Mourn, 19 July 2020

Blessed are Those Who Mourn
Blessed: The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:3

Series Big Idea: The greatest sermon in history is radical, revolutionary, and relevant.

Big Idea: We are blessed and comforted when we mourn and mourn with others.

NIV:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

NLT:
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

NKJV:
Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

The Message: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

Think about your greatest loss. I know, it’s not the most uplifting way to begin today! Life is full of loss. It might be a job, your health, or your marriage. What is your greatest loss? Athletes might think of a championship they nearly won. Children might recall a favorite pet who died. What is your greatest loss? It might be a spouse or child or even your memory and mind.

As we continue our series on the Beatitudes,
Blessed, we’re going to look at what Jesus said about loss and grief. The subject is often dark, yet Jesus offers hope and encouragement for those who mourn, which just might be you at this very moment.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

We mourn our losses.

We will do most anything to avoid loss. Some professional sports teams have gone to great lengths to cheat in order to win games. The medical community has incredible tools for extending one’s life. We now have electronic devices to prevent us from losing our keys and computers. The only thing we like to lose is weight!


Yet our world is full of loss, which usually elicits the emotion of mourning. The original Greek word for mourn here,
pentheo, refers to the feeling or act of mourning or wailing.

Whenever I think of wailing, I think of one of the most famous sites in Israel: the Wailing Wall. It’s in the Old City of Jerusalem, also known as the Western Wall, the only remains of the Jewish Temple destroyed in 70 AD, the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray. It’s called the Wailing Wall because of the weeping at the site over the Temple’s destruction. More than a million prayers on pieces of paper are placed in the wall crevices each year.

Talking about grief, loss, mourning, and wailing is unpleasant. It can make us uncomfortable, yet Jesus calls those who mourn “blessed.” Last week we said this word, makarios, means “happy, fortunate, well off, supremely blest” which makes no sense to us, at least on the surface. Can you imagine visiting funeral homes and announcing to the mourners they are blessed?

Last Sunday I gave my rough definition of blessing:
having God’s presence and favor. I think we all want God’s presence and favor, but often we are distracted by other things. I submit to you anything you want more than God is an idol. It’s sinful. We can make idols out of good things: our children, our spouses and friends, food, pleasure, money, power, …just about anything can take God’s rightful place in our lives.

Sometimes God allows us to lose those things precious to us, not necessarily to punish us, but to draw us back to Him. These can be painful lessons, yet we are to live not for our glory but His. When God is all you have, you discover He’s really all you need.


I am not in any way making light of the anguish caused by loss. I’ve experienced some tremendous losses in my life and grieve them regularly, even events from years ago. But part of the blessing of loss is experiencing God’s presence and favor.

Psalm 34:18 says,

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

That sounds so sweet, doesn’t it? What poet wrote those words? They were probably sitting in a meadow on a sunny, spring afternoon trying to encourage a suffering friend, right? Hardly! This is the writing of David while he was being hunted by King Saul!

Psalm 34 is a powerful song of God’s deliverance in the midst of agony. The verse before eighteen says,

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17)

Perhaps most remarkable of all is how the psalm begins:

I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:1-4)

Remember, this is from a man fleeing for his life! David realized despite his problematic circumstance, God was present and worthy of worship. This is one reason we sing at funerals. We are to remember

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

This life is filled with death and loss. It’s the tragic result of sin. We’re quick to blame God every time we experience pain, but it’s in those moments where God is often the most real. We can—and should—praise Him in the storm, not because we like the storm, but because He is near, He is present, He is with us. He remains worthy. We might not understand, but by faith we can trust He has a plan. Unfortunately, we’re often so busy pursuing our own interests that we completely ignore God. We make life about us instead of about glorifying Him.

You were made by God.
You were made for God.
You were made for God’s glory.

Before we get too convicted (!), let’s return to our text for today.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

We mourn our losses.

The loss of anything valuable produces mourning. We need to grieve. Sorrow must be embraced. There are no—healthy—shortcuts. Jesus wept. It’s alright to cry, as the old song says. Everybody’s journey always finds its way to sorrow.

