Tag Archives: grief

Good Grief (Leviticus: 8-10)

Grief is such a personal experience, isn’t it? Two people in the same home can’t even go through the process in exactly the same way. Psychologists tell us there are healthy ways to grieve, and there are unhealthy ways. But they will also tell you that, even though there seems to be a common progression,  grief is different for every individual, including the period of time a person takes to grieve.

So, is there an acceptable duration of grief? Should a person grieve for a day? A week? A year? A lifetime?

Two of Aaron’s sons died violently on the same day. Yes, they’d sinned. Yes, they’d disobeyed God. Yes, they deserved to die. But these were Aaron’s baby boys.

If you’ve lost anyone suddenly like that you probably relate to Aaron. He had things to do, responsibilities, duties to perform, and Aaron went ahead and did them. But I imagine he was on auto-pilot that day. I imagine his arms felt heavy and his feet were like lead. I imagine he had to force himself to breathe. At least that’s how I felt on June 24, 2012. But Aaron had things that needed to be done, and he did what he had to do.

He just couldn’t force himself to eat. I wonder how long before Aaron could even look at food, how long before he got his appetite back. We don’t know. We just know that the day his sons died, the food sat before him untouched.

And that made Moses really mad. But Moses did something I think is important for us to consider. Moses went to Aaron and listened to him. Moses was angry until he stopped to understand Aaron was grieving. Moses may have misjudged the depth of Aaron’s grief because Aaron was able to get through his duties that day. I mean, Aaron looked like he was handling things. Why wouldn’t he eat? When Moses took the time to talk to his brother, he realized that behind the stoic front, there was a hurting man inside.

Maybe that’s what we should do when someone is grieving. Instead of going to them with answers, we should understand that they won’t grieve the same way we think we would in the same situation. They may be paralyzed by grief a day longer than makes us comfortable. But their grief isn’t about you or me.

Moses listened to Aaron’s heart, and it appears that he understood that Aaron’s grief was real, and deep, and personal. At that point, Moses stopped trying to force his own agenda on his hurting brother.

When someone in our lives is grieving, let’s determine to just listen, to try to understand or at least accept their pain as their pain. Let’s support them and love them, and pray that in God’s timing they will be able to dance again, to laugh and feel real joy again. And let’s pray that some day, they will be blessed by the memories of the one they have lost.

And if you are grieving, grieve. If you are hurting, hurt. But I pray you won’t go through this alone. Find someone willing to let you grieve, someone who will listen to you rant if you need to rant, or cry if you need to cry, or be silent if even the effort of speaking is too great. Grief is a natural thing when we lose someone. Don’t deny yourself those feelings. (I’m talking to you men, too, you know).

But let me encourage you to get out there again when you are able. I think for most of us there is an element of sadness, or grief that stays with us when we experience a loss like that. But eventually that grief doesn’t have to paralyze us. Eventually we find ourselves laughing at silliness again, rejoicing in good times (and there will be good times). We wake up one morning with joy in our hearts, believe it or not. And we get our appetites back, we actually smell the aroma of baking bread, and taste the pizza once again.

Most importantly, let me encourage to you pray. This grief is very personal, and we have a very personal God. I believe He weeps when we weep, that He gives His strength when we have none of our own, and that His joy is available in every and all circumstances.

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

 

January 5; What Is Your Answer?

Job 1-3

Job was the George Bailey of the ancient world. He was “the richest man in town.” Sure, he had wealth. But he was also rich in family, friends, prestige, reputation. He had it all.

And he lost it all.

The book of Job has many lessons for us concerning suffering. Who hasn’t wished at some time or another, that they’d never been born? Life is hard. Loss is painful. And sometimes things happen that we’re convinced we just don’t deserve. Job will have a lot to say about that in the next few days.

But I don’t think suffering is the main theme in this book. If you look at chapter 1, Satan is suggesting that people only worship God when they are blessed by Him; only when the bills are paid, and they get a good report from the doctor. Satan is still suggesting that.

And sadly, we often equate health and wealth with God’s blessings yet today.

