Archives For Pain

photo 7 300x225 On the Death of my Grandmother

Grandma, Cassie & Christa

This morning my grandmother died.

We are hurting. But God’s words wash over our hearts and comfort us.

God is near.

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

He has not left us or forsaken us. God’s own presence comforts us in our grief. We are not alone.

Jesus is our hope.

When Jesus encountered Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died, he asked her a crucial question.

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

We do believe this.

Doris Wickman believed this. She held Christ in her heart, and now he holds her.

That doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt. And it doesn’t mean we don’t weep. However, there is a limitation to our grief. It is not stifled, yet it is not total. God’s promises hem it in. We grieve, but not forever.

Hope Limits Grief.

Paul put it this way:

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

Death does not get the final word with believers in Jesus Christ.

We believe that the spiritual rebirth we experience in Christ is just a foretaste of the bodily resurrection we will someday experience. It is in death that the realities of the resurrection are made real. The deposit of faith that my Grandmother made has now been redeemed. She is now in Heaven, where her Savior has been waiting for her.

We are confident in this.

My Grandfather, Richard, upon hearing of his dear wife’s departure, uttered these words first:

“away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

He knows where his wife is. For over 64 years, they were one. Now He continues to place His faith in the One who has made him new inside. Someday my Grandpa will also be made new forever. The body that is now frail and failing will be replaced, just as his Spirit has been made new in Christ.

I am blessed to be the grandson of such a man of faith.

When Jesus’ disciples were troubled about His pending bodily departure from this world, He looked ahead. He comforted them by pointing to the new home that they would someday inhabit with Him.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Someday I will go home.

I will take up residence in the eternal place my Lord is preparing for me. But for now I have the promises of God.

The Lord revealed a glimpse of our someday-home to the Apostle John. This is how he described what is to come:

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

I do not have that comfort yet. I have the promise of that comfort. But the promise is enough for now.

Now there are tears. Now there is pain. Now I hold onto my family as we weep.

But someday our Savior will end this suffering. The promises made real in Christ’s death and resurrection will be fully completed upon His return. He will gather those who have fled to Him for comfort, and we will make our eternal home with Him.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Someday He will.

 

I also wrote about my Grandparents this past June. I hope my writing can, in some small way, honor their lives and the immeasurable impact they have had on mine.

Marriage Done Right

Life will present the opportunity to talk to your kids about tragedy.

  • Fluffy the cat will die.
  • Somebody will do something stupid and hurt a lot of people.
  • I wish it wasn’t true, but you are eventually going to be faced with this reality.

You decide who tells your child.

  • You? Or the kids on the school bus
  • Parents need to guide their kids through the process of understanding (not solving) tragedy.

Who is this most helpful for?

  • Kids who are old enough to be aware but young enough to need help understanding.
  • We’re not talking to our Pre Schooler or Kindergartner.
  • We let our 11 and 13 year-olds in on the news.

5 Tips to help you talk to your kids:

1)  Be honest. But filter the details.

  • Kids have a vivid imagination, and are extremely sensitive.
  • Help them by not giving them frightening mental images.
  • Choose your words carefully.
  • Your goal is to inoculate them from the shock of hearing this for the first time. When offered information on the school bus, your child will be able to say, “Yes, I know. Isn’t that sad?” instead of, “What? Tell me more.”

2)  Don’t make stuff up.

  • Fluffy did not go to heaven. Children do not become angels.
  • Don’t be harsh. But don’t attempt to whisk away the painful truth by supplementing it with make-believe feel-good stuff.
  • I’ve often seen adults squirm when the pressure is on. Kids know whey you’re faking it. Love them enough to be honest and direct. Adding some kind of spin to “make it better” won’t do anyone any favors.

3)  Express appropriate emotions. But keep it together.

  • Your body language is incredibly important. They will hear your emotions more than your words.
  • They will either draw confidence or a sense of insecurity from you. Your tone matters.
  • Don’t be fake. But be strong. Be the adult.

4)  Give them something to do.

  • Children may need to take action in response to hearing bad news.
  • Pray with them for the families who are hurting. Doing this will direct real help to hurting families. It will also comfort your child. They will draw strength knowing that God is our “ever present help in times of trouble”.
  • You could also get more creative. Color a picture or make a craft that you can send to the families who are hurting. Whatever helps.

5)  Ensure them of their own safety.

  • The last thing you want is for your children to feel unsafe.
  • Plan some together time afterwards. Some kids will want to curl up in your arms. Others will want to play. Whatever makes them feel secure and safe is what you should do.

