A Time of Learning

Wednesday, July 16

7-16By John Rawson of Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.

—Psalm 34:17–18 NRSV

The eight months following my wife’s death were a time of “learning” for me; learning I would rather not have had to endure without Margaret. During this time, I felt deep doubt, insecurity, and an aloneness that is indescribable. I was surrounded by love. I saw it in the eyes of my friends and my family. I felt it in the warmth of their hands and the hugs I received. But, that loneliness had a life of its own.

Margaret and I shared everything. We had no secrets from each other. If we were preparing for ministry in any form we would always talk to each other first about “what does this theme mean to you?” Then we would go away and prepare. Now I no longer had this certainty, this security, with me.

I was in a low state of mind and physically unwell. This condition stretched my emotions beyond anything I had known. Then in the wee hours of morning, a song awakened me. In my mind I heard an old hymn by Fanny Crosby, “God Will Take Care of You.” One stanza tells us, “God will take care of you, be not afraid; He is your safeguard thro’ sunshine and shade: Tenderly watching and keeping his own, He will not leave you to wander alone.”

I sang the whole hymn through, “word perfect,” as though I had the hymnbook open in front of me. I had not sung this hymn, heard it, or thought of it in over 50 years. I do not believe this hymn just happened into my mind. I firmly believe it was a blessing of God’s presence. It serves as a reminder that no matter what we endure, God is there before us. God’s Spirit is waiting for us with rich blessing.

The same moment I was experiencing this, I became aware this message of hope is also for another family of friends. They are on a journey no parent should have to endure. They watch as a much-loved daughter dies of the ravages of cancer.

This message of hope is not for me or my friends only. It is for all who have need. God will be with you, be not afraid.

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, hold us in your healing light. Fill us with your healing peace.

Spiritual Practice: An Offering of Ashes God promises healing for our wounds and losses. Hold (or imagine holding) a pinch of ashes in your hands as you become aware of relationships and events in your life, family, congregation, and world that are broken, lost, or falling apart. Be honest with God about the fear, sadness, or burden you feel. Offer the ashes to God in prayer. Ask God to create beauty, peace, and healing in the places and people who now experience the ashes of despair and grief.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will listen for a crushed spirit and share your hope and peace.

Leave a comment


  1. Dorcas Wilkinson

     /  16 July 2014

    Thank you, John for sharing your journey through the pain, until you found something sweet in your soul that spoke gently to you.

  2. Norma Murphy

     /  16 July 2014

    Your story of the pain of loss is similar to mine – it comforts me to know the bond of this human experience. No one could have prepared me for the journey I was to take without my beloved husband; we shared everything, especially in ministry to God’s people. Immediately, I recognized the comfort of God’s spirit through friends and church family who enfolded me with love and assistance through the darkest days of my grief. The lines of HS #58 has helped me understand God’s great love for all: “God’s love assures us through the unknown, God’s grace sustains us, we’re not alone.”

  3. Vera Entwistle

     /  16 July 2014

    Good morning John, Greetings from Oregon, USA. Your story reminded me of the team that you and Margaret were, and I cannot imagine what such a separation would have meant for you. Love and blessings to you from Brian and from me.

  4. Gladys Geis

     /  16 July 2014

    Thanks much for your testimony. I know God is always near and ready to bless us. Praise His Name.

  5. Time of Learning struck a cord in my memory because I recently lost my husband of 48 years due to cancer. I’m learning to be on my own and it’s hard but God is by my side and blesses me daily and at times get afraid but them comes the calming spirit. Then songs come into my mind and I sing the words. When I read this post realized I’m not alone in my grief.

  6. Carol Norris Vincent

     /  16 July 2014

    Thank you so much for this wonderful reminder. Twelve years ago as I was leaving the hospital late at night ,yet another time after being with my husband who was dying of cancer, I turned on the radio and that wonderful, assuring hymn by Fanny Crosby was miraculously being sung. I knew then that God was with me and my husband and is with all of us who are in need of comfort and peace.


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