Not that God doesn’t sometimes bless us with those things, but I think the main theme in the book of Job is worship. The issue at hand is, “Is God worthy of worshiping even when times are hard and we feel abandoned by Him? Or, is God only worth worshiping on good days?”

You probably know Job’s reaction to the news that his livestock and slaves were gone, and all his children were dead. He heard of one disaster after another, then another, and another. It was too much. He fell to the ground and said these words:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. (1:21, emphasis mine)

In the first throws of unimaginable grief, Job praised the Lord. And we will find that…

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (1:22)

I think the main theme of Job is the question, “Is God worth it?” And that’s the question I’d encourage you to answer for yourself today. Does God deserve your worship regardless of your situation or your feelings? Does He deserve your worship when you aren’t getting the answers you think you need? Do you use worship as a bargaining tool to get what you want?

Friend, the truth of the matter is, God deserves our worship for the simple fact that HE IS.

Job won’t be happy about his situation. Job will ask some hard question of God. Job probably didn’t “feel” like worshiping God in the midst of his pain. But in all this Job will not sin, he will not turn His back on God or deny God. Job will worship God despite his circumstances.

And so should we. Because God is worth it. Do you believe that?

What is your answer?

Job 3-7; Eliphaz

I have to believe Eliphaz meant well. But sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. Here are some things that spoke to me about the exchange between Eliphaz and his friend, Job:

First of all, if you want to encourage someone or support them during hard times, I wouldn’t start out by saying, “Practice what you preach.” Sometimes godly people, people who have encouraged others in the past, need encouragement for themselves. It’s not a sin. It’s life.

Secondly, telling a hurting person they must be guilty of SOMETHING or God wouldn’t be punishing them is a theology straight from hell. This whole, “God wants you to be healthy and successful” lie does as much harm as anything I can think of to keep Christians from a right relationship with God. Satan loves that.

I went to Dr. Wiersbe’s “With the Word” again today and he pointed out something I hadn’t seen before. Eliphaz proceeds to tell Job and anyone within hearing distance about his “encounter” with God. Red flag!

“Avoid those who make their experience the only test of truth.” (p. 285, WTW)

I know Eliphaz didn’t have a Bible on his bedside table. But most of us do. God is not going to speak to anyone any other way than through Scripture. His words are written there. Test everything you hear or read by what is written in the Bible. And I would say, be skeptical when you hear someone tell you God gave them a special message, if it doesn’t come from Scripture.

Lastly, there is something about the exchange between these two friends that makes me sad. Read 6:26-28. Job says, “look at me…”

Look at me. Hear me. Empathize with me. Love me. See me.

Too often we think the person who is hurting needs answers, or direction to fix things. We come up with great sounding words, maybe quote a Bible verse or two, because we want to say the right thing that will relieve their suffering. Good intentions. But…

Job reminds me to stop talking. To take a breath and just look at the person who is hurting. I hate it when someone says to a person who has lost a loved one, “God needed another angel,” or “It was his time,” or even “She’ll always be with you, looking down from heaven,” or with any hardship: “It was God’s will.”

If that’s the only encouragement you have, just be quiet. Sometimes there are no answers. Throwing out meaningless platitudes do nothing to let the hurting person know you are seeing them, really present with them in their agony.

And as I read these chapters today, I realize that is what Job really needed. He needed Eliphaz just to be present with him in his suffering. Sometimes there are no words that can take away someone’s hurt. Maybe it’s not even our place to try.

I’ll look at what Bildad has to teach me tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

Hey, Happy New Year! I pray that 2018 will find you walking with the Lord, being used by Him to lead others to the Savior, and growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus. Be in the Word every day. Pray every day. And expect to see God work mightily when you are obedient. It’s going to be a great year, my friend, as we move ahead as He leads.

 

Genesis 40 How’re You Doing?

I didn’t get very far reading the familiar story of Joseph, the cupbearer, and the baker, when something convicted me. I don’t think I’ve ever really looked at this verse before.

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. (vs 6, emphasis mine).

