Grief

Christians Get to Grieve, Too

A while ago I went to visit a man whose wife had died. It was a cold winter day in Maine as I drove up to the ancient farmhouse overlooking a frozen lake in a largely unknown small town in rural Maine. For anyone reading this who is not from Maine, let me tell you that he fit the quintessential image of a Mainer. He sported a thick white beard and his skin was leathered and toughened by the harsh Maine winters and years of working outside.

As we talked we sat in front of the stove in his kitchen and the air was filled with the unique smell of wood smoke. He was a retired pastor whose wife had died about six months before and I would occasionally drop in to see him. Our continued sporadic visits were as much of a surprise to me as anyone. We shared a common faith in the saving power of Christ, but I suppose that is about it. We disagreed on many theological things and we hail from completely different generations.

As a sort of grief counselor though, I was there to talk with him about his grieving process. I expected our first visit to be our last, but he kept inviting me back. We would discuss many things, but he always came back to the deep ache in his life left by the absence of his wife.

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Ministering to Those Who Mourn, Part 2

by James Saxman

Republished from Baptist Bulletin April/May 2017 with permission. © Regular Baptist Press, all rights reserved. Read part 1.

Tasks for Mourners

J. William Worden, Harvard professor, identifies four tasks for mourners in his book Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy. Gently helping a mourner to recognize these tasks is beneficial to the mourner’s good health in the days that follow loss.

1. Accept the reality of the loss. It sounds ridiculously obvious, but facing the stark fact that the loved one has died is necessary for the mourner to move on from denial. To experience irreversibility is a shock. Children know that Daddy and Mommy fix everything. When our childish imaginations are confronted with reality, we must change what we are accustomed to. Like it or not, we must begin the awful task of accepting the finality of death.

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Ministering to Those Who Mourn, Part 1

Republished from Baptist Bulletin March/April 2017 with permission. © Regular Baptist Press, all rights reserved.

by James Saxman

Lonely is the home without you,
Life to us is not the same,
All the world would be like heaven,
If we could have you back again. – Anonymous

And she said unto them, “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).

Grief/Mourning

The Bible has a great deal to say regarding the topics of grief and mourning. About 20 Hebrew words translated into our English Bibles are some form of the word grieve. Though the occurrences in the New Testament are less frequent than in the Old, Christians are certainly not excluded from grief. They cannot but feel sorrow and be moved by grief. In both the Old and New Testaments, God Himself is said to be susceptible to grief (Isa. 63:10 Heb. 4:15). In the Garden of Gethsemane, the “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3) told His disciples that His soul was deeply grieved, to the point of death (Matt. 26:38).

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Dealing With Loss: A Hero Named Larry

I have always appreciated the old hymn “It is Well With My Soul.” The melody is hauntingly beautiful. The words are especially touching, as they were written while Spafford was crossing the Atlantic when he was near the place where his four daughters died after the vessel in which they were traveling was involved in a collision at sea.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I can barely sing these words without tears welling up. Imagine the faith Spafford must have had to pen these words—especially in that place and at that time. Imagine how he must have suffered and agonized on his journey to being able to speak like that. He must have known God’s word well, to be able to lean on God’s promises like he seemed to do.

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Christmas Simcha - Even in Bleak Times

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is one of my favorite Christmas carols. In Scripture, God not only permits us to be merry, He encourages it. Sadly, when Christians focus on some truths while ignoring others, joy and merriment often suffer.

It is true that Christmas is a man-derived holiday. Although the birth of Jesus was divinely enacted, celebrating that birth is nowhere commanded in Scripture. But neither is it forbidden.

It is also true that the Paul’s command to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) is not primarily about merriment, yet His command to focus on the good things of this life (Philippians 4:8) implies enjoying more than the spiritual.

Proverbs 15:15 tells us that, if our hearts are cheerful, life is like a party: “All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.”

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

The Hebrew word for gladness or joy is simcha (pronounced with a hard ch, as in Bach). The word came to be used for a celebration, as Wikipedia states:

Jews often use simcha in its capacity as a Hebrew and Yiddish noun meaning festive occasion. The reason for it is that any celebration is a happy occasion. The term is used for any happy occasion, such as a wedding, Bar Mitzvah, Brit Milah [circumcision] or engagement.

Christmas and New Year’s are times of celebration, and during this season we need to enjoy each simcha that comes our way. But that is not always easy. Sometimes the “Ghosts of Christmas Past” get in our way.

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