I get concerned when I see overly-happy people in the midst of great loss. Getting spiritual and quoting Bible verses won’t erase the emotional pain. We need to be present with our pain. We need to pay attention to those God-given emotions inside, like Job, David, Jesus, and so many others in the scriptures. Pete Scazzero writes,

´╗┐Limits are behind all loss. We cannot do or be anything we want. God has placed enormous limits around even the most gifted of us. Why? To keep us grounded, to keep us humble. In fact, the very meaning of the word humility has its root in the Latin humus, meaning “of the earth.” (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)

We must mourn. We must be present with your grief. Failing to do so can have dire consequences on our health. Tragically, many numb their pain through denial, addiction, blaming, avoidance, or rationalizations. If we can embrace the pain and mourn the loss, we will likely discover God’s presence. He often shows up at the most unexpected moments. One modern translation of the Bible says,

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (Matthew 5:4, The Message)

Jesus doesn’t simply say mourners are blessed. He offers a promise of hope, a preferred future. They will be comforted.

Last week’s beatitude was in the present tense.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3, NIV)

Theirs
is the kingdom of heaven. Now. Today.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

Jesus says those who mourn
will be comforted. Comfort. What a contrast to mourning! We love comfort. We love to be comfortable. We buy comforters for our beds. We enjoy comfort food.

The original word for comforted,
parakaleo, is from the same root as the word Jesus used when we promised the Holy Spirit, parakletos, the Advocate, the intercessor, consoler, comforter (John 16:7).

While I can’t imagine anything better than being in the presence of Jesus, he told his disciples,

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

We have the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter living inside of us if we are followers of Jesus. God is with us…here…now! When we ignore our need for comfort, we fail to invite the Comforter into our lives and we miss out on the blessing of God’s presence.

Although we are not always happy, we can experience the joy of the LORD at all times (Nehemiah 8:10). We can give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We can be filled with hope knowing God is with us and we have a future with Him forever. Hallelujah!

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

The word “mourn” is used more than a hundred times in the Bible! The writers understood grief and loss! Paul wrote to the church in Rome,

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

We mourn with others.

Loving well means we celebrate with those who a rejoicing and we grieve with those who are mourning. This can be very uncomfortable. I think the most common questions are, “What do I do?” and “What do I say?” Often the best thing we can do is be present and silent. See someone else’s pain without trying to fix them.

In this pandemic, it’s especially challenging to be physically present, and sometimes impossible. Any message which says, “I’m here. I’m with you. I’m for you. I’m praying for you. I’m available.”

When it comes to talking, often less is more. Silence can be golden. Actions speak louder than words. And as I’ve said before, please avoid quoting Romans 8:28! It is true that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” but people need to mourn and grieve. We can’t rush the process. Grieving is a necessity of life. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4).

Funerals are the most obvious time to mourn, but we can grieve lesser losses, too. Even good things like a child going off to college or getting married and moving out of the house can be a loss. We lose our dreams, our youthfulness, our innocence. Acknowledge it. Share it. Tell God about it. Christian counseling and Celebrate Recovery Wednesdays at 7 PM can be outlets for grief.

We are all in the midst of a significant loss at this moment. The coronavirus has disrupted our lives, cancelling sporting events, graduation ceremonies, family reunions, and a host of other events. It has caused the loss of jobs, vacations, and even human lives. We need to acknowledge the loss, grieve what is gone, and comfort one another.

We mourn with others.

There is a Jewish tradition called shiva which is a seven-day period of grieving where mourners sit at home on low stools for a week following the burial of a loved one. That may sound extreme, but what a beautiful tradition! They say that time heals all wounds, but I don’t think you ever fully recover from the death of someone close to you.

Family, we need one another. We need to love one another well. We need to mourn with one another, rejoice with one another, pray for one another, and perhaps most of all be present for one another. Jesus came as Emmanuel—God with us—and when we are present for others, we become the hands and feet of Jesus. We are Jesus with skin on! What a blessing!

We mourn our loss.
We mourn with others.

One more thing…

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

I was surprised in my study to discover one writer who mentioned how
we mourn over our sins. We all sin. We rebel against God. We harm others. We create idols. We are prideful and selfish.

When is the last time you grieved over your own sin? Being forgiven by the work of Jesus on the cross doesn’t mean we gloss over our offenses. Sin means a loss of relationship, of intimacy with God and others. It means missed opportunities and blessings. Many of our sins have temporary or even permanent consequences which are regrettable. When we pause to grieve, when we repent, it creates space for God’s peace, and comfort to come alive in us.

