Hope Wins

"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope."

1 Thessalonians 4:13

I find it interesting that when the apostle Paul contrasts the way the child of God deals with sorrow he does so by contrasting it to the way those without God deal with theirs. For the child of God we always have hope and hope is as Andy Dufresne wrote to his friend Red, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." The apostle Paul had just reminded the church in Thessalonica that a day was coming when the heavens would open up and Jesus would rapture His bride away to be with Him forever, both those who were alive as Paul wrote as well as those who had fallen asleep and were buried in the grave. Because our hope is real the apostle Paul instructs us to comfort one another with these truths.

As we finished the book of Job last night at our midweek service we reflected back over what we learned from studying Job’s life. Pain, suffering and sorrow are no respecter of persons and that we all hurt, we all suffer and each of us will experience sorrow in this life in varying degrees. What makes us unique from one another is how we deal with it. Some ways are good, others not so good. Some people's methods of dealing with pain and grief are just down right destructive. I am humbled each time a hurting person allows me entrance to the sacred ground that surrounds their heart and shares their story of pain. It's the part of being a pastor that I enjoy most as not very many things compare to being able to provide comfort to hurting people.

I was asked again yesterday in an email exchange and again last night about how to deal with grief and I was reminded of this devotional I did years ago. Below I'll contrast how the world has taught us to grieve and as well I'll share with you some proven ways God leads us to healing. Six wrong ways to grieve and six ways we can grieve right. May we each choose the right way. Remember this today of you are grieving. Grief is a part of life, yet grief doesn't need to define our lives. We need God's help in grieving God's way.

1. The world teaches us to, "Bury Your Feelings". Often times the first thing someone says to us when they see us crying is, "Oh, please don't cry" or "You shouldn't be crying". As children you might have had a parent say to you, "Stop your crying or I'll give you something to cry about" if they thought your tears were senseless.

1. God says to us, "Feel your Feelings". We were created in the image of God, spirit, soul and body with God given emotions. If God didn't desire that we cry when touched deeply Jesus would not have cried Himself at the tomb of Lazarus or over the nation of Israel at their rejection of Him as their promised Messiah, or in the Garden of Gethsemane. Tears are the natural expression of a tender heart.

2. The world teaches us to, "Replace Your losses". (Run from your pain). An example might be, a child has a pet die and starts to cry and the parents say, "don't cry honey, we'll get you a new puppy". This reinforces the belief we should not cry but as quickly as possible move on and replace our loss.

2. God says, "Review the Loss". Mourning is a healthy aspect of living and God even set aside specific allotments of time under Jewish law so the people had ample time to mourn their loss. To heal properly we need to feel the effects of our loss, to appreciate fully what we had. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to talk about the loss with others and to write about it reflectively, and pray about it, slow down the pace of your life for a season of time and resist the unhealthy urge to speed up. None of us can out run the pain forever. Sooner or later we'll have to stop. The best time is now not then.

3. The world says, "Grieve Alone". When we need people the most we tend to withdrawal from them thinking its best to not burden others with our pain. We might have even been told when we wanted to comfort someone we love when they were hurting, "Don't bother them now, they need to be alone" which only reinforces the belief that when we grieve we should do it alone.

3. God says, Grieve in Community. (After Jesus death the disciples gathered together in an upper room). One of the blessings of being a family is being there for one another during times of loss so that the family members can grieve together. All throughout the bible God calls us to share our burdens with others, not to carry them alone. "A friend loves at all times but a brother is born for adversity". There is nothing like having family and close friends who are there for you when you hurt. Don't grieve alone. Reach up, reach out!

4. The world says, "Time Heals All Wounds". After bypassing the first three steps here the world says to us, "just give it time, you'll get over it" but for many the pain never stops, the pain never ceases and like a deep infection it only gets worse with time if not treated.

4. God says, "Only the Holy Spirit Can Truly Heal". Jesus on the night before He went to the Cross to die for the sins of the world He told His disciples to not let their heart be troubled. He could say that because Jesus would provide for them and for us, The Holy Spirit, "to be with us", "along side us" and "in us." Jesus said He would send us the Holy Spirit who is called, "The Comforter". Jesus knows we need comfort to heal and God has provided it for us in a person. If you are in pain, dealing with sorrow and suffering turn to God. Pray and ask God to give you too the gift of His Holy Spirit and let the Spirit come to you and bring you what only God Himself can.

5. The world says, "Live with Regret". The world says to us that the past is the past and there is nothing you can do about it to change it. Just live with it or just forget it if you can.

5. God says, "Share Your Regrets", express them, to God and to others. The first thing Jesus calls His disciples to do is repent. Because God knows our heart, when we repent, when we are truly sorry for the past and the regrets each of us feels its as if God says to us, "I know your heart, I know that if you could go back and fix or change the situation you would, but you can't. But what you can do is move ahead. I died for you on Calvary's Cross, I took your sin and its shame so that you could be free. You are free today because forgiveness is found in Me. It's mine to give and I give it to you, go now and sin no more". God knows if we could go back, if we could turn back the hands of time as it were we would change the situation. It’s why pouring our heart out to God is best. He knows us, He knows our heart and His peace and comfort are like no other!

Share your regrets with others too. Find someone who will listen to you and if you cant find someone to share them with consider writing out your regrets then read them aloud as if you were reading them to the person with whom you have the regret. The important thing is, don't carry your regrets, get them off your chest, out of your head and heart and experience for yourself God's amazing healing grace. No matter what might have happened to us, we can make peace on our side of the equation. Romans 12:18 puts it like this, "If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." We can't change our past, we cant change what people think and say about us but what we can do is change our thoughts and feelings about our regrets. Let them go, give them to God.

6. The world says, "Never Trust Again". We have all heard the expression, "Do it to me once shame on you, do it to me twice, shame on me!" The problem with building our walls so no one can get to us and hurt us is, once we complete our walls to protect us from others, we are stuck, we can't get out. Remember loved one, isolation is hell.

6. God promises, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". Even if the world walks away from you God won't. I love the saying, "I didn't know Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had." Its true, friend, when you hurt and you feel abandoned and alone, as if no one cares and no one is there. Remember, Jesus is there for you, He is always there for you. The bible again and again reminds us, "Those who trust in the Lord will not be disappointed." God is there for you and not just when you hurt but He is for sure there when you do. You can trust Him.

The only sure thing in life is God and when we make Him the center of our lives we can live without the fear of being alone and for good reason. God cannot die, He cannot break, God doesn't wear out, move away, change His mind about us. God is not vulnerable! He is the same yesterday, today and forever! And the best part is He is standing at the door of your heart today knocking, waiting for you to open up your heart and let Him in. Answer the door and discover for yourself that hope wins!

"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God."

Psalms 43:5


Michael Osthimer





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