I Can Trust God With My Grief

“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress, my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing”Psalm 31:9-10 (ESV).

In times of grief, it is hard to keep trusting in God — and in His plan for our life. There are things that happen that completely take the starch out of the present and seemingly our future. A heartbreaking loss seems like it will take years to truly recover and heal.   

You are not alone. Nobody escapes this life without battle scars. No matter how strong your faith or deep your love for Jesus is, you will experience pain. But if you choose to trust God, you’ll also experience deep joy, peace, freedom, and hope. Learning how to trust God’s plan for your life will get you through your loss, no matter how heartbreaking it is.

So, as we search for something to grab hold of in the midst of grief that will bring comfort, or as we search for words to say to someone else who is grieving, we want to make sure that what we’re grabbing hold of, or offering to someone else to hold onto, is profoundly, fully, and eternally true.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end. If you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth — only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

It seems counterintuitive, but grief and grace co-mingle pretty well together. When we are grieving God does not throw up His hands and say, “I’m done with him or her. Where is their faith?”  God loves each one of us and His grace will never leave us.  Psalm 94:18-19 reminds us, ‘I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.’”

You can read God’s words for you in Hebrews: “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:15-16). God is reminding us that He isn’t far off. He wants to comfort you. He wants you to find His grace.

Trust God in hard times. Even when times are hard and grief seems to be a constant companion, trusting God is possible. In a time of loss, choose to trust that God is still with you and has a glorious plan for your life. As David said in Psalm 31:14, “But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, “You are my God!”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can you tell your grief is affecting you more than you thought it was? 
  2. Have other people suggested that you need “to get on with it” and move on? Is this good advice? What do you need to say to them when they tell you this? 
  3. What does it mean to lean into God in your grief? How do we effectively do that?  

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  – Matthew 5:4.

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” This is a line right in the middle of the beatitudes portion of His famous sermon on the mount. Each beatitude starts with a blessing. Jesus is giving us ways to live so that we can live a happy and blessed life. Blessed are those that mourn: In essence, Jesus is saying, “ happy are those who are sad.” That has probably caused some confusion over the millennia.

Given the human condition, Jesus’ promise to comfort those who mourn could not be more counterintuitive or counter-cultural. For the world, grieving sin is regressive and constricting. But for the Christian, it is the pathway to joy.

The world does not reward the kind of living Jesus is talking about, but God does. The world says are you blessed when all your dreams come true. You are blessed when everything goes your way. Jesus said happy are the sad and blessed are the broken-hearted.

Jesus was “…despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) He understood the destructive nature of sin and evil. Yet it was the joy that was set before Him that gave Him the strength to endure the cross. Jesus knew that His suffering would both purchase our salvation.  This gave Him joy and purpose.

If we believe that God’s grace and sovereignty are greater than any loss or disappointment, we too can experience joy in the midst of sorrow. We may not understand why God allows tragedy to strike.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 says: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.”

These are powerful verses. Verse 4 tells us that every pain in life can find meaning when we comfort others.  We are called to give out what we have been given. In other words, we should give out of the love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, blessings, finances, and comfort we have already been given. Christ’s comfort: it’s always greater than our trouble. It is more than our suffering.

It sounds difficult, but the unexpected good of brokenness is that it revives the life of Christ in each one of us. We become less and He becomes more. The more we become like Him, the more we become the people God created us to be.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe a time when your life was hit with an unexpected storm. How well did you endure it? What did you do when you felt like giving up? Did you experience God’s comfort during that period?
  2. What does “comfort” mean to you? What comfort do you need? What comfort have you received? What can you do to pass on the comfort of God to others?

No One Left Behind

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Matthew 9:35-38.

With smart phones and global positioning systems you have to wonder how anybody could get lost anymore. But we all know full well that it can and does happen. After all, you could simply be out of cell phone range or your battery runs low? And since we are so dependent on technology we have no plan B. So we are lost, and from experience, it is no fun being lost on the back roads of Florida.

But being lost physically is nothing compared to being eternally and spiritually lost. But people far from the heart of God don’t view being spiritually lost as a big thing. They are perfectly content with their house, car, dealing with their kids, and their upward mobility at work. How are you going to convince them you are not a religious nut or that spiritual issues count more than making money? How are you going to rescue them?