When we celebrate communion on the first Sunday of each month, we remember our sins, Christ’s sacrifice, and amazing grace. We are comforted by the discovery and appropriation of God’s pardon. When we mourn our sin, we yearn for purity, righteousness, and godliness as we seek first God’s kingdom and follow Jesus. We all need to change. Something within us needs to die…so we can truly live.

We can mourn and repent not only of our own sins, but also those of our society. No culture is perfect. There has never been a truly Christian nation. It’s important to repent on behalf of our country, our lack of concern for the poor, our murder of precious lives through abortion, systemic racism and injustice, and other human activities which devalue or destroy God’s creation.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

Family, it’s not about you. It’s about God. He is sovereign and in control. He gives good gifts and allows pain. We don’t always understand why, but I promise you He can be trusted. He is good and faithful, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

If you are mourning today, I truly want to fix it and make it better. I want to bring back whatever you’ve lost, whether it’s a job, a loved one, a relationship, or your health. I can’t do that, obviously, but I can remind you God never wastes anything. Mourn. Grieve. Allow others to comfort you. Allow the Holy Spirit to comfort you, to strengthen you as the Latin root of comfort implies.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8a)

Ian Cron said, “In that experience of grief—of mourning—the presence of God is felt most acutely.”

Blessed Be The Name

Gerald Sittser notes the quickest way to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west chasing after it, but to head east into the darkness until you finally reach the sunrise (
A Grace Disguised).

Wholeness and healing are incremental processes. It’s a daily journey. It takes time. You’re not alone. You’re never alone. God is on your side. Your family is here—just a phone call away. We all mourn. Let’s mourn well. Let’s mourn with one another. Let’s comfort one another…and experience the presence of the Comforter.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

Credits: Some ideas from The Beatitudes Project.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library
here.

Grief and Loss, 1 May 2016

Enlarge Your Soul Through Grief and Loss
Series: Go Deeper
Matthew 26:31-44

  • Series Theme
  • “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

  • The Big Idea: Jesus was a man who expressed His emotions of grief and loss, setting an example for us to follow.

  • Introduction

    We’re in the middle of a series entitled Go Deeper. Our lives are like an iceberg. We expose only a small portion of our real selves to others. Some of us live in denial about that which we know is true beneath the surface. Perhaps another way to say, “Go Deeper” is to say, “get real.” Get honest. Until we face reality, we will never be able to heal from the pain, overcome the addiction, or strengthen the weakness.

    Last week we talked about how we can’t avoid trials. In this life, we will and do have trouble. We want to go over, under, or around but we must journey through the wall. Despite the courage involved, there are benefits to testing.

    - God uses trials so we will look out…to others.

    The book of Romans plainly says

    Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

    We are to

    Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

    In addition,

    - God uses trials so we will look up…to Him. He is with us…always. That’s a promise.

    At the Wall, God asks some tough questions.

    “What would you do without Me?”
    “What will you do without My blessings?”
    “Will you continue to seek Me?”
    “Will you seek the ‘Other’ instead?”

    At the Wall we learn a single truth that gets burned into us: life isn’t about us; it’s about God and His glory.

    You were created by God.
    You were created for God.
    You were created for God’s glory.

    On the Other Side of the Wall

    The Wall always changes us. We can be bitter…or better. The Wall offers us an opportunity to move

    - From pride to brokenness and humility
    - From pleasure to appreciation and contentment
    - From impatience to patience, able to wait for God
    - From more to enough
    - From immaturity to maturity

    Grief & Loss

    When we get to the other side of The Wall, it’s tempting to ignore the grief and loss that often accompany such a journey. Adrian Rogers said that everything in life relates to sin, sorrow and death. How cheery! How true.

    Loss

    All of life is about loss. We lose the safety of our mother’s womb, youth, dreams, control, illusions, and ultimately our health.

    Grief and loss are done differently in various cultures and families.

    Two-thirds of the Psalms deal with grief. They are called laments. The books of Job and Lamentations are also filled with grief and loss.

    Scripture has been called the music of God. Here’s one famous passage:

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)

    Perhaps you were told, “Big boys don’t cry.” Maybe you heard the message emotions should not be expressed. Those are clearly not biblical ideas. Perhaps nobody demonstrated His feelings—especially grief—like Jesus.

    Matthew 26:36-46

    I think many people find themselves in the midst of suffering and wonder where they can find God, how God could possibly understand their circumstances, how He could just watch those He says He loves go through such pain and agony. He understands…and He is with us…always.

