Posts Tagged 'Peace'

Ministering to People in Grief

Ministering to People in Grief

Often times we will interact with people hurting with grief.  Know that grief does not only come from loss of loved ones through death, it can also come from the loss of a relationship, marriage, job, pet, etc. 

During this last year I had six loved ones pass on to be with the Lord. While that was all happening, a lot of very well-intentioned people said a lot of well-intentioned things to me. I know they were trying to comfort me because at one time or another I had said these very same things to people when I thought they needed comfort. But I also had people say things that I found very comforting. Let me tell you what those things were so you can use them yourself.

1.  “I’m so sorry for your loss – I can’t begin to know how you feel.” It was so nice to have someone just say they felt sorry for me. Plus, I liked it when they said they didn’t know how I felt. So many times people say they know how I feel and the first thing I think is, “really?” I also had someone say that they were sad when they experienced “something similar.” That was okay, too, because it recognized those subtle differences that made our losses different. 

2.  “I know you’re really going to miss them.” That’s a fact for sure, and I can’t imagine a time when saying this won’t be true. Let’s put it this way – if you say this and it’s not true, get ready for a pretty interesting story. Most of us miss people when they’re gone. This is a lot better than saying something like, “they lived a good, long life.” Although that might have been true for the passing of my 94-year-old grandfather or my 84-year-old father in law, I would rather have had them around for a few more years. 

3.  “How are you doing – what can I do for you?”  This is a very practical question that told me that they were willing to chip in when things were rough.  Believe me, that’s helpful and comforting. A lot of times when people die, you just aren’t sure what to do, and having someone offer up a little help can really calm you down. This is a lot better than saying something like, “Well, they’re no longer suffering.”  While this might be true, my first reaction to this is to think about them suffering. 

4. “Can I pray for you?” Man, can you ever! I’m always looking for people to pray for me, with me, around me. Even if we didn’t do it right then, together, I found a lot of comfort in knowing that someone was going to speak to God about me and my loved one. Christians tend to fall back on certain “company line” statements about death, such as “They’re in a better place,” or “you’ll see them again,” or “it was their time to go,” but for whatever reason, these statements just didn’t do much in the way of comfort for me. That was a big revelation because I think I’ve said each of these things a hundred times.

I had one person put everything together and say, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll pray for your heart to be comforted and I know you will miss them a lot.  I still miss my _______ because my love was so deep for them too.  Let me know if you need my shoulder to lean on or to talk about your loving memories.  Can I buy you lunch? ” Now, that was a good one!  

Things I learned in my encounter with losing family and friends

I recently experienced the loss of four loved ones during a seven month period.  It was a surreal time, and I hated going in to tell my boss what was going on in my life.  I bet he thought that no one could make up something this crazy just to get out of work.  I wondered if people would be afraid to be around me since death and dying was so frequently affecting my loved ones.  During this rocky time, my husband was out of town taking care of his ailing father, who also recently left us to accept his promotion in eternity – death number five.  It was a bit much, and, like McCauley Culkin in the movie, I was home completely alone.

I couldn’t help but wonder, “why, God, why?”  “Why are you taking so many of my loved ones at this time?” I began to understand how fragile and fleeting this life is here on earth. I heard someone say that we often treat this life as if we’re humans having a spiritual encounter, when in fact we’re really spirits having a brief human encounter.  This statement alone gave me peace to understand that the bodies we occupy now are but temporary, and that at least our eternal bodies must be glorious and feel more like home.

Overall, my recent experience surrounded by so much death and dying solidified several truths that I’d heard, but hadn’t grasped or practiced at a higher level.  Here they are:

1.  Be nice to everyone and practice empathy; there really isn’t ever any good reason to be mean or vengeful.  It may not always seem natural to operate out of mercy and love rather than out of judgment and contempt, but the spiritual benefits are enormous.  There are enough negative people in the world who are looking to criticize others that you don’t need to criticize, too.  Remember that even though we have our golden ticket to eternity based on our belief that Christ is the Son of God, we are still accountable for our actions.

2.  Make peace and forgive those that have hurt you, even if you feel that you didn’t do anything wrong.  Step up, grow up, and offer the olive branch of peace.  Think about how bad you’ll feel when your friend or family member dies and you didn’t have a chance to make amends.  You have a choice to live a life free from the pain of unforgiveness.   Think about the ultimate model for forgiveness – Jesus.  He didn’t come back and seek out those that persecuted and put Him to death to get even. In fact, even while on the cross, He asked His father to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34.

3.  Remember that you aren’t alone – God is with you so press into Him!  During this painful time I had so many people tell me how strong they thought I was.  I told them that if I looked strong it was because I was being held up by our heavenly Father.  I’ve never been more aware of the protection, peace, and compassion of God than during this time.  I surrounded myself with excellent spiritual manna such as truth-teaching TV programs, the word of God, my Christ loving brethren, and daily telephone prayer with my husband.

