Saturday, May 31, 2014

Good Grief

As I sit here, I know of one family is grieving over the loss of a child. As far as I know she was a healthy little 9 month old until an accident. In times like this, is it hard to imagine the depth of grief that family and friends must be feeling. The father of this little girl was my teacher in college. I can picture him teaching, but the type of grief he is experiencing, I do not know. 

In times like this, I can look at his grief from the perspective that I know. I can look at what the Bible says about grief. It says we should not sorrow as those who do not have hope. We can pray that this family who has lost their little girl will have "good grief." Even as Christ grieved over the loss of His friend Lazarus and the sorrow that his friends were experiencing, He knew the end. We know the end as well. As Christians, we have hope for eternal life. This hope helps us no matter what grief we may be facing. 

The Bible also gives an example of grief and how it was poorly handled. The friends of Job are a wonderful and awful example of helping someone through grief. Their initial silence I believe was what was most helpful to Job. God appraised Job as a man who steered clear of evil. Despite the fact that he was a sinner, he was also a good man. Trials do not necessarily mean judgment. Job's friends did not understand this. We must understand this if we are ever to encourage those grieving. 

Sometimes silent grief alongside an individual is what is needed. Time makes the difference. The first 6 months or so of my son's life were those silent days. That is not to say that those who spoke or tried to help were offensive, but everyone has a period where silence is needed. It will likely differ for each individual. If you are alongside a friend, you will know when the time is right. 

Whether the grief is over the loss of life or it is some other loss, help them to experience good grief. A verse that has often come to mind over daily griefs is Romans 15:13, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Teaching Your Children not to Bully

One would think that if you have a child with special needs, then your other children would know how to accept children with special needs.

This is not necessarily the case. They still need to be taught. They have probably grown accustomed to the differences in your own child, but they will still notice others with differences, and they still need to be taught to accept everyone's appearance even if they look different or act differently.

My son isn't mean about it when he sees people who are different, but he might say they look silly. This is still not acceptable to me. I often use Trenton as an example of someone who is different like the person he might mention. I'll explain that they are like Trenton and don't know any better or just look different.

He will likely be around people with special needs all of his life in part because of his brother and in part because there are a lot of people out there who are different, and that is okay. I think that is a huge lesson for children. Different is okay.

Isn't that where bullying comes from? People don't want to accept someone who is different. Adults bully more than we would like to admit, and that is not helping our children with this problem. When we comment at home to our spouse that "so-and-so" sure is strange or point out some physical attribute of another adult, this is wrong for you as an adult, but it also undermines everything that you have tried to teach your children. You are basically giving your child the okay to talk about people that are different in a negative light.

Some people might think it is okay to mock someone with special needs, because they may assume that they do not know what is going on. Going with this assumption could be very embarrassing for you. There are many genetic disabilities as well as physical disabilities out there, but although someone may appear to be different, they may have a much higher intelligence than you do. Talking down to people who you think are mentally disabled is an insult to the individual, it makes you look silly, and it teaches your children the myth that those who look "normal" are above those who look "different." Those people might be used to it, but it still hurts.

Bullying always hurts. Sometimes I think the topic is overdone and encourages suicides and encourages people to feel sorry for themselves, but it still does hurt, and it still needs to be ingrained as wrong in your children. This is the responsibility of the parents or guardians of every child.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Daily Grief without Sin

Most of would not consider ourselves grieving individuals.

Most of us would only consider grieving something that we do when we lose someone that we love in death, and that is definitely a time to grieve.

There are many of us though who encounter daily grief.

Do you spend time thinking about what might have been?
Do you spend time wishing for something in your life to be different?

Many people begin this line of thinking, and before they realize what has happened, they are in the depths of depression, and may end up taking medication to try and overcome the pain. Unfortunately, these people are going about handling these questions in the wrong way. These questions can eventually lead to physical and mental problems, but if looked at correctly from the beginning, these problems can be avoided.

Grieving over loss is normal. Christ grieved. But when we grieve with these questions, we are grieving like those who do not have hope in Christ.

Sadness is okay.

Worry, fear, and anxiety are sin, and that is where these two questions come into play. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of distance between sadness and these other thoughts/feelings. The bridge from one to the other is quickly crossed if we are not on guard.

Everyday grief might be something that you know well. It might be the constant pain associated with illness or the constant reminder of a child who is with you but not the child that you had expected. This grief can be associated with regrets in relationships, financial status, and any number of areas. Daily grief must be approached correctly, so that it does not turn into sin.