God bless you as you have difficult but necessary conversations with your children.

May He give you every word you need.

 

For More Help:

 Comfort   Help for the Hurting

Comfort – Help for the Hurting

Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to remove the pain we’re experiencing. Circumstances beyond our control find us hurting and in need of help.

Instead of trying to understand or diminish the hurt, embrace the One who is called, “The God of all comfort…” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Read through these verses. Click on the links to read further. Meditate on God’s goodness, even in the middle of your pain. Receive the comfort He has to offer.

  • Comfort is sometimes hard to find.

Job 7:13-14 13 When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, 14 even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions,

Psalm 119:82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”

Psalm 86:17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

  • Those closest to us are often best equipped to comfort us.

Job 2:11When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him andcomfort him.

Job 42:11
All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

  • Whatever we face, our Heavenly Father’s presence and promises are comforting.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 119:50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:52 I remember, LORD, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.

Psalm 119:76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

Isaiah 12:1 In that day you will say: “I will praise you, LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.

Isaiah 49:13 Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 51:3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Isaiah 51:12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass,

Isaiah 57:18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,

Isaiah 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Jeremiah 8:18 You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.

Jeremiah 31:13 Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

The New Testament offers our ultimate comfort: Jesus

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

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

The comfort we receive isn’t just for us. Get it. Then give it.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…

2 Corinthians 1:4 …who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfortcomfort my people, says your God.

 

God will not be silent forever.

Even in times of incredible pain, questioning and heartache, He will be found. Seek Him. Find Him. Then share the comfort you have received with others who are hurting.

Also Read: “HOPE – 29 Reasons to Hope

and “Hope for the Hurting

Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

December 14, 2012 — 8 Comments
 Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

I am seething.

As a father of four, everything in me wants to wrap my hands around the neck of this man who harmed those innocents today.

Anger may be my first response. When kids are hurt, anger is appropriate. But then we begin to walk through a whole range of emotions and responses.

  • I am enraged at the thought of one man’s actions tearing apart the lives of so many. I don’t care what factors contributed to his state of mind. No one gets to hurt kids. Ever.
  • I am crushed at the thought of what those families are going through. I cannot begin to understand the agony they are facing. The thought is too much to bear.
  • I’m confused. How could God be God in this world soaked in senseless violence? It just doesn’t make sense.

Senseless tragedy causes us to ask some heavy-duty questions.

Why did this happen?

  • We live in a fallen world. Sin is ugly, and sometimes it makes an unfiltered appearance in our world. Make no mistake about it, the devil’s plan for this world is to tear us apart.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy… (John 10:10)

The devil’s plan is to steal, kill and destroy those who God loves. He is good at it. Sometimes he finds a willing accomplice to carry out his will.

In this time of grace, lodged between the resurrection and the return of Christ, we experience the results of both limitless love and of utter, unthinkable selfishness. We know, however, that this time is limited. Some day the window of choice will be shut. The age of grace will be over. We will spend the rest of eternity with the consequences of the decisions we have made here on earth.

Today we are reeling from the reality of sin, which has reared its head in senseless violence.

Someday we will fully know the reality of the second part of John 10:10.

…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Today it is hard to believe.

Why didn’t God stop it?

  • I don’t know.
  • I wish I did.
  • I might never find out why.

I won’t give you some nicely wrapped answer. I understand that God has granted us a great degree of choice, free will, in this world in which we live. This allows us to ascend to the heights of faith and love, as well as descend into the very pit of hell.

However, when I’m freshly confronted with horrors of this nature, I find it difficult to reconcile in my mind. I think, “If I were God, I would have stopped it.” This, and a million other reasons, are why I am not God. I do not fully comprehend His ways. I do know, however, that the presence of evil in this world does not diminish His goodness.

What happened to those children?

  • They are in the arms of the One who created them.

They are experiencing no pain right now. Instead, they are receiving the perfect comfort of their Father in Heaven. They lack nothing. They do not want. They are not afraid. They are at perfect peace.

How do we know children go to heaven?

God’s Word is clear regarding children and eternity.

In a culture that viewed children as more of a nuisance than a treasure, Jesus welcomed them into his presence.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)

The innocence of children, as well as God’s love for them, is featured here and multiple other places in Scripture.

There is a biblical concept called, “the age of accountability”. While all children are born with a sinful nature, and are born into a world of sin, they are also considered blameless by God until they reach a certain age. (Deuteronomy 1:39) When children are born, they do not fully perceive the difference to make right and wrong. Eventually, each person arrives at an age where we do understand, and we are morally “of age”. We understand our actions and are culpable for the consequences. Kindergartners are certainly under that age.

