Archives For Hope

No More Tears

Alyson Kieda —  November 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

Snowy Road, Red Hill, VA, February 2010-Flickr/Creative Commons/Janet Moore-Coll

My childhood friend Brenda died over 30 years ago, yet I can still recall much of her funeral in sharp detail. I primarily remember being overwhelmed with emotion (and tears) as I viewed her body in its casket (it didn’t look like her—makeup and styled hair weren’t Brenda) and then as I sat through the service.

Both my grandfathers had died when I was a child, but her death was different. She was only 25—my age. Too young to die. She was just getting her life together, and there was so much that she would never experience: a career, a husband, a family.

Through the pastor’s eulogy and her loved ones’ remembrances, I learned that Brenda had been attending college and making strides in her life. She was on her way back to school after Christmas break when a car accident claimed her life. Yet despite the sadness of her death, there was excellent news. The friend who had lovingly done her hair shared that Brenda had just become a Christian.

The news of Brenda’s salvation led to more tears. I felt tremendous relief that Brenda was now in heaven, but I also felt intense guilt. Until we moved in my mid-teens, Brenda had gone to church with my family and had spent lots of time at my home, yet I didn’t recall ever talking to her about God. What if she had never come to Christ?!

I got through the day and eventually the grief. And I came to realize that I wasn’t personally responsible for whether or not Brenda came to Christ (yet I wasn’t entirely off the hook either). I also learned some elementary, yet valuable lessons.

First, life on this earth is very brief (James 4:14). Coming face-to-face with the death of someone my age made this abundantly clear. Since then I’ve been reminded of this reality again and again through the news media and the death of loved ones—including just recently when my father-in-law died a few weeks ago.

Second, I need to be willing to be used by God to spread the gospel; and I need to take advantage of the opportunities when they do arise. This is the Christian’s calling. Out of gratefulness for our salvation, we are to sow the seed of the Word (Mark 4:1-9, 13-20)—and God will see that it comes to fruition.

One day I’ll see Brenda again. That brings me great joy!

 

Sunrise, New South Wales-Flickr/Creative Commons/Chris Betcher

Almost every time I am asked to perform a funeral, I read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. I read it because it’s a passage about hope. And hope is the one thing a grieving person can’t be without. Paul knew this. That’s why he said to the church of Thessalonica, “We do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (v.13).

One of the reasons death is so painful is that it is the clearest example of what we lost at the fall—life and relationship. Physical death demonstrates powerfully that earth’s reality does not match heaven’s ideal. If this life is all that we have, then death is the end, our losses are final, and we grieve in hopelessness.

But for those of us who follow Christ, there is hope beyond the grave because Christ exists beyond the grave. We believe, with the apostle Paul, that, “Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep [died] in him. . . . We who are still alive and are left will be caught up . . . to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (vv.14-17).

Hope doesn’t speed up the grieving process, but it can make all the difference as a person moves through the process of grieving the loss of someone or something significant. This is hope that this world is not all that there is; hope that life extends beyond the grave; hope that there is a God who cares for us and loves us and can sustain us through unimaginable pain.

All of us, believers and nonbelievers alike, suffer loss—we all grieve. The difference is that those of us who know and trust Christ grieve with hope. And hope can make all the difference.

“Therefore encourage one another with these words” (v.18 TNIV).

 

 


 

The Last Enemy

Alyson Kieda —  November 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

Orchid by Bahman Farzad, Creative Commons/flickr

Dad was falling often and more frequently. Even though he had a walker, he didn’t use it. (We’re not sure if it was forgetfulness or stubbornness—or both.) Last New Year’s day, Dad fell getting out of bed, and Mom couldn’t help him up. After a stay in the hospital, he was moved to a nursing home; and then we agreed he would not be returning home. He needed too much care. We couldn’t expect our mom to be a good caregiver when she was becoming more and more forgetful herself.

Over the next few months Mom kept trying to pack up Dad’s stuff and bring him home. She was becoming both irrational and emotional. Due to her behavior, Dad became even more confused and depressed. We finally convinced Mom to be tested. Our suspicions were confirmed—Mom had Alzheimer’s.