So how can you grieve like Christ?

Think like Christ.

Christ was saddened at the thought of being separated from His Father. He was saddened when His friend Lazarus died. He did not however despair at these losses. He knew the truth.

He knew who He was, and that the sovereignty of Himself made everything okay. He knew the end, and we know the end too

We know that all things happen to ultimately glorify Christ in heaven. All roads lead to this destination if you are a Christian. The trials of life should seem so small as the old hymn says, not just when we see Christ, but when we have the ultimate goal of Christ in our daily lives.

Your grief over loss may be strong, but God's purposes are stronger, and He will help you to grieve like Himself with the purpose of glorifying God through this trial.

This is hard.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Taking the Time to Think Right

Something I realized yesterday (with the help of my husband) after several days of struggling with a variety of negative emotions, is that I was not thinking right. In the middle of our conversation I realized that one of the reasons I wasn't thinking right was because I wasn't taking the time.

Negative thinking comes in an instant. It really doesn't take much time to begin a wrong line of thinking. It takes one negative thought triggered by the smallest event. It takes us looking at something from our own perspective which has already been skewed that day. It takes us reacting negatively one time and letting it become a habit. It just takes a moment

Right thinking takes time. It takes stopping. It takes going where it is quiet and perhaps listening to some God-honoring music. It takes quietly reading your Bible or meditating on those verses that you know so well. It takes focus. This time thing is not easy to come by. Whether you have kids with no major issues or a child with special needs, time is still hard to find some days. It is there though. There is always time to refocus your thinking. It might be the time you usually take to do something else you enjoy, but it will be worth it to take even five minutes to refocus your thinking. You might need to take five minutes five times a day, but it will keep you from the dangerous cycle of negativity.

Negative thinking becomes easier and right thinking more difficult when you are facing problems that are not resolved. When you have ongoing stress or physical problems, it is even harder to refocus. Negative thinking can lead to physical problems, mental issues, and it can hurt your relationships. Focus on what Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Never-ending Trial

When we talk about trials, usually we think of something that comes into our lives that we need to endure until it is over. At some point, we assume it will be.

The reality as I write this is that many of our trials are never-ending. Or should I say on this side of heaven that they are never-ending. Some trials only end when we go to heaven.

The cancer that keeps coming back -

The child who has new negative behaviors-

The sickness that returns for no apparent reason-

The pain that is constant -

All trials produce patience, but it is those trials that we know in our heart will not end until heaven that often produce a combination of grief in our hearts and God-made patience that we think should give us enough for a lifetime.

And then comes the next aspect of a trial and we realize that we still need more patience. We never arrive - until we truly have arrived in heaven.




Monday, May 5, 2014

Just do the Dishes and Stop the Cycle

These days I often find myself living a frustrated life. I get frustrated with moving details, frustrated with Trenton set-backs, frustrated with toddler behavior, frustrated with myself, and then it goes in a circle.

In this circle of frustration it is easy to get caught in the loop and become a self-centered mess. I admit that I find myself there periodically, and that is much more than it should be. The cycle can begin with something as simple as a counter full of dishes that I should have done earlier and now I'm tired. The cycle usually begins and ends with myself and thinking about myself.

The other day I found myself (once again) caught in the fear cycle associated with our boys being insured in our new home town. I had no idea anything would change, and when it did - it threw me as change often does. I found myself (again) in the morning awake with worry, and then a song came to mind. The song is one that throughout high school our youth pastor had us sing often. I think it was a favorite. It wasn't mine. I don't know why. I suppose I had never been in a place where the words were meaningful as they are now. The song is Day by Day.

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/713#ixzz30tLLtzXx

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,“
This the pledge to me He made.

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/713#ixzz30tLRhsKO

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/713#ixzz30tLXk6JN


It was then that I realized I shouldn't be worrying about something that I could do nothing about right then. Why worry in advance? Really, I should have been saying, "why worry at all?" I know God will take care of us and our kids.

It is easy to panic when change comes or you get unexpected news. It's easy to forget that God is the one who wrote the story. It's easy to begin the frustration cycle. 

We can take it day by day because that is all we can see, and that is okay. Let God fulfill His plan for your life and see how He provides. 

I'm going to try to stop the frustrated cycle next time it starts. 

Take a deep breath, exercise, eat a bowl of pistachios, do what you have to do. 

The best thing to do though is to think about God and His ability over every situation, and leave it in His hands. 