God is perfectly just, and does not allow the innocent to go to hell any more than he allows the guilty to go to heaven.

Weep for these children. But realize that the trauma has ended for them. Pray for their families, and for those precious little ones who survived. Pray that God will help them bear and heal from this trauma.

What happened to the shooter?

  • Nothing good.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” (Matthew 19:14) Jesus advocated for the weak and defenseless his entire ministry. He had words of warning for those who would render harm to others. Speaking of those who cause others to stray in their young faith, he said,

“Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2)

Jesus said that it’s better to face certain, unpleasant death than to lead a new believer astray. I would not want to have to stand before this God of ours after hurting a child.

All throughout Scripture we are assured of God’s goodness and His justice.

The shooter did not escape the consequences of his actions by death. He escaped his chance to accept grace and forgiveness for his awful acts. He stepped from the scene of the crime into the throne room of God. He will face judgment.

“God can not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)

We’re also told in Psalms:

The Lord reigns forever;
    he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
    and judges the peoples with equity.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

(Psalm 9:7-10)

Even in the face of senseless tragedy, God is still God. Although it appears He is not present, He is. He is the One who knew the number of every hair on those victims’ heads. He is aware of every ounce of pain they experienced, and what their families are going through now. In fact, He even knows what it is like to know that your child is suffering.

This God we serve is not aloof. He is not callous. He is actively comforting and consoling those families whose lives have been torn apart by the temporary victory of the evil one.

In the end, the devil will not win. He has already been defeated. For now he will wound all he can. But there will come a day when he will cease from his work.

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

(Genesis 3:15)

The devil will cause as much pain as he can in this world. Christ has already defeated him. The cross and the empty tomb ensured it. God has allowed a time of opportunity for people to either accept or reject him. While the devil, “strikes the heel” for now, someday his “head will be crushed” upon the return of Christ.

Are you troubled by this tragedy? You should be. Sin should never make sense.

  • Seek Him as your refuge.
  • Cry out to Him for comfort.
  • Don’t forget to lift up these hurting families in prayer. They need it.

Need comfort & hope?

Here’s “Comfort – Help for the Hurting

Here’s “29 Reasons to Hope

 Feel Like a Failure? Heres 5 Helps

Keep Moving Forward

While staying up late to write this post, Kelcy (my wife) asked me, “What’cha writing?”

“A blog post on feeling like a failure.” I replied.

Her immediate response? “You’re not (a failure).”

“I know” I assured her. “That’s why I’m writing it.”

Even now, after 15 years of her assuring and reassuring me, she is still aware that I need the occasional reminder that I am not, in fact, a failure.

When I tell people I’ve felt like a failure before, they often say, “Come on, you? You’re such a positive guy. You’ve always got a smile on you face. How could you think that you’re a failure?”

It’s easy. After suffering one setback after another (I’ll save you the sob story), I let my negative circumstances get me down. I had believed the lie that each setback was a failure, and that I, somehow was and always would be a failure.

I’ve learned a lot since then.

Here’s 5 helps for when you’re feeling like a failure:

1) What you do is not who you are.

You are not the job you lost. You are not your failed business. You are not your last relationship. You are you.

So who are you?

Chances are, if you can’t answer that question apart from “I (insert verb)” then you’re identifying with what you do rather than who you truly are. We’re human beings, not human doings, remember? The truth is that, rather than tying our identity to the things we do, or even to other people, we should begin establishing our identity as God defines it.

He tells us we’re created in His own image. That’s right. He created you, and He doesn’t create junk. The living God, who created everything from nothing, created you with all of your unique traits. He loves who He created you to be. So if you’ve spent too much of your life drawing your identity from sources other than the Source, I suggest you take steps toward discovering who you truly are.

To help you discover who you are, I highly recommend two books by Neil T. Anderson:

 Feel Like a Failure? Heres 5 Helps

Victory Over The Darkness by Neil T. Anderson

Victory Over The Darkness  

 Feel Like a Failure? Heres 5 Helps

Who I Am in Christ by Neil T. Anderson

Who I Am in Christ

These books will take you on an in-depth journey of experiencing who God designed you to be.

2) Experience is an expensive education.

Everybody makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are monumental. They’re costly. But even though we’d never go back and make them over again, we can still squeeze a great deal of value out of them.

