Dealing with Feelings of Loss

432071_70194656Today I’m thinking about loss. In the past few weeks in our church family, we have had two wonderful men go to be with the Lord. Their passing has left a hole in many people’s lives and hearts. So the question I’ve been thinking about today, is what do we do with feelings of loss? We all have these feelings at one point or another, so what are we to do with them?

Well I think one response is to try to bury the feelings. This is where we seek to avoid dealing with the feelings of loss, and where we hide from the feelings or refuse to “feel the feelings”. Another response is simply to avoid the feelings of loss altogether. We keep busy, we seek to move forward, or we don’t give ourselves space to process what has happened. But I don’t believe that either of these responses are helpful or healthy.

For me, I think the best response to loss is to acknowledge it and lean into it. And while this may sound odd, or even counter-intuitive I think it is helpful. Why should I try to pretend that I’m not feeling loss, hurt, and sadness? Why should I pretend that the passing of two men whom I deeply respected doesn’t affect me? The truth is I am feeling loss today – because there has been a loss.

So for me I’m not shying away from my feelings, or avoiding them. Instead I’m acknowledging them and entering into them. This is the only way I believe that we find comfort and hope. Jesus says that those who mourn will be comforted but we cannot be comforted unless we mourn. Unless we actually enter into the loss, acknowledge it, recognize it, feel it, and ask God to help with it.

This is how I think we best get through the difficult times of life. We don’t avoid it, pretend its not there, we recognize it, share that it is difficult, and ask God to meet us where we are at. Because I truly believe that’s what God always does, comes to us wherever we are. So wherever you are at today, may God meet you there, and carry you forward.

Overcoming Death

On Sunday we talked about death. We opened up a dialogue on an important topic that affects us all but is so foreign to us at the same time. After I shared on Sunday, a friend came up to me and said death is supposed to be foreign to us because death was never to be.

This is so true but is so often misunderstood. So often people think of death as part of God’s will and plan. But death has never been, and won’t ever be part of the plan of God. Jesus died to conquer death. Death is an enemy and not an agent or activity of God.

So on Sunday I shared from 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul writes that death is an enemy. And yes it is true that death is the last enemy as Paul put it, but death is not an enemy that lasts. There is a future rushing forward to meet us where death will be swallowed up whole (Is. 28:5), where every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4), where all will be restored (Acts 3:21). This is the future that needs to shape us. But how do we do that? Well I have two suggestions. First, don’t let death count the time and second, we get through it together.

My dad died two years ago on Sunday. It feels as if I’ve lost him for two years. But this is counting time through the lens of death, rather than the future that is before me. Because in reality, I am now two years closer to being reunited with him. God’s future is two years closer to becoming a reality. And yes, the loss I feel is real, and it is deep. But the loss isn’t permanent. So while I wait I will remember that a future is coming where all will be restored.

But how do you get through the “waiting” or the space between now and the future? Well I believe you get through it together.  Andrew Root writes this, “God is present when death is shared, when suffering is joined”. So we get through to the future God has for us together. We share in the lives of each other refusing to let death have the last word. We remember memories, events, and people together.

So my sermon in one sentence was this: Death is wrong, death won’t last, and we get to the future promised to us together.

But sermons aren’t meant to just be heard, but to be lived. So this week why not go and join someone in their loss. Ask them about a loved one, send them a prayer, or mark a memory. Go and join someone and bring God with you…

Discussion Questions

  • Questions for Adults: How have you viewed death growing up? What part struck you most about the sermon today? Is there anyone that you’ve been separated from because of death? How does today’s sermon help you in that separation? How can you help others who have recently experienced the separation of death?
  • Questions for Young Families: Why is do you think that death is hard? Are you scared of death at all? Share how Jesus promises that death will never win, and that he gives us life.
  • Challenge for this Week: Walk with others in your community and neighborhood who have experienced loss

Tears as Prayers

Photo from by dogmadic

I often remark to my church family that if they want a pastor who doesn’t cry, they should get a different pastor. I often cry because I’m moved, because my soul feels something deep, or something deep within me is trying to express itself. But I don’t believe tears are to be avoided but that tears are in one sense prayers. Expressions of our depth.

