Thursday, June 11, 2015

Finding Joy in Times of Trial

                Everyone, at some point in life, has experienced some sort of trial, tribulation, difficult circumstance, or affliction. No matter what you call it... a trial, as I will refer to it, can come in many ways. We can be tried in the areas of finances, health, material possessions, and many other ways. Often when trials come, we find ourselves fretting, worrying, overwhelmed…all out of sorts. Sometimes frustration and even anger results in us from our trials.

                 I am going through such a time as I write.  I  have noticed my reaction to it has not been the same as David’s. David was known as a man after God’s own heart. He was a godly man who meditated in the Scriptures regularly. He often found himself in the midst of trials. In Psalm 119:71 he said…

Psalm 119:71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted;

            I don’t ever remember saying that it was good for me that I am going through a trial. Why not? How could David say as much? What did he know that I don’t?  What about the Apostle James, the half brother of Jesus Christ, who wrote in James 1:2… My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations? Then there is the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans who writes…“we glory in tribulations also”, and of course the Apostle Peter who encourages those going through fiery trials to rejoice. How did these men find joy in the midst of their tribulations? How could they encourage others do so? How can we have joy in our tribulations?

                I’m glad you asked! The answer is in the Word of God. God preserved for us His Holy Word for a purpose…

Romans 15:4  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through
                       patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

                One purpose that God preserved His Word for us is that we may learn from it. What can we learn from the word of God?

                First we learn there is no escaping trials and tribulations…

 John 16:33 These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have
                   tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivers them out of them all.

            We who are the children of God, who have been saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, will have trials and tribulations. That is why Peter tells us not to think it’s strange when we find ourselves in a trial…

1 Peter 4:12  Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange
                    thing happened to you:

                We are going to have trials. Aren’t you glad that is not where the Word of God leaves off?! Yes we shall have tribulation, but we can be of good cheer because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has overcome the world. As if that wasn’t enough to cheer a Christian in the midst of a trial, David tells us that the Lord delivers them out of them all.
               Not only has Christ overcome the world, but He also delivers His children out of every trial they go through. I guess you could say that the Second thing we learn from the word of God is the One who overcame the world is the One who delivers us out of our trials. What does that do to your heart? Do you feel a little rejoicing coming on?

                The Lord has many purposes for the trials we go through. Sometimes it may be to chasten us for our disobedience.

Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

                We can be joyful in this type of trial knowing that we are His and that He chastens us for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness. What does that do for your heart?!

                The purpose of every trial is not to chasten us. At other times we are tried because it just may be the only way we will truly learn the word of God.

Psalm 119:71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

                We can read the word of God all day long and even memorize it, but we may never truly understand God’s heart in it until we go through a trial and experience Him through it. We can read that the LORD delivers them out of them all, in reference to trials, but until we go through a trial and experience God delivering us from one, we will not fully understand that verse.

            Another purpose God has for our trial is to strengthen our faith. I need not take you there, but remember Abraham and how God told him to sacrifice Isaac the promised son. That was a test or a trial to show Abraham that his faith in the Lord was strong. God already knew what Abraham would do. Abraham didn’t know. Abraham may have been remembering all the times he didn’t trust God (told everyone his wife was his sister, tried to help God by having Ishmael.) and maybe he wondered how strong his faith was. Through this trial Abraham’s faith in the Lord was strengthened (Genesis 22:9-12 / Hebrews 11:17-19).

            God revealed something else to us about trials as the Holy Spirit inspired James, Peter and Paul to write letters to the persecuted Christians who had been scattered throughout the Roman Empire. James writes…

James 1:1-4
1  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,
2  My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3  Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire lacking nothing.

                God reveals that another purpose He has for the trials we go through is to produce patience. That word patience could also be thought of as endurance.

       The writer of Hebrews in Chapter 12:1 likens this life to a race. He tells us to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily beset us and let us run…how are we to run the race that is set before us? We are to run it with patience or endurance. How will our endurance be built up? It is built up through the trials we go through. James tells us in chapter 1 and verse 4 to let patience have her perfect work. Let endurance have its maturing work.
       I have noticed in preparing to run a 10K race, it takes endurance. Endurance is something that has to be built up and the only way to do that is to run. Trainers and coaches know what it takes to get a runner ready to run a race in a certain amount of time. Each workout is a trial. The trainer pushes his runner in every workout. Some workouts are more strenuous than others, but each one is designed with the intent of building endurance and making the runner faster.

