Posts Tagged ‘Hurt’

As a pastor and now as a counselor, I have dealt with a lot of end of life and bereavement situations.  Many times I have heard well-meaning people giving bereaved people advice similar to “just give it some time, after all ‘time heals all wounds.’” It is as if these well-meaning people are saying: “You just have to wait and in time your sadness, anguish, yearning, guilt, , and fear will just fade away, and you’ll be fine.” But hold on a minute, that approach to grieving raises the question how long is “some time” – two months, one year, two years, five years? Having been on the hurting side of grief myself, it is my belief that while time helps, time does NOT heal all wounds. A more apt saying is “IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH THE TIME THAT HEALS.”

Instead of sitting back and hoping that time will heal, the Bible tells us to turn to God for strength.

Sometimes the pain is so bad that we don’t think we can go on, we just want to quit. At that exact moment we are exactly where God can do his best work.

Once, when the apostle Paul was facing a very painful situation in his life, he begged God to take it away.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 [NIV]

It’s our weakness that we find it easier to allow God to be strong in us. But what exactly do we need to do to make that become a reality in our lives?

Andrew Murray, a preacher and writer the end of the last century experienced an injury to his back early in his life that left him with deep pain for most of his life. At one point, he was bedridden and lying on his back at home and he would do his writing there from the bed.

One morning he had been writing in his journal and his maid came in to announce a visitor. “There’s a woman downstairs,” she said, “and she’s got great trouble in her life and she would like to know if you have any advice, anything you could share with her.”

Murray removed from his book the page he had been writing in his own journal and he handed it to the maid and said, “Share this with her; I wrote it for myself.”

The words he handed to her were these: “In times of trouble, say these four things:

1. He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this place; and in that, I rest.

2. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.

3. He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

4. In His good time He can bring me out again how and when He knows.

Therefore, say, ‘I am here, one, by God’s appointment, two, in His keeping, three, under His training, and four, for His time.’

Question – as you deal with your pain and grief, are you trying to buck up and get through it on your own? Or are you turning to God and laying the issue at his feet. It’s not easy to do this, by the way, but it makes a huge difference in our attitude.

Well, that’s a plan for good grief: express the pain, accept the reality and turn to God for strength.

Some of us are in the middle of a lot of pain right now. We’ve got a choice to make. And that choice will take us to one of two very difference destinations. One is a destination of hopelessness and numbness and just going through the motions. The other is a place of joy and dancing, even in spite of the sorrow.

You have turned my  into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11 [NLT]

That’s my hope for you. And it’s God’s promise, that if we’ll manage grief His way, one day we will be able to dance again.

Little Tim is experiencing feelings he has never experienced in his life.  He has fallen in love for the first time.  The air has a sweet aroma and the colors all have a deeper hue. Then one day his world collapses.  She asks one of her girlfriends to tell Tim that she wants to break up with him.  In that moment the sun is covered by a blue moon and he has the classic song calls a total eclipse of the heart.  Mom, trying to console him says, “Don’t worry, Tim, there are plenty of fish in the sea.  Get back out there and find another girlfriend.”  And so it begins.

The second way conventional wisdom says deal with your grief is to “replace your loss” while the Bible encourages us to first accept the reality of our situation.

When we try to replace our loss, what we’re really doing is trying to erase the memory of whatever was lost. A prime example of this is when someone goes through divorce and then turns around and too quickly remarries. The problem is that they’ve never really dealt with the pain and so they are hobbling into another relationship.

Coming to terms with the reality of loss is huge in recovering from pain. How can you be healed unless you know where it hurts?

King David was a great king, but at one point committed adultery with Bathsheba. She became pregnant, but because of David’s sin the baby died (A side note here: There is always death associated with sin. Romans 6:23) And so for seven days, David expressed his pain in loud wailings and moaning.

Then on the seventh day the baby died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. “He was so broken up about the baby being sick,” they said. “What will he do to himself when we tell him the child is dead?” But when David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the baby dead?” he asked.”Yes,” they replied. Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and ate. His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the baby was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the baby is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.” David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again?” 2 Samuel 12:18-23 [NLT]

David expressed his pain, but, then he accepted the reality.

