Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Mt 11:28

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beauty from Ashes - Isaiah 61:3

One of the hardest things about walking with a family that has just lost a loved one is watching the family deal with their grief. It is even more difficult when the loved one leaves unexpectedly.

There's not much you can do or say that will relieve their shock and pain at losing someone so suddenly. What the family needs most is for the people they trust, the ones who are close to them, to just be there and available. There's no way to cheer them up or get them active, at least not in the first few days of coping. Sometimes what they need most is for someone to just to sit in silence with them, letting them know they are not alone. Job's comforters knew this (Job 2:11-13).

I have had the honor and privilege of being in this position a number of times. It's humbling and, at times, intimidating. The only way through these moments is to rely totally upon the leading of the Holy Spirit. There are no human words or actions that can bring resolution or ease this kind of pain, only God can (Rev 21:4).

If you're familiar with this type of ministry, then you know that these awkward moments frequently minister as much to you as they do anyone else. You get to watch God work in someone else's life. You receive the blessing of seeing God's hand move in their hearts and in yours as well.

Rarely, you are ministered to more than you minister. This has been the case with Rick, Erin and Patrick Reece.

Their courage, their transparency, their honesty in their pain and their willingness to praise God through their grief have ministered to me and a whole host of others as well.

The Scriptures tell us to give thanks in all things (1 Thes 5:16-18). This is not always easy. At times, it is extremely difficult. Yet, God does not give us these commands to make life more difficult, but to bring us closer to Him (2 Peter 1:19), to show us the way to walk through a time like this (Psalm 119:105). To teach us how to cope with the painful tragedies of life (Job 13:15a) .

One of the most beautiful things I've ever read demonstrates this truth so vividly, it moved me to tears. It came at the end of a letter I received from Rick earlier today. The letter detailed some arrangements for the memorial service and the arrival of their extended family. Rick then went on to make a few specific prayer requests, all for members of his family.

As I was reading the note, I began thinking, "This is going to be a really hard week for them. I can't imagine what they're going through. How can anyone deal with all this?" Then I read the signature line, a quote that will remain with me for the rest of my life, ....

"This is going to be a great week. To God be the glory! Your brother in Christ, Rick"

Folks, only the Holy Spirit can bring that kind of strength and surrender to God's work. It doesn't erase the pain but it does give some meaning to our suffering.

We all have so much to learn. I thank God we have people like Rick, Erin and Patrick to teach us.

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