Dad died last November, just days before his 89th birthday. During the months preceding that, we took away Mom’s checking account. (She was writing a check to every charity that sent her a request—and she was receiving scores of them. Her account was overdrawn and the fees were piling up.) And then her driver’s license was taken away. A neighbor in her retirement village caught her driving—and none too well—after her license was taken away, so we disabled and then removed the car.

In December, my youngest sister took in Mom. But after 10 months, Mom was moved into an assisted living facility. Her care required too much of my sister.

Watching parents decline is heart-rending. It was painful to watch my dad, who was a hardy outdoorsman, lose more and more of his physical abilities—and then take his final shallow breath. And it’s heartbreaking to watch my mother, who was “sharp as a tack,” loose her spark and fade into forgetfulness and confusion.

I know it’s inevitable. “Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave?” (Psalm 89:48). But I hate it—and it wasn’t meant to be. Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the dead in Christ will be resurrected and death, “the last enemy,” will one day be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).

Until that day, we press on in the strength that only God can provide (Psalm 28:7). And we take comfort from others in the community of faith who have walked through grief before us.

To learn about helping others deal with grief, tune into our upcoming Webinar, Shepherding Others Through Loss, on November 6, 2013, at 2 p.m. EST.

The Rules of Grief

Jeff Olson —  October 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

Winding Road, by Ruben I, Creative Commons/flickrOver the past couple of years, as I’ve struggled to figure out what a world without a mom and a dad looks like, I’ve learned and relearned a few things about grieving that a griever and someone who is trying to care for someone in their grief may find helpful.

I’ve learned that the first rule of grieving is that there are no rules. Grieving is neither neat nor orderly. There is no clearly defined path or timetable to follow. Different aspects of grief (the painful separation, disbelief, anger, guilt, hopelessness, etc.) fade in and out of our hearts with no discernible pattern. And there is no way of knowing how many times we will experience any particular aspect or so-called “stage” of grief.

I’m learning that just because we feel or wrestle with something once doesn’t mean we will never do so again. Most people experience several recurring feelings and questions as they grieve, sometimes as if it were for the first time.

Since watching both of my parents draw their last breaths, I’ve been reminded again that it’s okay to grieve. As King Solomon observed, there is a time for everything, including a time to weep” and “a time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

No matter what aspect of grief wells up inside of us, I’m learning that it is important to give ourselves permission to feel and express it. It’s important to let the feelings and thoughts come—raw and unfiltered—and to put words to them. William Shakespeare rightly noted, “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak . . . bids it [the heart] break.”

As crazy as it makes me feel sometimes, I’m learning that I need to mourn. According to Jesus, comfort awaits the griever (Matthew 5:4). I’m learning that leaning into the pain of loss opens me up to lean on God and others for comfort.

Lastly, I’m learning that Paul was right when he wrote that Christians grieve with hope. It is the hope of seeing our loved ones again when Jesus returns that helps to make unbearable loss more bearable (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

To learn more about helping folks in the throes of grief, tune into our upcoming Webinar, Shepherding Others Through Loss, on November 6, 2013, at 2 p.m. EST.

 

 

No one goes looking for sorrow. It finds us. No matter how we try to outdistance it, run faster, take a quick left, slow down, or tuck in behind the bushes and hide. Nothing changes the reality that sorrow will eventually sniff us out and hunt us down.

In her forward to A Sorrow SharedHenri Nouwen’s reflections on his mother’s death, Barbara Brown Taylor wrote: “Every death lays bare what really matters” (p. viii).

Those words take me back to what at one time seemed like strange words of ancient wisdom from the writer of Ecclesiastes: “The day of death [is] better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart” (Eccl. 7:1-3).

How can this be? The day someone dies is better than the day that person was born? Seriously? Does anyone really believe it’s better to go to a funeral than a party?

Only the grieving can understand the irony of those words. Until we’ve loved, lost, and are heartbroken, we just don’t get it. And the understanding doesn’t come quickly. It’s a process that takes time.

As grievers will tell you, grief is an isolating experience. While grief is common to all, every experience is unique to each individual. No one griever can say to another, “I know exactly what you feel.” No, you don’t. No one knows exactly what you feel except one. Jesus knows, cares, and has felt everything more acutely than any of us.