Question – If you’ve suffered a major loss, have you tried to get a grip on the reality of it, to stare it right in the face and say, “this is the deal?” Or are you trying to just “get over it” or “get on with life?” It’s not that simple. It doesn’t work that way.

If I’m being honest, this is not my favorite topic to deal with. However, we can’t escape the fact that we’re all going to experience loss and we are going to grieve; but there are some real choices to be made in times of grief. Those choices will determine whether our experience turns out to be bad grief or good grief. We’d better manage our grief well, because our future depends on it.

Last year I moved to a new location to start a totally new career.  Since this is the first time I’ve made a shift this drastic I was unaware that I was also strapping myself into what has amounted to a twisting, turning, climbing, and dropping emotional roller coaster ride.  The uncertainty driven fear has, at times, caused me to look back and grieve over the loss of my comfortable yet challenging ministry as a pastor.

So, what do you do when you find yourself knocked to your knees relationally, emotionally, professionally, or even physically – and it hurts? What does good grief look like? I think God has some things to say to us on this and, not surprisingly, they contradict the conventional wisdom at every point.

1. Conventional wisdom tells us to bury our feelings, but the example of the Bible is clear: EXPRESS YOUR PAIN.

Do you know what the shortest verse in the Bible is? You may know that it’s in John 11:35. Jesus wept.

Do you know what caused Jesus to weep? A very close friend died. When Jesus got word of Lazarus’ death, he traveled to their town, and met with his two sisters and as the three of them stood beside the tomb of one of His closest friends, he cried his eyes out.

Jesus wept. Those two words speak volumes about good grief management. Tears have been called the language of the soul, a cleansing river of emotional release. And God’s approach says, let the river flow.

In fact, there is an entire book of the Bible that’s called Lamentations or “The Lament” and it’s literally a book of weeping.  It recounts the exile of God’s chosen people into Babylon.

“For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks. No one is here to comfort me; any who might encourage me are far away. My children have no future, for the enemy has conquered us.” Lamentations 1:16 [NLT]

By the way, expressing pain isn’t limited just to weeping and tears. Sometimes expressing pain means confronting another person with their wrongs. Sometimes it’s doing something symbolic that represents the pain you feel. I’ve heard of divorced people who burn their wedding pictures as a way of saying, “this hurts so badly.”

In the past I have expressed my pain through my songwriting.  In addition to songwriting I now write blogs and manuscripts for books I intend to write… but not always.  Sometimes I crawl up into the weak area of my Melancholy temperament and grovel around in self-pity. 

Let me ask you a question. Have you experienced a major loss in your life but you’ve gone around trying to ignore or avoid the pain of it? May I suggest that you find a positive way to express it instead?  If you need help with this, don’t let your pride keep you from getting it.  Share your struggle with a friend, your pastor, or a counselor.  Express your pain.

“Jerry Fletcher is a man who sees conspiracies everywhere. But if you keep doing that long enough, sooner or later you’re going to get one right…”  That was the teaser line used for the 1997 movie, Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts. I would offer to the end of that teaser: “…however, sometimes you don’t get it right because you are not filtering life through a proper lens.  Sometimes growing up in a dysfunctional environment, or a single traumatic event will cause an individual to respond to life from a skewed perspective.”

That’s what this series of blogs is all about.  We are looking at what some have called, “Stinkin’ Thinkin;’” Those unhealthy relationship patterns that leave us wondering, “What’s wrong with me!” I would like to pick up today with the pattern of…

2. Mistrust toward others

a. Isolate yourself

The story you tell people is that you are a loner or that you prefer to keep to yourself but the truth is that you don’t trust people. And the safest thing to do is to put up walls and stay to yourself because your mind tells you that the only person you can trust is you. I use the words stay to yourself but I could have said protect yourself because that is exactly what people do. They protect themselves by staying away from other people. Mistrust can cause people to isolate themselves from other people but it can also encourage some people to be:

b. Codependent upon someone else

There is a negative side to this one. There are people who are in abusive situations and they will defend their partner and refuse to acknowledge any of their faults even though the relationship is destructive. But that is not all there is to codependency. There are people who trust only one other person and so they pour their life into that person and receive love and acceptance primarily from that one person. The whole world ultimately revolves around this person. They make this person their life source and will do whatever it takes to stay close to them. Codependent people tend to be jealous and aggressive toward those who get in between them and their partner. Other relationships are neglected because other people cannot be trusted. People can be codependent with their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or even just a friend. Parents can even become so focused on their children that they ignore their spouse. Do you know anyone like that? Mistrust toward others.