If you are willing to learn from your mistakes, you can benefit from them. Consider this: Many of the mistakes you have made in the past can inform your future decisions. I tell people that the number of mistakes I’ve made, and what they’ve taught me, is part of why I’m writing now. At this point in my life, I have amassed a wealth of mistakes. I’ve paid dearly for each and every one of them. Don’t think for a second that I’m going to forget the sting of pain that came with each one. And don’t think that I’m going to make the same mistake twice.

This book by John Maxwell helped me turn the page on a difficult chapter in my life. After years of ups and downs, I sincerely thought I had failed beyond repair. This book helped me begin moving out of despair and into a newfound hope. It helped me begin to leverage my mistakes as a valuable set of resources.

 Feel Like a Failure? Heres 5 Helps

Failing Forward by John Maxwell

Failing Forward

3) Failure isn’t final. (unless you let it be)

There are two ways you can make failure final.

  1. You make the same mistake over and over again, never learning or improving.
  2. You quit.

If you’d rather live to fight another day rather than resign to the finality of failure, you’ve got to do two things.

  • Learn from your mistakes. You’ve paid your tuition, now show up for class. The difference between the wise person and the fool is that the wise person learns from their mistakes. “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12) How do you see danger coming? You remember the last time you were in that situation, and you adjust your response! Learn from life, and life will get better as you go.
  • Keep moving forward. You do not get to quit. Sorry. I just won’t let you off the hook. Sure, you have been hurt. I understand your pain is real. I would never minimize the suffering you have experienced as a result of failures in your life. But that does not mean your life is over. Keep moving forward. Do NOT stop. You’ve got too much to lose by throwing in the towel. Need some inspiration? Take a look at this post. Watch the video of soccer player Lionel Messi. He’s a true inspiration.

4) God has a plan for you that’s good.

God once said to Israel, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11) Today we can be just as assured that God works for our good. In fact, He even sent His Son to this world to give His own life for us. Then He sent his Holy Spirit to fill His followers. That’s right, the God of all creation values you, and your future, so much that He spared no expense to reconcile you to Himself. He wants you to experience all of the good He has designed you for, and He has moved heaven and earth to make that a reality.

If you don’t believe that, I’m sorry. I’m sure you have good reasons to believe otherwise. I myself have questioned, once or twice, whether or not God’s plan for my life was really good. In the middle of painful circumstances, it’s easy to question God. Is He good? Is he just? If so, how could he allow bad things to enter my life?

  • Sometimes we fail by making bad decisions, and we suffer the consequences.
  • Sometimes other people fail us, and we pay those consequences too.
  • Sometimes failure is just part of living in a world that’s fallen and broken.

Regardless of their source, there is no failure that God can’t redeem.

5) Even a devastating loss can lead to a great comeback.

Did you go see that movie this Summer about that guy who had a nice life, and then it gradually got better and better? No? Me either. It sounded boring and predictable.

Every story worth telling involves a comeback. God is in the business of writing those stories.

  • God anoints a shepherd boy as king. He faces opposition on his way to the throne. Then, after fighting for years to take what God had given him, he rules as king over a period of expansion and security. Then he blows it. He sleeps with another man’s wife, then has her husband killed to cover it up. But then he realizes he’s made a mess of his life. He hangs on through the consequences, and turns his life back around. Generations later, Jesus Christ is born through his blood line. I’d say David’s life, although interrupted by his and others’ failures, turned out to leave a lasting legacy.

That’s just one example. Those are stories I read over and over again. I wouldn’t be surprised if He’s in the process of writing a comeback story with your life right now.

Just imagine what your life could look like if you let God have the last say with your failures. It’s a process. It takes time. But if you discover who you really are, learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward, you’ll discover that His plan for you is good. Considering all you’ve been through, that would be a great comeback story.

For more encouragement:

11 Years Ago Today

September 11, 2012 — Leave a comment
 11 Years Ago Today

Remembering September 11

It was a crisp, clear Tuesday morning. My girls, then ages 2 and 3 months, were at home with Kelcy. If anything, it was my favorite type of morning. Sunny and comfortable, this kind of weather always makes me optimistic. I could not have imagined how the day would turn out.

I was at work at New Life. At the time I was a Staff pastor there, responsible for a number of things including Children’s Ministry and Young Adults. The building was in the final stages of the remodeling project we had undertaken when we moved in. Painters lined the main hallway, making the sheetrock smooth and presentable.

Then we heard there was something happening. We weren’t sure what. An accident? A plane crash?

