Healed by Grief

“Pain caused by pain healed by pain.”

Easter 18v

Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Mat 5:4

I’m sure many of you recognize this verse as a saying of Jesus from the sermon on the mount. It’s become so familiar to us that we often just gloss over it and don’t really think about the impact of the statement, or it just becomes an empty platitude that we use to comfort the grieving, like a Hallmark greeting, kind of a ‘there, there, it’ll be all right’— but really; what is that comfort?

When you have lost someone you love, when you cannot imagine facing another day without your husband, your wife, your child, your parent, your best friend—anyone you love and depend on to be there in your life—when they are suddenly and irreversibly gone; what is that comfort that Jesus promised us here?

It is, of course, the resurrection. It is the life that we know cannot be snuffed out because of the very thing that we celebrate today—the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the great old Hymn says, “because he lives I can face tomorrow.” I will be comforted, because I know my redeemer lives. I know that I too will l live and that I will be reunited with all those who go before me and all those I leave behind and my grief will seem but a moment in the light of eternity together.

He is Risen

That first resurrection morning the followers of Jesus were in serious grief mode but their sorrow was turned into joy, they were indeed comforted when they heard the reports of the women who discovered the empty tomb and then shortly thereafter when Jesus visited them on several occasions after his resurrection. It is one of the most talked about and documented events in human history—and it changed everything—everything.

It changed the course of human history and the way we see life and death. It made all of Jesus’ radical teachings of love and mercy, forgiveness and charity a part of the human consciousness. For surely without the resurrection it would have all been quickly forgotten by a cruel and selfish world where only the strong and the most violent ruled or had influence. It brought hope to the hearts of humankind, it brought life and it brought healing.

But most importantly, it was a healing, a healing of our relationship with our God, an eternal healing of our dead and dying spirits. In the here and now it offers a healing to or hearts, our minds, and our flesh if we are willing to believe and seek it. But it is a healing that was purchased at the cost of incredible pain, sorrow and grief, a grief that we often don’t recognize like we should and a cost that is so great we can never comprehend it—a cost that was borne by our God.

Greif is pain and pain can only be healed by pain. It is one of those unwritten laws of the universe. God knows this, God grieves over this—and God himself bears the pain that ends the pain.

We in our frail flesh and limited perception sometimes experience what we think is pain beyond bearing, but we always have hope, there is always an end to our pain, and there is always a purpose. It is seldom on purpose, but our God always finds a way to use it for good for those who love him, for those who are called according to his purpose. We may not understand it nor always believe it but it helps to know that we have a God who does, who suffered and suffers, more than we can ever know.

God the Father knows the pain of loss.

Jesus was taken to a hill outside the city and is nailed through his hands and feet to a rough, blood stained wooden cross. He is then raised up from the ground and left hanging there to die a slow miserable death as the people he had come to save look on, some in horror— some in glee, most in indifference, ‘another day, another crucifixion.’ But there is one watching who is far from indifferent, his Father.

God the Father is watching his very son, the one through whom, for who and by whom he had created all things, become everything ugly and filthy in this evil and messed up world as all of the filth, all of that rebelliousness, all of the selfishness and foolishness that had separated mankind from him so long ago, forcing him to dwell behind a blackout curtain in a tiny room in a stone temple just to be near his people, all of that sin was being placed on his Son as he hung bleeding and gasping for breath on that cross made from wood he had created and even learned to shape with his hands.

be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:20,21

We know of course why he did it, so that we could be reconciled to him. But think about it, the sacrifice that this was, the sheer magnitude of the pain and the grief it must have caused both the Father and the Son was for the first time in all of eternity past, the Son was being separated from the Father, separated by the thing most abhorrent to a holy God who is love, sin, the epitome of all things evil and dirty.

He whose Spirit when on the earth dwelled behind a covering of cloth when in the midst of sinful humanity was now seeing his own Son become the thing he had been forced to punish over and over again—his heart breaking every time.

Jesus Christ Crucifixion on Good Friday Silhouette

The Father was now being forced to confront his Holy and perfect Son, suffering immensely on the cross, but now enveloped—so immersed in our sinfulness that he became the embodiment of sin, and he had to deal to him the punishment that the law of a just and righteous God demanded; separation from God the Father. Complete separation from all things good, from love, from light itself— true and total death. The light of the world became darkness, life became death and the Father had to turn away.