When it's in the silly frustrations like a counter covered with dishes, paste on a smile, turn on some nice music or an audio book, do the dishes, and stop the cycle. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

When Life Doesn't Look Fair

Growing up in a Christian school, I had the reputation for being a "good" girl. I wasn't the life of the party, and if I ever did anything wrong, a huge deal was made, because I was a "good" girl. I admit that I was a judgmental person. I was judgmental, and at that time I may not have been really saved until my senior year. I was looking at what everyone around me was doing, and I thought I was a better kid.

It's never good to be judgmental, but sometimes it's hard not to judge or feel that life is not fair. Maybe like me, you were a "good" girl. Maybe you tried to always do the right thing and please the Lord. You may have gone off to college, married a good Christian man, and now even though you always seemed to do the right thing, things don't seem to work out for you.

Maybe you have tried for years to have children, and nothing is happening. Perhaps you look at old friends from high school and they have several beautiful, healthy children from several different fathers, some to whom they never married. It's hard not to become bitter over this. Maybe you have had children, but like me both were born with problems, and at least one has had serious issues. Maybe like one of my friends who has a child with serious special needs, you spend hours caring for a child who barely moves, but when he does, that is what you celebrate.

When life is like this for you, it is hard when you look around. You might look at those high school kids that you grew up with. Maybe the pictures they post are of them at worldly attractions "enjoying" the same old friends without their children by their side. As I know, it is easy not to have feelings of bitterness or jealousy creep in. Seeing the kids from high school still being the life of the party with nothing holding them down, can be hard. It's not that you want what they have or that you want them to have the trouble you experience. Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair, and bitter thoughts can begin to creep in.

When you start to look at your life in comparison to the ones with whom you grew up or even to those around you who seem to just have everything work out, try to think about the eternal value of life. Don't go back to prideful thoughts that you have always been the "good"girl or boy, but remember that God gave you this life for a reason. Maybe he gave it to you because he knew you could handle it, but more than likely He gave you this life, because He knew you would grow because of it. Through these days, my weaknesses become more obvious, but my strengths may be as well.

When life looks unfair, try to look at it from God's perspective. His purpose is for Himself to be glorified and for us ultimately to be in heaven. Those friends who are enjoying "the good life" are probably missing out on things you don't see. Their life may not be as "good" as it looks. You don't see them when they go home depressed or discouraged that they gave in to old habits. You just see the smiles on Facebook.

Don't live for the present earthly experiences. Live for eternity. Live so that when you go to heaven, you have no regrets. Don't judge those who are not living that way. It's not your job, and you really do not know how good their life really is. Your job is to glorify God with the life you have been given.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spiritual Grief

Spiritual grief is something that we have all experienced if we have trusted Christ as our Savior. The grief over our sin and the faith to accept God's free gift of salvation are two sides of the same coin. 

Whether you trusted Christ as a four year old or a twenty-four year old, in order to be saved you had to realize that you were a sinner headed to hell and that you needed to depend on the gift of Christ dying for you to forgive you of your sins and take you to heaven someday. 

If you are a Christian, then you have experienced spiritual grief. If you were four at the time, then your grief was likely different than the one saved at twenty-four. That is okay. As you grow as a Christian you will likely experience this grief numerous times and in different ways.

Just as there is no rhyme or reason to grief over loss, there is no rhyme or reason over the spiritual grief you experience and how you show your grief. Some people cry. Some people go away to be alone to deal with their sin. There is no right way. God only asks that we sorrow over our sin enough to turn from it. That means that we will try not to do it again. We desire to walk towards God and away from that sin.

Now does that mean you won't once again walk the wrong way? Nope

No matter how "good" a Christian you think you may be, you will likely struggle with sin. If you don't think you do, then you are probably struggling with the sin of pride. I John 1:9-10 says it like this, "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us."

Spiritual grief may be a daily thing for you. If you sin, ask God to forgive you. Don't over-think it, just turn from the thing or things you did that is against God's Word, and begin going in the right direction.

We should not take this lightly, but we should also not berate ourselves. God would have us to live joyfully without the weight of sin keeping us from that joy. 

Although everyone needs to turn from sin, sometimes there are sins that beset one person more than another. I know from experience that anger and bitterness are sins that can easily take hold in a trial. They can so easily creep in that they can become a way of life rather than a sin in our own mind. I am and have been guilty of this. It is something that convicted me between these lines. 

Unlike the grief of loss, this grief can be done with quickly. Because of the grace of God we can confess our sins and have them separated from us and from the mind of God. Don't hold on to sin and cause God to grieve. Grieve over it, put it away, and live in joy.