       In a way I see our Lord as doing the same thing for us spiritually as He takes us through the trials we face. He is building our endurance for the future. Paul the Apostle agrees as seen in his letter to the church at Rome.

 Romans 5:3-5
3  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost
    which is given unto us.

            Paul knew that trials produce endurance and the endurance produces experience and experience produces hope and hope maketh not ashamed.

                I used to run a lot and train for races. At the end of my training for a 10K I was running 10 mile runs on my high mileage days. All that training (trials) produced endurance. That endurance produced experience. I knew that I can run the distance necessary to complete the 10K race which is 6.2 miles. The experience produced hope. Daniel Webster says that "hope" is the desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable. Hope differs from wish and desire in this...hope implies some expectation of obtaining the good desired, or the possibility of possessing it. Hope therefore always gives pleasure or joy; whereas wish and desire may produce or be accompanied with pain and anxiety.
            I could wish all day long I could run a 10K and never get off the couch. I will never run it. I could desire to run a 10K in under 50 minutes and yet never properly train for it. I would always wonder will I be able to do it? There is the anxiety and doubt. But when I have been properly trained and have endurance and the experience of running the distance, I have the hope or the excited expectation of obtaining it. I believed that running a 10K in under 50 minutes was obtainable to me. How much more true is this principle in our spiritual lives?

                Another purpose God has for a trial is to cause us to realize our frailty and cry out to Him. All of the men I have mentioned were mighty men of God and yet they were men of like passions as we are. They had that sin nature to deal with just as we do. Most trials reveal to us our weaknesses. Most often they involve circumstances that we have no control over. In them we see our need of God.

                As I said earlier, David was a man after God’s own heart, the apple of God’s eye and still he often found himself in dire straits. In many of the Psalms he wrote, he cried out to God in desperation. He was cast down in spirit. He was depressed. Though his trials or circumstances had him down, notice what he did…He cried out to the Lord.

Psalm 34:15  The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

Psalm 61:1-2
1  Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
2  From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart it overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is
    higher than I.          

Psalm 4:1  HEAR me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress;
                  have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.  
                The Third thing we have learned from the word of God concerning trials is that God has a purpose in them. He uses them to chasten us, to teach us the Word of God, to strengthen our faith…just as a muscle that is not exercised will grow weak, faith that is not exercised will grow week. He uses trials to build endurance in us so that we persevere to the end…so we finish the race that has been set before us. Finally, God uses trials at times to drive us to cry out to him.

       Our Lord knows how to train us and prepare us for what lies ahead. Trials aren't necessarily "fun" to go through. Just like training for a race isn't fun at the time. The same is true when we go through our trials. At the time it's no fun, our trials may even seem to last forever, but when the future becomes the present we will have endurance to be able to run the race.

       As we go through trials, think of them as our training runs. The Lord is training us in order to build our endurance. He is giving us experience as we go through our trials and that experience will result in our hope in Him. When we are in the middle of our next trial we will have that excited expectation of obtaining more Christ-likeness. Like David in Psalm 42, we will say "O God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember Thee." We will remember previous trials and how the Lord brought us through He showed Himself strong on our behalf and we will say as he did... "Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance."
       What does that do for your heart? Once you’ve been through a trial and look back at it, the trial didn't seem so hard after all. Paul, who suffered many things for Christ’s sake counted his sufferings as light afflictions.

2 Corinthians 4:17  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding an
                                eternal weight of glory;

                We can only see our afflictions as being light when we view them with God’s purposes in mind. When we next go through a trial may we consider it in the light of Romans 8:28.
Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are the
                       called according to his purpose.
            Trials are not fun to go through, neither are they easy. Yet, we can have joy knowing that Christ overcame the world and is the One who delivers us out of every trial. We can have joy knowing that He loves us and wants us to learn His word. We can have joy knowing that we are His and that He is using our trial to correct us, strengthen us, build our endurance, give us experience, cause us to hope in Him…essential to mold us and shape us into the image of Christ. Finally we can joy knowing with eternity in view, our trials are light afflictions, last but for a moment (compared to eternity), and produce for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
                With these truths and thoughts in mind may we face our next trial with the strong faith Abraham had when asked to sacrifice his son Isaac.