I know that it’s hard to read people some times. But I have to admit there have been times when I recognized a look of sorrow or worry or grief on a person and looked the other way. Or I say the obligatory “How’re you doing?” and expect to hear the accepted reply, “Fine” and leave it at that.

But Joseph paid attention to how the two men looked. Then, in verse 7:

So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?”

Now here’s what I get from this:

  1. Joseph recognized the dejected look on their faces.
  2. He asked them specifically about it.
  3. He listened to what they had to say.
  4. He spoke honestly with them.

Joseph didn’t just tell them what they wanted to hear. I wonder what would have happened if the baker had heard the warning, confessed his sin, and asked forgiveness. Joseph told him the truth. But the baker did nothing with it. And the baker died just like the dream had predicted.

God is speaking to me today about my relationship with others. Jesus told us to love one another. In fact, He said that was the second greatest commandment. And sometimes loving someone requires us to get involved in their lives, to be a sounding board, or to point out sin in their lives so they can confess it and receive God’s forgiveness.

And God is asking me to pay attention. If I recognize a look on someone’s face that tells me something is up, I need to stop and talk to them, listen to them, and be honest with them according to Scripture.

God, if You want me to relate to people like Joseph related to these two men, I’m going to need You. Give me the ability to read people, and the courage to ask them what’s on their minds if You prompt me to do that. Let me show Your love by truly caring about them. Help me to be an encourager if encouragement is needed. Help me to be a mirror if they need to take a good look at themselves. And help me always to point them to You, and only You.

 

Hey! Don’t Take My Coat!

I had a slow drain in the tub of a mobile home I lived in for a while.  No matter what I tried, it would clog up regularly. So I started a new routine. Every Saturday morning I’d pour baking soda into that drain, then dump a cup of vinegar on it and watch it go to work. It fizzed, and popped, and bubbled while the chemicals reacted to one another. Then, I would pour some boiling water into the drain and listen for it to flow freely.

Solomon tells us, in Proverbs 25:20 that singing a happy song to someone who is sad is like pouring vinegar over baking soda. The reaction is anything but soothing. Telling someone to “cheer up” or to “get over it” doesn’t help a person who is mourning or depressed. In fact, it can cause more grief. It would be like doing your happy dance at a funeral.

Sometimes people need to be sad. And if I am overtly expressing my happiness without considering their feelings, I’m just being mean. Solomon says it’s like taking the coat away from someone standing in the middle of a snowstorm.

As a middle school counselor I learned that sometimes I needed to allow the person sitting in front of me to feel the feelings. Sadness. Anger. Confusion. I had to admit that I didn’t have all the answers, that any tidbit of advice I might throw out there could make matters worse. I learned to ask, even of eleven-year-olds, what it is they thought they needed. Did they want to talk about it? Or did they just want to sit next to me and cry? There would, undoubtedly, come a time when I would direct that person to finding solutions. But sometimes that didn’t happen for quite some time. They needed to feel the feelings first.

Life is hard. Everyone goes through difficult times. Grief is personal. Depression can be a disease. You wouldn’t tell someone to just “get over” cancer, would you?

God is telling me today to choose my words, my attitude toward the people in my life who are facing hardships. Sometimes well intended words are just mean, like exposing someone to freezing weather, or pouring vinegar over baking soda. I want to be sensitive to what it is they are going through at the moment, set myself aside, and allow them to grieve, or rant, or question.

Lord, forgive me when I’m so taken with good things in my life that I walk over someone who is hurting. I don’t do it intentionally. I don’t want to make anyone feel worse than they already feel. Help me to notice the hurt in someone’s eyes or in the sound of their voice. Give me the words to say that will soothe and encourage. Or help me to keep my mouth shut and just be present. More than anything, Lord, I pray that they will be drawn to you as a result of my caring about their feelings.

Job’s Hell On Earth

I am reading the book of Job this week as part of my year long plan. I’ve read Job several times, so as I read his words of anguish, I know his turmoil is temporary. Job’s hell on earth will not last forever.

