What to Do When You You Lose the Battle: 7 Key Truths

A few months ago I wrote a two part series on “Killing Sin.” In Part 1, I laid the foundation for killing sin; that is, fixing our eyes on Jesus. In Part 2, I gave practical steps on how to realign our value system so that we can successfully make war on our sin.

My brothers and sisters, I want you to know that from time to time, we stumble. Sometimes we lose the battle – and the weight of our grief can be tremendous.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [. . .] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15, 22-25a)

Several weeks ago, I was before the Lord with this very passage open – my heart sinking into my chest, and my eyes overflowing with tears. Like many of you, I’m just a man – learning to walk the Christian walk day by day. And sometimes, often more times than I care to admit, I stumble (James 3).

You see, several weeks ago I felt the pressures of life mounting against me. In the midst of this hardship, my heart became preoccupied with the affairs of this life and my time with the Lord became cold. What resulted was a prime opportunity for the roots of anger and irritation that reside in my heart to lash out against those whom I love the most: my wife and my children.

Therefore, I want to address a very important question: What do you do when you lose the battle? We’re told to fix our eyes on Jesus and to wage war against our sin, but what happens if I fail?

How you respond to failure (because the bible guarantees that we will fail) can mean everything. It can either mean crushing, final defeat or it can be a new opportunity to see God as the Glorious One who saves sinners. So I want to deal with that very question: What to do when you lose the battle . . .

James teaches us to confess our sins to one another, and to pray for one another, in order that we may be delivered from the power of sin in our lives. In the spirit of James, let me share a few words of encouragement and some of the lessons I’ve (re)learned.

1. Remember the Gospel – Sometimes, for various reasons, we lose sight of the experiential magnificence of the gospel: “But God demonstrates his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Grasp that with your mind and your heart! Our experience of the sin cleansing power of the gospel is not “once done.” There are reservoirs of grace that have already made covering for all of our wicked thoughts and deeds, made available by the sacrificial death of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. Let us behold that wondrous mystery every moment that God gives us breath.

2. Repent Quickly – When you lose the battle, do not be slow to repent. God has forgiven you, but your unrepented sin still prevents intimacy with Him. The Holy Spirit resides in us, in part, to convict us of sin. However, shame makes us want to resist or hide from His conviction. But trying to hide from God is foolish, impossible, and will only prolong your sense of agony, for “when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3-4)

I urge you that if you are aware of your sin, to quickly confess it to God. His heart is inclined such that He desires to restore intimacy with us. The first chapter of 1 John reminds us that, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

3. Godly Grief v. Despair – One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin. However, there is another who desires to convict us. Satan aims to entice us so that we act on our sinful desires (James 1:14), and then haul us before God and hurl accusations against us. In fact, his name, which comes directly from Hebrew, literally means, “the accuser”. In Revelation, Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.”

So how do we know which is which? Paul tells us, in the seventh chapter of 2 Corinthians, that the aim of the Holy Spirit is “godly sorrow that leads to repentance.” God’s “end-game” is always repentance, restoration, and renewed intimacy with Him.

Satan’s end-game is to see the opposite: to see you either totally unaware of your sin or so crushed under the weight of your grief that you are crippled, ineffective, and afraid to run back to your Heavenly Father.

4. Eternal Security – Every time we sin, we provide ammunition for our accuser. It’s sort of like a boomerang that he can use against us again and again. Even weeks, months, or years after a sin – indeed, even after repentance – the accuser will speak accusations into our ear: “I know what you’ve done.” “Do you really think God could forgive or love you?” “You make God sick.” “You will never be able to master this.”

Do not listen to him. Do not fall back into despair. He is not known as the father of lies without cause. He is on a hell-bound path and he knows it. Like a child throwing a temper tantrum, he’s breaking as much as he can in his path, just so someone else can’t have it.

We have one – Jesus Christ – who stands before the father making intercessions on our behalf. And He has promised that he will save those who draw near to him – no one, not even the accuser of the brethren, will be able to pluck you from His hand.

