Archive for the ‘Hurt’ Category

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The Compass

In Family and Marriage,God's great love,Hurt,Keeping it Real,Questions,Struggles with faith on August 7, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

“You think you have problems?”  This is the line from my friend Jenni’s recent FB post that stopped me in my tracks:

“The joke in our house is “You think you have problems?”… because we know we don’t. We have a life full of blessings. We may have sadness and grief but it is only because of the joy and love that have blessed us. I’m so thankful that I was able to grow that little angel and then spend 25 beautiful hours with her… what an amazing gift for a simple girl like me. I wouldn’t trade one minute of the joy for less sadness, I am so grateful for each of my children.”

Yes Jenni is grateful for each of her children.  But the difference than other people with this same perspective, is Jenni has just delivered a baby girl Abby and after 25 hours, watched her pass away.  Jenni and her husband Trever have two healthy children but their third was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 halfway through their pregnancy.  Some people terminate these pregnancies; Trevor and Jenni chose to nurture her and love her and let her body develop in utero- even though they knew Abby wouldn’t survive more than a few days in the world.  You can read their journey on their blog here.  These people have such strength, not of their own, but clinging to faith in God.  A few days after baby Abby’s passing, Jenni wrote:
“[Please pray] for our continued strength is all I can think of. That we have the strength to enjoy each day, be present and patient with our children, feel the grief when it comes and generally not hide from ourselves, our pain and our joy.”

Though they are hurting- and the hurt of a lost child knows no greater pain- they cling to the hope and power of Christ to hold them together.  I’m humbled and encouraged by their example of true faith in the hardest of times.

I have another friend in our church who underwent a double mastectomy on Friday.  I ran into her at church last week and she grabbed me, with tears standing at the corners of her eyes, and said, “thank you, that was the perfect message for me.  We are clinging to Christ even though we don’t understand what’s next.”

See I had just preached on Colossians 2 and that Paul teaches us to have “hearts that are encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is Christ Himself.”  Paul’s encouragement to ‘cling to the knowledge of mystery’ seems to be a paradox- until we acknowledge that Jesus is the one thing we can seek and cling to in this life despite the great cloud of unknowing we face when struggles overwhelm us.  In the sermon, I told the story of being a new fishing guide at 13 when I took my clients 20 minutes in my boat into the fog and because of a variety of reasons, I took my eyes off of the compass.  Without radar or GPS on the boat, the one navigation tool I possessed was the boat’s compass.  But I let my eyes focus on the distractions instead of the one tool that could actually get me to where I was going.  The dense fog, my fishing customer’s apprehension, the passing cruise ship, and a huge tide moved our boat out of position and we very nearly got very, very lost.  It wasn’t until I saw a glimpse of hope in a far away shore and once again refocused on my compass, than I got to where I was going.

My point?  For many of us, we take our eyes off our compass.  We don’t mean to do this and believe me, it happens to us all.  We allow our faith to become a Sunday ritual; our times of prayer and bible reading get laid aside for more important tasks like checking email, doing housework, or checking Facebook.  But slowly, our eyes drift off the one source of life:  Jesus.  The bible tells us Jesus is the one compass that can lead us through life.   Need to be reminded of this?  Re-read Luke 7 and watch how Jesus heals people, takes pity on people misjudged in society, and is the one true source of real life.  Jesus ends Luke 7 with these simple words: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Is your life one marked by Jesus’ peace right now?  Are you putting faith in Him as the compass to lead you somewhere?  Or are you clinging to the changing currents of hard situations or less than perfect circumstances?  I know 2 women right now who are a true inspiration to me- teaching me that Jesus can still be the compass in the darkest of times.  I hope their story is an encouragement to you as well.

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The Story of Randall

In Hurt,Questions,Struggles with faith,Uncategorized on May 18, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

If you were at church last week you heard a moving story about Randall Cunningham and Psalm 126.  Psalm 126 teaches us that God is faithful to us, even in the midst of great struggles and heart aches.  The psalmist promises, “Those who sow in tears, will reap in joy.”  The exegesis here is overly simplistic, but the gist is this: take your hurts to God.  Take your pain to God.  Reinvest our seeds of discontent in the soil of God Himself, and He will work with us to make us new.