4.  Protect your spirit by only spending time with people who lift you up or who encourage you to be your best.  Limit time with the people who drain your energy, push your buttons, or criticize you, even if they are family.  These are the people that the enemy will use to push you into sinful and unlovely behavior.  People may not remember when you walked away exuding mercy and grace, but they will always remember the one time that you snapped. Don’t give the enemy a foothold just because you didn’t bridle your tongue.

5.  Shine up your spiritual armor.  Study Ephesians 6:10-20, and remember that Ephesians 6:12 tells us “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  It’s important for us to remember that although we’re in a war, we don’t have to become a victim or hostage in that war. Every day I asked the Lord to protect me from the evil one and to help me walk in love.

6.  Resist the urge to complain and whine about what you’re going through.  Remember that your heavenly Father will use everything for his Glory, and that when you come through the fire you will be blessed and will have grown spiritually!  I can’t easily explain why bad things happen to anyone – let alone good people – but I can say that those who keep a good attitude and keep their focus on God will come through like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:12-27, who emerged from the fire without even the smell of smoke upon them.

7.  Treat yourself kindly.  Exercise and eat good quality, healthy food. My doctor has been working very closely with me during this time to make sure that I’m rested and feeding my immune and adrenal systems.  The one big thing she keeps stressing is for me to eat high quality, nutritious food.  So resist the urge to eat “comfort food” and stay away from sugar, fast food, and processed foods.  Eat more fruits, vegetables and good organic meats.  Also, treat yourself occasionally to your favorite relaxing activity.  Personally speaking, I love a good spa visit for a pedicure, facial or massage.

Tough times don’t have to beat you down. Do the natural by taking care of yourself, and the supernatural by relying on God for the rest, and even the hardest times will help you grow spiritually and help to continue in your ministry to others! People notice how others handle difficult situations, so let them start taking notes about you!

Be Blessed

Denise and Tim

Arming the Saints Ministries

Comfort for All

Did you know that we have access to the ultimate in comfort during those times when life has hurt us or broken our hearts?

The Greek work for comfort is paraclese or parakaleo, and you may recall hearing the Holy Spirit referred to the Comforter or Paraclete.

John 15:26 (KJ) – “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me”

John 14:16 (KF) – “And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”

A decision to follow Jesus – to believe what he said about both himself and you – means that you are given the Holy Spirit to reside within you. If you read enough stuff about the Holy Spirit, you’ll see conflict and confusion unlike any other topic (some churches don’t even teach on it!) But despite any disagreement on the form and function of the Holy Spirit among various religions, I believe that God’s Spirit indwells believers quite literally. That’s really an awesome thought, and it means that it is proof that God is ALWAYS with us and ALWAYS there to provide comfort and guidance to us.

When we are going through a difficult time, we often use our friends and families as sounding boards for advice, but we should really be relying on our Father FIRST by getting into the Word and prayer constantly throughout the day. Our Father is the source of our comfort, and so relying on Him is something that we need to make a focused effort to do at the outset. His advice is always the true and right path – even if it seems hard or makes us initially nervous! The comfort comes from following God obediently.

Second Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)

This single verse shows us that our comfort from God creates a duty to give comfort to others. And it goes the other way, too. Much like the idea of reaping and sowing, if we share our comfort, we will receive comfort from God and others.

We know that we live in a very painful and difficult world that is dominated by the enemy. Accordingly, it’s our duty to keep our wits about us and to properly process the things that happen to us and to others so that we can provide comfort and support. We live in a time much like in the time of Isaiah where “good” is called “evil” and “evil” is called “good” so relying on the Word of God is crucial for telling what is coming from whom.  We must not fall prey to the lies and deceptions of the enemy, and we must not allow ourselves to feel like victims. After all, we’ve already won this fight!

We have a compassionate loving Father that wants the best for us.  He will allow us to grow through our difficulties and assist us to weather any storm.  His compassion and comfort for us is shown not only through comfort of knowing He loves us, but also through comfort and encouragement from others and the Word, and through the experiences of personal and spiritual growth from other difficulties we have overcome.

Some form of the word “comfort” is found 69 times in the NIV Bible – 19 of these are in the New Testament.  “Encouragement” is often used as comfort, and this word is found 55 times in the NIV. The fact that the word is used so often is a great reminder that God does love us and care for our wellbeing. As God’s children, we need God’s comfort.  We need to know God cares about us and we need the comfort that can only be given through the promises in his Word.

I have always loved Isaiah 40:29-31, but now it has an added dimension: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Those of us who hope in the Lord will renew our strength, and that gives us comfort. We will soar like eagles and not grow weary or faint, and that gives us comfort.  So much of the frailty that we feel when we need comfort – weariness, tiredness, weakness, and faintness – can be overcome by finding hope and faith in God. Rest in His comfort, strength and love.

So keep your head up and focused on God when you feel down, walk in His strength when you are weary and tired, and breathe in the Holy Spirit when you feel faint. As you go through the day, keep saying the simple phrase “Jesus in me” to remind you of the promises of God. Keep His Word close to you and hide it in your heart and be encouraged that He will guide you through the tough times!

