Suffering / Grief
As we look around pondering the suffering and ugliness in this broken sinful world, we just do not see many things that really make sense.
We see so much suffering in the world, and it seems that it is increasing as the time for the Lord’s return draws near.
Our hearts are sad at the moral decline on the individual level and on the national level. The existence of the traditional family is being threatened and it seems no one is paying much attention to this change. We see more and more solid traditional values being challenged, and thrown out the window. The break down of the family unit brings a whole realm of suffering for all the members of the family.
Some look at all this and ask, “Where is God in all this?”
They see the suffering and question the existence of God,
or question the character of God?
“Is the Lord who He says He is?” “Is He in control of all things”
“Does He care what happens to me?”
Because man is sinful and disobedient, does this mean that God is not in control,
or worse, does it mean God actually does not care what is happening?
Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for thee”….
( How can we know this for sure?)
“….for My strength is made perfect in (your) weakness” ( 11 Cor. 12:9 ).
Are we weak, weary, sad, hurting, or fearful?
He assures that His strength is “complete to accomplish” what ever is our need,
and what it is that the
Lord is trying to accomplish in us during our weakness.
He becomes our strength!
He becomes the one who comforts us
(“by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God.”
11 Corinthians 1:4)
He says that the comfort with which we are comforted of God,
is the comfort that we will ultimately share with others ( II Cor. 1:4,5 ).
The comfort shared with me in my time of trial is available to me because
someone else has had a trial, and knows my travail.
God ministers through others to me…how wonderful for me.
That means He used the suffering of someone else for His Glory.
They were comforted of God in their trial,
and now they can see that God had a purpose in that suffering and pain.
Good came from it.
He says in Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good“.
Through the eyes of faith, we see that God can make some good come from our suffering.
Suffering will come in this life, and so too will grief.
Losses come that hurt so deeply we think our lives will never recover.
Nothing is the same. Our life is upside down, and so confused.
Our hearts are broken, bleeding, and “in pieces”.
We sorrow greatly and grieve deeply.
It just plain hurts to “go on” with life and we are not sure we
even want to think about going on without the one we lost.
We see no good way to do that. Life just plain hurts!!!!
Ecclesiastes 3:1-6 talks about a time to weep and mourn (grieve),
but it also talks about a time to heal.
It talks about “a time to keep and a time to cast away”.
Grief is like that. It hurts to keep it, but it hurts to cast it away.
We want so desperately to go back to the way it was before the loss
….before this deep, relentless hurt came into our lives.
But there is no going back…it can never be the way it was.
If you have lost a loved one……
(someone described it like this):
There was a story told about a widow whose husband had died.
He was a wonderful, accomplished musician.
After he died she locked up the piano, closed the door to the
music room, and let no one in there.
Each morning she would open the door, stand in the doorway,
and mourn the loss of the beloved musician and the exquisite music.
She was haunted by the memories of the music.
As this person described it, he called it “the slow wisdom of grief”:
Yes, we realize that the “melody” this person played on our life
will never be played quite like that…. ever again.
There will always be a hole there.
The loss of that dream, those expectations, that loved one….there will always be a gap.
No one can “play the music” like that one, but don’t close the keyboard.
Don’t just let it collect dust. It is not what we lost, but what we have left.
He said…. Seek out other “musicians” that will walk the road with us.
It is ultimately those that captivate our focus who recreate
the joy in our lives.
For us who know the Lord,
the joy that the Lord gives us is there.
Sometimes the grief covers the joy temporarily, but it is there.
Sometimes we cannot feel it like we would like to, but it is there.
This person gave….. Three Aspects of Good Grief
1. Grieving is a necessary God given expression and a healthy release.
2. Grieving is good as long as it refuses the temptation to hide from the future.
3. Grieving is good as long as it ultimately focuses on the living.
Six Characteristics of Bad Grief:
1. Mourning the loss is especially crippling when it is combined with guilt.
2. Mourning is especially crippling when it demands to be alone.
3. The negative emotions of mourning are very contagious. It gets others down.
4. Bad grief is extremely unhealthy because it overlooks present blessings.
5. Bad grief is incredibly harmful because it underestimates the value of other people.
6. Bad grief is unusually deceiving because it will distort and reverse truth….
like the widow who thinks she is now worthless without her spouse;
or the parent who thinks she is a failure in the loss of the child.
Job was a man in scripture who lost everything. He was a wealthy man who was righteous before God and was a man of great integrity with his fellow man.
Through no fault of his own, he lost all of his possessions. His oxen, camels and asses were stolen, his sheep burned up, his servants killed and then his 10 children all died.
Next he lost his health. He had open sores all over his body, oozing pus…can you imagine the sight of him, and the smell? He went and sat on an ash heap….the dump, maybe out with the lepers of the day, and scraped the pus off his body with a broken piece of pottery.