5. The Refiner’s Fire – God knows our hearts even better than we do. He knows what thoughts and desires corrode the walls of our hearts, and he loves us too much to allow us to peacefully co-exist with them. To that end, God permits circumstances that are trying, hard, or painful in our lives. Malachi describes God as a “refiner’s fire” or “fuller’s soap.” God turns the heat up in our lives because he knows that those impurities and inconsistencies will make their way to the surface. It is the only way for us to be able to see them, and to be able to deal with them accordingly. It’s a painful process, but allows us to draw closer to God as a result.

6. Know Thyself – Socrates is often given credit for the quote, “Know thyself.” Whether or not he actually said it, I’m borrowing a page from his book. The truth is that God has been incredibly gracious to mankind. He has woven into our human natures, certain “barometers” or “tests” so that we can read the condition of our souls. The things we say (or the things that we do), tell us about the condition of our hearts. In fact, our Lord, in the book of Luke, said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

In other words, he’s telling us that we don’t have to wonder what’s lurking in our heart. We don’t have to wonder if we have angry hearts, or jealous hearts, or lustful hearts. All we have to do is look at the things we say and do, and diagnose the problem. It really is a blessing to us!

So what’s the application here? Recognize your own sinful tendencies – which will vary from person to person. Don’t rationalize them! Instead, be honest with yourself about your tendencies! What drives you? Be specific! For some, it’s pride, for others it’s anger, or jealousy, and so on. Knowing which sinful tendencies are more prevalent in your life will be useful in your battle against sin.

7. The Grand Scheme – Do not waste your sin. By no means am I encouraging you to dismiss your sin, or to revel in it. Nor am I making the argument that Paul famously rebuts in Romans 6, “Let us sin so that grace may increase!”

No. What I am saying is do not waste the bitter taste for sin that God graciously provides in repentance; do not waste the lessons your war against sin – both successes and failures – will teach you.

Perhaps, most importantly, do not waste the opportunity to see the grand scheme: Our glorious God has chosen – out of the multi-faceted goodness of his character – to make his name the most glorious by providing himself as the means of loving, rescuing, and redeeming sinners like ourselves. That thought should move our hearts toward worship!

I am reminded of the exchange between Lucy, Susan, and Mrs. Beaver in the Chronicles of Narnia. Lucy and Susan asked what Aslan (the Jesus-like character in the story) was like. Mrs. Beaver responded, “He is not safe, but he is good.”

And so it is with our lives as Christians. We face many trials and hardships – some caused by this world, some we cause on our own – but we know from the promise of scripture, and the depth of our experiences of Him, that He is good.

My dear brothers and sisters, our lives are a fight for joy. Fights are hard, but this one is worth it. Keep up the good fight, and remember – one battle does not define your war.

Advertisements

Filling the Storehouse

We are being bombarded by media. Everywhere you turn, brightly colored amusement and entertainment compete for our attention. It’s on our televisions, our movie screens, our radios, our computers, our cell phones, in our cars and now displayed on billboards. In every place and situation there is something or someone “hawking their wares,” announcing the latest and greatest must-have item or dazzling us with storylines that go beyond acceptable limits of morality and decency; people and machines talking at us in decibels too loud for our own good.

In the midst of the din, most of us sit mesmerized and glassy-eyed while our mind drinks it all in; recording it all in a brain that will never forget what we see and hear. On our televisions, blood, guts, gore, war, crime and chaos swirl before our eyes for hours at a time. Inappropriate slang, swear words and useless conversation is being recorded in our mind, only to be recalled at any given moment in our future. We call it something cute like “couch potato” or “vegging out.” In reality our lifestyles have become lethargic and we are alarmingly lax in setting boundaries for what we allow in our homes, hearts and minds.