    Jesus’ followers were shocked to see the Messiah suffer, but His agony was prophesied centuries earlier. The prophet Isaiah said:

    He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

    That’s our God! He is familiar with grief and suffering, loss and pain. One of the most vivid examples is found in the Garden of Gethsemane, a place you can visit today in Jerusalem.

    Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38)

    Jesus knows sorrow.

    Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

    He pleads for Plan B. He wants to go over, under, or around this Wall. Luke records this moment by saying

    And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

    Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)

    Last week we noted the value of community, of support, of family. What do you do when those you need most aren’t there for you in your moment of greatest need?

    He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

    He asks again for Plan B!

    When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matthew 26:43-44)

    Three times He begs the Father for a shortcut, for another path. He’s all alone. Can you imagine?

    Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:45-46)

    Jesus is depressed, distressed, and sorrowful. Can you relate? The book of Hebrews says:

    During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7)

    In the Garden Jesus falls to His face to the ground. He is prostrate on the ground. His sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He is experiencing loss, preparing for the loss of His life and, even worse, the loss of His connection to the Father. He will become sin, taking our sins upon Himself. He will bear the wrath and judgment of a holy God. He will lose his friend Judas. He will lose the support of His followers who will abandon Him. His creation will crucify Him…all in the name of God!

    This is not an attractive image of the King of kings and LORD of lords!

    One element of the Scriptures that lends to their credibility is the raw, honest portrayals of the “heroes” of the Bible. The writers are never afraid to tell it like it is, warts and all!

    This is not happy, successful, popular, wealthy Jesus!

    This is our perfect model of what it means to be fully human.

    Reactions To Pain

    Divorce, death, breakups, failures, disappointments, shattered dreams, painful memories, and other forms of grief and loss invade our lives. Common reactions/defenses to grief and loss include

    - denial
    - minimizing (admitting something is wrong, but not acknowledging its impact)
    - blaming others (or God)
    - blaming yourself
    - rationalizing (offering excuses and justifications)
    - intellectualizing (analysis and theories to avoid personal awareness/feelings)
    - distracting
    - becoming hostile
    - medicating

    Many bury their pain of grief with addictions that are followed by guilt and shame as we lose control. It’s just like satan to tempt us into something, only to turn around and accuse us of the very action!

    PTSD

    These four letters together were not recognized until 1980 when the American Psychiatric Association added Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the third of edition of its manual of mental disorders. Grief and loss—especially if not processed appropriately—can wreak havoc in our lives. Traumatic events can impact us beyond our ability to cope…and affect us long after the experience.

    Biblical Grieving

    I want to offer a few suggestions to those of you who are grieving.

    Pay attention

    Don’t live in denial. Jesus was very real in the Garden. He held nothing back. His emotional burden was so great it had physical manifestations as He sweat drops of blood.

    Wait in the confusing in-between (Ps. 37:7)

    No matter what grief and loss you may be experiencing today, tomorrow is a new day. The story is not over. It’s SO hard to wait—for anything—but we can take hope knowing God is in control.

    Embrace the gift of limits

    In addition to loss, we are faced with limits in our life. Limits in our life include

    • - physical body
    • - family of origin
    • - marital status
    • - intellectual capacity
    • - talents and gifts
    • - material wealth
    • - educational opportunities
    • - raw material (personality, temperament)
    • - time
    • - work
    • - relationship realities
    • - spiritual understanding
    • - ministry

    Many of us find limits frustrating, but they are part of God’s plan. They cause us to rely upon Him. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” God refused to remove. Undoubtedly it was to keep him on his knees, dependent upon God. Remember, life is not about us, it’s about God’s glory. When we are weak, He is strong and gets the glory.

    Climb the ladder of humility

    The word humility comes from the Latin humus which means “of the earth.”

