The most significant events of our life are often struggles. Life struggles are circumstances we cannot escape – we can’t go around/over/under/by, but we have to go through them.
Today we begin a series about Good Grief. Good Grief is about learning to get through whatever we are going through. Grief is not limited to loss of life, but all losses in life. It includes disappointment from events/experiences missed and feelings of distress over what has occurred. During this season there is no telling the layers and lengths of grief people have experienced. In fact, some of what is going on in our society in terms of protests, riots, personal angst, and public venting is a result of unmanaged grief.
Counselors have identified 5 stages of grief: Denial, Depression, Anger, Bargaining, Acceptance. Over the next several weeks we will be viewing these stages in an adaptive way, with the context of God’s word.
- Shock: When Life Falls Apart (Psalm 60)
- Sadness: When Your Heart Breaks (Psalm 42)
- Rage: When It Doesn’t Make Sense (Psalm 43)
- Relief: When God Grows Our Perspective (Psalm 116)
- Restoration: When God Uses Cries For Compassion (Psalm 126)
The process of grief is not linear. Not every person goes through all 5 stages, and the length of time in each stage will be different for each person. Everyone needs to permit themselves and others the space to work through emotions, thoughts, and spiritual growth that is needed during seasons of grief.
What is important for us is two goals:
- To discern where we are grieving and how we are attempting to fill that void? Are filling the void of grief with substances (alcohol, drugs, relationships), sales (retail therapy), or stuff (time fillers)? Or do we pursue God and His word, which can help us process and progress through our grief?
- To discern how to offer others hope and help in a world of grief. We live in a bad news world but we have a good news faith. Light has entered the world and the darkness cannot overcome it.
EXAMINE Psalm 60
- “To the choirmaster.” The Psalms remind us no matter what is going on in life, not to lose our song.
- “A miktam for instruction.” The Psalms are inspirational and instructive. Hope, by itself, is not a strategy for enduring struggles or fighting life’s battles. We need hope with a helping hand. We need to come alongside others to speak our love and show it in tangible ways. We need words and deeds together. The Psalms instruct us to have trust God and to live our faith practically.
- “striving…” This psalm relates to a specific time Israel/David was striving with enemies. Yet, life is full of striving and feeling overwhelmed. Therefore, the Psalms in general are a valuable tool for God to use in cultivating and sustaining our faith.
When our world shakes, look for God’s rescue (Ps 60:1-5).
“O God.” David’s prayer will teach us to whom we turn when we feel forgotten, troubled, traumatized.
Many of our worship times publicly and privately have lost the “O.” We do not truly cry out to God with concentration and commitment. Too often we go through the motions and miss encountering God in a significant way. We choose not to be vulnerable before God because of how others may respond, or because of where God might take us personally. We are afraid to go too deep and down the road of brokenness with God because we have grown too comfortable with status quo.
David prays to God with lament for their national circumstances. There were times in David’s reign that Israel was victorious, and other times they suffered defeat because of their neglect and indifference toward God. David recognizes their defeat comes at the hands of God, with successive statements of God’s workings. These statements reflect David’s feelings for how God has acted. David felt like a staggering drunk man with his senses impaired and as if the whole world was collapsing. Yet, one of the most admired traits of David is his discernment that God is at work in blessings and in suffering; in celebration and in correction.
David turned to the Lord for rescue. “You have set up a banner for those who fear you.” David, the warrior in battle, knew that when the army was being attacked the soldiers are tempted toward confusion and flight. However, the flag bearer would signal to endure in battle. Their distinguished colors and royal insignia would reassemble God’s warriors to stay united and advance the cause of the kingdom.
Church, what we are facing today are fragments of our nation’s history but also forecasts of the world’s future.
- No one escapes the curse and consequences of sin.
- Frustration on earth will be forever.
- The anger of mankind is not running away.
- Riots, violence, racism, injustice, murder will be present until the Lord returns.
- Does that mean we should tolerate selfishness or sin? Absolutely not… but it gives us perspective to not throw in the towel, giving up, but we recognize rebellion will last until one day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
So, how should Christians act?
- When all around us looks lost, when our circumstances are crashing down, when we feel the surprise and shock of our world being shaken, then we need to behold God’s banner. “His banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:4). The cross is God’s banner that we turn our attention for rescue, healing, salvation, and strength.
- While the fires of hell rage the faithful of God reach and rescue. We endure the uncomfortable pressures, the intensity of heat, the storming screams of darkness. We go with the banner of God’s protection and the shining hope of God’s love and light.
Ps 60:5 “That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us!”
Jude 1:20-23 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
- Reach means we take initiative. Limit saying, “Call me if you need anything.” It’s fine to say it if you also follow up with additional check-ins to discern how you can help. Those in “SHOCK Grief” often don’t know what to say they need… but you can help by giving options: “Can I bring you a meal/visit for prayer Monday or Tuesday?”
Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother (or sister) is born for adversity.”
