Category Archives: Grief & Loss

Accepting Help

It is much more comfortable to be the one giving help.  Accepting help is against our grain in several instances.  If one is the serving type and loves to make everyone else feel welcome – then accepting help can be hard.  If one is a leader type and feels a weight of responsibility than being the one who needs help doesn’t feel quite right.  And again, if we tend to be independent, then, help means dependence.  There are many instances where we can find ourselves resisting the love and concern of others through practical acts of care they want to do to help us.

While Christianity causes us to be “givers” instead of “takers,” there is a time and season for many things in life.  We are commanded to work hard and to be self-sacrificing.  But sometimes it is our turn to humbly accept help.  Humility is a Christ-like characteristic.

Elijah was a mighty prophet.  God worked through him tremendously.  Elijah stood against 450 false prophets of Baal and challenged them to a “bake-off.”  Really, it was about Elijah offering a sacrifice to the one and only true God and proving to the whole community that the worship of Baal was idol worship. The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob was not pleased with the worship of other gods.  The results were amazing.  Then Elijah prayed for much-needed rain, and it poured.  Not only did God dramatically answer his prayer, Elijah ran a race with a chariot and won!  Talk about a spiritual high!  In all these events Elijah was a spiritual leader.

English: Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the W...

English: Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the Widow of Zarephath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then it happened.  The evil woman Jezebel threatened Elijah, and Elijah freaked out.  Elijah fled for his life.  In a short amount of time he found himself alone, exhausted and depressed.  He asked God to take his life.

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Na...

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elijah needed help.

The rest of the story is recorded in I Kings 19, but in short, Elijah needed some physical things to help him regain his emotional stability, his mental equilibrium, and strengthen his faith.  Elijah was encouraged to sleep, eat, drink water and sleep some more.  Then he went to be alone with God and pray.

Elijah in the wilderness, by Washington Allston

Elijah in the wilderness, by Washington Allston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elijah’s healthy perspective returned.

We all need help sometimes.  Followers of Christ are united into what the Bible describes as “the body of Christ,” meaning that although we all work in different ways, we are all important and needed.  Like a physical body, some parts are more prominent, but each has a function that is vital to the health of the whole body.  We help each other.  No matter what part of that “body” we play, in some season of life we will need to help of others and we do well to accept that help.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

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Filed under Crisis, Depression, Fear & Anxiety, Grief & Loss

The Class You Don’t Want to Take

As I paint in my artist studio I try to listen to uplifting music or messages from preachers and speakers I respect and from whom I am eager to learn.  Today, while I was working on a painting of a wedding portrait with a stained glass background, I took in a session of Beth Moore‘s Jesus the One and Only that was filmed in Israel.  Beth’s messages resonate with me because of her knowledge, the way she connects in a personal way with her audience, her humble nature and sense of humor.  She is a terrific communicator but does not water down the message to try to make it popular.  But popular, she is – and for good reason.

Today Beth talked about losing a following with an important person in her life because she wasn’t as funny as she used to be and did not shrink back from tough issues.  Life is difficult  and a lot of people are hurting.  I caught myself saying “amen” out loud several times as the video rolled on.

We live in a culture that loves to be entertained and we financially reward those who help us escape mentally for awhile be it through sports, films, or with popular music.  Nothing wrong with those things, but those who are hurting still need someone real with a sensitive ear to listen, some hope from the reality of faith in Christ and encouragement from the Scriptures.

Day 442: Precious

Day 442: Precious (Photo credit: amanky)

Jesus with little one

Jesus with little one (Photo credit: freestone)

God equips normal every day people for this task of listening, hope-giving and encouragement and His school for such ministry is called The Academy of Suffering and Sorrow.  Wouldn’t you know it, no one intentionally signs up for one of those classes.  But once they are in the academy something wonderful can happen.  The suffering and sorrow is not the wonderful part.  But those who have been trained by such are able to lend a hand, an ear and a heart to a hurting world and let others know that God is going to get them through this difficult time.  These academy graduates know because God was faithful to them in their time of need.  Their resolve was strengthened, their belief became more than intellectual and their faith made real.   Now their outlook is deeper and they can handle bigger punches from life, their attitude brighter and they are full of hope.  God can mould us by His “thundering velvet hand” and make us sweeter for the encounter.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.    II Corinthians 1:3-4

 

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Filed under Grief & Loss, Suffering

What We Don’t Want to Talk About

The hearts of those who know of Pastor Rick Warren’s ministry in Southern California ache for him, his wife Kay, and the family as we learn today of the suicide of his twenty-seven year old son.  Suicide is not a comfortable subject for anyone, but it happens at an alarming rate, and our hearts break for those left to deal with the “whys, “if onlys,” and “what could I have done?”  Here are a few things I have learned in my time as a church counselor to minister to families that are hurting in this way.