The TVs in the lounge area were turned on. We watched in bewilderment as we tried to wrap our brains around what we saw. I gathered the workers. “There’s something happening. You might want to come watch.” Work stopped. Life stopped. Our breath itself nearly stopped. We counted up who we knew that was anywhere near NYC. Phone lines lit up as all experienced the urge to connect with loved ones.

Then, before we could even regain our bearings, we had to respond. What was next? What could we do? How could we help our community make sense of this senseless act of violence?

We did what we know how to do. We gathered together, worshiped and prayed. In the midst of unimaginable tragedy, we pointed people to the hope of eternity, and the immediate help available from the Lord.

Today, I’m taking some time to pray for those families who were forever impacted by the events of that day. I have been able to move forward with my life and loved ones intact. Please join me in lifting up those who were not as fortunate, who are hurting today, still living with the pain of loss. Pray that the God of all comfort will be especially close to them.

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Please take a moment and pray for those who are hurting. Then make it a point to encourage them. It may be the most tangible way God works through you today.

For more hope and encouragement:

 Need Hope? Heres the 4 Most Inspiring Minutes of Your Day

Need Hope?

Is your hope stretched thin? Think you’ve got problems?

  • We all have hurt.
  • We all have pain.

Nick is here to tell you, “If you don’t get a miracle, become one.”

If Nick’s story doesn’t inspire you, you may want to check your pulse.

For More Hopeful Videos:

  1. Walk: Take A Step Toward Your Goal

  2. Stuck? 5 Steps to Get 4×4 Traction for Your Life!

  3. 63 Seconds of Unstoppable Motivation

Hope for the Hurting

March 21, 2012 — 5 Comments

People are hurting.

I’m only two days into this week, and I’ve already had numerous conversations that started with, “Can you pray for my family? We just lost __________.”

  • A lifelong friend
  • A mother
  • A classmate

Still more are carrying heavy burdens, hurting along with the ones they love.

  • A sister has cancer
  • A child is struggling at school
  • A father has left the family

You are hurting, or you know someone who is. The sheer amount of hurt and pain people are experiencing can be overwhelming. I often feel helpless in the face of it all.

There is good news. We can find the strength to cope if we know where to look for it. Better yet, we can share that help others who are struggling. Here’s how:

 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. (Matthew 11:28)

 These words stick out to me from this verse. Soak these in. Consider the implications for you and the hurting people you know.
  • “Come…” – Relief is not automatic. We need to go somewhere to receive something. That’s why Jesus calls out to the weary, the broken, and those who are weighed down with life. The miracle of Jesus is that He was all-man and all-God at the same time. His humanity allowed Him to understand completely all of our physical frailties. He knows personally what it’s like to be hungry and thirsty, to be tempted, betrayed, and even to suffer the loss of a dear friend. This is our Savior, who willingly stepped away from His throne in Heaven to come to earth and live a life of sacrifice. It’s this Jesus who calls out to us and says, “Come…”. Will you respond? Will you go to Him for relief? For comfort? For healing?
  • “…rest”- Go. Work. Do. I’m more comfortable with any of those words than I am with the word “rest”. It feels lazy, even irresponsible to rest. I’ve got work to do, people to help. There is a place Jesus is calling us to, a state of being, rather than doing. The God who laid His life down for ours did so to give us perfect rest for our souls. He offers us what the world cannot. If we will only come when He calls, we will receive from Him what we can find nowhere else. Rest. Deep, meaningful, productive rest.
  • “Take…” – Jesus doesn’t simply call us to lay down and do nothing. Upon receiving the peace He offers us, we need to also take in what He offers. We get to make an exchange, laying down our burdens and picking up His. The imagery of the yoke is hilarious to me. To think that Jesus wants to be yoked to me, as though we could be some sort of great team. The reality is that God, in asking me to be yoked to him, is saying, “I’ll do all the work. Just stay close to me.” I will. I must. I have tried all my life to pull these burdens myself. I cannot. The load is too heavy, and I am embarrassingly weak. I must be yokes to Him.
  • “Let me…” – Will you? Will you come when He calls? Will you receive the rest only He can offer? Will you take up partnership with Him? When He looks upon your hurt and says, “Let me”, will you?
Do it now. Pray with me:
“Jesus, it’s difficult to ask for help sometimes. But I admit right now that I need you. The burdens of life are too great for me to carry on my own. I need the rest You offer to settle deep into my soul. Refresh me. Renew me. As I lay my burdens down to You, I pray that You will pick them up and handle them better than I ever could. Allow me the joy of being connected to You day by day. Show me how to let you lead me today. Amen.”
For more Help:  ”29 Reasons to Hope” and “Pain is Never Wasted
 Nuclear Fallout:  Life after Relationship Death

You Can Survive

Pull the Plug: When You Should Kill a Relationship” generated a lot of traffic, comments and emails.

