Worry and faith : The challenge

Worry and faith : The challenge As I said in my last blog I can write about the issue of worry because this is a matter I have wrestled a lot with. Here’s an example: A number of years ago I was flying on an airplane between United States and England. I had flown many times before but this time was different. During the flight there was some minor turbulence and I felt this deep sense of worry and anxiety. The anxiety got to the point where I felt I couldn't move and felt paralyzed with worry. I started to think about what would happen if this plane crashed. Have you ever experienced worry to the point where it impacts your life? If you have experienced that kind of worry I pray this series will encourage you.

I grew up in a family where worry seemed common place. I watched my family worry about all kinds of things. Money was tight, relationships were hard sometimes, and life can just be busy and burdensome. I began to think about our faith in Christ. I began to think about how powerful and great God is and I wondered why do we worry so much?

As I thought about the worry that I've experienced and the peace that God promises some questions came to me:

  • Where is my faith when I worry ? 

  • Why do some people struggle with worry and others don't seem bothered even in tough situations?

  • Does my faith really impact my every day life?

This series is about me sharing what challenges I've experienced with worry and what I've learned from Christ. I would like to build this series around my most favorite section of Scripture on the subject of worry. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 ESV. 

As we take some time to understand and apply these truths I would like to think about one key term. That term is superintending. Superintending means to watch over, to care for and to be in loving control over our lives.  I would like to ask you to start thinking about how God is superintending our lives. 

Let me close this week with a quote - "You should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need" (Augustine). 

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Faith and Worry - Like birds on a beach

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Do you wrestle with worry? You know the feeling in the pit of your stomach or the ache in your head? You feel the weight of what is causing you to stress in pressing in on you. Well I pray you will be helped by the next few blogs. I am not an expert on much but I am a gifted and skilled worrier. I pray God helps you in the coming days. 

I was sitting on the beach at Siesta Key, Florida a while ago. As I sat there I noticed an interesting sight. I saw many birds looking for food by poking their beaks into the sand. They had so much energy and worked so hard to satisfy their appetites. I searched on Google and found out the name of this particular bird. It is a 'sanderling'. 

What struck me about this particular bird was how territorial the birds were with each other. As energetic as they were in looking for food they were even more energetic in protecting their space. It was almost as though they shouted "This is my space" as they peck and scream at each other fighting over turf. Wings were flapping as the birds were screeching as they fought for their space to search for food. It was as if their lives depended on it. 

I just sat and watched the dominant and the defeated take their place in this society. Then something even more powerful took place. The tide turned. The waves came up the beach further and further. The turf that these birds had fought so hard to protect and dominate was gone under a fresh film of seawater. These birds then had to move onto new areas only for the tide to trump their efforts over and over. It all seemed so worthless. So much effort for such little reward. 

As I sat and watched I wondered if I was like these sanderlings that day. I strive and worry about things in my life. I get stressed by being late. I worry about my family. I worry about too many things. But what is the point of worry? Worry is as futile as a sanderling protecting a piece of beach which is about to be covered in ocean. Maybe that’s one of the reasons God blessed us with these amazing verses - do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). 

Do you stress and worry? Do you see how little worry achieves?  Especially when you begin to understand that God is like the ocean on the beach. He is Sovereign and has all power to overcome all situation and circumstances. When we stress and worry we are like birds fighting for the beach that is about to be covered in water.  Worrying doesn’t help us or move us forward. God offers us help to turn to Him in faith. Worrying doesn't change anything but faith changes everything. I pray in the coming blogs God encourages your faith as you look to Him. 

Grief and faith: Seeking a new normal

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As we continue to look at grief and faith I want to offer you some hope that a new normal will come. It may take weeks, months or even years. Everyone is different and every situation is unique. Grief should never be evaluated by the time it takes to pass through the stages. 

I am a strong believer that you never really get over grief, in the sense that you get back to the way life used to be. The loss of a loved one will be ever present. Let me encourage you with this: you will learn to adapt to live life with the new reality of grief in your life.  You will get to a place where you will be able to function again. You will get to the place where you can get groceries or watch a TV show. A new normal doesn’t mean you won’t have times that you weep deeply, it doesn’t mean that you have in any way forgotten the one who is no longer with you. It does mean God will help carry you to a different place. A place where you will learn to adapt to grief being with you but not overpowering you, at least not all the time. 

Be patient as you wait for this day with a new normal to come. As I said, every person is different and every situation unique. Grief is never the same for any two people whose loved one is no longer here . 

As you pray and ask God to help you find that new normal let me encourage you with the truth that God is ever present.  

  • God is our Heavenly Father and when you walk through suffering He promises to be closer than anyone ever could be to you - Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me

  • He draws near to you as one who knows suffering - remember He watched as His Son died for you

  • He will never leave us. Deuteronomy 31:6 - Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

  • He stores your tears in a bottle. Psalm 56:8 

  • Peace that passes all possible understanding. Philippians 4:6-7

Can I encourage you today with this: God wants to help carry and comfort you. Don’t turn from Him but turn to Him. He can handle your questions, your emotions, your doubts, your pain, your anger and your grief. As always if I can help please let me know. 

Grief and faith: Depression - ‘Life is pointless and hopeless’ 

For the last few weeks we’ve been thinking about the relationship between grief and faith. There is a great mystery with God and suffering. Sometimes it’s really hard to understand why God allows things to happen. This struggle to understand can sometimes result in a person feeling a sense of despair or depression.

The depression stage of grief is so very hard. The person grieving looks at their situation and concludes “Things will never get better”. They are concluding there is no hope. 

Part of the tension we feel with grief and faith is that we are finite and God is infinite. We know a little He knows all. We can't know all the plans that God has for us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I read this quote at St Jude's - “God has a purpose for your pain, a reason for your struggles, and a reward for your faithfulness”. That quote was written by a child living with cancer! 