  • It is never a time to throw stones.  In the aftermath it is common to try to access blame.  The grief and loss are bad enough.  It is not a time to point fingers, it is a time to simply grieve and have compassion for one another.  Ultimately the act was something within that person and he or she, as hard as it is to accept, is responsible.
  • It is a time to be gentle.  The Bible’s admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” is most applicable at this time.  Creating a climate where the person who is left can express their feelings is helpful.  It’s not a time to tell someone how to feel, it is a time to listen.  Or perhaps it is simply a time to quietly weep with that person.  Tears say a lot.
  • No one and no family is immune to some of the most difficult things life can throw our way.  People in ministry hurt and grieve and feel the same feelings as everyone else.  Make no judgments on the family.  If our family has not experienced something terrible, it is simply by the grace of God, and we should humbly be thankful and not think for one moment that tragedy could not happen to us.  We are all human, we all struggle.
  • Encourage the survivor to find avenues of support, and stay involved in their life.  Simple phone calls mean a lot.
  • Offer to pray with the individual.  Pray asking for God’s comfort and peace within this most difficult chapter of life.  Gently acknowledge that our compassionate God was also a suffering Savior and intimately knows what it is like to hurt, and experience intense pain and grief.  He cares in ways we cannot fathom.

Dr. Norman H. Wright shares a poem by Iris Bolton written in 1981.  It is from the book, Crisis & Trauma Counseling.

I don’t know why…
I’ll never know why…
I don’t have to know why…
I don’t like it…
I don’t have to like it…

What I do have to do is make a choice
about my living
What I do want to do is accept it and to
on living.
The choice is mine.

I can go on living, valuing every moment
in a way I never did before,
Or I can be destroyed by it and, in turn,
destroy others.
I thought I was immortal, that my
children and my family were also,
That tragedy happened only to others…
But I know now that life is tenuous and valuable.

And I choose to go on living, making
The most of the time I have,
And valuing my family and friends in a
way I never experienced before.

 

May Our God, Our Great Physician heal the broken hearts of those left behind who hurt and grieve.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Grief & Loss, Suicide

The Strength of a Broken Heart

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ – His power of life over death.  That is truly good news in a world where death is a part of life and people we know and love are hurting from great losses.  That is reality.  Ruth Graham, daughter of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham wrote a book called In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart.  We never know in our casual encounters with people how someone might be shouldering great hurt or loss underneath that smiling exterior.  Broken hearts abound.

As a former church counselor, I can look out over an Easter service of 1,000 and be very cognizant of the many broken hearts represented.  Many have been in my office as we have talked, listened, prayed, searched the Bible for direction and cried together.  How do we deal adequately with our broken hearts?

Tim Grissom, co-author of Seeking Him, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, shares how his wife Janiece was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Laternal Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  When she died at age forty-one she left a grieving husband and four heart-broken children.  He describes the “earthly reality” of their circumstances as: painful, dreadful, overwhelming.   At the same time Grissom recognized a “heavenly reality” that gave them hope.  The awareness of God’s presence through this tumultuous time both “covered” and “carried” them.  He describes that during this time “He was escorting us through the grief and protecting us from being mortally wounded by it.”  Grief, with hope.

What gives hope to our broken hearts is that God is accomplishing something through our time of grief and loss if we will but allow Him to keep our hearts soft, and not becoming bitter, in the process.  A broken heart is a heart that swells with compassion.  A broken heart can attempt great things here on planet earth being driven by an inner push to help someone else so that they will not have to suffer in the same way.  A broken heart has the opportunity to be strong for others and giving hope in seemingly hopeless situations.  A broken heart can share the love of Christ like no other, for it by our suffering we enter in to an intimate communion with Christ.

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude He had, and be ready to suffer, too.  For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.  You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.  I Peter 4:1-2 (NLT)

Suffering can purify, can clarify our callings and cause us to run our race with endurance, giving us great confidence to perform the work for which He has called us.  Is your heart being broken?  Then know that God has great purpose and plans ahead.

 

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Filed under Broken Dreams, Grief & Loss

Accepting Changes in the Seasons of Life

What time is it?  How would you label this season of your life?

When I was on staff at a large church one of the many aspects to my work was to interview people who had taken a “Spiritual Gifts” class to see their best fit for service in ministry.  Spiritual gifts fascinate me and I was continually in awe of how the God of the universe would create such unique individuals each with a one-of-a kind mix of life experiences, gifts, talents and heart for serving others.

One of the questions I would ask had to do with how one approaches life in terms of either being spontaneous or rather structured – consistent and preferring routines.  I would be the latter being a ‘creature of routine’ and having some form of equilibrium in the consistency of how I approach life.  For those of you like me, change is probably especially against our grain.  But I am reminded of this amazing section of Scripture and the profound truth in each statement:

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under hearven.
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Are you feeling a bit unsettled by some recent changes?  There is a breath of fresh air in knowing that God designs our life with seasons and they are different – and that is o.k.  We would always prefer the seasons of laughter and dancing to the times of crying and grieving, but they are all components of a healthy life.  I believe that one can laugh with greater veracity and dance joyfully with all out abandonment having traveled through times of heart-rendering grief with tear-stained pillows.  Knowing the depths of sorrow gives release to the times of happiness.

Recently I shared this portion of Scripture as we buried a friend.  Hers was a long good life and she knew the Lord personally – there was peace about her eternal security.  Yet, with the release of everyone we love there is that grief, albeit with hope, until we reach heaven ourselves.  There the seasons will change.  When we reach heaven there is something new in store:

Look, God’s home in now among His people.  God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.

Revelation 21:3b-4

This is a great hope to which we can look forward.  Until then we learn to accept the seasons of change.  Ultimately, as believers we can look forward to that eternal party, where the ebb and flow of seasons melt into rapturous times of joy.  There is hope ahead for the one who has placed his or her faith in Christ.

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