Tag Archives: grief

Finding the Good in Your Dark Days

As the years go by and I get older in life and in my faith, I grow more in love with Easter.Finding the Good in Your Dark Days

The entire week leading up to it is a good time to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus. As much as I love the celebration — yet loathe the flamboyant suits and hats in church — of Easter, I cherish Good Friday.

Historically, that was the bad day. That was when Jesus and His followers took the loss. It was a dark day in Jerusalem 33 A.D.

When I watch movies like Passion of the Christ, it’s heartbreaking seeing the crucifixion. Even though I know what will happen Sunday, I still am hurt by my Lord taking the beating on Good Friday.

But regardless of how it looked then, that Friday was good.

The term “Good” in the title denotes pious or holy. Yet the day is good in our common English sense of the word too.

Interestingly, by definition “good” means “approved of” or “having the qualities required of a particular role.” When we think about it that is so fitting for Good Friday. As horrible as that day seemed, it was “approved of” by God. And Jesus had “the qualities required of the particular role” of enduring the cross for our sins to establish the New Covenant.

Another definition of good is “a benefit to someone.” How great of a benefit was Good Friday to us?

So Good Friday is appropriately named.

Beyond that, Good Friday reminds me of what can come from a seemingly horrible situation. In 33 A.D., there was nothing good about that day. It sucked. Peter and all the other disciples who scattered were scared and confused. Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Mary Magdalene were in unimaginable pain and grief. They would have never thought, in the middle of the chaos and horror, that that day could ever be considered good.

But it is.

Regardless of what it looked like to everyone around, God knew that the end result would be good. And in hindsight, we see how good it was. We realize how it was to our benefit.

I can look back at my life and recall some days, moments and seasons that were dark. When I was in the middle of them, I couldn’t possibly see what good could come from it.

But the same God who turned the execution of His Son into the greatest miracle ever, also turned my worst experiences into my greatest areas of growth and maturity.

Can I look back on my trials and call them good? Well, by the aforementioned definitions, yes. Obviously I had the qualities required to endure those times. And now, I can see how they benefited me.

That’s not to say our trials don’t sting. It’s not to say we should welcome them. There is no pleasure or desire in suffering. But there is growth. There is a benefit to them.

So if you are in the middle of a trying, painful and frustrating situation and you see no light, remember that thousands of years ago there was a dark and depressing day in Jerusalem that we now call Good. One day, you’ll be able to say the same about your dark day.

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We Can’t Breathe: Eric Garner, Advent & Grace

In recent years, I’ve commemorated Advent, the four-week season that leads up to Christmas. It’s been a great time of reflecting on the story of the birth of Christ and the celebration of the coming of the Messiah to rescue humanity.We Can't Breathe: Eric Garner, Advent & Grace

The interesting thing about Jesus, and something that Advent so powerfully recognizes, is that the rescue He provided is progressive. In Advent, we celebrate the rescue that came, the rescue we live in now, and the rescue that is still to come…the ultimate rescue we long for. We look back on His work on the cross, we contemplate the salvation He is working in us now, and we anticipate His return to restore a broken earth still suffering from the impact of sin.

And in the middle of this season, I can’t help connecting all that Advent represents with the state of America right now. As the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., have sparked anger, outrage, protests, and debate, we are seeing a groaning rising from the earth. There are plenty of things that can distress our hearts. There are plenty of things in this fallen world that cause us to long for Jesus’ return. Some of those things are obvious to all believers, and some of those things are obvious to all mankind (such as human trafficking, terrorism, etc.). But the events of Ferguson and Staten Island haven’t caused a universal distress.

I can’t breathe.

I won’t lay out all the background of why the black community (and those who sympathize with it) see police officers escaping indictment for lethal force as such an injustice. But understand that there is an inbred distrust of law enforcement that goes back generations. It comes from the experiences of our grandfathers, our fathers, ourselves, and our children.

I can’t breathe.

We have seen too much injustice. We have seen law enforcement officers receive grace for their mistakes while the mistakes of our brethren are fatal. We have seen a justice system we are told to trust disappoint us time after time. So we groan:

I can’t breathe.

Our struggle is like that of Advent. Our rescue has come. We have seen the dismantling of institutional racism in this nation. We have made progress. We have a twice-elected black president. We have increasing opportunity and influence. We are experiencing rescue. But we realize we are still broken. Still disproportionally in poverty. Still undereducated. Still looked upon with suspicion (whether we have a degree, own a home, and make more money than those profiling us). So we Advent. We yearn for a rescue. A rescue the president, justice system, nor any civil rights leader can provide. Writer and Pastor Winn Collier’s words on Advent ring so true:

“Advent first pierces the cold air as a desperate groan from those living at the jagged edges, from those who taste sorrow’s bitterness, those accustomed to the crush of disappointment, of fear. Advent comes first for those who have made a wreck of things, those who carry a legitimate complaint, for those whose existence teeters on the brink. If you do not know any pain, if you have no yearning for what is not yet true, if you have no pang of grief for your sorrow or the sorrow of another…if there is no raw, raspy voice somewhere in the hollows of your soul that every now and again whispers into the ravaging night, God, please…Please tear the heavens and come down… then some of what Advent offers will always stand remote for you.” – Groan, by Winn Collier

The groaning of the black community in America today is not an African-American groan, it’s the grown of mankind. It’s the groan of broken people who make mistakes, sin, and carry anger yet believe in grace and yearn for grace. It’s the groan of people who realize justice might be blind, but it isn’t always colorblind. It’s the longing for the just and righteous One who looked into the eyes of the adulterous woman and said “go, and sin no more,” instead of consenting to the lethal force of the authorities. Our world is broken. Our justice system is broken. We are broken. So we yearn. We Advent. Desperately, we Advent. Oh, Come Emmanuel.

