February 14, 2023
Pray Without Ceasing: A Response to Loss
January 18, 2022 | Megan Schemenauer
My stepfather passed away December 24, 2021. Four days, three kids, four dogs, and a grieving widow later, things were starting to feel a bit stressful in the Schemenauer household. We were all tired, depleted, and on edge. Then came the invasion.
Somewhere in the depths of our Christmas tree, unbeknownst to us, a tiny praying mantis egg must have hatched. Because as I was folding probably the tenth load of laundry for the week, I looked up at my walls to find them covered by dozens of baby praying mantises. Nymphs, my smartie of a daughter called them. I didn’t care what they were called; I was getting them out of my house that instant.
The pine bough-covered mantle was disassembled. Our beautiful Christmas tree was next to go. And as I stood on a chair using the extension wand of our vacuum cleaner to suck baby praying mantises off the ceiling, a thought occurred to me: pray without ceasing. It is a message I’m sure my stepfather, a faithful Christian, would have wanted me to remember. As I climbed off the chair and began to vacuum the floor, I couldn’t shake the thought: pray without ceasing. This infestation could have been any kind of insect: ants, bees, roaches, spiders , but it wasn’t. It was praying mantises. An instant reminder to pray without ceasing. As I continued to pull furniture away from walls, I pondered this message, as if the reminder had come directly from my stepfather. And I realized several things in the midst of our loss:
1. We are not alone. This reminder that God is always with us came early and often, starting with the verse my daughter pulled at random from the verse cards on our dining room table: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
While none of us would have wished for this loss, especially at Christmastime, I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God was with us the entire time. He was the One Who woke me in the middle of the night right after my stepfather passed, just in time to see my mom calling my silenced phone. He was the one Who gave me strength to get through a day of burial arrangements when I’ve never lost a loved one in my life. God never left our side; He walked with us every step of the way. According to Hebrews 13:5, “God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
2. God never gives us more than we can handle. It sounds like a trite aphorism, especially in a time of pain, but it has a Biblical base. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Like us, Jesus experienced human emotion on earth:
- He was angry (John 2:13-17).
- He was hungry (Luke 4:2).
- He was tempted to sin (Luke 4:1-13).
- He cried over the death of a friend (John 11:35-36).
Hebrews 4:15-16 encourages. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” God is the Source of our strength, even in our time of weakness. Especially in our time of weakness.
3. We are still here for a reason. In a season of grief, it can be easy to lose perspective. Our focus can shift from building for the future to simply surviving through today. We may even experience the desire to join the deceased loved one in death. We long for an end to the pain, the loss. But we are still here.
We have been left behind for a reason. This realization struck me when I was standing beside the burial site for my stepfather as I read from 1 Corinthians 15. After rejoicing in the part of the verse that states, “Death is swallowed up in victory,” I noticed that this chapter of victory over death does not end there. The last verse actually wraps up with an encouragement to those still living: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (NKJV).
There is still work for us to do here, opportunities to serve, to witness. And that’s why we remain. To be the hands and feet and voice of the Savior in a world that’s dying for the truth and light of the Gospel.
In the midst of loss, though, sometimes these truths can be hard to remember. That’s when the message of the mantis comes in: pray. Pray without ceasing. When you are grieving, pray. When your anger flares up, pray. When you feel utterly alone, pray. When you are uncertain about your next step, pray. Pray without ceasing. He hears you. He cares for you. He is always by your side. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
Potential Next Step: Losing a spouse, child, family member, or friend can be devastating. You may be filled with emotions and questions you’ve never experienced before and may even wonder if what you are going through is “normal.” This GriefShare group will help you to face these challenges and move toward rebuilding your life.
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