Job is tormented by his thoughts, his memories, his questions, the “what-ifs”. He can find no comfort; not physically and not in his soul. His groans come from deep inside of him.

If you’ve been with me on this blogging journey for very long, you know that in 2012 we lost my 22 year old nephew in an auto accident. I have experienced death repeated times as we’ve buried grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents. But I had never experienced the level of grief that paralyzed me when I got the horrible news of Geoffrey’s death.

I remember sitting in silence in my parent’s family room. My sisters, their families, my dad. Tears flowed freely, but there were no words that could express what we were going through. There were, however, occasional groans.

I can still hear the sound of Geoff’s parents as that mournful sound escaped from their hearts. Our sister, Kathy, Geoff’s aunt, would groan in such a way you never thought could come from a human. I remember hearing a sorrowful groan, then realizing the sound had come from me. I finally understood the definition of “lament”.

That kind of grief cannot be described. It’s too painful, too personal. The sound of that kind of pain comes involuntarily. It’s like the whistle of a teapot. It just comes on its own as a result of the boiling turmoil deep inside. It’s the sound of true anguish.

Dear One, that’s a portrait of hell. Hell is not a giant bonfire. It is the absence of God, the absence of light, of love, of comfort, of peace, of joy. It’s living inside that teapot where thoughts and memories, the “what-ifs” torment. Forever. Where the only sound heard is that of painful, personal groaning.

Job’s anguish was temporary. Even though I still grieve the loss of my dear nephew, the intensity isn’t the same today as it was on June 24, 2012. But here is what God would say to us today: without  accepting the grace God offers to us sinners through the blood of his Son Jesus, eternity will be living with that grief, that agony, that helplessness FOREVER. No relief, no lessening of the pain, no hope that things will ever get better. And if I think my grief was hard to bear, if Job’s grief was devastating, the grief of those in hell, separated from God will be so much more intense.

I can’t imagine living an eternity of June 24, 2012. And hell will be so much more painful than even that day was.

Hell is nothing to joke about, nothing to take lightly. It’s personal, and painful, and devastating, and ugly, and separated from everything good with no chance of reprieve. The good news is, you can avoid that end.

Jesus died so you and I don’t have to ever experience hell. But you need to meet him on his terms. You need to confess your sins and accept his forgiveness. I promise you, he will be faithful to forgive you, to cleanse you, to live inside of you, and one day, to welcome you into his heavenly home where you will joyfully live…

Forever.

Dear God, Hell is scary. And not the sci-fi kind of scary. It’s real. It’s personal. It’s devastating. Thank you for Jesus, for his willingness to die so that I don’t have to spend one second in that awful place. Life on earth is hard enough, is sad enough. I’d much rather spend eternity in Your presence. I pray for each one who reads these words today. I pray that hearts will be drawn to you, that sins will be confessed, that Your grace will be accepted by anyone who doesn’t already know You. May each of us come to You on Your terms, then look forward to seeing You the day you call us home.

A Grieving Father

My mom died in 1996, but I can still remember how hard it was to watch my father’s grief. He was lost without her. I remember making the 60 mile trip every weekend to be with him, just to sit with him, take a ride in the car with him, watch an old movie with him, just to do what I could to help ease the burden of his grief. It’s not that I wasn’t grieving. I was. But somehow his grief looked different than mine.

When my sister lost her son in an automobile accident, watching her grief was, and is hard. There is a sadness in her smile, a tear in her laughter. And as someone who loves her, her grief breaks my heart. Watching someone you love go through tremendous grief has to effect you, too, doesn’t it?

So when I was reading in Genesis 37 this morning about Jacob’s grief over his son Joseph’s supposed death, I thought of Dad and Peggy. I could almost picture the look on Jacob’s face in the days and weeks following the horrible news because I could picture their look.

Then I found myself getting a little angry at Joseph’s brothers. How could those ten men watch their father’s grief over losing Joseph, when any one of them could have stepped up and told the truth? They had it within their power to relieve Jacob’s grief. And they did nothing. Jacob would have paid any price to buy Joseph’s freedom from slavery. Couldn’t just one of the ten of them care enough for their father to do what could be done to bring their brother back?