We discussed Randall Cunningham, who went from NFL hero to despair when he was benched.  He found Christ and returned to the NFL to a record season and a place of joy he hadn’t known before.  And then instead of winning the NFC championship and playing in his first Super Bowl, his team lost on the last second.  He returned to Las Vegas where he had grown up and started a church and started baptizing people in his hot tub at his home.  A year later he returned to Philly to be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame and brought his son Christian with him (picture below).  Not long after, Randall returned home to find police cars and ambulances waiting for him.  His beloved son Christian had drowned- in the same hot tub.

The pain of a parent who has lost a child is unspeakable.  Let us just pause and sit with that for a while.  I can’t offer any quick and easy explanations.  But the Psalm is an encouragement here…it doesn’t explain away suffering, but offers a hope that can sustain us in our present pain.

How do we hope in Christ no matter the circumstance?  How do we find solace in God’s plan when the current season is difficult and confusing?  Psalm 126 teaches that God has been faithful before, and no matter our current pain, He will be faithful again.  The psalm is hope, like God is saying, “Just stay with me and let Me carry you for a while when you hurt.”  We don’t always know WHY things happen in life, but we can know WHO will be with us when we hurt:  God.  Scripture doesn’t promise a pain-free life, but it does promise a Father who will always be near to us and that a future harvest of joy awaits.  The Psalm promises, “We shall come again with shouts of joy.”  The best example of this?  Randall’s story.  Check it out below…its worth 11 minutes of your time.

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It’s a Boy

In Family and Marriage,God's great love,Hurt,Questions,The Journey on May 2, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

With clenched jaw and furrowed brow, I waited in the hospital ultrasound room on Monday morning.  Heather lay before me on the exam table and though the technician said things looked fine, she went out of the room and got the supervising doctor to speak to us.  “Uh oh” I thought.  “This can’t be good.”

In rooms like these, in moments like this, lives are forever altered.. every single day.  The routine doctors exam that turns up the lump.  The notice from the lawyer that the situation is going to be more complicated.  The talk with your boss that the company needs to lay people off.  Every single day, in small moments like these, our worlds that we have built come shattering down.   How do I know?  Because in an ultrasound room like this, in 2008, we found out our son Fisher had died.  In rooms like these entire futures are changed.

And when futures change and hearts are broken, we have to ask ourselves, ‘can I still believe?’  Can I still trust in God when my heart is broken?  This life is a journey, and learning to trust God despite the bumps and bruises along the way is sometimes difficult, but it is the only choice that continues to give us hope.  When we cling to God, we can handle the challenges of life and celebrate the victories.  We have a hope beyond ourselves to give us that thing we need:  hope.  Hope for that which we cannot do on our own.  One of my favorite verses speaks to this:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18  

So there in Ultrasound Room 5 of Swedish Hospital, I had the lump in my throat as the doctor came back into the room.  What if something is wrong with this baby?  How will I respond?  Can I handle another huge heartbreak?

And then in my heart a still small voice:  “We will trust…and we’ll continue to follow God no matter what happens.”  See, we had to face this same decision before when we lost our son Fisher Samuel SundAnd the decision to hope in the midst of our devastation and heartache saved our faiths, it saved our marriage, it saved our very lives. 

Back in room 5, the doctor silently looked over the ultrasound machine.  Stone faced and resolved, she did a few measurements with her mouse on the computer, and then looked up, smiled, and said, “You are having a boy.   And he is healthy.”

Writing this now, a few days later, I pause from the computer and wipe tears away.  I stop and collect my thoughts.  I’m so thankful…but my heart also hurts because I know there are some of you out there that are in different situations.  You have heartaches and challenges or you are facing something very difficult, and some of you have lost pregnancies or are facing the prospect of bringing a disabled child into the world.  I hurt because I know your stories.  You got the bad news in that same room.

All I can say is that I’m sorry.  Though you are currently in the storm and nursing an aching heart, things will get better.  You can believe again and you can hope again.  Loss changes things and you’ll never be the same, but the new you after this difficult time will learn to hope again and learn to love again.  I can promise you that.

So now for Heather and I, we wait and pray.  We’re due to have a baby boy in late September.  Though we still worry at times during pregnancy, we believe that things will turn out okay.  And however things turn out, we are hoping in the Lord.  It’s the only way we can get by.

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Longest Night- come and gone

In God's great love,Hurt,Keeping it Real,Struggles with faith on December 22, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: ,

Every candle tells a story...

Last night was literally the longest night of the year, with the earth at its furthest reach of its orbit around the sun.  Our church has a tradition of doing a Longest Night Service to commemorate advent for people that are in the midst of great struggles or losses.  The purpose of the service is to say to those grieving or saddened that Christ is still here, His birth is still life changing, even if it is hard to receive because of current life situations.  Better writers than myself have written about the difficulties of this season- read my wife Heather’s blog here or Pastor Richard’s latest here.

So last night we gathered in the chapel, with what felt like hundreds others, and celebrated Jesus on the longest night of the year, in a season of life to many that feels like their personal “longest night.”  There were children and women and older couples and guys by themselves.  Every life a story, every story interwoven with joy and pain, hope and loss.  Life can feel like a paradox at times, and these people had come to worship Christ despite the struggles and sorrows and hardships they are facing.

The service was mixed with readings and responses, advent candle lightings and times of silence and some amazing hymns I had never sang before.  One hymn, Pass Me Not, broke me.  The writer of the hymn is crying out to Lord, “though I am broken Jesus please do not depart from me!  Do not pass me by!”

To be able to worship Jesus authentically, with a heavy heart or a joyous heart, is one of the great realities of our worship.  The truth is, we can be real with God.  We can bring Him our pains and sorrows and even our unbelief at times.  This was modeled to us by Jesus.  We don’t have to have it all figured out.  And in the midst of the great hurricanes or small squalls of life, we can take that pain to our Maker and worship even when our hearts don’t feel great.

At the conclusion of the service people were encouraged during the worship songs to get up and light a candle and reflect on their loss and sorrow.  One by one, people streamed to the front and lit their unlit candle on the Christ candle in the middle of the table and then placed their candle in the sand.  For me as I worshipped, I was mindful of both my own pain and sorrow which Heather beautifully articulated in her blog (above) but also the sorrow of the community. My friend sitting beside me lost his 3 year old son just two years ago.  As we worshipped he flipped through the photo book of his son.  Watching my friend grieve, hurt me deep within. “Lord this isn’t fair that this man won’t get to see his son again on earth.”   And my heart hurt for the people in the aisle beside me streaming up to the communion table to light their candle.  Women and men and children, each with a heavy heart, most moved to tears, lit their candles one by one.

It was a beautiful image of grief and the power of community and sharing our suffering.  Each candle represented a broken heart or a great loss.  Quite often when we are struggling, we can feel so alone and so isolated and so cut off.  And yet at church last night, as people’s individual candles were placed into the sand together, a collective story of both pain and joy, darkness and light was being written.  For one candle alone doesn’t serve much of a purpose, but a table full of candles created a powerful light and a warmth that was felt from a distance.  Our stories, when shared and told together as community, can become a great light.  We don’t walk alone in our Christian faiths, we walk together with a God above us who can hear us and bear our burdens.

Once the others had sat down I walked slowly to the table and grabbed two candles.  I lit one for my son Fisher, who I will meet someday in Heaven.  Until that day comes, a piece of me will always feel a little hollow.  Not all of me, but a small piece.   So I lit a candle for Fisher and remembered.  And as a pastor and friend to many who are suffering, I lit a second candle.  My heart hurts for others and I am praying for them and walking with them.  Both candles together were my worship on this longest night.  Both statements that God still reigns even in the midst of great rain.  God still is in control even when life spirals out of control.  God is still powerful even if I don’t understand why he didn’t spare a boy’s life or save the cancer from growing or stop the storm.  Thought we don’t understand, we can trust.  And we can love.  And our lives can be a response to His great love.

Last night I was inspired by people walking to the Light of Christ despite the darkness.  My friend, though heartbroken from the loss of his son, continues to walk with Jesus.  My wife, despite a heart that still aches, is deeply involved in bringing healing to many.  And there are dozens and dozens more.  Not broken by the darkness.  Not dominated by the heartache.  Still walking with Jesus- still trusting Him.  I was reminded of that hope last night, as the candles blazed.  And this this morning, as I drove in to church, the glory of the sunrise reminded me again.  On the morning after the longest night, one of the most beautiful sunrises of the morning.  Though darkness exists, there is a great Light that can continue to be a source of hope for you.  And this Light is Jesus.  May this advent season be a time of peace for you, in small or large ways.  And may you feel the arms of the Savior wrapping around you, as you stand with your candle.  You story is important to Him.  You don’t journey alone.

The dawn of Dec. 22....the longest night is gone.

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…”Without Complete Understanding” part 2

In God's great love,Hurt,Keeping it Real,Struggles with faith,The Journey on December 13, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: , , , ,

There is light in the darkness.  The bible speaks to this…the light shines but we don’t understand.

Sunday was an emotional day- the 3 year anniversary of my son’s passing.  My son Fisher actually passed on Dec. 10 but on Dec. 11 is the day we celebrate his life and commemorate his memory as this was the day Heather delivered him.   Back in 2008, when we found out he had passed on Dec 10 we went straight over to Swedish and Heather was given an IV of pitocin and labored through the night and she delivered our still born  son on the morning of Dec. 11.  That is a night I’ll never forget.  It was the darkest night of my life.  And yet, there was a light.  We clung to one another.  We clung to Christ.  Friends came and cried with us.  And prayed with us.  There was light in the darkness.

This last Sunday, I was feeling beat up.  Sad and confused, emotions too raw to label just under the surface like a hurricane.   After church, the kids had play dates and while our little one slept, Heather went to the memorial of the baby I wrote about in Part 1.  In the quiet of the house, I picked up my guitar for the first time in a long time.  And I began to sing.

I’ll spare you the words but it was my raw words and emotions- the poetry of my soul- that I sang out as I strummed to God.  And the words brought tears and the tears brought a chorus:  “Lord-Its not fair!  No Its not Fair!”  I told God I didn’t think it was fair that my son died, that my family turned out different than I had planned, that  at times we still suffer.  That we are stained by grief.  And the occasional tear turned to more tears which turned into deep sobs of grief from my chest.  I cried harder than I had in a very long time.  And I cried out to God.  God- this isn’t fair!

And then a peace broke.  No-Its not fair.  God doesn’t operate by our worldly system of fairness.  But in a peaceful way, I realized I’m lucky God isn’t fair.  That God doesn’t judge me in a perfectly FAIR and BALANCED way because I have screwed up so much in my life I’d never be worth.  This was the story of the OT.  The system of purity (i.e. FAIRNESS) never worked because the nation of Israel was just too…human.

No God isn’t fair with us.  He is merciful and forgiving and loving and showers us with His grace.  And yes, sometimes He hurts for us too.  God doesn’t will us to hurt.  He didn’t kill my son Fisher.  He doesn’t strike people down to “test” us or do “some greater good.”  We live in a world that God loved so much that He instilled us a sense of freedom to choose our own decisions.  The resulting mess and chaos of the world leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  But God isn’t to blame every time we hurt.

And yet…He hurts for us.  He hurts with us.  And He is big enough that He allows us to question Him in our pain.  I preached about this a few weeks back but the reality of this truth shouldn’t elude us:  We are allowed to be mad at God.  We are allowed to be disappointed and bring that to God.  God is big enough to hear us when we’re mad or sad or whatever.

Want evidence its okay to be real with God?  Just think of Jesus on the cross.  In His last hour as Jesus was suffering He cries out, “God why have you forsaken me?”

I remember reading that as a new Christian for the first time when I was 18 and didn’t believe somebody hadn’t edited that part of the bible.  “Doesn’t that show Jesus doubting God?” I asked a bible teacher of mine in College.

“No, this isn’t doubt.  At the moment of Jesus’ darkest night- He is turning His doubts and fears directly to God Himself.  This isn’t doubt.  This is the very essence of faith. “

We can love completely without complete understanding.  The light shines in the darkness.  This is the story of Job, the story of the nation of Israel, the story of Jesus Himself.  The bible doesn’t promise a pain free existence.  It promises a relationship with the Creator God who made us in His image, who sent His son- Jesus Christ- to be a Light in our darkness and re-install us as God’s children.  It promises that the Holy Spirit will be with us and in us and through us so that we’ll never walk alone.  Even when life is dark, we’ll never walk alone.  It isn’t always fair, but it is always good.  God is always good.

This video is 12 minutes long but worth watching.  Sometimes in our great hurt we need to rage against God- but in the book of Job, God responds.  Your story is not over.  Watch and find out more.

 

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…”Without complete understanding”

In God's great love,Hurt,Questions on December 10, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: , , , , ,

News reached me about the loss of a local family on Thursday.  Their son, a robust unborn baby of 41 weeks, had suddenly died.  No explanations.  No reasons.   Just horrible news.  This is a family that attends a small church up the road where another woman had lost a 20 week old child just weeks before.

As I prayed for them, thoughts of our own loss flooded back to me.  Today is 3 years to the day since our son Fisher died.  The technical term for our son’s death was demise, and though it is meant to sound more formal and clinical, it really just sounds way more depressing.  3 years ago to the day, our 8 lb 10 ounce boy was delivered into the world dead.  He had died as a result of a twisted umbilical cord, probably within hours of the doctors detecting a missing heartbeat.

This is his story.

When I think of this local family, my heart just aches.  On Sunday there will be a service for their stillborn son.  And then, as this was their first child, it will be a very silent Christmas and then months of darkness.  Is their light?  Oh yes.  But there will be much sorrow.  I ache even more thinking of the journey that awaits them.  What does it mean that Christ’s light conquers all when we can hurt so much here on earth?

The other night my son pulled out his Fisher bell, the bells we gave out at the memorial and had people ring them out in unison.  Kincaid pulled out the bell and hung it on his door.  He told me “I want to think about my brother more.”  As we cuddled that night, I asked what he was feeling in terms of Fisher’s death.  ‘Sad’ and ‘confused’ were his answers and then the question that took the wind out: “Why did God want him to die?” he asked sincerely.  I tried to explain that God loves us and doesn’t will us to suffer but that here on earth, unexpected things happen.  As Norman Maclean said, “We can love completely without complete understanding.”

As I prayed for the Bauman family Thursday morning, this poem emerged.

Come fill me up:

Lord
Its me…Scott.
I’m so busy going for you…
I haven’t been able to go to you.  To come to You.

“Come fill me up.”

I want to know you.  Be known by you.  Be near to you.
May my life reflect
Your loving gaze.  May my life
shine by your great grace and mercy.

Today I’m sad Lord-thinking about
The life that never lived
Fisher Samuel Sund.
For my wife who sometimes cries
For my son Kincaid who carries this burden
For Fisher’s sisters, that their story will be one of loss.
We are stained by the blood.
We are stained.

Will you come and sit with me a while Lord.
I don’t feel like standing toady.
I don’t feel very strong today.
I am tired Jesus.
I am weary.

Come lift me up.
I know I don’t walk alone
But sometimes it feels like it.
Be near….I pray.
amen

For all hurting right now, our church is offering a Longest Night Service on the actual, longest night of the year Dec 21.  This service is meant to be a place where those nursing great wounds can come and be still before their maker.  Not quite ready to say “oh well life is still good” but still trusting in their Maker.  If you want more info, go here.  May the peace of Christ be with you in these times.  Please pray for the family.  If you are suffering, take hope.  There is a light that holds your life together when it seems impossible.  I am proof to this Light.  If you are in a different place, of joy or peace or provision- please pray for others.  Please be a lifeline and tell others the good news and sit with people in their agony.  Your nearness might be the only goodness someone will experience in their long nights.  Be courageous and love deeply.