That’s why I believe tears can be healing. Tears are the prayers of the soul. Tears are what we give when we can’t give anything else. When my dad died we found this quote in his to-do list:

I cry tears to you Lord, tears because I cannot speak. Words are lost among my fears, pains, sorrows, losses, hurts. But, tears you understand, my wordless prayer you hear. – Joe Bailey

There is truth in that. Tears are the prayers of the soul. But we also know that there is a time coming when we no longer need to cry or shed tears. Revelation 21: 4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” But in the meantime it’s okay to shed a tear. There is a future that is coming that is full of energy, connection, depth, light-bursting, and life- giving reality. In that place we won’t cry because our souls will be whole.

But today if your soul doesn’t feel whole, if your spirit feels low, it is okay to cry. Shedding tears is a prayer to God, asking him to make whole what hurts, to mend what’s broken, and to give to what feels gone. And if today that’s where you are at…then know that those tears aren’t wasted but that God hears, cares, and, in the end, will act…

Living in Light of Loss

This past week our church family experienced a loss. A friend, family member, and person who was a part of our community passed away and went home to be with Jesus.

Whenever loss happens to a community, it affects each person differently. Some are closely connected and deeply affected, others aren’t affected in the same way. But the point isn’t how we are affected but how we, as a community, respond. The point isn’t just how loss affects you or I, but how we, as a whole ,can act.

So what should a community do when loss occurs?

Well this is a time to support, share, and care. Andrew Root writes this  “God is present when death is shared, when suffering is joined”. This is so true. When you share in people’s grief, when you join their suffering, when you demonstrate you care, you make God real and tangible. God becomes present when we give food, write a note of encouragement, or ask someone for their favorite memory of their loved one. Because when we do that, we are no longer seeing them go through grief but entering it; we are no longer standing near them,but with them and that makes all the difference.

So today even if your community isn’t going through loss like ours is, remember this:  “God is present when death is shared, when suffering is joined”. Don’t shy away from people in need but join them. Church is a place where people journey together towards Jesus and in difficult times, it’s when this needs to be demonstrated most.

So today why not journey with someone. My guess is that you know someone who has experienced loss in the past few weeks, months, or years. Why not write them, call them, or text and let them know you are praying and thinking about them. Why not join them where they are at, and bring God with you.

Because that’s what a community does – joins together and find God in our midst, no matter what we are going through…

The Lingering of Loss

I lost my dad over a year and half ago.

The problem is that statement isn’t true. But it feels true.

I haven’t lost my dad, and he hasn’t lost me. I will never lose my dad. It just feels that way. He’s not lost to me we’re just separated at the moment. One day we’ll be back together. That’s the promise of the gospel. The trouble is that the separation is so deep, it’s so long, and sometimes its too much. Death is separation. Death is wrong. And there are some days more than others that I wish I could bridge that abyss called death.

On Sunday I felt so at home at our church. I preached about what I care about. I saw people touched by God. I was touched by him. And as we drove home Krista turned to me and said, “I saw and heard your dad so much in your preaching today.” That was a sermon my dad would have preached. I knew that when I was preaching. It was the type of day I would have liked to just call up my dad and talk about the service like we used to for close to 20 years. I wanted him to be able to share in the beauty of grace and acceptance I found on Sunday with me.

That’s what makes the separation so hard. It’s the “with me” part that I miss. Because at some times dad’s so close. I’m preaching, sharing, teaching, or just living and it seems like he is right there. Like I could sense him, pick up the phone and talk to him, or see him in the crowd smiling. This is why I feel like I’ve lost my dad. This is why separation isn’t a strong enough word for the pain of death. Death is evil in any form, at any time, and in any way. Paul says death is the last enemy. I know that enemy.

But while death may be the last enemy; death is not an enemy that will last. Because death has already been beaten. Jesus died to destroy death. Or more theologically put: Jesus dies to kill death.

So separation is here. But it won’t last. Death’s time is running out. So I may be separated from my dad, but he’s not lost. I’m in the waiting time. And I guess when we finally see each other again – I’ll just have lots of sermons, Sundays, and services to talk about. But at that point we’ll have time to catch up…