I asked some tough questions on Sunday such as: How concerned are you about people perishing outside of Christ?  I also asked whether those far from the heart of God are a high enough priority for us? Are you concerned enough to invite them to church? Are you concerned enough to pray for them?

God is asking us the same question that He asks every generation. He’s asking us if we have His heart. Do we value what He values, or do we value the temporary and the trivial? Do we love and have compassion for who God has love and compassion for? God desires all men to be saved.  2 Timothy 2:4 says: “…who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”  (Ezekiel 18:23). God’s heart is one of compassion for everyone, not just Christians.

The Home Run Life should not include indifference for those far from the heart of God. We need to ask God to break our hearts over the things that break His heart. That means we should love our community, neighbors, friends and relatives so much that we want to take the life changing gospel message to them. At Northstar everybody is welcome regardless of the season of their life or their past. People won’t be judged because we are imperfect too. And we will continue to add new campuses as long as we are able to reach people we ordinarily would not reach. If we have to add more services, we will, because it means we can share with more people the love of God.

I am praying that the Lord will give us a burden for those who need the Lord. If we are going to reach the lost we must intentionally get involved in their lives. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” I hope that we will seek out those who need the Lord. It will take time and energy to build a relationship with them. But any sacrifice we might make will be well worth it to see them respond to the gospel.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you think it is possible to stay neutral on this topic?
  2. “…who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:4 What does that mean to you in your life?
  3. Embracing God’s mission will help you embrace your mission. You will not fully become all you were destined to be until you discover God’s heart for the lost, discover God’s mission to disciple the lost, and finally discover your role in God’s mission. What does that mean for your life?
  4. Is there an unsaved group, locally, or globally, that you can be praying for regularly?
  5. Pray and ask God to move your heart for the lost.

The Well-Lived Life

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” – Colossians 3:23

If I asked a group of people to describe their life – right now – in one word, I would expect some of the following answers: Growing. Frustrated. Disappointing. Fulfilled. Forgiven. Stuck. Struggling. Joyful. Defeated. Exciting. Empty. Discouraged.  Great. Mediocre. Painful. Dynamic. If I asked the same group if they desired more in life, my guess is everyone would answer yes.

The Home Run Life series was for those who desire more in life. There are Christians who assume that the only thing they need to do to please God and live the Home Run Life is to be saved. That if you are a Christian, God is pleased with you. But there is a difference between pleasing God because we accepted Jesus as Lord over our lives and living a Home Run Life. We must remember that a relationship with Jesus, a transformed life, is not a to-do list that can be checked off along the way.

God’s acceptance is not based on our ability to do the right things. As we study the bible, we quickly see that even on our best day, when we seem to be doing everything right, we are still a sinner. We never keep God’s commands perfectly. That’s why we needed God’s grace in the first place.

We need to understand that God is pleased with us, not because of what we do but because of who we are—his children. Through his grace, I am  “…now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3). That means when God looks at us, he doesn’t see our sin, he sees the perfection of His Son.

I am bringing this up because of the fear of failure in living a life pleasing to God, a Home Ruin Life. Then I thought of all the work the Christian life seemed to demand. How could I ever make a passing grade?  I’m finding a freedom I didn’t know before. Understanding that I don’t have to work for God’s approval hasn’t made me stop reading my Bible or memorizing Scripture. It’s actually given me a passion for it. I’m also finding that the more I learn about His love for me, the more motivated I am to love others.

What I hope you take away from the Home Run Life is that living a life pleasing to God, our heart must match the heart of God. And that means changing and transforming lives.

The ministry of Northstar is all about changing hearts. We want to change the hearts of the lost so that they might be willing to be found. We want to see their hearts changed in order that they too might experience the love and joy of a life-transforming relationship with Christ. But, our efforts won’t mean much unless our own hearts have not undergone full and complete renovation.

I am praying for the hearts of the people in our church. I am praying that our hearts will be softened. I am praying that the Holy Spirit will penetrate our hearts so radically that our hearts will be broken for those that are lost and as a result, we will do whatever it takes to see them found.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why should we care about the lost? Why should we be concerned? Why should we worry about the other person? Am I responsible for their situation?
  2. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” What does this mean in your life?
  3. What things are you more concerned about than reaching the lost with the Gospel?
  4. What is the one thing you will work on as a result of the Home Run Life series?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you live your life according to His patterns.