Please allow me to suggest as an antidote to mistrust: SEARCH FOR PEOPLE TO TRUST.

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can really find one who is really faithful? Proverbs 20:6 NLT

It is hard to find people who are trustworthy. But start trying. Take a risk!

Some of you know that I recently moved to a new location.  I have decided that I am going to take my own advice here.  Each time I go to the store, post office, doctor’s office, or church, I tell myself that I could be crossing paths with my new best friend.  That’s what happened with Andy and Marlene. We met them at church.  I discovered that Andy makes a slap-yo-mamma good seafood gumbo! What a great couple who are so encouraging to us.  It happens over and over around the world. Disconnected people find true friendship. I encourage you to take the risk, be friendly and you will attract friends.

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I read this story recently:

In April of 1988 I came home to discover that my mother had left home. Most of her belongings were gone as well as the mobile concession trailer that my dad and a man named Lloyd had finished working on just that weekend. In a few hours my dad and I received a call from Lloyd’s wife. She was wondering where he was. It did not take long to figure out what had happened. In about 2 weeks we got a call from my mom. She and Lloyd were in the state of Washington. Since then I’ve only seen my mother about 5 times. Before my mother left we fought constantly and the fights were even more intense afterward. It wasn’t until 1992 that we started to get along again. We’ve had several shaky moments since then but for the most part we get along ok. The lack of closeness between me and my mother and the disintegrating relationship between my mom and dad created serious consequences for me. I’m still working on such things as what real intimacy is and how to develop it in my own marriage as well as how to communicate strong feelings without starting a fight. There is still distance between my mother and me that I’m not sure can be erased simply because she has missed such a large part of my life. I struggle with feelings of bitterness even though I’m trying to forgive her.

I see bitterness as a self-damaging result of unforgiveness.  Today I want to explore this and other relationship damaging, life blocking symptoms of a person who carries a load of unforgiveness.

a. Bitterness

Bitterness is so deceptive because it is perfectly legitimate to feel hurt and abandoned and betrayed. The problem lies in how we responsed to these emotions. It is our response to these emotions that get us into bitterness.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15 NIV

Bitterness takes root in our heart and continues to grow into a huge tree. In Florida, we had an over abundance of what we affectionately called “stink weed.” It would completely overtake an azalea bush we had in our front yard.  It had to be pulled out but when you pull it out is when you understand where it gets its nickname.  It would stink to high heaven!  Bitterness is much like sink weed in that it makes our personality stink to everyone who comes into contact with us. It causes us much trouble and pain within ourselves. And because we have become embittered, we defile others with our negativity. Do you know anyone like that?

Another way to know if you have a pattern of unforgiveness toward someone is that you may tend to have:

b. Shallow Relationships

This one is not only related to unforgiveness but people that have patterns of unforgiveness rarely have deep relationships because deep relationships require conflict. Did you realize that? You are not in a deep relationship with anyone with whom you have not had a major conflict. Conflict and deep relationships go hand in hand.  People who have a pattern of unforgiveness tend to avoid conflict because it plays back the tapes of the past that are so fresh because forgiveness hasn’t taken place. So let me just ask you, are you struggling with unforgiveness? Is there some bitterness in your life? Are there many people who really know who you are? Or do you tend to stay pretty shallow with people?

Is there someone you need to forgive?  I’m not going to tell you it is easy but I am going to tell you it is do-able and necessary if you want to find joy and fulfillment in life.

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Jeremiah 20:7-12

This topic is a matter that none of us are immune to – depression. I’m not sure if this is 100% accurate but I have always thought of the mulligrubs as the way a person expresses depression or simply the “blues” to those he or she comes in contact with.

