Cancellations, Postponements and Disappointments.

Cancellations, Postponements and Disappointments.

We are living in very unusual times right now.  The Coronavirus has affected most all of us in some way or another.  Events all over the world have been postponed or canceled altogether.  Major sporting events have been called off.  Personally, Joann and I were planning to leave for Israel last Wednesday.  We thank the Lord that the trip was canceled, otherwise, we would be quarantined in a hotel in a foreign land right now.

Disappointments are a part of life.  When something that we have been planning to do for a long time doesn’t happen, it can be discouraging.  However, we shouldn’t let our disappointments control our attitude.  Remember that there are people whose lives have been changed in drastic and sorrowful ways these last couple of weeks and months, and their lives have been changed forever.  A verse that has kinda been a life verse for Joann and me is; Proverbs 27:1 Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. This verse helps us keep each day in perspective.  Live life today and don’t worry about what might happen tomorrow.  We only have today’s grace from God.  We cannot draw on tomorrow’s grace today.

If you have experienced disappointment recently, don’t allow it to bring you down.  God has a plan, look to see what the purpose for your disappointment might be and thank Him for changing your plans.

Psalm 42:11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Praise the Lord for our disappointments, because He is always working on our behalf!

Use Our Time Wisely

Use Our Time Wisely

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

God has a purpose and a plan for everything that enters into the life of a believer. He also has a timetable for His plan to be accomplished. We just need to get on God’s time schedule during our times of pain.

Knowing that God has a plan and a timetable doesn’t make our pain go away. There is no set expiration date on grief; it is different for everyone. People try to establish a time limit on sorrow, a year or two, however, we cannot set an artificial timetable on a person’s grief.

Everyone is different. We grieve differently and for different amounts of time. Pain will diminish with time, but it never goes away completely. We should not ever rush through grief. Sabrina Black is quoted in the book, Grieving with Hope: Our society says, “You should be over that. That was two weeks ago; that was two months ago.” The tendency is to put on a mask and pretend you’re okay. But, you have to be honest with people and let them know this is not helping. You need to say, “This is what I feel. I need to experience this. I’m planning to get to the other side of it, but I’m not there yet.”

Grief comes upon a person like a wave on the seashore. When it happens, there is nothing you can do to stop it. It will come upon you at the weirdest times and circumstances, most times when you don’t expect it.

Then there are the times that you can see the storms of grief on the horizon, such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions that you know will be hard to get through. The first year you handle them the best you can. Thanksgiving was only a month and a half after our son, Johnny passed away. It is always a big holiday for us as a family. That year we just went to a restaurant. Joann didn’t want to cook and be happy at home, so we adjusted to the grief we were all feeling.

The “firsts” are very hard to get through; however, it is very common for the second time through a special occasion to be worse than the first. This is because you are not in shock anymore; you are anticipating the event. The memory of your lost loved one, coupled with the anticipation of the grief you felt the last year, makes the pain feel deeper.

As a compassionate shepherd, try to be aware of those that are without a loved one over holidays. Send a card or make a call, letting them know that you recognize they are hurting at that time. You have no idea what an encouragement that can be.

Counseling others through times of grief is a very emotional work, but the shepherd is expected to be up to the task. Remember, we won’t have any magic words to take away someone’s pain but, being in a place to bring comfort is invaluable.

If you are grieving, take the time you need to grieve. If you want to be a help to someone that is hurting, take the time to be there for them. Time is a valuable commodity, use it to the glory of God.

The above is an excerpt from the book I wrote, “The Compassionate Shepherd” available on Amazon. The Compassionate Shepherd

Family Caregivers and Grief

Family Caregivers and Grief

I posted a blog earlier this month letting people know that November is “National Family Caregivers Month.” This is in recognition of all those people that are caring for a loved one because of who they are, a family member. It may be a child with special needs, an aging parent or a spouse that needs extra attention. These everyday heroes just get up each day and do the next thing that needs to be done. They are not compensated for the tasks they do, it is a natural work birthed out of a deep love for the one in need.

I recently read an article on the subject of grief, “7 Things I Have Learned Since the Loss of My Child” by Angela Miller. It is a good article written by a woman that has experienced the hardest type of grief in my opinion. This article made me ponder the fact that we grieve over many different situations in life, death being the most recognized “Trigger of Grief.” I read a good definition of grief some time ago as ”The process of dealing with the death of a dream.”

Being a caregiver is also a “Trigger of Grief.” What I mean by that is, when we begin to take over care for a loved one, there is generally an “out of the ordinary” circumstance that puts us in the role of a caregiver. Watching our parent’s health decline brings a sense of grief; the one that has always cared for us, now needs us to care for them. We can experience watching our spouse slowly disappear; they may be with us physically, but they slip away from us mentally. For my wife, Joann and me it was when our son was born with multiple unique malformations, we loved him with all our hearts, but the dreams we had for our third child died that day. In all these scenarios the process of grief begins. And at that time and throughout the time of caregiving, the same support is desired as if a loved one has died.

