“Emotionally Healthy Church”
Embracing Grieving and Loss
Reading: Job 42:1-9
Preacher: Rev Kevin Kim
As a society we are not great at talking about death. What does it mean for us to embrace grief as part of life and part of our spirituality. This week in our next instalment of “Emotionally Healthy Church”, we will be using the Old Testament story of Job to explore how God can work within our grief and help us to live and lead, even we are feeling broken and vulnerable.
Questions for reflection or small groups
A personal question
“We have learned that when people leave the church or move away, it is important to pause and feel the loss. When a ministry dream or opportunity does not work out, it is crucial that we pay attention to our inner life beneath the surface and feel the disappointment before God. When people have a vision to do a new program or ministry and cannot, they need to grieve their limits and humanity before God.” Did you pay attention to your emotion and feeling when these things (a ministry dream fails) happen? When and how did you grieve your limits and humanity before God?
A Biblical Question
This is the resource that I used for Prayer for others at Night Church. ’20 Questions For God After Loss’ from https://duetojoy.com/blogs/journal/20-questions-for-god-after-loss
1. God, where were you when this happened?
Psalm 34:17-18 “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. But the Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
2. When I am awake in the middle of the night, where are you when I can’t feel your presence?
Psalm 23:4 (ESV) “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 139:18 “And when I wake up, you are still with me.”
1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”
3. Do you hear my cries?
Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV) “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
4. Do you see my tears?
Psalm 56:8 (NLT) “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
Isaiah 63:9 “In all their suffering, he also suffered and he personally rescued them. In his mercy and love he redeemed them.
5. God, do you understand what I am feeling? Do you feel my pain?
Hebrews 4:15 (ESV) “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Isaiah 63:9 (NLT) “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.”
6. Will the grief always be this suffocating?
Revelation 21:4 (NIV) “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
7. Will this heartache last forever or will the pain subside?
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
8. Will I know the joy of being a mother on earth?
John 16:22 (ESV) “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
John 16:24 (ESV) “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
9. What if it happens again?
Daniel 3:18 “And if not, He is still good. “
Deuteronomy 31:8 “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
10. Would You help my unbelief? Would you build my faith?
1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”
11. Will you take care of my body and my heart?
Psalm 139:13-16 “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
12. Will you strengthen me?
Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV) “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
13. Would you help me combat fears?
Romans 8:15–17 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
14. Will you carry me?
Isaiah 46:4 (NIV) “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Isaiah 40:11 (ESV) “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
15. Will you replace my despair with joy?
Psalm 147:3 “He heals every shattered heart.”
Job 8:21 (NLT) “He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.”
Psalm 30:11 (ESV) “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing.”
16. Will you comfort me and give me your peace?
John 14:27 (NIV) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Jonah 2:2 “In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me.”
2 Corinthians 1:5 (ESV) “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
17. Will you help carry my burdens?
Psalm 55:22 (ESV) “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
Psalm 68:19 (NIV) “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
18. Will you help me forgive and extend grace and not let bitterness settle in?
Hebrews 4:16 (ESV) “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV) “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
19. Will you take special care of the babies that are lost before they are held? Like extra good care.
Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of my father who is in Heaven.”
20. Will you somehow use this pain for good?
Romans 8:28 (NIV) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV) “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
A Practical Question
“We are too busy with trying to keep everything as it is and getting our own way. When a loss enters our life, we become angry at God and treat it as an alien invasion from outer space. Is it any wonder that so much depression exists in our culture? Is it any wonder there has been such an explosion of drugs prescribed for depression and anxiety?” How do you deal with depression and anxiety you may experience, particularly caused by ‘grief and loss’? Where would you find helps when it becomes difficult to cope with anxiety and depression?
Some open-ended questions to spur discussion
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’ (Matt. 5:4). “As a result of grieving, we experience new, inner births or changes: We have a greater capacity to wait on God and surrender to his will. Grieving breaks something in our fearful self-will that wants to run the universe for God.” Grieving our losses could transform us in remarkable ways. “Layers of our counterfeit self are shed. Something truer — that is, Christ in and through us — slowly emerges. New possibilities become possible — for us and for all those we touch with our lives.” What are new possibilities, inner births or changes that could emerge through grieving the loss?
In emotionally healthy churches, people embrace grief as a way to become more like God. They understand why grieving our losses is a critical component of discipleship. It is the only pathway to becoming a compassionate person like our Lord Jesus.
Ministers, pastors and leaders, in particular, experience a large number of losses due to our unique position in the body of Christ.
We celebrate Mother’s Day and forget to be sensitive to the infertile couples or single women who find this the most difficult Sunday of the year as their dreams for children slip away, more and more, each year.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” including “a time to mourn” (Eccl.3:1, 4). To reject God’s seasons for grief and sadness as they come to us is to live only half of our lives.
Jonathan Edwards noted that the story of Job is the story of us all. Job lost everything in one day – his family, his wealth, his health (Job 1:13-2:8).
Most of us, in one or more moments of our lives, experience catastrophic loss. Unexpectedly, a family member dies. We find ourselves single again after a painful divorce or breakup. We are diagnosed with cancer. Our company suddenly downsizes and we find ourselves unemployed after twenty-five years of stable employment. A loyal friend betrays us. Infertility, miscarriages, broken friendships, loss of memory and abuse.
Job was the Bill Gates of his day. His wealth was staggering.