    In the sixth century, St. Benedict introduced the idea of a twelve-step ladder for growing in the grace of humility. Here’s a modified version of it:

    Step 8: Transformation into the Love of God (no sarcasm, arrogance; content)
    Step 7: Speaking Less (“The wise are known for their few words”)
    Step 6: Deeply Aware of Being “Chief of All Sinners” (recognize our sinfulness)
    Step 5: Radical Honesty to Others About Your Weaknesses/Faults (quit pretending)
    Step 4: Patience To Accept The Difficulty of Others
    Step 3: Willing To Subject Ourselves To The Direction of Others (surrender power)
    Step 2: Doing God’s Will (not your own or that of others)
    Step 1: Fear of God and Mindfulness of Him (He is present)

    Where are you at today? I’m working on Step 1! Humility is a rare virtue. Most of us struggle with pride, manifested through arrogance or insecurity. Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less. When our focus is on Jesus, we don’t have to impress others, mask our emotions, or fear failure. We don’t even have to be “successful” in the eyes of the world. We simply have to be obedient and faithful to God, His Word, and His will.

    Listening To The Interruption

    Jesus doesn’t deny his grief. Why do so many Christians?

    Jesus is real and authentic. He feels. He expresses His emotions.

    He listens to the interruptions of His life.

    Have you ever felt so bad that you could just die? That’s how Jesus felt.

    This passage is difficult for some people who want Jesus the superhero. For the rest of us, it is reassuring that He understands our struggles and trials and agony.

    It is human to feel and hurt. Jesus understands…and He is with us through the Holy Spirit.

    Resurrection

    The beauty of dying to ourselves is the opportunity to be resurrected in Christ. This is beautifully illustrated in the water grave of baptism.

    I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

    We continue to celebrate the Resurrection, not merely one day of the year but every day. Jesus’ story did not end in the garden or on the cross. Death always precedes resurrection and new life.

    Learning To Fall

    I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

    The trash of the grief may smell, but there are diamonds in the mess that God can use.

    When we listen to the interruption and learn to fall, our souls will enlarge.

    a. our self-will breaks

    Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8)

    Jesus had a human will. He was fully God but also fully human. His humanity did not want to obey the Father. He did not naturally obey the Father. He wanted out. He submitted His will to the Father’s will.

    Jesus prayed three times for the Father’s will.

    You learn obedience through the struggle of grief.

    You lose control at the wall (last week’s message).

    Life is more than a series of problems we need to solve. Life is a mystery.

    b. we learn about prayer

    Prayer is the center of our life with Christ. David, Job, Jeremiah, Jesus grieved with God through prayer.

    c. we create space for God

    In emptying ourselves, we make room for more of God. When we give up control, we can lean into God.

    Questions for Discussion

    What does this text tell us about God?

    What does this text tell us about ourselves?

    What significant losses/disappointments did you experience

    • - when you were age 3-12?
    • - as a teenager?
    • - as a young adult?
    • - as an adult?

    How did you respond to each?

    How did your family deal with grief and loss when you were growing up?

    Share one recent loss in your life. How has it affected you?

    After leaving everything to follow Jesus, how did Peter react to Jesus’ shocking prediction in Matthew 26:31-36?

    What are some of the reasons that Jesus is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” in Matthew 26:38-44?

    How does He deal with grief and loss?

    Which of the common defenses do you use to protect yourself from grief and loss?

    The central message of Christianity is that death and suffering bring resurrection and new life. How have you experienced this? Be specific.

  • Credits and Stuff

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

    Series outline and ideas from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

    Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
    The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

    Other study questions from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Enlarge Your Soul Through Grief And Loss, 29 January 2012

    Theme

    “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzeros’ book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

    The Big Idea

    The fourth pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to enlarge your soul through grief and loss.

    Loss

    Adrian Rogers said that everything in life relates to sin, sorrow and death.

    All of life is about loss. We lose the safety of our mother’s womb, youth, dreams, control, illusions, and ultimately our health.

    Grief and loss is done differently in various cultures and families.

    Two-thirds of the Psalms deal with grief. They are called laments. The books of Job and Lamentations are also filled with grief and loss.

    Scripture has been called the music of God.

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

    a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

    Job

    Few understand loss and grief more than Job. He’s not the only one, though!

    Matthew 26:36-46

    Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38)

    Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

    Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)

    He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

    When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matthew 26:43-44)

    Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:45-46)

    Jesus is depressed and sorrowful. He is distressed. The word in the book of Mark means horror.

    During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7)

    He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

    He falls to His face to the ground. He is prostrate on the ground. His sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He is experiencing loss, preparing for the loss of His life and, even worse, the loss of His connection to the Father. He will become sin, taking our sins upon Himself. He will bear the wrath and judgment of a holy God. He will lose his friend Judas. He will lose the support of His followers who will abandon Him. His creation will crucify Him…all in the name of God!