The Realization of Fatherhood

Father’s Day is just around the corner. As a husband and a father, I am held responsible by God for the way in which I behave as a steward of what God has given me. He has given me the responsibility of caring for one of His daughters and five of His little ones. As a steward, I must understand some things.

First, I must realize that I am a man under authority. According to

1 Corinthians 11:3  But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

…I have authority over me. When I was young I had my parents over me and Christ over my parents. When I left my home, I stepped out from under my parent’s authority and now I am directly under the authority of Christ. Before I can be a good husband and father, I must first realize this truth.

Second, these dear souls that have been placed under my care are not mine. They belong to Him. They are His. I am to care for, provide for and direct them…My wife, is to be loved by me as Christ loves the church and our children are to be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As a steward of God, I must do these things.

Where can I go to find instruction as to how I am to carry out my duties as the steward of God? I can go to all scripture. It is God breathed and if profitable for instruction in righteousness.

The Word of God tells us in 1 Timothy 3:16-17 that,

1 Timothy 3:16-17
16  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

As I closed out my reading of the Old Testament this week, I found some instruction tucked away in what some might think to be a strange place…the book of Malachi, an Old Testament prophet. This was written to Israel hundreds of years before Christ was born. How can it be applied to my life today?

Malachi 1:1-5

The first thing I see is that just as Israel was chosen of God, so too was I that the purpose of God according to election might stand… this is reiterated in Romans 9:11-13. Why was I elected unto salvation? Was it because there was something in me that would be of value to Him? Absolutely not! It was simply because it pleased Him to love me and draw me to Himself.

My eyes do see and I can say that the LORD will be magnified in my home…in my family so long as I follow His instructions.

Malachi 1:6-9

In these four verses I see a most important lesson. Just as the priests of Israel were the spiritual leaders of the nation of Israel, so a father is the spiritual leader of his wife and children. Just as God asked the priests of that day where their honor for Him was, so today we who are fathers are asked the same. We must search our hearts. Are we honoring God as our Father and are we showing Him fear or reverence as our master, or do we despise His name? That’s something to think about! What are some signs that indicate we have not been honoring Him?

Are we offering Him our very best, or are we giving Him the left-overs? Am I given to spending the first part of my day in prayer and the reading of God’s word, or is that something I try to fit in to my schedule if I can find the time? Do I give Him the best of my time?

Do I give Him the first of my paycheck? Do I give tithes and offerings of all He has allowed me to earn? Do I teach my family the principle of tithing? Do I give Him the first day of the week? Is attending the worship of God in church important to me? Is it settled in my heart that I will be in the Lord’s house on His day, or is that just one option of many open to me? Do those under my charge see God as being important in my life?

If three out of four Sundays I am taking my family to see the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, some museum, water park, or camping and hiking, then no matter what lip service I pay to Christ, my actions speak louder than my words!

Do I honor God as my Heavenly Father and do I fear Him as my Master? As a Christian…a husband…a father, I must! If I don’t, as the priests of Israel did not in their day, then I must seek God’s forgiveness and beseech Him that He would be gracious to me. Does He play favorites? Will I escape the chastening of God if I lead my family away from Him rather than to Him? No I will not!  Learn this lesson early and learn it well!

Malachi 1:10-14

Here, the LORD is speaking to the priests who have been offering lame, blind, sick animals on the altar. This could be applied to fathers today who are not giving the best of all they are and all they have to Christ. God says He has no pleasure in them and He will not accept anything less than what He requires.

From the rising of the sun until the setting of the same, His name will be great. If a father will not make God’s name great to his children, then He will use other men to make His name great in the eyes of his children. Some fathers have profaned His name because it was a weariness to them. Some have made clear that to them the things of God (reading His word, praying, attending His worship services) are unimportant. They’ve snuffed at the name of the LORD and brought their left-over time and prayers and offerings. Will God accept that?

The father who deceives himself, by convincing himself he has no time to read the word of God, pray, lead his family in the study of the word of God, or take them to a corporate worship service, when in all reality he has a vast amount of time; and offers God the scraps of his left over time…he is cursed. That means God abhors and detests such a one. The man who deceives himself in such a way will not prosper spiritually and neither will his family, and is reminiscent of the luke warm church in Laodicea found in Revelation 3:14-19. Such a one God will spew out of His mouth.