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Standing up for those that can’t stand alone

In Christian Ethics,Hurt on November 10, 2011 by scottsund

If you see someone do something bad, do you report it?  Or do you step in and ensure the evil behavior discontinues?  The first is the letter of the law.  The second is the right thing to do.  And it might bring pain or difficulties out in the short term… but in the long term you’ll know you did the right thing.

I’m haunted this week by two news stories that are gaining national attention.  The first is the news of Penn State’s former defensive coordinator who reportedly has raped or molested 8-12 boys over the last nearly 20 years.  All the while he was running a non-profit foundation to reach and help at-risk youth.  From this group he was luring and grooming and eventually molesting and raping his victims.  It’s enough to sicken the most seasoned and caustic of people.

Then in Bellevue, a 2-year-old boy has gone missing while his mother reportedly ran out of gas taking him to the hospital.  The police are now saying the car never ran out of gas and neighbors are saying they haven’t seen the boy in weeks.  The whole story reeks of foul play and the thought of having a Casey Anthony like investigation or trial in the PNW is a possibility.

The new outlets roll.  Stories flash.  News is made.  And all the while, the children grieve.  The victims of the stinking events aren’t even part of the headlines.  We want desperately to focus on the perpetrators and excommunicate the evil from among us.  But these little lives have been victimized or in the case of the boy in Bellevue, perhaps worst has been done.  My heart grieves and aches for the children who have crimes committed against them.  It sickens me.  And it in a small way teaches me of what our Father God must feel like every time His children are sinned against and hurt and victimized.  It must break His heart.

This last Sunday I preached on the value of community and urged people to read the book of Acts as a story of connections.  The gospel gained and spread as people lived out their faith together.  Faith isn’t a vertical thing between us and God alone- faith is lived out horizontally.  As a country we hungry to be alone and be rugged individualists- and yet we were created to be together in community.  It is in our DNA.  It is a natural fact that of all animals in the world, humans are the most susceptible and needy as infants.  We want to be alone, and yet God created us to need others to even stay alive in the early years of our life.

Of our inter-connectedness, one scholar wrote, “One thing all human beings share in common is that they are born into families.  Even where parents die shortly after the baby’s birth, the remaining natural relatives, a foster family or the fictive family of a state institution will surround the infant, or else the infant will not survive.  Unlike many creatures, who need merely to procreate, we need to nurture our young or else they-and with them, our species- will die.” (David DeSilva)  In short, we need others for survival.  And when people prey on young people, they are breaking the most natural of our codes.  They violate people in the most unnatural way.  They violate those they have been created to protect.

The world is a rotten place at times.  Capable of such heart breaking beauty and hope and joy and yet containing a dark underbelly of decay and demise that people victimize the most helpless and defenseless from among us.  It’s enough to break our hearts.  I have days when I’m so full of joy and beauty and I think that God must be in love with all the goodness I see.  Then there are other days when my heart is sunken and sad and I am face to face with what “fallen nature” really means.

There were people who saw or heard of the coach’s actions and reported them and waited for the authorities to do something.  But they never did something to stop the evil themselves.  It is easy to cast stones but instead today I am haunted by the image in the mirror- am I always willing to take the hard and painful route of acting in justice for people who are being wronged?

Father be with the victims.  Help restore and bring new life to their hurting hearts.  And in WA may this little boy still be alive…somewhere.  God help Him and be near to him.  Jesus give us your life and your love to step in and be agents of change amidst the darkness.  Give us the courage to speak up when we see people being victimized and risk our own fortunes or time or reputations to do the right thing and intervene when others are being hurt.  Let us be like You, Father God, willing to sacrifice everything to live out our call from God.