According to the most comprehensive U.S. mental health survey, almost half of all Americans experience mental illness at some time in their lives, and almost a third are afflicted in any one year. (Survey: who do you know in this room who might be experiencing mental illness right now?)

The study also found that the most common disorder was the major depressive episode – the exhibition of at least two weeks of symptoms such as low mood and loss of pleasure.

All of us either have struggled or will struggle with depressive episodes or The Mulligrubs. This is because of all the bad things that happen in our world; there are so many problems, so many difficulties, and our world is so complex that almost all of us are touched by sin, hurt, violence, rejection, and other things that are beyond our control. The next time you buy gas listen to your fellow customers.

Often we find ourselves in situations where we try to do the right thing, yet we always seem to end up with the short end of the stick. Jeremiah was someone like this, a man who had a very clear sense of purpose, but couldn’t seem to catch a break. It caused him to be depressed.

Today we’re going to discuss three ways to escape the mulligrubs—but first let’s look at the . . .

Three Causes Of The Mulligrubs

Frustration The first cause of Jeremiah’s depression was frustration because he felt that God had deceived him. God gave him something to say, and he assumed that if he followed God’s will, the outcome would be positive. It is very common to be right in the center of God’s will and be surrounded by trouble.  Now, a little bit of frustration is part of life, but when we continually beat our heads against the wall, it eventually starts to hurt. This is frustrating, and frustration can develop and lead to depression.

Hurt – Later, Jeremiah says, “I am ridiculed all day long, everyone mocks me.” When we are rejected by the people who are important to us, it can hurt so deeply that it can lead to depression which gets expressed as, you guessed it: MULLIGRUBS.

Fear – We see in verse 10 that Jeremiah’s heart was gripped with fear because he was surrounded by people waiting for him to make a mistake; even his friends were waiting to rejoice in his failures.

In that mode of fear, our minds can play tricks and begin to create anxieties and fears that don’t exist – this kind of fear can bring on depressive feelings. We wonder why we are so lethargic, have no energy, and have lost interest in things we previously enjoyed. That kind of depression makes it difficult to feel motivated to do anything at all.

These causes of depression finally led Jeremiah to ask God, “Why did you even let me be born?”

I want to share an important truth with you: Life is difficult. There are not always answers to our problems, and we can’t fix everything. When life is bad, we feel down, grieve our losses, and experience the gloom of depression.

You may think that Christians are not supposed to be depressed, but you are wrong – depression and grief are normal human reactions. Christians should not remain depressed, but they can certainly be depressed. Jeremiah responded to his depression with the words: “I would rather not have lived if I have to live this way.”

Still today, some people respond to depression with suicidal thoughts. Others respond with a spending spree, or an eating binge, or getting drunk or high on drugs. Of course, after the binge or the spree is over, the depression is deepened because there are now consequences which must be dealt with. Responding to depression these ways never help, but only make things worse.

There are many separate issues involved in depression, but the reality is this: If we respond to depressive feelings in a negative way, we create an environment which only causes more depression. The question, then, is how do we defeat depression? How do we escape the MULLIGRUBS?

1. Examine your  Season Of Life

The first thing Jeremiah did to help him deal with depression was determine what season he was in. God has seasons of life for us as people just like there are seasons in nature.

There is Winter, when it seems there is no growth and everything is barren; there is Spring, a season of planting; there is Summer, a season of great activity; and there is Fall when we are able to bring in a harvest.

I wish we could all live in harvest season all the time, but we can’t always live in a time of harvest, because in order to harvest we must first plant. And we must remember that without Winter, there won’t be a good harvest the following year. It is natural to have depressive feelings when we experience loss. If we lose a loved one, a job, anything precious to us, we should feel grief.  Where would B.B. King be without the blues!

God told Jeremiah that, “Before you were ever born, I picked you to be a spokesman for me.” That’s a pretty impressive way to begin your life! Jeremiah prophesied for God, but his words didn’t come true and everyone ridiculed and laughed at him.

He prophesied this way for years, until finally his Fall came and things began to happen. Everything he had prophesied came true, so he was able to realize that things had been working out the way they were supposed to all along, but he had to pass through the seasons first.

