A Stranger With a Friend’s Face

The music of Andrew Peterson has powerfully ministered to me over the past two years. His lyrics deeply resonate within me while continually challenging me to Hope in Christ and cling to the truths of scripture. One lyric that has been in the forefront of my mind this week is found in the second stanza of his song titled Rejoice.

And when the peace turns to danger
The nights are longer than days
And every friend has a stranger’s face
Then deep within the dungeon cell
You have to make a choice

We were at an event recently that brought us together with many long time acquaintances and friends, most of whom we have known for ten to twenty years or more.  As I was standing in the crowd of people this song and specifically the lyric “every friend has a stranger’s face” was repeatedly playing in my mind.

Sorrow washed over me as I felt so deeply disconnected standing in the midst of all the friends interacting together.  I have such fond memories with so many of them and enjoyed seeing them and hearing about their families, but I felt as though there was a chasm between us.

As we made small talk and interacted as though Sarah was still here and life is as it was 3, 10 or 20 years ago, I felt as though I was acting, playing the part of the person I once was.  It was dreadfully hard.

I left the event feeling a fresh weight of sorrow and a profound sense of loneliness that lingered for the next couple of days.  All the while this song continued to repeatedly play in my mind as I lamented the isolating impact of loss and grief.

“Every friend has a stranger’s face.”

In continuing to ponder the shift in those relationships, I gradually came to the realization that it was not they who had changed, it was me.  They are still who they were, but I am not.

I have become a stranger with a friend’s face.

When they see me they see who I was before Sarah was killed, before this exceedingly painful and transforming journey through the valley of the shadow of death began.  Standing at a distance they have no way of knowing the friend they knew in many ways died the day Sarah did.

I realize now that chasm I felt that brought such sorrow to my heart is not between them and me.  The chasm is within me, the expanse between who I was and who I am.  It was simply illuminated by their presence as my longing to be known by them clashed with the realization that I have been rendered unkown.

I desperately wish I was still that same woman, the mom of four precious girls on earth unscathed by the talons of death.  I wish Sarah was here, that she had not been killed, that I could once again hold her, talk with her, touch her and see her grow and be used mightily by the Lord here instead of there.  But like the prompting of Andrew Peterson’s song, I have to make a choice.

I choose to rejoice that even in the moments when I feel completely alone and unknown, Scripture testifies that I am not only intimately known by the God of the universe, but that I am also eternally loved by Him with a perfect and everlasting love.

I choose to rejoice that God is making me anew in the valley of the shadow of death.  I rejoice that through agonizing sorrow He has given me an eternal perspective and a fresh urgency for others to know and understand Him and the Hope available in Him.

I sentimentally miss the innocent joy of the person I was, sheltered from life’s deepest sorrows. But I rejoice in the continually deepening Hope and faith that have been and are being forged through the fierce flames of tribulation and sorrow.

The consuming pain of the past two years is inexpressible, but the grace and provision of our faithful God and Father is equally indescribable.  I rejoice that He has faithfully comforted me and has filled me with longing to comfort others with that same comfort.

I rejoice that through the depths of sorrow He has taught me the value of weeping with those who weep as well as rejoicing with those who rejoice.

I rejoice that I am not who I was.

I also rejoice that I am not yet who I am going to be as He continues His work of sanctifying and transforming me until that glorious day when I finally see Him face to face, and my sweet Sarah with Him.

Come, Lord Jesus.

“I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul,  And You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large place.” Psalm 31:7-8 [NASB] 

 “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,  and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [the] Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which [comes] from God on the basis of faith,  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;  in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  Philippians 3:8-11 [NASB]

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 [NASB]


9 thoughts on “A Stranger With a Friend’s Face

  1. Your ability to put into words the lessons you experience is truly a gift to those who read them. Hope resonates in your writing, and extends into my life as I consider what you describe. Thank you for being a vulnerable instrument in our Fathers hands.

  2. Thank you for sharing these profound words with us. It not only resonates with my soul personally, but truly helps bring me to the realization of what I can do to help others. I am praying for you and your family!

    1. Thanks for reading, Roger. I hope I didn’t leave you believing that I was saying I rejoice in Sarah’s death. Hopefully we’ve interacted enough for you to know I don’t believe that. I rejoice that I will see Sarah again, not that she is gone. It’s interesting how different words or phrases strike us each so differently in the midst of our sorrow. I have a strong internal reaction to all the “choose joy” memes (they often strike me as so flippant), but the word “rejoice” is easier for me, I think because it is specifically used in scripture so much in the midst of sorrow or suffering. Hugs to you as well. ❤

      1. I guess it struck me the wrong way in some aspects. I wrote a blog on my perspective just today I finished it. I’ve read so much on rejoice it’s gotten under my skin. Hugs.

  3. Your messages are so in point for all going through grief. I’m not the person I was, and I do miss her. But your messages give me insight realizing so many of us suffer silently, not that we want to pronounce our pain, but somehow we can share that life is hard, and more of us know that than we realize sometimes

  4. Thank you, Karen, for sharing this. I am praying over you and your family. You are one of the strongest women I know.

  5. I just found your blog and have read a couple of your posts. I enjoy your writing and appreciate your perspective. In this piece I was especially struck by your realization of the shift in relationships – it was not your friends who had changed, it was you. You had become a stranger with a friend’s face. That is such a strong visual that rang true for me as well.

    On my blog I have touched on my pain through the years, but I have not dared to expose all of it. I too have changed, and I have lost people along the way. For me it was a loss of myself first in an abusive relationship that I did not realize was abusive until it became physical, and secondly the loss of people in my life during that time who could not handle the truth. A situation of what they saw as a strong church-going family they saw falling apart with a scandalous affair and divorce. During that time I fought to keep my family together trying to get help for my spouse, seeking Christian guidance, getting counseling myself, etc., but I have come to realize that God knew I needed to be found.

    So the ones who have been there for me have been my family and life-long friends (people who knew me before I married.) And while we all change, hopefully for the better, the person God knows is the same. I am proud of that person today with less friends, but surrounded by the best friends anyone could imagine.

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