A Work of Healing

Have you experienced the death of someone very near and dear to you, whether recently or in months or years ago and the grief seems still as strong as the day they died? Or do you seem to be in a prison of grief that you can’t seem to get out of? For some though there is guilt due to a lack of grief for the loss of a loved one. We all grieve differently and that is normal and ok. We all experience and respond to death in varied ways with varied results and consequences. Some have very delayed experiences of grief. One thing is for sure. We all grieve. And there are consequences due to the way(s) we handle and attempt to deal with our grief. Those consequences can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  Usually we experience a combination of problems and issues in these areas and not just one.

2014 & 2018 were very difficult years as I lost not only three very close companions in ministry but two of my closest and dearest friends Rob Black and Dave Annan. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I came to realize (as my sweet wife knows only too well) that I’m a “stuffer” when it comes to grief.  I want to help others and comfort and assist. But my own grief? It’s so easy to ignore the need to grieve while you are in the midst of comforting others. And so, I went on in the following months and even years not realizing I needed to grieve and do some work in my own life and soul, deep down. But God was gracious, kind and merciful.

Knowing that many in our congregation had experienced much of their own loss as well in the death of loved ones, the Lord put the ministry of GriefShare in my midst. It really resonated with me that this could be a help to many in our congregation who had lost loved ones and were struggling in their grief journey. So, in the fall of 2018 we launched our first GriefShare ministry and the 12 or so of us who were in that first group went down a road together that we’ll never forget. God met us in our grief, new friendships were forged, and God began a real work of healing in each and everyone of us. We cried, we laughed, we learned, we grew, we listened to each other’s stories and we began to heal. We are still healing and many of those in that first group will be there for this next group to continue healing and to be a blessing to others who are where they’ve been. Me included.

God began an amazing work in my own life in that first GriefShare group.  We’d like to invite any of you who are struggling, alone perhaps, to take a step of faith and courage, and join us on Thursday, September 12th @ 6:30pm in room C200 to be part of GriefShare. I promise you won’t regret it. I know the first step is hard but once you take that first step, I don’t think you’ll regret you did.

If you’d like more information on GriefShare click here to learn more and register. We do need you to register so we can make sure and have your personal workbook for you. You can also call me at 336-841-1104 and I’ll be glad to tell you more. I look forward to walking the journey with many of you.

Don’t Save Your Children from Things that Jesus Wouldn’t Save them From

My favorite part of being a Family Pastor at Community Bible Church is when parents trust me enough on their journey to becoming the primary-discipleship maker in the life of their children, to ask for my advice.  It is something I always take seriously and never want to be flippant about the wisdom that I give them – I pray it is wisdom a majority of the time.  I want to point them to Jesus, the good news of the gospel, how to apply that good news, and the Bible. 

There are times that I get questions that my answer actually surprises parents.  Sometimes Biblical wisdom goes against the natural reaction to protect our children that all parents have.  Which is why I say that we have to be careful not to save our children from things that Jesus doesn’t save them from. 

Here are 3 areas that I see parents try to save their children:

1. Rejection

It is back to school time and we all know what that means. School drama. Rejection of some sort. We have all felt the sting of rejection, some more than others.  We remember what it was like to get picked last on the team, or wear the wrong brand of shoes, or simply not fit it.  We have all probably been laughed at by someone we thought was our friend.  Truth is that we all know the sting of rejection.  And when our kids come home from school with that sting of rejection causing a spiritual anaphylactic shock, we too often reach for our emotional epi-pens to try to calm and protect the hearts of our children.  Maybe we try to build our kids up in telling them how great we think they are and how lame we think the other kids are for making fun of them.  But protecting our children from rejection won’t help them.  As Christians we know we will face rejection.  It is promised to us; even more so as the days get darker.  So instead of trying to put a self-esteem bubble around our children, we need to help them learn how to walk through rejection with confidence in the Lord and confidence of his presence. The good news of the gospel assures us of God’s presence in the midst of rejection and that he sees us.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Romans 5:3

2. Sin

Another area that I see parents trying to protect their children from is by minimizing their children’s sin.  This is how I typically hear or see a parent describe it to me:

Parent of a 5-year-old: “My son/daughter has a real hard time when we call them out for something that they have done.  They usually get really sad and sullen and start crying out that they are “So bad. I am so bad, mommy.”

Me: “How do you respond?”

Parent: “I try to comfort my child that what they did was wrong, but it wasn’t that bad and they don’t need to be crushed by it.”

This is where I usually try to tip-toe into a massive truth that we all need to grasp, and it is this:

We are all worse/more bad/more sinful than we realize. 

Now, a child could be communicating this for a couple of reasons.  One is that they actually feel bad about what they’ve done, and they are expressing it.  Or they are trying to manipulate the situation.  They are trying to get you, the parent, to focus more on consoling them and less about their offense.

The truth is this: your children are worse than you think.  They are worse than they think.  So when they are expressing their “badness”, don’t try to make them feel better by minimizing their offense or by protecting them from feeling guilt or shame.  Instead, agree with them about their sin, without any tone of rebuke, and then introduce them once again to the good news of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, of course, saves our children from their own sin.  That is the beauty of the gospel, but he doesn’t save them from understanding their need for the gospel.  He doesn’t shy away from showing us our need for Him comes out of our own rebellion to the Father. We are all bad.  They are actually expressing a biblical truth, one that is fundamental to the gospel.

 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – everyone- to his own way” Isaiah 53:6

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquity, O Lord who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” Psalm 130:3-4

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans5:8

3. Death

Every so often, maybe at the death of a loved one or even the death of a family pet, children may begin to ask about death.  “What does it mean that we die?” “What happened to grandpa?” “Will I die?”

For so much of their life, children live with an invincible view of themselves and the world.  They don’t think about death because it doesn’t enter their mind.  Their life is often too busy or, frankly, self-absorbed to think about death.

At some point, though, children might begin to ask about death and too often parents don’t want their children to worry or be anxious. So, parents will tell them “Don’t worry about that.  You have a long time until you have to worry about death. Grandpa was old and lived a good life.  It was his time.”

But in reality, it is not until our children begin to think deeply about the consequence of being mortal that they can begin to understand the deeper scope of the good news.  Death makes the gospel more real, even to a child.  And besides, none of us can promise our children a long life.  That’s not in our power to promise.

Instead, we can give our children a taste of an ever-expanding view of the beauty of the gospel. 

“Daddy, will I die?”

“Yes, son.  You will.  I don’t know when. But it will happen. Does that make you afraid?”

“Yes.”

“It makes me afraid sometimes too.  But that is why I have to remind myself of what Jesus Christ did on the cross.  And that he tells me that I will have an everlasting life with him.  That if I have faith in Him that nothing can separate me from him.  Not even death.”

“Even though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Psalm 23:4

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, not things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To summarize all of these examples in one statement: Try not to protect your children from things the Bible asks you to help them walk through, not around.  And the way we walk through it with our children is by showing them how the good news applies in all areas of our life, even rejection, sin, and death.