He did have his wife left. She is usually criticized here because she tells her husband to give up his integrity, and “Curse God, and die”.
I would like to look just a moment at Job’s wife.
She was the wife of a wealthy man… had everything! She probably had a beautiful home, servants, beautiful clothes. She was the wife of a Prince. All was going well and through no fault of her own, she is now destitute. Her husband lost his job, and all the status and wealth that goes along with that. She may have had to sell her gold jewelry to live, and maybe did not have much left to sell.
On top of that, she lost her ten children.
This woman is grievingly deeply…..and where is her husband to put his arm around her and console her? He is out in the ash heap in the city dump with the lepers in pain. On top of mourning her ten dead children, she has to watch her poor husband suffer in excruciating pain and agony. She can’t even relieve his suffering and pain.
I think she just couldn’t take it anymore and came to her husband…who probably wanted to reach out and wrap his arms around her, but he was full of pus oozing sores. She was suffering so desperately, more than any other time in her life. She may have collapsed on the ash heap beside him and sobbed.
Maybe this is where her faith wavered? (Is this where you are?) Maybe this is her despair setting in? She may have decided that life was not worth living. Do we blame her?
(Job did not reach this desperate state until later.)
She asks…”Do you still hold to your integrity”? Maybe she couldn’t stand to see him suffer anymore. She may have felt that sudden death would be a relief for him, so she suggests that he should let go….give up on his faith and die.
This is where I am sure he wanted to wrap his arms around her, hold her close, and reassure her of the love of his great God.
He says….(Job 2:10) ” Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
This “receive” is actively delivering to us good, signifying we are reaching out actively to receive it. So if it is pain, we would accept it, actively reach up and receive it also.
Has God been good and faithful to us in the past?
Does he not have the right to allow all things in our lives?
Job still believed in the goodness of God and His sovereignty.
But his wife was grieving deeply, and was starting to lose hope.
Trials and grief make us take a good look at what is really important
to us and of “value” of things in our lives.
Charles Spurgeon said concerning grief….
“When your grief and suffering presses you down to the dust, then worship there.
If that spot has become your Gethsemane, then present there thy strong crying and tears unto God.”
David said in the Psalm 42:3 & 4….
“My soul thirsteth for God…. my tears have been my food day and night……
when I remember these things, I pour out my soul…”
Later in that Psalm, he rehearses the loving kindness of the Lord,
and praises the Lord for the help of His countenance ( His Presence).
His conclusion is …”Hope thou in God…”
Verse 11: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou
disquieted (the loud cry of mourning) within me?
Hope thou in God.”
There is good and there is evil, but the heart of faith sees that He is the One who is present to help.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
The one grieving eventually has to make some decisions….not that they want to.
They can hardly “muster up” enough courage to get up in the morning
and try to make some sense of this new day, after a restless night.
Elizabeth Elliot was a young missionary that lost her husband.
She gives us a glimpse of the difference between resignation and acceptance.
Resignation gives up with no hope.
Acceptance looks beyond ourselves…and sees God.
…..is the surrender to fate.
…..it feels “It is all over for me.”
…..it lies down in an empty universe
…..it thinks “What a waste……”
…..is a surrender to God
…..it rises up to meet the God of the universe
…..it says, “OK Lord, now that I am here, what’s next?”
……”In what redemptive way, Lord, can you use this mess?”
God’s redemptive purpose:
So does our merciful God have a purpose in all our suffering?
Yes He does.
For a believer, one who looks beyond ourselves to God,
and accepts His plan for our lives, and
all that comes into our lives, the Lord gently guides us into
becoming more like Christ in our whole being.
Romans 8:29 says that God desires that we would be conformed
to the image of His dear Son. He is trying to build Christ into our lives.
If, in our grief, we can look to the creator God to make sense out of all of it,
He will answer that cry of our heart.
“Hope thou in God”.
He will put it into a perspective that will give us
the purpose for living that we so desperately need.
Look to Him with eyes of faith….. He will not fail you.
Colossians 1:27 tells what our hope is…. it says,
“Christ in you the Hope of glory”
He is the hope “in” us and among us.
11 Corinthians 2:14 says, “Now thanks be unto God who always
causeth us to triumph in Christ“.
Romans 9:22-24 tells us that He suffered for us so that…
“He might make known the riches (the immeasurable and marvelous greatness) of His glory on the vessels (us) of mercy,
which He had prepared before time unto glory.”
Christ desires to make Himself known to us, and perfect in us His
glory that we might have triumph over all things, even our grief and sorrow.
Lamentations 3:32 & 33 is very comforting ….
“But though He cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.
For He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”
The things that come into my life are not purposely just to make me sad and grieve deeply.
He has a plan, and in His goodness He is ‘working all things well’ to ‘conform us to the image of His Son’.
If you do not know Christ and His transforming power in salvation,
please go to “Where will I spend Eternity?” on the home page.