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. 

Grief and Faith

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Like many people in our area of Northern Colorado, I was so deeply broken to hear the tragic news of a little boy passing away following a tragic accident during a Labor Day parade in Windsor. 

Like many of you, I have prayed and prayed for the family, for those who witnessed this tragedy, for those who responded and for all those impacted. The sudden loss of a precious child is a grief so very deep.  

As I prayed I felt led to write a few posts that I pray will help someone who is hurting and wrestling searching for hope in the midst of such loss. 

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I thought I would try and offer some thoughts on the 5 stages of grief and Psalm 13. 

The five basic stages of grief are: 

  • Shock and Denial - “this can’t be - I can’t believe this”
  • Anger - bargaining - “where was God - why couldn’t it have been someone else”
  • Depression - “life is pointless and hopeless” 
  • Seeking a new normal - “will I ever feel ‘normal again” 
  • Living with a new normal - living with grief 

These stages are not fixed points. People often share how they go back and forth between these stages. It’s been said that there are no “rules” with grief. This is true as every person and every situation is unique. 

That said there is hope, strength, and wisdom to be found even in the times of deepest pain, but there are no quick fixes and there are no easy answers. In times like these, we need something more than platitudes. 

A few years ago I spent a week at St Judes Children’s Hospital in Memphis. If you've ever been on the campus of St Jude's hospital you will know that you can't be there without being impacted in many ways. As you walk around this miracle making care facility you see grief and pain but you also see faith and hope.  It's a place of tremendous hope. The staff are amazing and the families that go there find all kinds of unique care options.  As I spent a week there I saw parents connecting with other parents who are walking the same path. I saw children with cancer playing with other children with cancer. 

But there is also the very real understanding of the seriousness of cancer in children. A nurse told me a statistic that helps us understand this amazing place. The average pediatric doctor will see a handful of cancer diagnosis during the length of their career. If you walk the campus of St Jude's you see literally hundreds of cancer patients. They are from all ages, from babies to teens. They come from all backgrounds. There are families with really nice cars and those with cars that tell you they are just glad to have made it here. Hundreds of stories played out every moment of every day 

As people of faith who experience and witness suffering, we have some deep wrestling to do.  The primary question many must ask is simply “why?"

Many ask why as a first response - 

Why do little children suffer?

I have found there are two parts to the reality of suffering - 

There is the human aspect 

Life has times of grief - pain - suffering. 

As Christians, I don't think God wants us or expects us to deny or hide that part of our lives.

If you've ever heard the piercing cry of a grieving heart you know what I mean. 

If you've ever walked through the valley of the shadow of death you know what I mean.

There is the spiritual aspect  

We know what we know about God.

We know that God is love. 

We know that God is good. 

We know that God is all powerful.

During these posts, I want to consider with you the tension between faith and grief. Grief and faith aren’t disconnected or contradictory. To tell you the truth I'm still working on this. But I hope my words and prayers help one person reading this.

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!