Friendships can undergo some rocky times when special needs affect our families. I’m blogging about it at Not Alone today!Read More
To say that grief is a sensitive thing is an understatement. And so when people try to enter in with a few words it’s like touching an open wound. And often when people offer words to heal they can unintentionally poke painfully into our open wounds. So many of us are experts at analyzing those words, aren’t we? Why they weren’t helpful or how it was insensitive. The truth is people are often poor comforters (and it’s not just other people, it’s you and me too). Our reaction is to crawl into our shell chanting our theme song, “I am a rock, I am an island.”
Isn’t it interesting then that the Word commands the body of Christ to comfort each other? “May there be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12: 24b-26
Why? God-incarnate (Jesus!) knows from personal experience that people are pretty terrible at easing the pain. He was deserted in the garden, his disciples often missed the point and made their own needs the point. They promised faithfulness and deserted when He most needed comforters. He could have called down angels to minister to him as he approached the cross. But He didn’t.
Jesus was feeling the weight of his grief, it began to cover and weigh heavy on him. “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” John 13:1. Did you hear that? He didn’t withdraw himself because they couldn’t possibly understand. He didn’t hold himself aloof but instead He loved them. to the end. He bent down and washed the dirty dusty feet of the one who would soon betray him. He broke bread and fed His friends and again patiently taught the lessons our human hearts have such a hard time absorbing.
Jesus did not hoard his grief. He sets an example for me, for you who are hurting. Going into a solitary place is good. Laying your needs and confessing before the Father in private is necessary. But if we are believers, we have responsibility to the body to not hoard our grief. Do we grieve the body because we quickly take offense? Do we hold believers at an arm’s length, not willing to risk any more hurt?
We’re quick to isolate our hurts from the body of Christ. We don’t let people enter in–we so desperately don’t want people to slight us, make us hurt more or misunderstand our grief. Maybe it’s not just the wider body of believers. Maybe it’s your husband or your sister. Or that close friend you never call anymore because she just doesn’t “get it”. And the relationship withers and the gospel isn’t breathed and the ground get harder and colder between you.
And that’s where grief enters in and sets itself up as our idol. Do you see it? Rather than obeying God we set place our grief as the cross rather than putting our grief beneath the cross.
And this makes us whither. There is no redeeming power in our grief. There is only restoration and healing in bringing our grief to the cross, only relief in putting our hurting load into His hands. Consistently isolating ourselves from others and reminding people that they “don’t understand” doesn’t allow the body to function properly.
Jesus has a purpose for you being with the body you are with, trust Him with that. Let the Church comfort you. If they are terrible comforters, love them to the end. Tell them what it’s like, pray together, confess your doubts and fears, let them in. Give each other the gospel, tell it to each other, remind one another of the hope you have in Jesus. Let Jesus minister to you through the body of believers.
Who can tell the blessings we miss when we think becoming a “rock” or an “island” will ease our grief. I’ve fallen into this many times. The only remedy is fleeing to the Rock, Jesus Christ. Trust Him with your grief. Then you will be free to be in community with other believers, together letting the gospel breathe healing into your souls.Read More
*I already said I knew one thing. I need to add to that list (life is a good teacher isn’t it?). If I know one (more) thing, it is that grief can become our god. The next few posts I want to focus on the symptoms and how Jesus can rescue us from this. Join me? Leave comments? I’d love to hear your thoughts.*
Life hurts. Sorrow and pain is real, it cuts us to our core. It makes us cry out to God, it makes us wrestle with the Word, it often makes the rubber of our faith hit the road of our experience. No matter how grounded we’ve been in the faith most of us do a fair amount of smoldering, questioning, groaning and often crying out in anger and disbelief to God (or if not verbally we do it in the slam of the door and the dragging of the feet).
And that’s natural. It always comforts me to read and imagine Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane groaning and pleading with the Father. If Jesus, the giver and author of our faith, struggled and cried out and shrunk back from his circumstances and future why do we expect believers to go through trials with unwavering faith?
In a short amount of time (the same night) Jesus submitted his deep grief and dread to the Father, “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” I’m pretty good at praying “let this cup pass from me” but the latter is more difficult. We want proof that He’s going to work things for good. We want to re-define what good is to God. And then, if the results are favorable then we will submit. And in our pain we cling tightly to the pain instead of to Jesus, we cut ourselves off from Comfort and let our spirit be eaten away by the never-ending bitterness of grief.