Maybe the brothers really did hate Joseph. But didn’t they love their dad?

Then it hit me. My Heavenly Father is grieving over his own lost children. His heart is broken when any of his children deny him, or ignore him. He agonizes over those who have yet to hear of Jesus. Every sin committed against my Heavenly Father is like a knife in the heart.

Couldn’t just one of us who are a part of his household, his family, care enough about our Father to do what can be done to relieve our Father’s grief? God will pay anything… he’s paid with his life… to buy his children out of slavery to sin.

Witnessing to a lost friend isn’t just about that friend. It’s also about our grieving Heavenly Father’s agony over our lost friend. I have to ask myself if I’m ok, knowing my Father grieves, and doing nothing about it. Can I love my Father and still be ok if he is grieving?

We Christians are in the same place Joseph’s brothers were in. We know the truth. Maybe it’s time we stepped up and did something about it.

Dear Heavenly Father, picturing you grieving over unsaved people breaks my heart. I love you. I want to picture you with a smile on your face, not tears streaming down your cheeks. What can I do to bring that smile back? Do you want me to talk to my neighbor today? Do you want me to call that person you’ve laid on my heart? Do you want me to introduce you to the waitress at the restaurant, my hair dresser, my child’s teacher? May I never be ok with the fact that you are grieving. May you find me a faithful daughter, sharing your Truth, and bringing a smile to your face. May I never be satisfied with just saying, I love you. Help me to show you how much I love you today by bringing one of your lost children home.

The Show Must Go On

I remember, when Mom was dying of cancer, I would drive to work with a heavy heart. Most mornings I would cry as I talked to God about Mom. But when I got to the stop light a mile from school, I would dry my tears and take a few deep breaths. And before walking into the office, I’d put my hand on the doorknob, breathe again, put a smile on my face, and pray, “God, let’s do this. I need you to go in there with me today.” I didn’t want to be there. I wanted time with Mom. I wanted to be alone in my grief. But I was a middle school counselor, and I had a job to do.

It was hard. And listening to the familiar complaints of 11-year-olds tested my patience like never before. Suzie took my pencil. Billy made fun of me. Nobody likes me. The teacher yelled at me. Even the: Mom grounded me or worse, didn’t separate me from my own pain.

But I loved my job, loved those children, and it wasn’t their fault my mother was dying.

I realized today Jesus knows exactly how I felt. His cousin, John, was murdered. His heart must have hurt like mine did. And he needed to be alone. He needed time to grieve. So he went off to a remote place to be by himself.

But the crowds followed him. They had needs only Jesus could meet. So Jesus put a smile on his face, and preached, and healed their sick.

Did you know the feeding of the 5,000 from five loaves and 2 fish happened in the midst of Jesus’ grief? (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9) He had compassion on those needy, demanding, insensitive people, even when his own heart was broken.

I know some of you are going through hardships of your own. Sickness, finances, relationships can cause us to live with the burden of grief on our shoulders. Yet that doesn’t stop the “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy”, or “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” demands from your children, or the deadlines your boss gives you at work, or the electric from being turned off for lack of payment. Life goes on even when we want it to just stop for one minute.

Jesus knows what that feels like. Jesus shows us by example that sometimes the show must go on. Sometimes we have to choose to let God pick us up and help us meet our responsibilities even if we don’t feel like it.

But here’s something else Jesus teaches by example. He made time to get alone and pray. (Matthew 14:23) He didn’t go off to “find himself”. He spent time talking to God.

That’s where our society might be wrong. It says we’ve got to be happy before we can make someone else happy. Put yourself first and things will get better.

But doesn’t Jesus teach us something different? Didn’t he take “self” out of the picture? Didn’t he place God first, others second, and himself after that? I’m thinking if it worked for him, it probably will work for us, too.

Pray, dear one. Pour yourself out before God, give him yourself and your circumstances. Ask him to empower you to be who he wants you to be in the midst of your pain. Bathe yourself in prayer, then trust God to be exactly what you need him to be. Yes, the show must go on. But you don’t have to go on solo. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you have someone who has been there, to guide you, to strengthen you, and to love you like no one else can.