Forgiveness and Interacting with Family (and Friends)

Forgiveness and Interacting with Family (and Friends)

Summary

To have peace and forgiveness with family members, follow these tips:

1. Pray for protection over the family member and the event.

2. Fortify your spiritual armor –read your bible, especially

Matthew 18:2-35.

3. Choose to forgive them and to move forward spiritually. They don’t know, or they may have forgotten, that you are a chosen one of the most-high God.

4. Relax and remember that Jesus is Lord and he has given you this family for a purpose, including for you to encourage and love.

5. Limit your time with your family members who divert your attention from pleasing God. It’s better to have a small amount of quality time with them rather than a large amount of time where there is plenty of time to be tempted to act unlovely!

Read below for the entire post.

Our family and friends can often be the most challenging piece in our walk of faith and forgiveness. Some of this stems from the tendency for family members to be brutally honest with each other. I’m not quite sure where this comes from — apparently it’s like some unwritten rule that family is obliged to point out every flaw and lack of ability in their relatives. That sets everyone up for unforgiveness that can last a lifetime. If you’re not careful, time with family members can become a chore, an obligation that only adds stress to your life and takes away from your focus on God.

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. I believe that our family should be the MOST loving, supportive, and encouraging corner of our lives. You know that saying, “blood is thicker than water,” which essentially means that when times are bad your family will be with you no matter what? Your relationship with your family can be like this, but you may have to do a bit of work in both the natural and supernatural to make it so.

Have you ever wondered how you got placed in your family? Given some of our experiences, many of us may feel that we got switched at birth! Our family members may actually be incredibly different from us physically, emotionally and spiritually, leading us to ask, “How in the world did I get here?” “Who are these people?” I have a milkman joke I could use here, but there aren’t too many milkmen left so it probably wouldn’t make sense. In any event, what should you do when you feel taxed and out of place?

Well, you should start by assuring yourself that everything — including your family placement — is for God’s divine purpose. As different as you may feel from the rest of your family, it’s your family that makes you special and thus uniquely qualified to serve God in your own individual way. Do you have a sister who drives you crazy? She probably provided you with life experiences that you can use in your own ministry. Do your parents seem like they came from Mars? Growing up among these Martians gave you the knowledge to act as God’s servant with other different people. So thank God for the blessing of your particular family, no matter how much of an outsider you think you are.

Even if they are a blessing to you, your family members still may occasionally push certain buttons in you, setting you on the path of acting unlovely. Remember that you have a choice to act or react, so choose to act! Here are a few helpful tips to help you keep your peace and to work through forgiveness with them.

1. Pray for peace over your entire family and supernatural covering over where they live. Ask God to protect you from the enemy’s fiery darts that may be launched against you through your own family members. Pray for extra protection of the Lord on any particular family members that like to pick on you or provoke you, and demand that Satan and his demons not talk to you or even come near you at any gathering where you might be with family.

2. Fortify your spiritual armor. Ask the Lord to strengthen you and give you His peace. Ask for Godly wisdom in your family interactions. Ask for God’s truth and light to be shown in your interactions so that you can operate with His love. Spend a little extra time with God before you go to any outing where you will be with family.

3. Forgive their un-loveliness for they do not know what they are doing or who they are messing with! You are children of the most high God, and their bad behavior likely comes from Satan, but you can’t expect them to know that because they may not be where you are spiritually. Make sure that you spend some time in the word reflecting on a few key passages, such as Matthew 18:21-35 about forgiveness and the wicked servant. Ask the Lord to help you forgive them. You can do all things through Christ. And remember not to give up! Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Having unforgiveness from some prior event will likely cloud your ability to deal with family in the present, so work on forgiving them for prior wrongs. Try to look at things from a different aspect – even from the aspect that you are moving ahead spiritually and have a duty to mirror God in your actions toward difficult people. Take a second and try to see each member of your family the way God sees them. The same God who created and loves you also created and loves them. God forgives, so we should too.

4. Keep rested, relaxed, and prepared to go to your “happy place” when challenged! Take a deep breath, and by that I mean to breathe in the Holy Spirit’s calming peace! Have you watched the movie “Anger Management?” In that movie Jack Nicholson uses the word “goosefraba” to help his patient get out of anger mode and back to a calm demeanor. Well, I like to use “JIL” – Jesus Is Lord! Whenever I get ruffled, I take a JIL pill. Remember who’s in control – Jesus! Let Jesus help you handle the situation with a smile and a Godly countenance.

5. Give yourself permission to limit the amount of time with your family, and especially those family members who push your buttons. It’s far better for you to leave some event early (or not even attend at all) than to stick it out and leave scars from hurtful words or actions. You may have noticed that when families get together the siblings often revert to how they behaved as children. Because of this, one of my friends stopped going home at Christmas because that was always a hurtful, difficult time with her family. Her family was upset at first, but now she spends time with individual groups of the family and is re-building new, adult relationships with her siblings. She’s now able to be part of the solution in the healing in their lives rather than contributing to the problem. And guess what? She now has incredible peace, joy and FUN in her family interactions!


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