Malachi 2:1-4

You who are the spiritual leaders of your home pay careful attention. This commandment is for you. Listen to what the LORD is saying. Give glory unto the name of the LORD of hosts or He will send a curse upon you; He will cause your blessings to crumble around you. Lay this to heart and purpose to obey it. Those who will not lay this message to heart are cursed already.

The LORD said He would corrupt your seed. I understand this to mean the “seeds” you plant with your words, they will be made corrupt. Remember when Paul wrote…

1 Corinthians 3:6-8
6  I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7  So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that fiveth the increase.
8  Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

If we do not glorify the name of the LORD of hosts, not only will those things we have been blessed with fall apart, but also the seeds we sow will be corrupted. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your children the importance of the things of God, if the life you live bears out that other things are more important than God. Your words will be counted as dung. Your religion will be empty and meaningless and your children will see it.

Malachi 2:5-9

When the Lord saved me, I entered into the New Covenant with Him. His covenant is one of life and peace. My desire is to fear God and eschew evil and be described as Job was by God. I long to have the law of truth in my mouth and have no iniquity found in my lips. I want to walk in peace and equity and turn many, especially my children away from iniquity.

As God has ordained me, the father, to be the spiritual leader of my home, my lips should keep knowledge to the degree that my children will come to me when they have questions concerning the word of God.

That is how every father should be. Unfortunately, many fathers have departed out of the way. Too many fathers have caused their children, as well as others, to stumble and have corrupted the covenant they entered into with God. May it not be so with me and if you are a child of God, may it not be so with you!

Instead, let us understand that our Sovereign God elected us unto salvation for a purpose. That purpose is to glorify Him and raise a generation that loves the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, body and soul. Let us honor Him and reverence Him as we purpose to give Him the best of our sacrifices of prayer, reading His word, and attending to His worship. Let us fear and reverence Him as we strive to keep the law of God in our mouths, walk in peace with Him, and turn others away from iniquity. May we love our wives as Christ loves the church and may we raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.

How many times have we first hand witnessed the mighty works of God, only to fear the very next time we were faced with another impossible circumstance?  It seems as though each time it happens we can hear the Lord Jesus Christ tell us, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" and rise, rebuke the wind and sea and bring about a great calm (Matthew 8:26).

To the best of my knowledge, twice in Scripture our Sovereign God (once through Moses in Exodus 14:13; and once through Jahaziel, a Levite of the sons of Asaph in 2 Chronicles 20:17) told His people to "stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord."

Exodus 14:13-14  And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians who yea have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

2 Chronicles 20:17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you. 

The story behind the words of Moses in Exodus 14 are more familiar to us. We see Moses speaking those words, standing on the edge of the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army pressing in upon them from behind. We know the end result… God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites passed across on dry land, the Egyptian army pursued and was wiped out when God caused the Red Sea to close in upon them. God saved His people!

The story behind the words of Jahaziel are not so well known. I would venture to say that most don't know who Jahaziel was or the circumstances surrounding his words in 2 Chronicles 20:17. 

It would do us well to not only read 2 Chronicles 20, but to meditate on it. It begins with the armies of the Moabites, the Ammonites and others coming against Israel while under the rule of King Jehoshaphat. 

Jehoshaphat was given the bleak report from some of his men that the armies of their enemies were set close by and ready to destroy them. He feared their armies, set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast. All the people of Judah came together to ask help of the LORD…they came to seek the LORD. 

I love the prayer of Jehoshaphat which is recorded in 2 Chronicles 20:5-12. He said, (this is my paraphrase of what he said) Lord God, aren't you God in heaven who rules over all kingdoms of the heathen…and are all powerful so that none can withstand you? If when evil comes upon us and we cry out to you in our affliction, you will hear us and help.

He went on to tell the LORD what He already knew (because He is omniscient), how the armies of Moab and Ammon and Mount Seir had gathered against Israel. He asked God to destroy their enemies because they had no strength to fight against them, neither did they know what to do…but their eyes were on God.

While Jehoshaphat prayed, everyone was standing before the LORD. Then something happened… 

The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel, a Levite of the sons of Asaph and he said…(more paraphrasing on my part) "Listen to me all you of Judah and you who live in Jerusalem, and you king Jehoshaphat, I will tell you what the LORD has said. Do not be afraid or dismayed because of these armies. The battle is not yours. It is God's! Tomorrow go down against them, you will find them by the cliff of Ziz at the end of the brook before the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight this battle. Set yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD. Do not be afraid, the Lord will be with you."