We can’t breathe.

 

 

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We’re Not God, We Don’t Have Answers

Sunday night I was stunned and saddened to find out, via Twitter, that Dr. Myles Munroe, a renowned pastor and leader from the Bahamas, died in a plane crash along with his wife and seven others. I loved listening to Dr. Munroe speak. His teaching was so profound, insightful, and inspiring. And he always had a smile on his face when he preached, so he felt welcoming.We're Not God, We Don't Have Answers

Though I haven’t heard Dr. Munroe in a while, and haven’t read any of his books (he’s written or co-authored about 100), his tragic death hit home for me.

When untimely tragedies like this happen, we are forced to contemplate difficult questions of life and faith. Unfortunately, we don’t have proper answers to the questions.

I read several post on social media following news of Dr. Munroe’s death Sunday, with some people saying the pastor had finished his assignment and that his work on earth was complete. Those words are often used to help the mourning come to terms with their loss, but I question the accuracy of it.

How do we know Dr. Munroe’s assignment was complete and his purpose fulfilled? It might have been, but it might not have been either. Surely he has done more than most to advance the Kingdom of God in his lifetime, and he lived a full life. But just 60 years old and en route to a leadership conference, Dr. Munroe could have still done plenty more and impacted more lives.

I don’t know if Dr. Munroe’s time was up and he was just ordained to die on that day. But neither does anyone else on earth.

We like to have answers. Maybe we think it will help us sleep better at night or deal with difficulties in life. Maybe it’s just part of our culture, or just human arrogance that we need to know why. But I’ve found God rarely gives us answers despite our myriad questions. And He does it for a reason…faith.

We just have to trust Him. Trust Him when He tells us to do something that makes no sense. Trust Him when we experience an inexplicable tragedy. Trust Him in life, and trust Him in death. We don’t need answers, we just need Him. And though He never promised us answers, He has promised His presence.

Our theology — no matter how profound, historical, researched, spiritual and biblical — is inadequate to provide reasons and answers to difficult things of life. We do more harm than good when we try to give an explanation for everything.

God has the answers, not us. In our immaturity, we probe Him for answers. But in our maturity, we realize He is the answer. And that is enough.

Death is always a hard thing to process. And I don’t fault people seeking answers in pain. There are two great perspectives on death and mourning I highly recommend. First, my friend Jordan Rice, who lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, has written beautifully on this topic. Check out his blog post: Trapped in the Grip of Grace. Second, to go deeper on death and the hope after it, N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope is an excellent and profound read.

 

 

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How Heartbreak and Grief Help Us

By Kevin HowellHow Heartbreak and Grief Help Us

Pain sucks.

I’m not talking about physical pain (though I’m pretty sure that’s high on the suck level as well), but emotional pain. When I think back to the hardest times of my life, they came from heartbreak, grief, and loneliness.

Though I learned lessons from those experiences, I couldn’t find a benefit of going through them.

Though the pain from those emotions pierces our hearts, we can’t avoid them. If we live long enough, we’ll experience heartbreak, grief, and loneliness multiple times to various degrees. They are a part of life…an unwelcome part of life.

I’ve been wrestling with this topic lately after hearing comments on the subject from a pastor and a comedian.

Rick Warren, a renowned pastor and author of Purpose Driven Life, was interviewed on CNN a few weeks ago, talking about the death of his son, Matthew, who committed suicide. It was a touching interview with Warren and his wife as they shared their heartbreak.

In explaining his grief, Warren said he has cried every day since his son died, and he sees that as positive. Yes, he believes those negative emotions are good: “Grief is a good thing,” he said. “It’s the way we get through the transitions of life.”

That statement stood out from everything else he said in the interview. It’s so profound, and honestly, I still don’t fully comprehend it.

How can grief be good?

Inherently, it isn’t good because it comes from some sort of loss. But it’s good because of its purpose, as Warren explained. It helps us transition. It’s the way we move on. We let it out. We hurt. We let it burn — Usher style.

The alternative is burying the pain somewhere in our psyche to avoid the onslaught of negative emotions. The bad thing about that is it delays the transition. Comfort, peace and joy await on the other end of grief. The longer we hold the emotions in, the longer it takes to arrive there. Though we can arrive there partially by bottling up emotions, the pain still emerges without proper grief.

Experiencing negative emotions makes us human. Ironically, comedian Louis C.K. explained this perfectly — and quite off-color — during an appearance on the Conan show. He said sadness is poetic and we’re lucky to live sad moments. It’s a human emotion. It’s a part of the human experience. Yet, most of us do anything to avoid it — including occupying ourselves with our cell phones to avoid feeling lonely.

I’m no different. I’m a pro at bottling up emotions and avoiding pain. Ultimately it catches up to me. Pain sucks. But it doesn’t last forever. It eventually dissipates. Contentment and joy settle in.

I don’t think I’ll ever welcome grief, heartbreak or loneliness. But they will come. And when they do, I know the pain is simply a vehicle to help me transition. It is healthy. It heals. It makes way for peace and joy to return.

After pondering Warren’s statement that grief is good, I wonder if God created grief. We know every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17), and if grief has a good purpose, is it godly? It’s weird to think God would “create” grief, but I know what God calls “good and perfect” doesn’t necessarily mean comfortable and easy.

Whether He created grief or not is probably not important. What’s important is how He uses it and how we respond to it. Our response determines whether, in our lives, grief is good.

Kevin is the founder and editor of Transparency. Connect with him @transparencymag or kevin(at)transparencymag.com

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