor, yes he can help… there are good medications out there to try. Seek out your friends who have stayed with you, talk to them. Seek professional help, grief groups can be a great source of healing. this is good advice but…

There is only one true healer to turn to in this kind of pain, He went through pain and grief we can only barely grasp. His name is Jesus Christ, they only Son of God and our only Savior that can reach us in the pit of grief.

As I said I have seen believers and nonbelievers go through grief as a nurse and currently in my grief group. My heart aches when I watch people try to make sense of their grief on their own terms, the struggle they needlessly go through.

When Elton was first diagnosed with Cancer, we prayed right away, went to see our Pastor at the time. Were we scarred? your darn right we were!!! Cancer is the one word in the English language that strikes fear like no other. Were we angry at God, you bet we were!!! Why Elton, why now… why, why, why… the why’s will make you crazy very quickly.

Whatever your loss right now, stop asking why, there are no answers this side of Heaven. The fear, anger and why’s will eat you alive. Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Without my faith through the 9 years Elton had cancer, and the nearly nine months since she has been gone, I would have been lost, unable to function and care for her. Christ carried me through all this, and Elton’s Faith never wavered either. We ruled the cancer, it did not rule us. Through Christ we lived, laughed, cried and got through it all.

Here are some quotes of grief…

“Grief does not change you, It reveals you.” ― John Green

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.” ― Leo Tolstoy

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” ― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” Jan Glidwell

I am often asked how long does this grief last? Or, why are you doing so well?

How long, sorry no answer for you… each person’s grief if their own, and will take as long to get through as it will.

Why am I doing so well? Well I am not always doing so well, the rollercoaster Highs and Lows are not as extreme as they were. One thing that has helped me a lot is to not look at the 17 years with Elton as “my Life”. That was part of my life, an truly wonderful part, and I will never forget her but I have lived 50 years.

I had my childhood, I was married before, have my amazing son Scott from that, I became a nurse, I am a Father, and currently I am risking my heart again with someone for the sake of Love, for without Love this life is not worth living. Life goes on despite our losses of this brief mortal life. It is what we learn as we go that matters.

So why a grief group at St. Paul’s? I just have to look out at the congregation for that answer. Many have lost dear loved ones, lost their health, lost independence through age. There is a need for healing… and it will not be me, it will not be Fergus, it will not be each other that brings that healing.

Only through the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ can we be healed. He will meet you where ever you are right now in your grief and will take your hand or carry you through the pain. There will still be pain, lots of it.

Through the pain you will be healed, cry… cry a lot… that means you too men!! real men cry… trust me I know that when you think that the tears are all gone, there are more.

When the tears and pain comes turn to the Word…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

I know that the Holy Spirit will be with our group as we meet to share in fellowship. We will learn from one another, listen to one another, and be there for one another.

In closing, remember that Jesus wept, He felt true human grief, He was one of us and He understands what each of us is going through.  

I Pray that the Holy Spirit will touch the hearts of those who are seeking healing and answers about their grief, come and taste that the Lord is good, and He will give you rest… Amen

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Bill Hellyer shared this powerful testimony of hurting, healing, and hope at our 8:30 and 10:00 Services on October 21, as part of our St. Luke’s Day focus. Thank you, Bill, for your courage to bare your heart like this, to encourage all of us to receive the healing touch of Jesus in our broken places. After the 10:00 Service, thirteen of us met together to discuss the formation of the Grief Support Group at St. Paul’s that Bill’s testimony mentions. We all voiced our strong conviction that this group will help the members of our Parish family and others experience healing together. We plan to meet at 12 noon on the first and third Sundays of the month. When the start date is finalized, I’ll be sure to post it prominently on this blog.

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The title and image at the top of this posting come from the words of one of my favourite hymns, George Matheson’s “O Love That wilt Not Let Me Go,” which went through my mind as I read Bill’s testimony:

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
 
O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray
That, in thy sunshine-blaze, its day
May brighter, fairer be.
 
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
 
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust, life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Matheson wrote this hymn on the evening of his sister’s marriage. Years before, he had been engaged, until Matheson’s fiancée had broken off their engagement when she learned that he was going blind, and that there was nothing the doctors could do, telling him that she could not go through life with a blind man. Matheson did go blind while studying for ordained ministry, and his sister was the one who cared for him through the years. He was now 40, and his sister’s marriage brought a fresh reminder of his own heartbreak, plus the awareness that he would no longer have her to care for him as he had. It was in the midst of these circumstances and his intense sadness that Matheson wrote this hymn. He said, “I felt myself rather in the position of one who was being dictated to than of an original artist. I was suffering from extreme mental distress, and the hymn was the fruit of pain” (W. J. Limmer Sheppard, Great Hymns and Their Stories, p. 119).

Videos of two rendings of the hymn are embedded below:

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