Thursday, July 07, 2016

Should blacks just get over it?

Whenever race problems are brought to the foreground in the USA, a considerable number of people say that blacks should get over the pains of the past. Even when race isn't the issue, we have a natural human tendency to want people to get over the things that are hurting them. We say things like 'come on! Pull yourself together! Get over it! Put your chin up!' We expect people who have suffered to get over it.

The apostle Paul was a man who greatly suffered, and who learned how to deal with suffering:
If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. (2 Cor 1:6 NIV) 

Paul had experienced both suffering, and comfort. He'd learned that when suffering, its the ensuing comfort that produces patient endurance. If it was written as a mathematical formula it would be:

Now it seems to me that us humans often want others who are suffering to have patient endurance without us giving any comfort. We don't want to have to give comfort to others, we just want people to do really well on their own, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When we apply this to race issues in the US, it appears some white people want black people to patiently endure suffering. Sometimes this is applied to the ongoing pain of past-slavery and lynchings, sometimes to the present pains of seeing horrific videos of black males (men and children) shot at point blank range. Some people feel that black people just aren't patiently enduring stuff. The thing is that from 2 Cor 1:6, we see that we can't patiently endure suffering without receiving comfort. We can't expect African Americans to patiently endure suffering if they are not being comforted in their suffering.

Sadly on social media, I've seen some people give the opposite of comfort to people who have been rocked by the sudden deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. Some have been like Job's comforters offering their expert opinion on why Alton and Philando (like Job) deserved suffering. I don't want to be judgmental or cause division here because I myself have many times offered commentary instead of comfort when I've seen friends and family suffering. Even sometimes when one of my children hurts themselves, rather than comfort, I quickly say, "Well you see, that's what happens when you run downhill" If we're honest we've all been like Job's comforters at some time, we've all pontificated on someone's suffering instead of comforting them.

Jesus doesn't call us to pontificate on people's suffering, but instead to mourn with those who mourn (Rom 12:15). He also doesn't tell us to tell people to get over it, instead he gives us the formula that people can patiently endure suffering if they receive comfort (2 Cor 1:6). As God's people, let's give comfort to those who are suffering, and help them patiently endure suffering.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Prayers for the Grieving 5: Send a Titus to Comfort Me

... when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn--conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,
(2 Cor 7:5-6 NIV BIBLE) 

Father God, I trust that you comfort the downcast. I am downcast, and need your comfort. Please comfort me. Please send me someone like Titus to comfort me.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Prayers for the Grieving 4: God's Holy Decision

Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you--
majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies.
In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
(Exo 15:11-13 NIV BIBLE)
Lord, you are majestically holy and glorious.  This means that everything you do is holy and glorious and right. I do not understand why you have allowed recent things to happen, but I do trust that you made a holy decision that is right.
I pray now that I would sense your unfailing love. I feel a numbness brought on by lack of sleep and my body's natural reaction to emotional pain. I understand this is normal, but I really want to be able to feel your unfailing love, because I need it so badly. In your unfailing love, please lead me and strengthen me through the rest of today. Lead me through the pain, and into your presence. Enable me to pray to you, talk with you, cry to you, and worship you.
Give me a sense of your holiness and glory in this dark time.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

How God helps me when I miss my dad

Today I woke up and started praying for my dad. Even though its been 18 months, it took a few seconds for it to dawn on me that he's no longer alive. There's no point in praying for him anymore. I'll never see him again unless we catch glimpses of each other on the day Christ returns. Not seeing him again is a great loss, and I've learned that its healthy to acknowledge and mourn losses. Mourning for me involves telling God how I feel.

So, I went and prayed to God about it, I talked to my heavenly father about the loss of my earthly father. I talked to him about the fatherly attributes of my dad that I missed. And as I did, God gave me the grace to see something very significant:
The things I miss about my dad, are things Father God can give me, because He is the source of all good fatherly things.
The concept of a father comes from God himself (Eph 3:14-15). God is the ultimate father, and earthly fathers are like mini-models of God the father. When I was a kid I had a bunch of plastic Airfix models of tanks and planes. They weren't the real thing, but they resembled the real thing in certain ways. They had the same dimensions of the real tanks and planes, and the same colours. But there were also ways that they didn't resemble the real thing; they were plastic instead of metal, and they couldn't drive or fly without me propelling them. Same way, my earthly father resembled God the Father in some ways, and in other ways he simply didn't. I don't miss the ways he didn't resemble God, but I do miss the ways he did. So how does this knowledge help me?
The things I miss about my dad, are things Father God can give me, because He is the source of all good fatherly things.
I miss the father/son connection I had with my dad. This connection was real, and something to be missed, but it was also a small model of the father/son connection God gives his children. So, I can turn to Father God saying, "I miss that connection, can I please experience that connection with you?" I also miss when my dad would give me a smile. Those smiles were a small model of a greater reality that Father God smiles at me. I also miss knowing there was someone bigger and stronger than me who was involved in my life. This too was a small model of how God is bigger and stronger than me, and involved in my life in a way that he fights for me, and takes care of me.

So, whilst I miss the fatherly things I experienced from my dad, I can also go to Father God and ask him for these things: connection, smiles, care etc.

'Father God, let me experience a father/son connection with you, let me know your smile upon me, and help me to rest in the knowledge of your care, Amen.' (Rom 8:15; Num 6:24-26; Ps 17:7-8)

Prayers for the Grieving 3: God does not willingly bring grief

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. (Lam 3:32-33 NIV BIBLE)
Lord God, I don't understand why you've allowed this grief in my life, but I do understand that you didn't bring it willingly. Because of the fall, bad things happen, and this is one of those things. It wasn't your first choice for me to suffer this way. Your first choice was for me to live an Eden-like existence. But since the fall, certain events take place that are part of your plan to rescue us. This plan has involved painful decisions on your part, and one of these decisions involved the loss I'm now facing. So, I know that you did not willingly bring this grief to me. 
I also know that you promise to show me compassion. Please Father of Compassion, comfort me at this time, I need your comfort.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Prayers for the Grieving 2: Lonely and Afflicted

 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
 Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. 
(Psa 25:16-17 NIV BIBLE) 
Turn to me God because I am lonely; I've lost someone so valuable to me.
Turn to me because I feel afflicted by death.
Please Father, relieve my troubled heart, bring your relief that will give me a peace surpassing all understanding (Phil 4:7).
Please Dad, free me from the anguish I feel.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prayers for the Grieving 1: Close to the Brokenhearted

In light of my father-in-law's recent passing, I hope to write a series of prayers to help my friends and family as we mourn. Here's the first one:
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. 
(Psa 34:17-18 NIV BIBLE)
Lord, I cry out to you, knowing that you hear my cry.
I cry out to you for deliverance from the trouble in my soul.
I know I will sink deep down into the depths of depression, if you don't deliver me, please deliver me.
Lord, I'm clinging to this promise that you are close to the broken hearted. Be close to me. Let me feel your closeness - and when I can't feel it, help me to trust that you are close.
My spirit feels crushed, please save me. Thank you Father for your promise that you will save me.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Jesus Wept: Grieving Loss (John 11:32-35)

In light of my father-in-law's recent passing, it seems fitting to revisit the topic of mourning again. Here's a sermon I did a few weeks ago on grieving loss.