Again, referencing the article, there are ways that we can encourage Family Caregivers as they navigate their roles in caring for their loved ones, in the same way, we would encourage those in grief.

• Recognize the work that they are doing. They are managing a role that is out of the realm of their expertise for most of them. They have had to learn medical terms, medications, take care of physical needs that are, at times, unpleasant. Most caregivers are tired, they are doing the work of two or three full-time jobs: managing the care of their loved ones, keeping up with home duties and many working outside the home. Letting them know you realize they are doing a great job will encourage them so much in that work.

• Talk to them about the work they are doing. Like those that grieve the loss of a loved one, those that are caregivers need to talk about their experiences. There is no need for giving advice or trying to fix them. They just need someone to listen. You may not have a clue what they are going through, but allowing them to speak is a great help to them and may eventually be a great benefit to you.

• Realize their life is not normal. When being a caregiver, you cannot be involved in many of the activities you used to be or would like to be. Friends and family need to understand that their life is different, not worse, just different. Their schedule isn’t normal, there are doctor appointments, therapy sessions, emergencies that need to be addressed. Caregivers would like to be able to do the other things, but they have more pressing obligations. Have an understanding attitude.

Grief is a hard work no matter what the reason. We can be a great encourager to those in grief if we choose to. We never know when it will be our time to grieve.

Trust in Spite of Our Fears

Trust in Spite of Our Fears

“Worry is like a rocking chair; it doesn’t get you anywhere, but it gives you something to do.”
This statement is a “truism” given to me by one of my former pastors during a message that he preached one Sunday. The premise was, that as a child of God we should not worry about the necessary things of life, because the Lord has promised to meet our needs. No doubt we all spend time worrying over things that we cannot control. The Bible even tells us that the spirit of fear is not from God.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Yet, we still have situations that will cause us to worry. During the years of caring for our son Johnny, who had multiple health issues, there were many occasions that my wife and I were worried about what would happen to him. Would he survive a heart surgery? Was this infection going to be the one that would take his life? How long will his kidney transplant last?… The list went on and on.
During those times of worry were we having a lapse of faith? Some would say that we were after all the Bible tells us to, “Be careful for nothing.” I have always believed that we cannot control our emotions. Fear or worry, like most emotions, are brought on by circumstances. Can we control the emotions we feel in reaction to certain events? I personally don’t believe we can. However, how we react to those emotions is a different story.
Worry and fear are real emotions and we cannot just shut them off like a light switch. We cannot will our emotions away. However, we must not allow them to control our actions. Fear and worry can cripple us. We can become afraid to do the next thing because of how it may affect our lives. We no longer live, but allow our fears to hold us back.
King David faced many fearful situations in his life. He had many enemies that tried to destroy him. He never denied the fears he had, yet he didn’t give in to them either. He had a trust in his God that sustained him in spite of his worries and fears.

Psalm 56:3What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”
Psalm 56:11In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.”

Having feelings of fear or worry are not a sign of a lack of faith. We just can’t allow the spirit of fear to control us. Fearful times and worries are a part of life. Our reaction to those emotions needs to be a trust in the Lord in spite of our feelings.

Is It Well With Your Soul Today?

Is It Well With Your Soul Today?

Horatio G. Spafford wrote the timeless Christian Hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”  The background behind him writing that song is a very tragic story.  He was a wealthy lawyer in Chicago in the late 1800s.  He invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan.  He and his wife, Anna had five children.  In 1870 their only son died of scarlet fever at the age of four.  While still grieving the loss of their son, the great Chicago fire happened in 1871, destroying much of the properties that he owned.

Two years later he decided that the family should go on a vacation to England.  They would join D. L. Moody on his evangelistic crusade while they were there.  Shortly before the time for them to leave some important business matters came up that Horatio had to attend to.  The decision was made to send the family on before him and he would join them in England as soon as possible.

While his family was sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, the ship they were on was struck by another sailing vessel and their ship sank. Only Anna survived the accident, their four daughters were lost.  When the news came to Horatio, he immediately boarded the next available ship to England to be with his grieving wife.  The captain of the ship that Mr. Spafford was on called him to the bridge and told him that they were sailing past the spot where the ship his family was on sank.

As Horatio stared into the dark blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, his gaze turned toward heaven and he penned the words of that great hymn.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot thou’ has taught me to say
It is well it is well with my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

My sin oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o’ my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so it is well with my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

It is hard to imagine the thoughts that were going through the mind of this man that loved the Lord, yet suffered great tragedy in his life.  However, we see that he did not blame the Lord, but looked to him for grace and comfort through his heartache.

Many times when deep trials and pain come into our life we turn from the Lord.  We can’t understand why we have to go through the dark waters.  If we are wise, our gaze will turn heavenward and we will allow the Lord to minister His grace to us.  The Lord can use our pain to minister to others for years to come if we would allow Him to.  Horatio Spafford died in 1888, for the last century Christians have found peace and encouragement from the song he wrote through a veil of tears.  The Lord can use our trials to influence many people that we come in contact with today and in the future.  May the Lord teach us to say, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

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