The Bible says they fell before the LORD in worship. Then they stood up and with a loud voice praised the LORD. I assume they sang praises to Him as loudly as they could with joyful hearts.

The next morning, they arose early and King Jehoshaphat told the people, "Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." He then appointed singers unto the Lord who were to sing praises to the beauty of God's holiness as they went out in front of the army. They were so sing, "Praise the LORD; for His mercy endureth forever."

The LORD God fought for Israel destroyed the armies of Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir. Not one soldier of those armies lived. The army of Israel, led by King Jehoshaphat, returned to Jerusalem praising the LORD for He had delivered them. 

I love what verse 29 says!  "The fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel." When God saves His people, their enemies fear Him.

In the end it says the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for God gave him rest round about…and he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD.

My mother is facing cancer again. The LORD has healed her before of cancer, yet it has pleased Him to allow her to get cancer again. Some will say that she was never really healed before, that the cancer was in hiding and has come back… I don't believe that. I believe the LORD completely healed her last time. He delivered her. 

So now she once again faces the armies of stage 4 cancer. Once again the report is bleak. So,  once again we set ourselves to seek the LORD. The LORD our God is in heaven and rules over every one of us. None can withstand Him!  The evil of this cancer has come against her body. We have cried out in her affliction and God will hear our prayer and help her.

She has no strength in and of herself to fight against this cancer and she doesn't know what to do, but her eyes are on the LORD.  I have asked the LORD to destroy her cancer…to heal her body again. It is time to set ourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD. We do not need to be afraid, the LORD is with her. The battle with cancer is not hers…it is God's.

The last time my mother had cancer the Lord took me to Mark 2:1-12. This time He has brought me to 2 Chronicles 20:1-32. Whatever God has chosen, He chose before the foundation of the world and I can't change that. He will accomplish His purpose. He will do all His good pleasure. I have set myself, I am standing still, waiting to see the salvation of the Lord…her physical healing.

To Him be glory, both now and forever more! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Biblical Approach to Dealing with Grief

This past week as I attended the funeral of a member of our church, and watched as grief overtook his family (our dear friends and fellow church members), I was brought back to the day, almost exactly 4 years ago, when our family suffered similar circumstances in the death of my wife's mother.

As I looked around, I saw so many who had experienced grief at some point in their lives. Grief is part of this life. Solomon declares in Ecclesiastes chapter 3…

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:

He goes on to state in verse 4 that there is a time to weep and there is a time to mourn. As we live this life and experience the loss...either the loss of a loved one, the loss of good health, the loss of a job, some other tragedy, or are brought face to face with our sinfulness we will experience grief.

What is Grief?

Grief – intense, deep, and profound sorrow: great sadness, especially as a result of a death, divorce, or other tragic event.

Other words synonymous with grief include sorrow, heartache, anguish, angst, pain, misery, unhappiness…the list goes on and on.

In a desire to better understand grief, I turned to the Word of God to see instances of men and women of God submerged in grief and see biblically how they dealt with it. I used a Strong’s Concordance to look up in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek) words such as grief, grieved, vexed and vexation.

The Hebrew and Greek word meanings contained many different emotions such as anger; displeasure; sadness; sickness; longing; striving; distress; a feeling of being broken, fractured, crushed, shattered, ruined; enraged; bitter. All these emotions are tied to grief.

Grief is like an overpowering, overwhelming, emotional storm that devastates us as we go through it and leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. It leaves us feeling as though our lives have been shattered beyond any possibility of restoration. We feel like Humpty-Dumpty… all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.

In the years since I’ve joined my church, every family, every person has been affected by grief. Grief is an experience like no other. Scripture records many occasions where men and women have gone through these appointed times of grief in both the Old and New Testaments.

Examples noted in Scripture:

Hannah – 1 Samuel 1:1-16

Job - Job 1:1- 3:1

David – 1 Samuel 30:1-6

Peter – Luke 22:54-62

Jesus Christ - Isaiah 53:3

Here is a grief model the experts call the 7 Stages of Grief:

1. SHOCK & DENIAL- You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

2. PAIN & GUILT- As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully. Don’t hide it. Don’t avoid it or seek to escape from it.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Messiah, in Matthew 26:37-42 and Luke 22:39-46, felt the heaviness of grief. He was greatly sorrowed in that He knew exactly what the payment for every sin of everyone of the people given to Him, before the foundation of the world, was…it was the full wrath of Almighty God being poured out on Him and crushing Him for their sins.