If we take the world’s advise and concentrate on ourselves, we are concentrating on the wrong person. Concentrate on God. Notice the opportunities he gives you to minister to someone else. Take him up on his offer to never leave or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5-8)

Is that a recipe for a trouble-free life? What do you think?

It is, however, a recipe proven by Jesus himself, to be exactly what we need to face the worse life hands us. And to be victors. And to let others see Jesus in us.

God, I pray for grieving people today. Some have burdens that are breaking them. Father, I pray they will come to you and lay that burden down. Give them strength. Give them purpose. Help them to look to you instead of looking within themselves. And may they find peace from allowing you to be exactly what they need to get through today. May they feel your love right this minute. And may Jesus be seen in and through them as they walk through this storm.

If I were you…

Have you ever given or been given advice that begins with, “If I were you…”? How was that advice received? The thing is, grief, anxiety, worry, suffering, whatever the problem – it is personal. I can try to put myself in your shoes but my frame of reference is me. The only way I can really know what you are going through is to become you. Me in your shoes is still me.

Does that mean we should never give advice? Honestly, unless the hurting person asks for advice that is exactly what I’m saying. But even when asked, we shouldn’t assume anything. We should not assume we know how that person feels or know what they are going through. We should not assume we know why that dear one is suffering. Even if you have experienced similar circumstances you cannot know how they are feeling. You can only know how you felt in your experience.

I am reading the book of Job, a book filled with all kinds of bad advice from friends who really did mean well. But Eliphaz, in Job 5:8, actually does give what I consider some good advice for all of us. He told Job to take it to God. You see, God is the only one who really knows what you are going through. He knows how you feel because he reaches into your deepest, darkest places where no one but you can go. 

I guess I would say if you are going through something, go ahead and listen to the advice given by well-meaning friends. You might hear something useful amid all the garbage. But listen with a filter. Then take your problem, maybe even the advice, to God and see what he thinks. Read God’s Word with an open heart. Pray. Thank God for his love even if you feel unloved. Praise him for his blessings even if it’s hard to do. Lay your requests at his feet, then trust him to take care of you.

God promises to give us all we need and he is true to his Word.

 

December 6

Romans 8:18-11:10

My nephew, Geoff, would have been 24 today had he not lost control of his truck that June Sunday and lost his life. Our family would have gathered at his mom’s house, had cake and sung Happy Birthday. Instead we will gather at his gave and remember.

When I read Paul’s words, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”, and “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”, I believe it. But believing it doesn’t mean I don’t hurt.

I hold on to Romans 8:26&27. The Spirit has helped me in my weakness. There are days when I don’t know how to pray. But the Holy Spirit intercedes for me with groans words cannot express. I love him for that. Talk about someone who has my back.

If God is for me, who can be against me?

In him we are more than conquerors.

These aren’t just words. They are truth and I am living proof. What good can come out of Geoff’s death? Were people drawn to the Savior by watching his family? Are there those whose lives have been changed as they see his grieving mom live out her faith? Did Geoff’s sweet spirit, quick laugh, champion of the underdog, reveal his Savior to everyone who knew him?

I’m not sure. But because I believe God’s Word is true, I believe good has and will continue to come out of even this. My prayer its that you will have the same confidence in every circumstance of your own life. 

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Geoff’s life. I thank you for that quick smile, that hearty laugh, the kindness, compassion, the loyalty that was my nephew. I am so blessed to have been his aunt for those 22 precious years. God, I pray for his mom and dad, his dear sister as they feel his loss most deeply. I pray for cousins, aunts and uncles, his friends, we who are learning to live with broken hearts. I pray that your Holy Spirit will minister to each of us at the point of our need. And may hearts be drawn to you. Thank you for the assurance that Geoff, who knew Jesus as his Savior, is with you today and one day we will see that ornery smile again. May we who know you point others to the Savior as we continue to miss our boy.