As a result the heavens went dark, the sun refused to shine and the earth itself trembled and God the Son cried out in anguish rending the heavens with his cries “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The Father’s heart breaks at that moment, absolute, unspeakable— ‘there are no words to describe the pain, grief and anguish I feel’— heart break. Then Jesus cries out with a loud voice, takes his last breath and he is gone

The Father looks down and see’s the bloody robe of his son in the hands of the soldiers as they look up at the one whom they have pierced and his anguish and grief demand an outlet and he finds a way, the same way that Joseph’s father Israel had expressed his anguish at the sight of his son’s bloody robe so many centuries ago—Rip!

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:37—38

lightning

The very real, very costly and very heavy cloth veil that separated God from man, that hid his glory from sinful eyes that would never bear up under the sight of seeing a perfect and holy God in his glory, is literally ripped from top to bottom. This was more than just symbolic of the separation between God and man being taken away, the timing says to me that this was God saying ‘I am hurting beyond words at the death of my Son and this is my way of expressing it to you.

Grief

God the Father, at the time of his Son’s death was experiencing inexpressible anguish and grief—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!?” It was about all the Father could take but he could not intervene, he could not reach out to his Son, this had to be done—for us. All he could do at the moment to express his grief to the universe was to rip his robe. The one thing that had separated all of humanity from seeing him, just as our own clothing hides us.

The rending of the veil, in the end, come to have a much greater meaning. One that would also facilitate our healing, even God’s anger has a higher, loving purpose. For in God’s grief we would find our salvation, our healing, our reconciliation, in the grief of the one who loves us, a grief that we had caused.

God’s grief would later be assuaged by the resurrection of his Son and his return to glory, as Jesus, who had never sinned, who was indeed the Son of God and the Son of man was able to overcome death because death had no claim to him.

And God now rejoices in the reconciliation of all his children back to him—and offers healing for our grief and pain.

Pain caused by pain, healed by pain.Tunnel

 

 

 

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Killed by Life

“The tooth fairy still comes, the rainbow still shines after the rain and the monsters still have never come out of the closet at night to get you. Then one day it happens. . . “

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After several years in kids ministry I used to look at those innocent, seemingly wise and well balanced kids who just had a simple faith—I always marveled at how I could pray for a sick child and nearly always there would be a healing, because the child just believed God would heal them; ‘Pastor Dan prayed for me, God answered the prayer and I am better’, it’s just that simple, but I would look at them and think, if only they could stay that way.

Puberty hits and they go insane. The world lures them into dark places and they become irrational, confused, rebellious and doubtful. What happened to that even keeled happy child? It’s a question that still haunts me. Not all kids go insane at puberty but they all face challenges that try their good sense and their faith. All we can do is hold on to the promise that if we train them up in the way they should go, when they are older they will not depart from it. We build the foundation, the rest is up to them.

And take it from one who has been around long enough to see it happen, that return—more often than not it does happen. God never gives up on our kids, on his kids, no matter how old—we are all his children and he still has a plan for us.

And God still has a plan for you, your days are still written in his book and he wants to share them with you, to lead you on in a spirit of fearlessness and trust, trusting your Abba Father—your Daddy.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Rom 8:15—16

Most of us know this with our heads, but it’s hard to live it. We need to get this notion into our hearts, it needs to become instinctive, overriding all other fears, all external stimulus to the contrary and ghosts of the past. We need to listen to the Spirit, that this would become such a part of who we are that we don’t even cognitively recognize all the time that it is the Spirit talking to us, we just know that we know that we are a child of God, free from fear, free from bondage to anything but the love of Christ to which we willingly submit, placing our hearts into the hands of the one who loves us more than we can ever fathom. Trusting the hands that never fail.

Child of God

We start out trusting, as infants we trust that when we scream our mothers will comfort us. As we grow we trust that we will be fed, nurtured, we take love for granted, it’s just there because it always has been. When our parents or any adult for that matter tells us something we believe it. We have an innocence, a trusting wonderful and palatable innocence where we imagine everything is fair, everyone is good and life will go on and only get better.