Probably the greatest casualty in all of this is the collective loss of social skill and the ability to meaningfully converse with others. Gone are the days when neighbors chatted across the back fence or piled the family in the car for Sunday afternoon drives to “drop-in” and visit grand-parents, aunts, uncles and friends. Seldom do we see children outside playing with friends and neighbors until the street lights come on or Dad gives the “time for dinner” whistle. Porch swings and chairs are now simply decorations rarely occupied by chatting men and women in the cool of the evening. What we are left with are the hurting, broken lives of those who are talked “at” but never talked “with.” We are left with people who are hungry for an encouraging word, a listening ear and to know that someone cares for them.

This social deficiency is most tragic among those of us who know the Lord and are commanded to spread His gospel. Now, more than ever, it is important that we guard our hearts and minds and that we judge the things we see and hear by Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things:” or Psalm 19:14, ” Let the…meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord…” or Psalm 101:3, “I will set no wicked (vile) thing before my eyes…” It is even more important that we spend time with our heavenly Father; to abide in His word and talk with Him each day. Then, when we are called upon to share the gospel, we can do so from the beauty of the excellent and praiseworthy things our mind has recorded, instead of the junk we’ve ingested from the media.

I heard the testimony recently of a young woman who had tried every religion known, looking for something to give her life meaning. When asked why she never tried God, her answer was that she didn’t know who He was or that He existed. I watched a talk show host interview people on the street and ask them if they recognized the name of a very well-known Bible character. Of all the people he asked, no one had ever heard the story of Jonah. No one had ever told them! You may be the only person to show Christ to your neighbor, co-worker, the cashier at the grocer or the waitress at your favorite restaurant. You may be the only person to ever share an encouraging and uplifting word with them. And, in providing that word, you have opened the door to a much greater conversation about their need for Jesus. A conversation they may have with you at that moment or with someone else at a later time. You may be the only person to ever share the Gospel with them.

I encourage you during this next week to be aware of what information you allow to be recorded in your mind and heart – your inner man. How much time do you spend viewing Satan’s realm of chaos, murder, violence and mayhem through news channels, television and the internet? How much time do you spend taking in the Word and things of Philippians 4:8? You will only give out (speak) what you’ve taken into your heart. Luke 6:45 states it like this in the Amplified version of the Bible, “The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks.” If what we take in from the Word measures less than what we take in from anywhere else, we may think we are speaking and giving out good things but the truth is we have no idea what God could use and give out through us if we got rid of the trash and filled the storehouse of our inner man with His Word.

Push away from the desk and turn off the computer. Get up from the couch and turn off the television. Pick up your Bible. Fill your storehouse with the treasure of His Word. Be aware of the people you meet. Strike up a conversation, give them an encouraging word and share Jesus with them out of the overflow of your heart!

The world is full of hurting people and we have the answer they are looking for. Talk with them, socialize and share HIS wonderfully life-changing, love and grace! Because, “…how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone (telling) them? …faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14, 17).

Total Realignment of the Heart (Part I)

What things bring you joy when you think about them? What are the things you just can’t seem to step away from? What things do you lie awake in bed thinking about?

For some, they can’t help but think that life is “all about the Benjamins”, and fretting about how to grow their bank account. For some, they value time at home with their spouse and their children. For more than a few college-aged persons, it’s all about maximizing fun-time between (and sometimes instead of) classes.

None of those things I listed are inherently bad: that is, money, sex, family, possessions, or even intangible things like love or fun. In fact, when they are enjoyed in such a way that shows that God is more valuable to us than those things, they are blessings.

However, even for a people whose entire faith hinges on the promise of the resurrection because of the substitutionary death of Christ, I am convinced that we spend far too little time thinking about (read: dwelling on) the new heavens, the new earth, and the glorious God who will govern both. The reason is that we are so prone to becoming bogged down by other concerns – some of which are sinful, and some of which are legitimate. Kids need to eat. The mortgage needs to be paid. You know, stuff like that.

If we are going to live fruitful Christian lives, we must rise above our sinful, idolatrous addictions, and we must rise above our tendency to settle for the here-and-now. How do we go about doing that? Hebrews reminds us to, “lay aside every weight and sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1b-2).

We notice at least three admonitions from the author of Hebrews: First, lay aside sin. Seems obvious, right? Second, lay aside other stuff (even good stuff) that prevents you from seeking and obeying God. Thirdly, realign your heart to treasure Christ. This third admonition from Hebrews really is the key to unlocking the first two. By fixing our eyes on Jesus – his glory, his goodness, his loving sacrifice, among his other manifold qualities – the things of this world “grow strangely dim.” In other words, not only are we to lay down one set of passions, but we are also to pick up a better passion – namely, God.

 

Our Lord sets the very same example for us when “for the joy set before Him he endured the cross.” What joy is the author referring to? The joy of ascending to heaven, the joy of being returned to his rightful place at the Father’s right hand, the joy of redeeming a people for himself, and the joy of conquering sin and death (just to name a few) were more valuable to Him, and motivated Him to obey the will of the Father.

No doubt this world offers many things that capture our desires and attention. Falling out of love with the world is a hard thing to do. Nay, it is impossible to do on our own. We are creatures that are naturally inclined to seek joy and fulfillment – which is not wrong! What is wrong, is where we choose to fulfill those desires. When we were unconverted, we were dead to God and had no other choice than to seek fulfillment in sin and in the here-and-now. But once God gives us the gift of conversion, Christ frees us from our absolute enslavement to sin. Even though we still have a sinful nature inherited from the fall, Christ now gives us the freedom to tell our sinful natures, “no,” and to seek fulfillment in Him.

We must, therefore, for God’s glory and our joy, realign our hearts to treasure Christ. It is the only thing that will help us – for the long run – to live lives that are pleasing to God. Recognizing that it’s easy to spout platitudes, part two of this blog will provide some practical advice on how to realign our hearts. In other words, what does the process look like? Stay tuned for part two.

8 Reflections on Grief

A Grief ObservedMason

Every weekend my wife and I visit my father. Last weekend was no exception. My pregnant wife sat next to me on the picnic table, watching our three-year-old son play on the playground tucked between the apartment buildings where my dad lives. The sizzle of hot dogs wafted through the air as the autumn breeze cooled the shaded pavilion.

As I watched my son play, hearing his boyish shrieks of laughter as the children chased each other, an intense contentment settled over me. I found myself reminiscing over the previous year. The more I reminisced, the more I became profoundly aware of my mother’s absence. My heart wanted nothing more than to see her. I had so many things to say to her:

I wish you were here now. I wish you could see your grandson – he’s grown up so much since you’ve last seen him. He looks and acts just like me when I was his age. We’re having another baby, a daughter. We wish you could be here to see her. We need you. We need your advice and encouragement. It’s hard to make it here without you. I miss you.

I can still vividly remember her passing. My mother had developed acute leukemia. She had tried everything, but nothing took. Last year, in mid-August, she quit the blood transfusions that were keeping her (temporarily) alive. We spent nearly every moment of the remaining weeks of her life together. Our evenings were filled with food, talking, and watching the children play. We laughed, we told stories, she admonished us, and we stayed up way too late watching movies. Through all of it her strong, steel-blue eyes communicated a loving, hopeful sorrow.Mom and Mason

Her last day with us was abruptly bitter sweet. She was no longer able walk or talk. She was propped up in bed, in the back bedroom of her apartment. The day passed like that. No one spoke. Evening fell, and then eventually night came. The hallway light cast a dim glow into the dark bedroom. I sat next to her and spoke gently to her. I held her hand and told her that I loved her – that she had been a good mother. In a moment – a moment that nearly eluded me – her breathing ceased and she passed into eternity. It is a moment I will never forget.

 

TRIED IN THE SCHOOL OF AFFLICTION

It has been a year since my mother’s passing. Like Lewis, my soul still resounds with the sentiment that, “Her absence, like the sky, is spread over everything . . .” Over the past year I have had the pain and privilege of experiencing all the peaks and valleys that naturally come with the passing of a loved one. And though there are still difficult days, I have made it to the other side.

The American statesman Thomas Jefferson, too, felt his share of loss. Over the course of a short ten year marriage, Jefferson lost not only his wife, but also four of his six children. These losses so shaped him that he was able to offer the following words of comfort and encouragement to a grieving friend:

Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medi­cines. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although sincerely mingling my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit […] our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.

In the same vein, having been tempered by the school of human affliction myself, I wish to offer some helpful thoughts, reflections, and biblical admonitions regarding loss. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it proves useful in finding joy and satisfaction in God in the midst of loss.

 

1. Joy Comes in the Morning

If I could get you to grasp anything, I want to affirm that there will be joy again. Don’t lose sight of it. Even if you don’t feel like believing it, even if you have to coldly preach it to yourself every day, be patient. The Psalms remind us, “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” and just a few verses later, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

I like to think of grief like an ocean storm. In the beginning large, daunting, towering waves come – and they come frequently. Many times you struggle to keep afloat in the turmoil of your grief. Just as one wave overtakes you, another one is already building. Be patient. As more time passes, the waves become both less frequent and less intense. There might be the occasional rogue wave that threatens to overtake you on a holiday or anniversary, but eventually life is bearable again.

Even if it is hard for you to believe, hold fast on to the promise that Christ is working everything – even our loss and intense grief – for our delight in God.

 

2. Weep with those who weep

This advice is mostly geared toward those who are watching and comforting a person who is experiencing a grief. There is a natural temptation to jump in and say something – anything. And I believe that it is a good temptation, because it shows our hearts are in the right place. However, I want to urge caution. Too often, speaking prematurely or speaking without the discernment of the Holy Spirit can actually cause deeper hurt for those who are grieving. Often times, especially in the immediate aftermath of a loss, there are no words that bring comfort. My default advice (unless specifically moved by the Holy Spirit) is to simply empathize with the grieved. Feel their pain. Follow the biblical admonition to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

In other words, be like one of Job’s friends. What!? Didn’t Job’s friends make his problems worse? And didn’t God discipline them because of what they said? Yes. Be one of Job’s friends before they got it wrong. Because, despite their mistakes later in the book, Job’s three friends got one thing right – they suffered in silence with Job:

When Job’s three friends, [Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar], heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:11-13)

3. Blessed is he who perseveres under trial

Grief can be an unpredictable monster. People react differently to loss – some become angry, some live in denial, some stay in periods of prolonged depression. In the midst of their anguish, grieved people can sometimes act hurtfully. It’s not right. In fact, it is sin. However, we are called to “bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

Our duty to bear the hurts and sins of others do not stop with only our fellow brothers and sisters. Even when we are insulted or hurt by those who have no hope in the gospel, God admonishes us toDo not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) Forgiving their outbursts may be hard, and they may not even apologize, but considering the weight of sin from which we have been forgiven, how can we not be moved to forgive them as well?

 

4. Blessed are those who mourn

God loves the broken. Not in a “I like to kick wounded dogs” kind of way. Consider with me, for a moment, the number of times that God addresses brokenness:

For I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit (Isaiah 57:15)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matt. 5:4)

The Lord is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17)

Take comfort in this: God loves broken hearts. But why? Does He take delight misery? No. On the contrary! He takes delight when we experience and enjoy him as the only one capable of fixing us. By fixing and filling empty, broken people He shows himself to be glorious. We get the joy, He gets the glory.

 

5. I will give them mothers and brothers

Sometimes, the promise of reuniting with loved ones can seem “pie in the sky.” One of the things that define the Christian is delayed gratification. After all, the bible admonishes us to “store up for yourself treasures in heaven” because that is where our ultimate joy is.

That said, God is not unaware of our current sufferings. God promises to set things right not only in the next life, but in this life as well:

Consider the words of Jesus: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, […] and in the age to come” (Mark 10:29-30)

Did you catch that? God sees our losses. He promises to make up for our losses not only in heaven, but now. I understand the objections, “But Jeff, that sounds really prosperity-gospelish. How does he do that? How does he repay me ‘a hundred fold now in this time’ when I’ve just lost my one and only mother!?” I don’t presume to know all of the possible meanings of that verse. I’m certain that in heaven we will see manifestations of that verse that we could never fathom. However, I’m certain of at least two things: First, that God will repay our losses in the age to come; and second, that He repays us now by giving us the church. He gives us a body of believers who become our surrogate homes and families.

 

6. The Lord gives & the Lord takes

Whenever we suffer a loss, it seems that we often have two gut reactions: We blame, argue, or feel that we have been cheated by God; or we diminish the role of God in taking life. “Oh, well they were old and it was their time to go” or “God only does good, so her tragic death is really the handiwork of Satan.”

A biblical view of loss must acknowledge that God is the sovereign orchestrator of all that happens. Whether He is proactively arranging everything, or whether he is permitting bad things to happen, everything ultimately comes from the sovereign hand of the Lord. As if that weren’t enough, God owns you. He is the sovereign creator of the universe, and all that is in it. If you are a Christian, God double owns you. And as sole owner, he has the right to do with our lives as he pleases – and no one has the rightful authority question his sovereign will. We must reorient our thinking, and accept our positions as created beings. We must realize that in every moment God is up to trillions and trillions of things to accomplish his purposes – most of which we can’t see. But everything, good or “bad” comes from the hand of God, just as Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel:

The Lord kills and makes alive;

   He brings down to Sheol [the grave] and raises up.

The Lord sends poverty and wealth;

   He humbles and He exalts.

(1 Sam. 2:6-7)

 

7. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing

What is the purpose of life? Ask one hundred different people and you’ll get one hundred different answers. For a Christian, the answer is clear: We exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Notice what is important here: We exist to glorify God. Consider the weight of that statement for a moment: We exist to Glorify God. That should be a huge, life altering statement, and should make your soul tremble.

It’s easy to talk about glorifying God – but what does it mean? What does it look like in action? Take a look at the second half: and enjoy Him forever. These two statements are not at odds. It’s not either/or. We do not either glorify or enjoy. It is rightfully both. We glorify god when we live our lives in such a way that shows that He is our highest treasure. Everything we are given in life – whether food, money, cars, houses, possessions, family, or children – are all given to us so that we can enjoy them in such a way that shows that Christ is more satisfying than any of those things. Because, whether you intend it or not, the world is watching your value system.

How do we show God to be supremely valuable in the midst of a devastating loss? When you are so broken that you can barely pick yourself up? I’m not advocating for trying to assume some kind of mask – some kind of false, superficial joy. We glorify God in the midst of our loss when we grieve in such a way that shows that although we are deeply wounded by the loss of our loved one, Jesus is better. Paul states that one of the markers of a christian life is that we are a people who are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”

It makes God look valuable and praise worthy when we can say with the Psalmist, in the face of our loss:

Whom have I in heaven but you?

   And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

   but God is the strength of my heart

   and my portion forever.

(Psalm 73:25-26)

 

8. Behold, I make all things new

I am convinced that grief never truly goes away this side of heaven. It may subside, and it may ebb and flow in decreasing measures, but a kernel of grief will always remain. And that’s ok. It’s what happens when you live in a broken world. The truth is that nobody makes it to the end of their life without bruises and scars.

God cares about the here and now. So yes, take heart that God promises to be all satisfying in this life. But God cares more about the joy he has set before us – unending joy in the life to come, unblemished by sin and death. So let your heart be affirmed by the promise of a magnificent, trustworthy God:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

(Rev. 21:3-4)