    This is not an attractive image of the King of kings and LORD of lords! One element of the Scriptures that lends to their credibility is the raw, honest portrayals of the “heroes” of the Bible. The writers are never afraid to tell it like it is, warts and all!

    This is not happy, successful, popular, wealthy Jesus!

    This is our perfect model of what it means to be fully human.

    Reactions To Pain

    Divorce, death, breakups, failures, disappointments, shattered dreams, painful memories, and other forms of grief and loss invade our lives. Common reactions/defenses to grief and loss include

    - denial
    - minimizing (admitting something is wrong, but not acknowledging its impact)
    - blaming others (or God)
    - blaming yourself
    - rationalizing (offering excuses and justifications)
    - intellectualizing (analysis and theories to avoid personal awareness/feelings)
    - distracting
    - becoming hostile
    - medicating

    We love to bury the pain of grief with addictions that are followed by guilt and shame as we lose control.

    Biblical Grieving

    1. Pay attention
    2. Wait in the confusing in-between (Ps. 37:7)
    3. Embrace the gift of limits

    In addition to loss, we are faced with limits in our life. Limits in our life include

    - physical body
    - family of origin
    - marital status
    - intellectual capacity
    - talents and gifts
    - material wealth
    - educational opportunities
    - raw material (personality, temperament)
    - time
    - work
    - relationship realities
    - spiritual understanding
    - ministry

    4. Climb the ladder of humility

    The word humility comes from the Latin humus which means “of the earth.”

    St. Benedict’s Ladder of Humility

    Step 8 Transformation into the Love of God
    Step 7 Speaking Less
    Step 6 Deeply Aware of Being “Chief of All Sinners”
    Step 5 Radical Honesty to Others About Your Weaknesses/Faults
    Step 4 Patience To Accept The Difficulty of Others
    Step 3 Willing To Subject Ourselves To The Direction of Others
    Step 2 Doing God’s Will (Not Your Own Or Other People’s)
    Step 1 Fear of God and Mindfulness of Him

    Listening To The Interruption

    Jesus doesn’t deny his grief. Why do so many Christians?

    Jesus is real and authentic. He feels. He expresses His emotions.

    He listens to the interruptions of His life.

    Have you ever felt so bad that you could just die? That’s how Jesus felt.

    This passage is difficult for some people who want Jesus the superhero. For the rest of us, it is reassuring that He understands our struggles and trials and agony.

    It is human to feel and hurt.

    Learning To Fall

    I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

    Book by Philip Simmons, contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease at age 35.

    The trash of the grief may spell, but there are diamonds in the mess that God can use.

    When we listen to the interruption and learn to fall, our souls will enlarge.

    a. our self-will breaks

    Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8)

    Jesus had a human will. He was fully God but also fully human. His humanity did not want to obey the Father. He did not naturally obey the Father. He wanted out. He submitted His will to the Father’s will.

    Jesus prayed three times for the Father’s will.

    You learn obedience through the struggle of grief.

    You lose control at the wall (last week’s message).

    Life is more than a series of problems we need to solve. Life is a mystery.

    b. we learn about prayer

    Prayer is the center of our life with Christ. David, Job, Jeremiah, Jesus grieved with God through prayer.

    c. we create space for God

    In emptying ourselves, we make room for more of God. When we give up control, we can lean into God.

    Resurrection

    The beauty of dying to ourselves is the opportunity to be resurrected in Christ. This is beautifully illustrated in the water grave of baptism.

    I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

    Jesus knows and understands life. He knows temptation (Hebrews 4:15) and suffering.

    Patient Trust

    Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

    We are quite naturally impatient in everything

    to reach the end without delay.
    We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
    We are impatient of being on the way to something
    unknown, something new.
    And yet it is a law of progress
    that it is made by passing through
    some stages of instability—
    and that it may take a very long time.

    And so I think it is with you.

    Your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
    let them shape themselves, without undue haste.


    Don’t try to force them on,

    as though you could be today what time
    (that is to say, grace and circumstance
    acting on your own good will)
    will make of you tomorrow.

    Only God could say what this new spirit

    gradually forming within you will be.
    Give our Lord the benefit of believing
    that his hand is leading you,
    and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
    in suspense and incomplete.

    - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

    You can listen to the podcast here.

    Note: many ideas derived from Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituailty.
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