Today I want to take it to the next level. Let’s go.

First, “killing a relationship“, as I phrased it, is what I call “the nuclear option“. It is only to be employed in the worst-case scenario. This is almost never the first solution, and only acted upon in the context of grave hurt, godly counsel and a clear understanding of the consequences. Things may never be the same after pushing that button, so make sure you understand the gravity of what you’re doing when you shut down a highly dysfunctional relationship.

My fear is that too many people stay for too long in relationships that spread their tentacles of toxicity into too many hearts and lives. Irreparable damage is done, and innocent people are hurt. (i.e. the Mom who stayed too long with the abuser)

Second, if you have found yourself in the unenviable position of having to “push the button”, you need to know something. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. The good news is that navigating the “nuclear winter” of the next weeks and months is not impossible. Plenty of people have done it.

This is what you need to know to survive and (someday) thrive:

  1. You’re not alone. Your situation is not unique. I know the pain is unique, but the reality is that lots of people have survived what you’re going through. Knowing this will help fight the urge to go back on your commitment to lead a new life, one free of the toxic presence of whoever you’ve separated yourself from. You will survive. Keep your moving. You will move forward.
  2. You’re not alone unless you are alone. None of us were designed to face life’s difficulties alone. I’m not strong enough. Neither are you. Even in the best of times I depend on an entire network of people to help me navigate my way through life. The best place to build this into your life is a healthy local church. They exist. I’m part of one. I know you may have had both good and bad experiences there. Get over them. Go and get connected in some relationships worthy of the trust you are willing to extend. It may be a slow process for you, but take it one step at a time. That’s the only way to build new and worthwhile relationships. (Read the “Why I Go To Church” Series)
  3. Hope is available. Last week I posted, “29 Reasons to Hope“. This is just a small sample of the hundreds of hope-filled promises we find in Scripture. God is the One who holds the keys to your future. He has good plans for you, and those plans are unlocked with each successive step you take with Him.

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 Pull the Plug: When You Should Kill a Relationship

Pull the Plug

Some relationships should die.

I’ll never forget the first time I recommended that parents kick their son out of the house. He was dealing drugs, had already involved his brother, and was threatening his two younger siblings. If the cops were called one more time, the whole family was going to suffer consequences.

I sat amazed as I listened to Dad say, “Well, he’s a good kid…” He was not. He had lied, stolen, been arrested multiple times, and had broken every other promise imaginable. Every time he fell, he had a comfy spot to land. Home sweet home. Now Mom and Dad sat in my office looking for advice.

My suggestion? “It’s time for Junior to go. You have done your best to raise him right. (they had) He has chosen to reject everything you stand for. He has broken every thread of trust that held your relationship together. It’s time for him to make his own way in the world, to suffer bumps and bruises, and hopefully sober up.”

I wasn’t recommending that they disown him. But they needed to radically redraw the lines in the relationship. What would happen in the future? I could not predict it. For now, their relationship as they knew it needed to die.

This is one of the harder lessons I have had to learn.

As a pastor, I walk with people through all sorts of relational situations. People never schedule time to talk because they’re having a great day. They usually want to get together because they’re dying inside. It’s often due to some sort of relational crisis:

  • “That fight turned ugly.”
  • “She didn’t come home last night.”
  • “My friend betrayed me.”
  • “We just can’t live like this anymore.”

Often there are simple solutions to intense problems. With a little support and illumination from God’s Word, many of our problems can be addressed.

However, sometimes more drastic action is necessary. If you find yourself in certain scenarios, I suggest you talk to a trusted, godly friend, family member or professional. You may need to consider getting out of a relationship for your own good.

  • If a person abusesyou physically or sexually.
    • Do not make excuses for what is completely inexcusable. Get out.
  • If a person is endangeringthe well-being of your child.
    • Your child cannot protect themselves. Only you can. Do not risk their health, both now and for the future.
  • If you simply feel badafter each encounter you have with someone.
    • You don’t need to be friends with everyone.

This is not an exhaustive list. The point is that if your relationship with another is so broken, so one-sided, that they are no longer functional, you may need to step away. Or kick them out.

For more help with Relationships: