loss

Loss is a part of life. In games, yes. But more seriously loss of spouse, marriage, child; job, career, dream; friends; reputation, status, opportunity. You name it.

Loss in life can make one jaded. You don’t trust others; you know they won’t accept you because you won’t, you can’t measure up. And this is a world often bereft of grace. But sadly it seems all too oftentimes that even the church isn’t grace-filled. Grace meaning acceptance as human beings and individuals into a fellowship/communion of truth and love.

I think one has to lick one’s wounds and go on. You have to find a church that does seek to uncompromisingly live in God’s grace. This is messy since we’re all a mess. None of us have it all together, and we will at times fail at each other’s expense. Hopefully we’re not referring to major failures, but sin is sin. It divides us, and if we let it, apart from God’s grace, it conquers us. Confession of sins and forgiveness and cleansing always available to us in Jesus.

Not only do we need to find a church that is faithful as a witness to the gospel, but we also need to plug into a small group in which we can pray for each other, help where needed, and hold each other accountable.

And we need to remain in the word, in Scripture, ourselves. Loss occurs in everyone’s life, and sometimes significant loss can seem to mark us, that we are a failure. That we didn’t live up to others’ expectations, who never knew us in the first place. Or for that matter, far more seriously, the Lord’s expectations.

There may be plenty of truth in that, indeed there’s some, but in Christ there’s always and forever God’s grace offering forgiveness and new life. Life out of death. Redemption from “determinism” or the inevitable, from the addiction one can’t break free of.

And there’s restoration. To the God-given special place for each one of us, helping us find and settle into the goodness God has for us in the good life and good works given to us. In and through Jesus.

sadness over loss in this world

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

The writer of Ecclesiastes refers to what we might call a mark of one’s character over against holding it as a literal notion that people ought always to be somber, rather than enjoy life and laugh. To say we live in a tragic world would surely be an understatement. Sooner or later all things perish. But it’s especially troubling when either something good is out of place, like the maple tree we had plans for, but which I’m doing away with now, with grief and a heavy heart. Or perfectly in place, but lost.

I am glad we were able to take in a little kitty, which is just as cute as can be: lively, affectionate, and a companion to our other cat. But so many cats are lost, or live difficult lives in this world. Not that I’m a cat lover, although they’ve grown on me a bit, since my wife does love cats.

Yesterday I found myself praying that someday in the new creation this very same maple tree I’m cutting down now might be present in all its glory. Of course in a way trees are a dime a dozen. They’re cut down for all kinds of paper, for furniture, yes for wood burning. And although they are amazing in their biology, they actually are not made in God’s image like humans. Yet we can have an attachment to some of them. I love our Redpointe Maple in the middle of our front yard. The other maple in all its glory is unfortunately not in the best place. We didn’t realize it at the time. Interestingly enough we have what are considered to be weed trees growing more than twenty feet away from the maples near the border of our property. Although we did have them trimmed, we simply can’t afford to cut them down yet, though it would be nice to do so someday, since they potentially affect the growth of the tree we did plant and are the kind of trees that would be better in a forest. I would not grieve their loss at all, but rather, would be relieved if they were gone. But such is life.

We don’t live in an ideal world. All is not well in this world. And we shouldn’t suppose it ever could be, even while we should be doing our best to manage everything well as good stewards of God’s gifts, in love. We accept the good and the bad of this life, and continue on. Believing the new creation has entered creation in the person of Jesus. And looking forward to the new world to come in him (Romans 8:18-22) when all good gifts of God will be in their place never to be lost again.

 

trials as opportunities

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Who likes trials? No one. And for me they often come in the form of thoughts, but about real life situations. And so I try to ferret everything out as best I can. I try to pray according to Philippians 4:6-7, trying to practice all that verses 4-9 include. Certainly in an imperfect, broken way, but sincerely.

And by and by the Lord somehow gives me relief. And in one way or another, either a sense of growth, though that usually takes some time, not just over one episode. Though if I can handle it well enough, that is cause for encouragement. And another way is  through a new thought that comes my way, which itself may have nothing to do with the trial itself, but more with the kind of reaction I need to have regarding it.

At any rate, as hard as it’s going to be at the time, we need to develop the mindset and attitude that sees trials of whatever sort as opportunities. Just like the passage quoted above tells us.

Of course there are the places of deepest darkness through which we may need to pass which I’m not sure qualify for actual trials, but are more like life changers. I think of a person losing a loved one through an unexpected physical malady or accident. Maybe in some sense that might qualify as trials, but I hesitate to place it here, in what James is referring to. Perhaps what might fit into what James is saying, during such times, would be when we are faced with new problems which indeed are trials as the result of such happenings. But I hesitate to see even that in this category.  God is certainly at work in all things for our good, but that doesn’t mean at all that those things God is at work in are good themselves.  But we can be confident, whatever it is, that God will bring us through to the other side. And will be with us the whole way, throughout our lives in our brokenness and loss.

Trials as opportunities. May we more and more learn to see them that way with God’s help, as God’s word tells us to, in and through Jesus.

picking up the broken pieces

It does no good to dwell on the past and to say over and over again, “If only…” The past is the past, water under the bridge or over the dam. We can only gather up the broken pieces by prayer and waiting on God. It takes time. If it’s over the loss of a loved one, we need to go through a grieving process which will never look the same in given situations, even if having some of the same general characteristics. If it’s due to a moral failure, some sort of great sin, then we need to confess that sin in repentance before God and when necessary to others we’ve hurt as well. Under the guidance and care of our local church, submitting to their leadership and the discipline there. God does not despise a broken and contrite heart.

Although we have our part and we need to be engaged in it, strictly speaking only God can pick up the broken pieces, put them back together again and make us new or renew us in and through Jesus. We can’t do it ourselves. And yet we must be engaged in faith and patience to receive what God has promised us in and through Jesus: forgiveness, cleansing and restoration even in this life, though the scars will remain and things will be different afterward.

We can rest assured no matter what has taken place, the evil in the form of a good number of things, or the sin into which we had fallen, that God is at work in every detail for good. Yes, even in the evil and even in our sin. We can’t figure out how, and it’s especially hard when we’re in the midst of it. We can be lost, even tormented and can end up hurting ourselves and others when we try to fix things ourselves. We are involved in the process, but it is God alone who does the ongoing transformative work in and through Jesus.

We must submit to God and let him take care of it. Instead of whining and imagining something different, we need to walk through it with our Lord. Trusting in him that there will be a good outcome for our good and blessing along with the good and blessing of others, for his glory.

when all seems lost

Sometimes no matter which way one turns it seems like all is lost, or that much has been lost. Life can seem to be caving in. And one can seem to be largely alone.

That is when in necessity we need to turn to God. Not that we should have turned away from him in the first place. But we need to look to God, seeking his face with the goal in part of keeping our eyes fixed on him.

And we need to carry on in our work, in what we believe God has given us to do. Of course it should go without saying that we continue to love our families as well as seek to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Perhaps God is sifting out the worthless straw from the wheat in our lives. Even if the devil is in the details of that.

When all seems lost we turn anew and afresh to God. We look to him by getting into the word, by prayer, and continuing in what fellowship we have in Jesus in his church. We do so as those on mission. Part of our mission may indeed be especially difficult. But we do well to look to God in and through Jesus. Believing that even now God is at work in all things for good to his glory.