The Promise is to You

Sow in Tears, but Reap Rejoicing

This post is written by Claudia Burns, a prayer minister at Upper Room and member of the Liturgical Art Committee at Christ the King. She wrote the icons of St. Mark and St. Luke that are next to the tabernacle. Her story is a beautiful witness that God does not abandon us during times of suffering.

In June of 2013 when I retired I was excited to spend more time being with the Lord, my husband, and my family. Travel was on the agenda. Getting the house organized. I’m an artist and I had been an art teacher. I was going to do my own artwork.

Then, at Christmas of 2014, my husband Dan died of an unexpected heart attack. In that moment, everything changed.

God, in His mercy, has been so very faithful and so very present in my life over the year since then. He has spoken to me in Scripture, song, sermons, in books (both spiritual and secular), over Catholic radio and in conversations with friends. I also heard His voice, not audibly, but in my mind. Because I was used to listening to Him, and I took the time to do so, I was able to hear His voice at a time when I desperately needed it.

When I first realized my husband was gone, I heard a musical phrase: “for both in life and death we belong to God….” I held tightly onto that musical phrase, repeating it over and over. Soon after, I found assurance in this scripture from Mark: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” God taught me many things as the year went on.

1. Don’t hide.
There was a tendency to stay at home and not interact with people. When I began to venture out into the world alone after the funeral I heard Him say that He would help me figure out “A New Normal.”

And soon after: “I invite you to take my hand. Allow Me to accompany you on the journey ahead. There is abundant grace available for you.”

2. Embrace grief.
My grieving is not only for Dan, but also “the hopes, dreams, wishes, and unfulfilled expectations I had for and with him,” as it says in one of my many grief books. It takes a while. And busyness just puts grief off ’til later. I learned that my tears and sadness are a normal part of the grief work that I need to do, and that I shouldn’t avoid it.

God’s assurance was: “You feel like you are in the wilderness. I tell you I am the fire traveling before you to guide you. Trust Me and the love I have for you and I will not allow you to go astray.”

3. Make prayer a priority.
That busyness I mentioned before. That’s me – always doing. And sometimes those things were at the expense of prayer. I heard God say: “Slow down. Don’t neglect your time with Me. Consult with Me about your schedule. You will find your fruitfulness increase. You will grow in peace and your anxieties will drop away.”

In a sermon one day there was talk of weariness. We were weary because we had taken on burdens that we didn’t need to be bearing, that Jesus would gladly bear if we gave them over to him. I could give Him my anxieties, my sadness, my weariness. I could let go.

4. Be willing to go deeper.
Jesus is drawing me into a deeper, closer relationship. And it’s not just me. It’s each of us. There is a song that I’ve been drawn to lately called “Oceans”: Wave for Claudia Burns blog

“I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise…

“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me.”

5. I have work to do.
As I am drawn closer to Him, deeper into His love, He is calling me to walk upon the waters, to do His will, to not fear the future. He has work for me to do. Old Testament scriptures from Nahum and Zechariah invite me to:

“Draw water for the siege,
Strengthen your forts,
Trample the clay,
Tread the mortar,
Take hold of the brick mold” (Nahum 3:14).

“Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong” (Zechariah 8:13).

At the beginning of the Year of Mercy, I needed assurance that He was there for me. This is what He said:

“I will show my face to you and it IS a face of mercy, of complete mercy and love.
For I long to draw you to My Sacred Heart, to dry your tears and comfort you.
When you come up against an obstacle, a mountain that seems too high,
Come to Me, first thing, and I will be your guide.
I desire that you submit your energies and your efforts to Me.
I will shape them according to my will and My plan.
The fruit you bear will be my fruit. The song you sing will be my song.
Trust Me.
For my love is greater than you can imagine.”

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