We need to develop discernment so we can see where we are in our lives. We can’t always be in harvest time, but the good news is that Winter does not last forever – Spring follows with new life, new opportunities, and new hopes. Then Summer….Then Fall.

2. Understand God Is Always At Work

In order to make it through the mulligrubs, we also must understand that God is at work even when He seems silent. Even when God does not seem to be doing anything, He is examining, probing, or looking around our world; He cares even when we accuse Him of neglect.

We can even express our feelings to God – it won’t bother Him or hurt His feelings if we tell Him how lousy our lives are and why we think it is all His fault. In fact, the best thing we can do is pour our hearts out to God, just as the best thing to do for a depressed person is allow them to unpack their feelings.

We also see in the Scripture that Jeremiah challenged God’s character, saying, “O Lord you deceived me.” But he also realized that in the end God will bring justice, even if it is not on our timeline.

We need everything NOW, but God does not work that way. We may think God is silent, but then all of a sudden we realize that He has been working in us, changing us, all along.

Our perspective on a situation has changed, or we have grown a little more, proving that God has been at work.

3. Learn to Praise God Anyway

The third way to escape the mulligrubs is to praise God in spite of our situation and circumstances. What can we praise Him for in the midst of our rejections and frustrations?

We can always praise Him because we have hope in God’s faithfulness. As this is His very nature, it is impossible for Him to be unfaithful. I wrote a song a couple of years ago on this topic:

He will be there for you in the storms of life,
He will hold your hand, He will dry your eyes;
When this world holds out no hope for you,
He will be there, He will carry you through.
And whatever the pain you feel inside,
He’s been there, done that, made it out alive,
Jesus will be there, He will be there.
(© 2008 AsALarke Music Publishing, BMI)

Many years ago there was a lawyer in the Midwest who fell into such a terrible depression that his friends came into his home and removed all the knives and razors because they feared he might try to kill himself. In the midst of this depression he wrote, “I am the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell.” God helped him through his difficult time and this man went on to become one of the greatest presidents our country has ever known: Abraham Lincoln.

The next time you are tempted to get the mulligrubs do yourself (and us) a favor.  Read Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Practice this three-point plan.

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Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a youth pastor.  I have very fond memories of those day for the most part.  Some of those memories make me want to scratch my head and wonder how I survived to write about it!

One memory that came back to me this week while I was thinking about the topic of forgiveness was a retreat to a state park in north Mississippi.  It was a great week of community building with our small but growing youth group.  We had incredible worship music (led by your humble blogger) and great Bible teaching (led by my friend, Ronnie Estes).

Everything was going great until the afternoon swim time at the lake about the second day in.  We were playing a very competitive game of water volleyball when after a very athletic jump up and spike I came down and immediately thought a shark had bitten my leg off.  In reality I had landed on a rusty nail that went through my big toe and was protruding just south of my toenail.

Without thinking (which is how I often operate in crisis mode) I grabbed the head of that evil intruder and pulled it from my toe.  And you may be thinking, what the heck does that have to do with forgiveness?  Thank you for your concern and I am getting to that right now.

When we refuse to forgive, we are allowing a painful foreign object to continue to cause us pain.  Now, pulling that nail out of my toe was not a walk in the park but my first thought was not to hold a grudge against the state of Mississippi for allowing that nail to take up residence at the bottom of the lake.  My first thought was not to get even but to get relief.  Often we are hurting and we feel like if we forgive we are letting the offender off easy.  No, we are letting ourselves off.  Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves!

If I had left that nail in my toe just so I could prove to people that I had a reason to be hurting, before long I would have been dealing with infection.  Holding on to hurt by refusing to forgive will lead to the infection of bitterness.  And bitterness creeps into our character very quickly.

Let me encourage you to pull out that nail of hurt.  You say, “You don’t know what they did to me” and you are right but I do know what our sins did to Jesus on the cross… could it be worse than that?  If you need help, find someone to guide you through the process.  I would be happy to help.  You can contact me through my web site  Go to my contact page for phone or email contact information.

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