When You’re Losing People You Love Too Soon

Road

We’ve received news in recent weeks of the passing or entering into hospice of several close friends, ones who are way too young to die at least in human terms. My wife’s brother Paul died at age sixty two years ago. There are other challenges people we know are facing that I just don’t understand. And I would guess we’re not unique and that many of you reading this post are experiencing similar circumstances.

As I said, I don’t get most of these situations. Why do seemingly good people with spouses, kids, grandkids and many good years left to serve God and others pass away before their time? Why couldn’t evil people have taken their place and my friends and loved ones been spared, avoiding the grief that they themselves and/or their families are now facing?

And yes, there are legitimate, spiritual, bigger picture answers some of which we can understand to a point and others we must leave to God. I’m not going to re-visit those here. They can be helpful but that’s not my focus for now.

Instead I want to simply offer a few suggestions for any of us who are facing these tough, hard-to-understand losses that won’t take away the pain but will perhaps do something in us that we might miss otherwise.

First, don’t wait to embrace every moment with those you love. By embrace I mean that we slow down, hear their stories, enjoy the experiences and not rush to the next thing. I realize that this sounds like a prediction that these people are going to die soon. It can seem like the reason we don’t want to buy life insurance but it’s not. In fact this is one way that we insure that we don’t miss out on real life.

Now is the time to experience relationship at its fullest not later.

Second, accept that there are a lot of events we don’t understand and won’t change. Am I suggesting that Christians shouldn’t pray for healing and other miracles or that God never gives them? Of course not. He does still do what seems impossible but that’s not always His answer or choice for us or those we care about.

Too many Christians demand, claim or promise God’s response to what THEY want and then look foolish or respond with silly answers as to why their friend or loved one didn’t survive. God is God and He does things beyond our understanding, things that hurt, grieve and confuse.

Third, be Jesus to those who are hurting. Yes, Jesus healed many when He was on earth, but not all. He also wept when his friend Lazarus died. He loved the unlovely, the grieving and the lost. Sometimes our faith will discover its deepest meaning and growth in the fertile soil of pain and loss. We may find Jesus most tender and real through our tears, not just our smiles.

This is the time when those facing the worst need us to be at our Christian best, not perfect, but caring, loving and listening.

 

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The Heresy Of Calling Others’ Thinking Heresy

WLC-ThePerfectChurch_ThePerfectChurch-SS-CurrentI just read an article written a  year or two ago by a Christian leader called The Heresy of Worshiptainment. As you might guess the article suggests that because a church’s worship might be exciting, include a large number of people and be even the slightest bit attractive to others, it can’t really focus on God – it’s just entertainment. [NOTE: the word entertainment actually means to keep the attention of, something many churches have great trouble doing.]

This writer suggested that people would be best to do what his church decided to do and get rid of all the extras and just teach the Word. Thousands have come they said so I guess that’s what we should all do and consider, right? Of course there were no references to the church being the Body of Christ, encouraging one another, discipling others, missions, helping the poor or caring. Sounded like just meeting together and studying the Bible (was there application too?) would be enough. And frankly, I’ve not heard to too many other churches having the same success with that approach.

But this article follows the common practice these days to pan anything that’s not acceptable to the author or group making the statements or writing the book. So they look down on big churches, contemporary ones, those that aren’t radical or big or small or something enough. If you don’t have enough small groups or a mid-week prayer service or become integrated or teach using this method or that, you aren’t acceptable.

You see I’m not writing today about worship styles, preaching methods or church structure though I have my opinions about those. No, I’m writing to ask supposedly well-known leaders to quit trying to set the specific standards for today’s church and how God must and does work. God is a creative, powerful, multi-faceted God who made people and cultures and societies very different. No one size, style or approach fits all so quit writing books and teaching at conferences suggesting there is!

We have no right to demand methodologically that our way is the best or only way. If there are important principles then yes, by all means share them, model them, live them. Of course there are foundational concepts that God has made clear for his church. So let’s focus on those but concurrently celebrate our differences and the fact that God reaches people in thousands of ways and settings. And yes some are being reached in those services that appear to others to be mere entertainment, where a different translation is used or where the preaching style isn’t what we claim to be the biblical style.

And if those leading those services are caught up in merely doing a show not leading worship or preaching truth then shame on them and they’ll need to deal with God on that. But it’s not the style of service, preaching or coffee service that was necessarily the problem.

Churches are not going to change because we change the style or format though those choices may have their place and purpose. Churches change when people change, when they develop a common vision about the importance of Matthew 28, making disciples, the process of helping a person meet Christ to growing into a fully devoted and commitment follower of Christ. And frankly, I hope they don’t all end up looking alike, especially like me!