The timeless wisdom from Ecclesiastes is that all the distractions, demands, and responsibilities of life clamoring for our attention, time, and energy are all but silenced in the isolation of grief. Any significant loss jolts us out of our routine malaise and vividly sharpens our focus on the things that matter most in life. The author doesn’t say that going to a funeral is a fun or pleasant experience. That would be morbid and weird. What he says is that it’s important. It helps us refocus on the things that matter.

When we are forced to view the end of our lives—our mortality through the loss of those we love—it can and should change the way we see, understand, and live life while we still can. Death is the destiny of everyone. That’s true. But while we’re still alive, let’s live every one of our todays with a passion to know and love Jesus more and to serve Him faithfully.

 

Let’s be honest: The family is a flawed institution. We’re all broken. We’re all part of a family that’s broken. All of us. No exceptions. Brokenness is normal.

But we’re not left without hope. And that’s the message Elisa and Evan Morgan shared with us in our webinar: The Myth of the Perfect Family.

While they didn’t attempt to glaze over the messiness of family life, Evan and Elisa described how God has been and still is restoring beauty in the midst of their brokenness because of His great love for broken people. He’s restoring hope and love because of the “broken family values” that they’ve learned along the way.

To listen to the audio recording of the webinar, click the link: Myth of the Perfect Family Webinar audio

To download the PowerPoint for the webinar, click the link: Myth of the Perfect Family Webinar PowerPoint

To get a free download of the introduction and first chapter of Elisa’s book The Beauty of Broken from Thomas Nelson, click on this link:

The Beauty of Broken (Free Sample Chapter)

To purchase the book Click Here

Hope Again

Tim Jackson —  October 26, 2012 — 9 Comments

Last night I had the privilege of listening to sports legend Rocky Bleier. Because I grew up as a kid in Central Pennsylvania in the 1970s, I felt compelled to hear Rocky speak.

The lackluster Steelers had been at the bottom of the barrel for the preceding 40 years of professional football, but in the 70s they were finally coming into their own and becoming the dominant powerhouse team in the NFL. Rocky was part of the backfield trio of players—Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, and Rocky Bleier—who won 4 Superbowls that decade.

What impressed me last evening had little to do with football. What was striking was how this man, now in his seventh decade, displayed so much exuberance for life. Yes, we heard stories of gridiron challenges, and they were great. But what quickly became apparent was that his life wasn’t just about football and reliving the glory days. That’s one aspect of his story, but not the whole story, and certainly not the main part of his story.

The word that I never expected to hear as the theme of his talk was “hope.” Rocky said, “That’s what football is all about . . . hope.” Hope for a good game, no injuries and, yes, for a win. Hope to do better in the next game. Hope to make the playoffs. Hope to win a Superbowl some day. For players and fans alike, it’s all about hope.

I’d never thought about it that way. And that reminded me of Isaiah’s words about hope: ”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” (Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV).

We all need hope. We can’t live without it. Hope is as essential as the air we breath, especially when we feel beaten up by life, are weary of living, and catch ourselves just stumbling along trying to survive.

But that also raises a few questions: Where’s our hope? What are we hoping for? Or, even more penetrating, who is our hope in? Is my hope in me? You? Or in Someone bigger who can make what we hope for a reality? I’m banking on the latter. How about you?

Where’s your hope? Let me hear from you.

My Mom

Jeff Olson —  May 11, 2012 — 6 Comments

This Sunday I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day without a mother. After a year-long illness, my dear mom recently passed on to be with Jesus.

Mom was eighty.

Not only will I miss mom terribly, I found myself feeling sad over all the things she was never able to enjoy in this vast and amazing world. There were so many activities mom was never able to do, places she was never able to see, and experiences she did not have—partly because she willingly sacrificed so much for the seven of us kids and our families; partly because she simply ran out time.

As I felt sad for all that mom has missed out on, the hope of a renewed earth brought me great comfort. While I am fully convinced that Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins, I do not see in the Bible that Jesus came to save us from the earth.

Instead, I read that Jesus also came to liberate, restore and reclaim this world that we have so fouled up (Romans 8:21).

I read that when God finally comes back to dwell with us forever and death will be no more, He will bring heaven to earth (Revelation 21:2-4).