Being God, He alone knew what that entailed and He knew it would mean being forsaken of God the Father. Never before had God the Son and God the Father been separated. Jesus Christ said, "if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me," yet, in prayer to God the Father, He said, “nevertheless, not my will be done.” That heaviness, that pain is part of grief.

Not only is pain a part of grief, but you may also experience guilty feelings, remorse or frustration over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase. As you hurt, try to remember that according to Ephesians 1:11, our Lord worketh all things after the counsel of His own will…there’s nothing we could have done or can do right now that will change what God purposed.

3. ANGER & BARGAINING- Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for your on someone else... even on God. Please try to remember Job’s reaction and like him, don’t foolishly accuse God (Job 1:20-22; 2:10-13). As we read this account in Job, too often, we read of the reaction of Job's wife and look upon her as weak person. We have to remember that she too lost every one of her children. She lost her source of income. She watched as her husband's health was taken away. We forget that she reacted exactly as we would have.

This stage of grief is a time for the release of raw bottled up emotion. It is possible that true believer may rail against God, questioning "Why is this happening to me…what have I done to deserve this?" If you do…if you say or think these things, and we are capable of doing so, remember that He knows how frail we are.

Psalm 103:13-14
13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

That word “pitieth” is transalted from a Hebrew word that means to love…love deeply, have mercy on, be compassionate toward, and hold in tender affection.

Though we would never want to rail upon our God, we are frail and it is possible we may do so. He understands…He loves us.

You may not only experience anger, but may also try to bargain in vain with Him for a way out of your despair..."I will do anything you want if only you just bring him back." In 1 Samuel 1:11, we see Hannah bargaining with God to end her grief by giving her a son.

4. "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESS- Just when your friends, who have your best in mind, think you should be getting on with your life...a long period of sad reflection may overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief. Well-meaning friends and family may try to talk you out of this time of deep reflection. Encouragement from others may not be helpful to you during this stage of grieving. During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did or didn't do with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair. During this time you may cry until you can cry no more as David and his men did in 1 Samuel 30:4.

5. THE UPWARD TURN- As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, or to life with the understanding that you or someone close to you has an incurable disease, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly. As you feel that you are able to breath again, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH- As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems. Seek the Lord’s mercy and ask Him to rebuild your life as you carry on without your loved one.

7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE- During this, the final stage in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you may never return to the carefree, untroubled you that existed before this tragedy. Some have said that losing a loved one is like having to live with an amputated arm or leg…you do heal, but you are really never the same. However, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will find a way forward. You will start to look forward to and actually plan for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one, or loss without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.

As we have been speaking about grief, and realizing that not a one of us is exempt from the experience of it, let us look to the inspired word of God for a Biblical approach to working through grief. In my estimation, there is no great thing a grieving soul can do than look to the word of God and see how He, as the Great Shepherd, has lead others through dark times of grief.

A Biblical Approach to working through grief would include…

1. Like Hannah, take your grief, feelings, emotions and pain to the Lord in prayer. (1 Samuel 1:15 She poured out her soul before the LORD.)

2. Remember Psalm 103:13-14… Just as a dad deeply loves, is merciful and compassionate toward, and has tender affection for his own children, so too does God the Father toward those who fear Him. He is compassionate toward us as He knows our frailty.

Hebrews 4:15-16
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

3. Encourage yourself in the Lord your God as David did in 1 Samuel 30:6… verse 6 begins with “And David was greatly distressed” and ends with “but David encouraged (grew strong) himself in the Lord his God.”

4. Finally…put your hope in God as David did when he wrote these words...

Psalm 42:6-11
6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
8 Yet the Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.
9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast Thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
10 As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?
11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted with in? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Brothers and Sisters…grief will come. When it does…and for some of you who are now experiencing it, know that our Messiah, our Kinsman Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to Isaiah 53:3, was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, is sitting at the right hand of God the Father interceding for you. He is touched by your grief. He shares your pain. He will lead you through it as the Good Shepherd always does. He will never leave you. You are never alone…even when you isolate yourself in quiet solitude. He will never forsake you. Find your peace and comfort in Him.

May our God, the God of all comfort (according to 2 Corinthians 1:3-6), over flow you with His grace that is sufficient for you in your time of need.

May He bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.