- If YOU are Grieving… let others help. A lot of times we are too embarrassed to receive attention or help, and our natural reaction is to withdraw. Having time alone can be fine at first, but don’t stay alone. When you are grieving, God’s means of help to you is people and good neighbors. If/When you are in a crisis, don’t keep it to yourself and let us know.
- The role of Small Groups is vital.
- Fellowship levels: Sharing high & low / Studying Scripture / Serving others / Suffering
- Delp with Clines / McG & Danton & Delp & Roorda with Baierlein (also Swartz) /
- We have Bible Groups for Studying… want to encourage Small Groups for deeper level.
- The role of Small Groups is vital.
Illus: Doctors have noted a simple test to see if we understand how to overcome shock/grief/crisis. What they do is take you to a bathtub and fill it with water. Then they hand you 3 containers: a teaspoon, a cup, and a bucket. They ask you, “How would you empty the water out of the tub?” Most people think the test is easy: the crisis person uses the teaspoon or cup because they’re not ready to overcome, but the healed person uses the bucket. However, that would be wrong. The well person would simply pull the plug.
You see, we live in a world with a lot of ideas to help… but the Psalmist says “Selah” – look to God.
“Selah” means to pause and reflect. As we think about this principle and the theme of grief, let us take a moment to ask God to speak. As our world shakes,
- Am I beholding the banner of God – clinging to the cross?
- Am I reassembling with the body of Christ?
- Am I reaching into a shaken world to rescue souls from the fires of hell?
When our God speaks, look to claim God’s victory (Psalm 60:6-12).
As David prays, he is reminding himself and boldly declaring God has spoken.
- Do we get the power of God’s spoken word? His word has the forming capacity to create worlds, planets, galaxies, and universes. His word has the blazing booms of thunder and rippling force of lightning.
- Day and Night speak to God’s sovereignty and supremacy. There is no language where their voice is not heard (Ps 19:3).
- God speaks fully with His Word becoming flesh – light penetrating darkness, truth permeating ignorance, love invading indifference.
David references a series of cities and locations where God has spoken His authority. As King, David felt that when he would fight a battle in one place another war would rise in different location. But, David refused to concede defeat. He simply met each dark hour with deeper devotion upon the Lord. David reasserted God’s control and victory claim in every conflict and crisis. The idea is that from North to South, from East to West, God is in charge. All the cities and all the countries are claimed by God. From Minneapolis to Maryland, From LA to NY, From Chicago to DC – “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps 24:1).
The same is true for our crisis and griefs. When we experience shock and being shaken by our circumstances, our immediate response is denial (the first stage of grief).
David asks the question, “Have you rejected us, O God?” (Ps 60:10)
- we are in charge and that we own our possessions for however long we desire;
- we will always have ___ person in our life, which means we can take relationships for granted;
- we will remain healthy, strong, and able, so we can maintain our jobs and the pace of life indefinitely;
- we are invincible and untouchable.
But, then God speaks.
- “I am.”
- “I am God – your Creator and Sustainer.”
- “I will not share my glory with another.”
- “You are not your own.”
- “I will give you trials so you will know I am a teacher.”
- “I will allow sadness so you will know that I am everlasting comfort and joy.”
- “I will show you hardship, pain, and suffering so that you will know I am a healer and deliverer.”
- “I will permit death so that you will know I am the resurrection and the life.”
God wants us to rely and rally to Him; “for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes” (Ps 60:12).
- God is our salvation. Keep returning to Him – even when it feels like nothing is working and God is silent. You say, “That’s insanity, just stop praying.” I say, “No, that’s intimacy with God. Press on and see what God is doing.”
- Reassert God’s claim over every area of your life. When the enemy attacks one area and then another, take the battle back to him. Don’t settle for defensive maneuvers, go on the offensive with the victory of Jesus, the comfort of the Holy Spirit in prayer, the sustaining strength of God’s word, the overcoming power of faith and good deeds. God will claim victory – whether in this life or the life to come; as my friend says, “You will never die.” What he means is that, for the Christian, death is but a doorway for peace in the presence of God.
As we close our first message in Good Grief with this first stage of SHOCK; we understand that this is non-life-threatening. However, there’s also types of medical shock that can become very life-threatening. EMS and Medical trauma teams must quickly discern your symptoms and diagnose a course of treatment so your body doesn’t shut down and the shock becomes irreversible.
I’ve had family members and church members encounter shock trauma. These are serious moments when you are faced with how quickly life can change. As a pastor, I can tell you that most people are not prepared for crisis. Most people are not prepared for tragedy.
Who would have thought last Christmas that many people would have about 60-90 days at home. Most people would say, “Sign me up!”
- Think of all the house projects I can complete.
- Think of all the rest I will get.
- Think of all the places I can go.
- Think of all the family time we can share.
- Think of all the time with God I will have.
What we realize is that crisis reveal our character. And we get to the other side of the crisis and we’re overwhelmed with this sense of loss – of what could/should have been, of what/who will be missed, of what is no longer and can never return.
Grief can be a gift if it brings us closer to God.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
In the days ahead, let’s prepare our hearts for the gift we would have never asked for or wanted, but we would never trade for untold riches.