I read that it has been God’s plan all along to “bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

The Bible reassures me that someday mom (and anyone who has died in the Lord) is coming back to this earth to reign with Jesus (Revelation 5:9-10). When Jesus returns, mom’s going to be a co-steward of God’s new creation as He originally meant His image bearers to be (Genesis 1:28). And she, having been redeemed by Jesus, will have the rest of eternity to experience all the things she missed out on (and so much more) in the new heaven and earth.

As I celebrate my first Mother’s Day without mom, I am so grateful for the Jesus legacy she passed on to her children. And I can only imagine all that she has to look forward to in Him.

Just Tell the Truth. Please.

Tim Jackson —  February 27, 2012 — 7 Comments

I don’t know about you, but I’m so fed up with the shenanigans and the mudslinging attacks of the political climate in this major election year that I just turn it all off. I’m sorry, but I’m tired of the lies. Whether it’s shading the truth, telling half-truths, not telling the whole truth, or just outright bold-faced lies, I’m sickened by it all.

Would somebody please just tell the truth!?!

In his opening lines in a letter of encouragement to a young church leader he was mentoring, the apostle Paul penned these words: “for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:1-2).

In our desperate hour, the only hope we have of authentic truth is the non-lying God. All others—even those we love who are well-intentioned—will eventually fail us. God alone can be trusted to tell us the truth—always. While at times we may struggle to embrace the truth He speaks, God was, is, and will always be truthful, faithful, and loving. That’s simply who He is. He can do nothing less.

Call me a skeptic or maybe even a cynic at times, but I’m just not hopeful of hearing much truth spoken during political campaigns. Not from either camp. But I’m confident that I can count on the non-lying Jesus who came to speak “grace and truth” (John 1:14) to restore our hope when all feels lost.

So, no matter what happens in the predictably uncertain world of politics and world affairs, don’t lose heart (John 16:33). If you have lost heart, I encourage you to refocus on the One who is the Truth, the non-lying God.

 

A Grief Revisited

Tim Jackson —  December 20, 2011 — 12 Comments

I spent last Friday with the HelpForMyLife video crew capturing the story of one of our coworkers, Kevin Burgess and his wife Dawn. Kevin works the audio magic to “sweeten” the audio of many of the RBC radio productions. (I have no idea what “sweetening” entails but I don’t think is has anything to do with the little sprinkles we like to shower over Christmas cookies.)

For those of you who have followed the HelpForMyLife.org blogs over the past year,  you may remember Kevin and Dawn. I featured them in my December 22, 2010 blog, A child is born . . . and one is taken. What a privilege to be with this amazing couple!

Their story is one of sorrow and grief, courage and compassion, endurance and hope. Having lost their precious son, Braeden, to cancer just a little over two and a half years ago, just shy of his 4th birthday, they allowed us to take the journey of grief with them as they shared their story.

And it’s a story worth telling.

Our hope in this new year is to launch a new portion of our website that features the stories of real people with real struggles that requires real faith. We’re thinking of calling it, The Journey Through . . . series. It’s because we’re always in process. We don’t arrive until we’re finally and fully restored in the presence of our good God. So on this earth, we’re all journeying through something.

For Kevin, Dawn and their remaining children, their hurt hasn’t evaporated over the past year. They quickly dismissed the notion that “time heals all wounds.” It doesn’t. Braeden’s absence at their Christmas celebration this year is just as poignant and painful as last year and the year before. But they also reflected something that only they can through this journey through grief . . . hope.

Kevin and Dawn readily admit they’re not immune to grief. Neither are they incapacitated by it. Instead, they are inspired by hope. They are using their experience to touch others who have lost children too. They want to share what they’ve learned on this journey they never chose, but that chose them.

What became very clear to all of us who witnessed their story first hand is this:

They have a story to tell. And we have the privilege of telling it.

Their story is not about a destination, but a journey through grief.

Their story is not over yet. They are still on the journey, they haven’t given up . . . because they have hope.

Why? How? As they would tell you emphatically, “God is in this.”

And their story inspires me to hope too.

So as you celebrate this holiday season with your family and friends, be grateful for those who are present, grieve over those who are not, and always remember the  glorious Hope that arrived under the cover of darkness to a couple in a stable 2000 years ago who is our Prince of Peace who heals the brokenhearted and brings comfort to the grieving (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Merry Christmas.

And, look for Dawn and Kevin’s story of hope in the new year at HelpForMyLife.org.