Are you holding onto your grief more than Jesus?Read More
Your story. My story. We’re always trying to make it better and fit God in where needed. Instead of letting God write it. Maybe you’re old and you think your story is ending. Maybe you’re in college and you think your story is just starting.
The truth is this life is a chapter, but your story is much longer than this life. Most of us lose sight of that eternal view don’t we? We get all anxious and frustrated at the “wrong-endings” and disappointments in the chapter. “Frequent Flier” status in the ICU wasn’t what I would pick for this chapter of Calvin’s life. Or mine and Darryl’s.
I’m human and fallen and tempted to look only at the temporal. I forget about the fall and think my life should be perfect and why can’t things just go right for a while? I forget about heaven and get lulled into making my life all about me and what I want. I forget about the danger of sin and get so frustrated with the pain in life until I remember it’s custom-ordered from my Father in heaven.
I need this?
It’s hard to swallow when I’m just seeing this short chapter. Faith looks silly (naive, even?) when all I can see is this chapter. And so I busy myself with what my senses long for, rock solid truth that my heart can be set on. I let my hands leaf through pages that have stood the test through the ages. I let me ears soak in good solid preaching and teaching. I let my mouth be filled with praise even when my heart lags behind. I touch and caress the little gifts He’s given of soft hair, pudgy hands and warm little bodies; it reminds me of His goodness as the machines whir keeping a frail body alive.
I thank God this is only the middle. That there is a glorious end for those whose trust is in Jesus. I praise God that even though these days are hard, there WILL be a day when this grief will be foreign. I praise God there will be a day when small too-skinny legs will fatten and jump and run. I praise God for the resurrection.
Pondering Sovereignty, Suffering, and the Promise of Heaven
by Randy Alcorn
Desiring God 2010 National Conference
We can probably all name a person or two that carries bitterness heavily on their frame. But have you ever seen the roots of it in your own heart? I’m blogging about bitterness today at Not Alone. Let’s ask ourselves, are we bitter or comforted?Read More
One thing I loved about being on the mission field was the feeling that I could BREATHE. Really breathe. We were focused on the major points of life, people need the Lord Jesus Christ. They needed to hear about him, they needed to have the Words of Life brought to them, taught, lived out. They needed to hear that the relentless depression they felt in spite of burning more incense and more offerings was a result of not having true light, the light of Jesus, spread in their heart.
It was all the years God had prepared us with countless Sunday school lessons, good books, faithful instruction…all of it hitting the road. Like shaking up a can of paint, full of different colors, and starting to paint. It makes you alive, your faith working in such an evident way. Seeing God working through you and seeing the paint cover stroke after stroke. And realizing you are nothing but a tool in the Master’s hand.
In a strange way I experience the same thing when teaching really intersects my life in crucial and exhausting struggles with Calvin. I feel alive. I can breathe. It’s like a permission slip to put off form and appearances and to care for only the essentials. I don’t care about how I appear or what people think of me; I thirst like I’ve never thirsted before for Christ. For his consolation, for his nearness. And that’s all that matters.
When we were with other missionaries it was vibrant fellowship. Vibrant in the way that we talked about real things, encouraged each other with the Word…it wasn’t perfect by any means but the Gospel united us in a very real and powerful way. We were united usually only by the Gospel, we all came from very different backgrounds.W
It doesn’t matter how well you’re dressed, who sits where, and how well you’ve got it all together. The truth is we’re a bunch of hurting sinners needing fresh manna. Mom and dads hurting from kids who are only in the bench because they have to be there. Or maybe mom and dads sitting together with piles of tension between them. I see elderly people settling into the bench, needing hope the week in as the twilight sets. Or some just sitting in the bench because that’s what they’ve done all their life.
We find consolation in our forms, customs, the way we’ve always done things. But are we breathing? Are we alive? Or are we just filling our bench because that’s what we do. We listen to the sermon, we act a certain way, say the right thing and then file out. CHECK. Duty done. Order and form have their place. But I’m perplexed, when do order and form hinder the gospel?
Do people look at us and want to join? Are we poor representations of the very Hope we represent? Are we alive? Not only on an individual level but on a church level? Do people see real and authentic faith overflowing in our lives, saturating us with real joy and real sorrow? Do I even have good works flowing out? What does Jesus think of us?
Maybe I need to just go with the flow and not challenge the status quo. Maybe I’m the problem, not the status quo, admittedly very possible. Why do I want I want to get back to the mission field when it’s obvious God has called us here? Why do I struggle with our sub-culture and feel like I don’t fit? Is it a personal problem or a sin issue? I’m struggling these days with such questions.