That’s the childlike faith the Lord says we must have if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. One that trusts the hands of the one who calls us like a child taking the hand of his daddy as they cross a parking lot together. You might not understand all the dangers and why you need that hand but you know it is there, that it is important, and that your Daddy wants you to hold it. So you just do, and it is good.

Then you start to experience more and more of life, you get into school, riding the big bus all by yourself, having to listen to a teacher who doesn’t think you are the center of the universe, interact with other kids whom you discover aren’t all always nice and willing to share the crayons with you. Some even call you names.

It’s okay, you are still loved, you are safe. Then you start to see and hear things, stories from other kids, TV shows, lessons in the history books; life isn’t fair, nor is everyone nice, in fact far from it. Life is still good though, you are safe, you are loved. The tooth fairy still comes, the rainbow still shines after the rain and the monsters still have never come out of the closet at night to get you.

Then one day it happens. Someone you thought could be trusted does something to you that you never imagined happening, maybe more than once. You don’t know what to do with it so you just shut it out, you try to pretend it’s okay, in fact they tell you it is. ‘This can’t be okay. . . well, I don’t know. . .’

wolf_in_sheeps_clothing1-271x300

And then someone leaves that you thought would always be there, the love you counted on is gone. The pain inside becomes not only sealed inside but now you feel alone and betrayed. But you don’t know what to do with that.

Life goes on, people start to ridicule you simply for trying to be good, you are not cool, you are a loser until you discover that if you do this one thing, you suddenly gain some acceptance—the mocking slows down, ‘maybe you are cool?’ The one thing leads to more things and you are loved by many but then the ones you desired most to love and accept you now turn on you—“How can you behave this way? You are such a disappointment, I don’t know what got into you.”

Now you feel more alone then ever so you retreat farther inside, fully harden your heart and shut out everyone—‘no one is going to hurt me again, no one understands me, no one cares—I don’t care, no one is going to tell me what to do, no one is going to step on my heart again.’

That little child inside is now dead, killed by life, and the person that takes his or her place is scarred and battered, but will survive; ‘I will do what I want when I want as hard as I want.’ From then on our reflexive mode to any provocation, to any potential hurt or reminder of past hurt is anger. We do not trust, we do not care, and we do not share. We remember those long ago days when life was simple and we somehow were happy without all the stuff we do now just to ty to feel normal, to appease the flesh, but we know we can never go back.

Then along comes Jesus who says: ‘trust me, I have been there too, I have experienced the hurt and betrayal, I know the heartache and have felt unimaginable pain both physical and emotional and I can give you a future.’

So we ask him in to our hearts, we are no longer dead, we can be that child again, and it is glorious— for a while. Until life rears its head and taunts us, and we remember past hurts, our reflexes kick in and we shut down and shut in. ‘No one is going to hurt me again, trust no one, fear everyone.’ We learn to manipulate and extract what we need from others because we fear we will never get it any other way.

Our story

Now, I made that story up entirely as I was writing it but I’ll bet every one of you at some point in that wondered if I was talking about you. . . because for the most part—that is the human experience, and sadly, it is as far as many believers get— that is their life story; the end.

They get saved but stop short of healing, of renewal, of true and lasting peace, the peace that comes as a result of knowing with our hearts, not just with our minds, that we are children of God, that we have a Daddy who will never leave us, never forsake us, who will always be there to hold our hands as we walk across the parking lot of known and unknown dangers. We are still in bondage to fear.

We don’t have to be. Choose not to be.

We have to accept the healing, to just believe that it has happened just like those little kids—‘pastor prayed for me,. God heard, and I am better, Stop hardening your hearts, we have to stop responding to every point of stress that threatens us, to memories of the past, to taunts of the enemy with the fear of a helpless child.

You are no longer innocent, no longer ignorant of the ways of the evil one—you are a warriorand you are free, f5e2864d8685336898f586437794c4d2-d9cyq2byou are no longer in bondage to the flesh, you are a joint heir with Christ and you are victorious, you just need to recognize it, you need to live it—it has to become your new normal, muscle memory,’ I can do this in my sleep’, reflexive, instinctual, ‘that is just who I am now’ intentional victory. I have a life to live, a plan to fulfill and a God who loves me and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Retrain your brain to come into line with what your spirit is telling you— that you are safe in the hands of your Father. He holds your heart and he is never letting go.