If you feel that sense of despair and even depression I would encourage you with this truth: In the midst of depression God comes to us. He doesn’t sit and wait for us to come to Him. That’s the message of the hope of the Gospel. Jesus came to earth to make it possible for us to know God and be in a relationship with Him!

I would encourage you to once again look at Psalm 13, look at verse three: - “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes”. This is a prayer of a deep heart that's searching. Darkness is all around and I need to ask you to light up my eyes.

Notice this verse is a prayer of faith. A prayer that believes that even in pain and suffering, God hears and answers our prayers. Look at that middle phrase ‘O Lord My God. If your heart is weak and burdened today turn to the Lord your God.  

In despair: I choose to trust. 

Based on what I know about God, what I read in His Word and what I see around me, even when I don't understand: I choose to trust.

Let me illustrate it this way: imagine you are stood at the top of a large snow covered hill. You fashion a large snowball and roll it down the hill. As the ball leaves your hand and gets bigger and bigger and goes faster and faster you have no idea what will happen to that snowball or where it will stop. That snowball is impacted by what lies in front of it, what it comes into contact with and an infinite number of other factors. You only have a limited ability to know what will happen. That’s what it’s like with grief and faith. Anyone of us can only see a small part of what God has done, what God is doing and what God is going to do. It’s like the infinite paths that snowball could take but trust says God knows exactly what could happen and what will happen. 

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Life is a gift, life is precious, and life is brief. Trust Jesus today and hug those you love a little longer before you say good night! And, as always, if I can help, please let me know

Grief and Faith Stage 2: Anger

The next stage of grief following shock and denial is often anger. Anger expresses itself with statements like: “This isn’t fair….why couldn’t it have been someone else”.

I know as Christians we like landed answers (For example: tea is better than coffee, soccer is better than baseball😇). Grief and loss often don’t have easy answers. There is often a tension between faith and grief. I know tensions can create turmoil in our soul.  That turmoil can sometimes express itself as anger. 

Anger can be such a very hard part of grief. I have have found many people want to help those who are grieving but those same people push back from those who express anger in their grief. I am sure that part of that is simply we don’t know what to say to people in their anger. There isn’t an easy fix. 

I would suggest this: anger is a normal part of grief. Anger in grief shouldn’t be rejected or judged. If you want to help someone who is angry as they grieve just sit with them and resist the temptation to try and “fix” their situation. Simply be present with them. Just know anger is part of the processing of grief. 

Human suffering and a strong faith in Christ can exist at the same time.  

As people of faith we need to understand that there is no promise that we won’t suffer.

In fact we are told we are going to suffer in James 1 - “consider it pure joy when (not if) you go through trials. We know that God has plans and purposes. But there exists a tension in our lives as we walk through deep valleys. I’ve seen people draw closer to God and I’ve seen people become bitter towards God. The key in the relationship between faith and grief is trust. Trust is the bridge that gaps our understanding between faith and grief. If you are angry in your grief today please know you won’t always feel like you today but let me encourage you to turn what you feel to God. Express your faith and your heart in your honest prayers.  

Anger sometimes comes because we look at others who seem to have it so much better than we do. Psalm 13:2 says - “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” When pain and suffering comes it seems everyone has a better situation than we do. “my enemy exalted over me” - they are fine and I am not.

Faith doesn’t have all the answers but it trusts the One who does. As one follower of Jesus prayed “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief”. 

Life is a gift, life is precious, and life is brief. Trust Jesus today and hug those you love a little longer before you say good night! And, as always, if I can help, please let me know.

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Grief and Faith: Stage 1: Shock and Denial

Grief’s first few hours often include both shock and denial. Grief comes out with statements like “this can’t be - I can’t believe this”.

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This is especially the case in the sudden passing of a loved one. Shock is the initial response that grapples with the new reality of loss. As a pastor, there have been many times I’ve sat in a hospital side room with a family meeting with a doctor. I remember one time especially as a friend of mine was the doctor and he told a lady from the church I served that her husband probably wouldn’t make it through the night. Unless you’ve heard that grieving cry I can’t start to describe it. It’s like no other cry I’ve ever heard. It’s a deep soul-cry that often expresses itself with questions. 

So once again I come to this term “tension.” The tension here is that I believe a person can have faith and trust in God but at the same time have no idea why the situation they are facing is happening. Faith doesn’t have all the answers but simply trusts God in the midst of everything. 

I’m so glad God’s Word is so practical. In Psalm 13 we read an example of a soul-searching question from a hurting, grieving heart. One pastor said this Psalm was written “full of sighings and groaning of an afflicted soul in an hour of darkness.”

Here’s what the first verse says: Psalm13:1- “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? 

Sometimes we go through seasons of grief where it feels like God is very far away. That’s what we read in this verse. “How long will you hide your face from me ….. Will you forget me forever?” In dark times of suffering and pain it can seem like that season will never end. In dark times of suffering and pain, it can feel like God has forgotten you

But, notice a key application point here: the author turns to God. The author doesn’t turn away but turns to God. That’s a clear example of faith and grief existing together in tension.

Can I encourage you in times of deep trials to go to the Lord? I read this awesome statement this week “In suffering, we have days when we feel we can cope and days when we can’t but when we turn to God we know, He never changes.” 

The season of shock and denial is intense, but it won’t last forever. It’s a part of grieving and can’t be rushed. In order to walk the path of grief, we all need to simply take one step at a time. There will be days you want to question, and days you want to deny. Don’t run from that as though you lack in faith. Embrace the questions - own them, even share them if you are ablLife is a gift, life is precious, and life is brief. Trust Jesus today and hug those you love a little longer before you say good night! And, as always, if I can help, please let me know.