Job was also very godly, faithfully walking with God, delighting
and obeying him with all his heart. “He feared God and shunned evil””
(Job 1:1b). Today we would say he was one of the most well-known, respected Christian leaders of our day.
Suddenly, all the forces of heaven and earth, from the east, west,
north, and south, came against Job. By the end of the afternoon, the unthinkable had happened – the world’s richest man had been reduced to poverty and his ten children had been killed in a terrible natural disaster.
Amazingly, Job neither sinned nor blamed God. He responded beautifully; he worshiped.
Job models brilliantly for us how we are to grieve. He models for us four different phases of biblical grieving so central to our following of Jesus.
1. Pay Attention
In the church we have little theology for anger, sadness, waiting, and depression.
Job was holding nothing back. He cursed the day of his birth: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!” That day-may it turn to darkness.” “(Job 3:3-4).
He shouted at God. He prayed wild prayers. He told God exactly what he was feeling. For thirty-five chapters we read how he struggled with God. He doubted. He wept. He wondered where God was and why all this had happened to him.
Two-thirds of the psalms are laments, complaints to God. God grieved in Genesis for having created humanity (Genesis 6:6). David wrote poetry after the death of Saul and his best friend, Jonathan, commanding his army to sing a lament to God (2 Samuel 1:17-27).
Jeremiah wrote an entire Old Testament book entitled Lamentations. Ezekiel lamented. Daniel grieved. Jesus wept over Lazarus and cried out in grief over Jerusalem (John 11:35 and Luke 13:34).
When we do not process before God the very feelings that make us human, such as fear or sadness or anger, we leak. Our churches are filled with “leaking” Christians who have not treated their emotions as a discipleship issue. Grieving is not possible without paying attention to our anger and sadness.
Job paid attention to both God and himself, choosing to enter the confusion of his personal “dark night of the soul” rather than to medicate himself. We enjoy the fruits of his decision to this day.
2.Wait in the Confusing in-Between
We hate waiting for buses, airplanes, and people. We prefer control. We understand why Abraham, after waiting eleven years for God’s promise of a son to come true, took matters in his own hands and had a baby the “natural way.” Birthing Ishmaels is common in both our churches and personal lives.
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7) remains one of the most radical commands of our day.
Job waited for a long time when the people closest to him quit. Job spent much time battling with his three religious friends, who were convinced Job was suffering because of his sin.
“You reap what you sow, Job, and you must have done some bad things. You need to repent so God can bless you once again. You are suffering due to your sin.” Job’s three friends represent “classic religion” or “legalism.”
Job was an innocent sufferer. His friends had no room for the “confusing in-between, “no room for mystery. Like many Christians today, they overestimated their grasp of truth. They stood in God’s shoes.
Job had two fights going on: one with God and the other with his friends
who kept quoting Scripture to him.
The confusing in-between resists all earthly categories and quick solutions. It runs contrary to our Western culture that pervades our spirituality. It is for this reason we have such a resitance to the limits God places around us, which is about next phase.
3.Embrace the Gift of Limits
We may wonder if the greatest loss we must grieve is our limits. Great as Job was, he was not God. He, too, had to embrace his limits.
John the Baptist models wonderfully for us what it means to embrace our limits. Crowds that formerly followed John for baptism switched their allegiances once Jesus began his ministry. They began
leaving John to follow Jesus. Some of John’s followers were upset about
this dramatic turn of events. They complained to him, “Everyone is
going to him”(John 3:26).
John understood limits and replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven”(John 3:27). He was able to say, “I accept my limits, my humanity, my declining popularity. He must increase. I must decrease”(see John 3:30).
In contrast, many of us want to be the centre of the universe, like little baby. Our egos tend to be so inflated that we act as if we were God.
We burn out thinking we can do more than we can. We get stressed
and blame others. We run around frantically, convinced that the world -whether it be our churches, friends, businesses, or children – will stop if we
A part of us hates limits. We will not accept them. This is part of the reason why grieving loss biblically is such an indispensable part of spiritual maturity. It humbles us like little else. In fact, one of the great tasks of parenting and leadership is to help others accept their limits. This applies to the home, workplace, community, or church.
4.Let the Old Birth the New
Good grieving is not just letting go, but also letting it bless us. Job did just that. The old life for Job was truly over. That door remained closed. That is the great grief about our losses. There is finality. We can’t get it back. Yet when we follow Job’s path in biblical grieving, and…
we will be blessed. That is the lesson of Job. As he followed the difficult path of allowing his losses to enlarge his soul for God, God blessed him superabundantly. Not only was he spiritually transformed but The LoRD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
His wealth was doubled. God gave him ten children once again and he lived till a ripe old age (Job 42:10-17).
This account is meant to encourage us to trust the living God with the many mini-deaths that we experience in our lives. The central message of Christ is that suffering and death bring resurrection and transformation. Jesus himself said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).
My experience (Inae) of miscarriage – our first baby, remembering a support we received from Lugar Brae community and friends
There are many rich fruits that blossom in our lives as a result of embracing our losses. The greatest, however, concerns our relationship to God. We move from a “Give me, give me, and give me” prayer
life to an intimate, loving prayer life characterized by loving union
with God. When we grieve God’s way, we are changed forever.
Most importantly, the church, having learned to grow through pain, will bear the rich fruit of Godlike compassion toward others. The ability to embrace our losses and grief will equip us to love others as Jesus did. We will then be able to model our lives effectively and authentically on the incarnation to become emotionally healthier church.