Monthly Archives: January 2019

Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness

Peninsula Community Church 

Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness

January 27, 2019 

Psalm 31:7-10 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

Today, we begin a new series. The reason for this series is that we have all been affected by the power of grief at some point in time. If you have not, you will. To focus our attention I have entitled this series “Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness.” Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at grief, and how God can use grief to bring us to a new normal. We will see how God can bring us to a place where can trust in His grace and His power again. To be honest, there is much to cover so fasten your seat belts and let’s get started. 

To begin this study it would be helpful to define grief. Grief is a multifaceted and natural response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which there has been a bond or deep affection. While our focus will be on the grief that comes from losing a loved one, we recognize that grief can come from several different areas in life. It might be a lost job, financial disaster, loss of a home, a pet, and more. Grief is grief no matter what and everything we discuss here applies to every circumstance.

The question often asked in the process of dealing with grief is why does the loss of a loved one hurt so much. I think the answer is found in the fact that we grieve because we have loved. To love and lose is to encounter grief. Grief must be understood as a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away.

Along with our definition stated above we also find that the Bible does a good job of defining grief. David grieved on multiple occasions and he did not shy away from writing about his grief. As we read his stories, we find his spiritual, emotional, and mental condition expressed through the pages of the Psalms. He knew the power of grief, but he also knew how to navigate grief to establish a new normal. We are also reminded that Jesus grieved. He grieved the loss of Lazarus, His best friend. The Bible says He wept. He cried bitterly. I love that Scripture does not shy away from giving us insight into the heart of Christ. We find the one who created all things, and knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, still mourned and grieved over his death.

In this passage, David does a good job of defining and painting a picture of grief. Did you catch his description? My eyes, my soul, and my body are wasted from grief. David is saying I am spent. I have nothing to give because I am so worn out from my grief. I am consumed by the pain and agony of my grief. There is nothing left. Do you see his pain? Do you feel his anxiety? He is worn out. He goes on to say that his life is spent with sorrow and his years with sighing. Have you experienced such grief? Perhaps you still do? At some point we will all have an encounter with grief that is beyond our ability to understand or cope. David had such an encounter. 

David knew the agony of grief on many levels. If you remember the Biblical account of Saul and David, Saul had targeted David and was trying to kill him. David had been anointed as king and now Saul was trying to do everything he could to take him out because of jealousy and fear. David grieved over the loss of his son when he had taken Bathsheba and set her husband up for death. David grieved when his best friend Johnathan died. David’s life was filled with grief and sorrow. He knew grief, but he also knew his Lord would sustain him. 

So for today let me give you a couple of points that will help us understand the journey of grief. The first point is that grief is chaotic and it is more like a tangled ball of emotions than a linear process. There has been some research that suggests that grief is linear and moves from one stage to the next. Rather than being linear, grief is one big ball of emotions that impact us on a daily basis. While it is true we deal with denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance these are not stops along a path to healing. In fact, we can experience one or more of these at any given moment or any given day. Sometimes we revert back to the areas we feel we have already conquered and are familiar to us. 

The second point is that grief is normal. Too often when it comes to grief we try to remove the process from our life. We tend to want to get rid of it. Somehow, we think we are different. Somehow, we believe that no one else is experiencing grief like we do. Somehow, we are deceived into thinking that what we are going through is so different and is not normal. But from the onset of our discussion know this, grief is normal. To love and to lose causes grief to come. 

Too often, we try to avoid grief because we think somehow we should be immune to its effects. Sometimes we are confused at the effects of grief upon our life. A case in point is when my mom died 4 years ago. To give some background, my mom and I were separated when I moved in with my dad in 1969. I had been living with my mom and stepdad for five years prior to this. Those years had been very difficult as my stepdad was a very violent man because of his alcoholism. 

Later in life, I found out that my stepmom had destroyed letters that had been sent to me by my mom. But through a miraculous set of events, nearly 25 years later, my mom and I we were able to reunite. God knew what He was doing because shortly after that my mom had a major brain tumor that required her to have surgery. What appeared to be a successful surgery turned into a struggle for her as she had multiple seizures, and quickly developed dementia and Alzheimer’s. I lost her again as she was no longer cognizant of anything going on around her. When she was moved to a nursing home I lost total contact with her, as my stepbrothers did not keep me in the loop. So for another 10 years or so I lost contact again.  

At Christmas four years ago I received a call from my stepbrother that my mom was not doing well and did not have long to live. This was surprising because we had not had any contact prior to his call. I booked a flight for New Year’s Day to fly to Austin, Texas where she lived, but on New Year’s Day morning around 4AM I received a call from my stepbrother that she had passed away and that I did not need to come to Texas. They would not be doing a funeral service for her. Now to my point. Because of my separation and not being very close to her, I had often wondered how I would respond to her death. What surprised me when she passed is that it did a number on me. What I thought would be an easy path to travel turned into a difficult journey. I believe that my grief was enhanced because I struggled with regret and many other emotions. I began to believe that I was alone and that no one else experienced such things. But as I would later find out everything I experienced was normal. It was a part of the journey toward healing that I needed to process. So my friend know this, grief is normal.

Thirdly, everyone will experience and deal with grief differently. Too often we try to pigeon hole people into dealing with grief a certain way. Too often we tend to judge how people deal with grief from how we ourselves deal with grief. But here is a fact we need to understand and accept. No two people experience grief the same way. In fact, we do not experience grief the same way with different losses in our life. The point is do not ever let anyone tell you how to grieve. The fact is even within a family different members of the family will experience the loss differently. Personally, we will respond to different losses in different ways. No two losses and no two people will be the same. Each person will navigate grief differently. Therefore, we cannot allow ourselves to be placed in a box, nor can we place others in a box in regard to the way grief is handled. 

Fourth, and this is critical, you can take your grief to God. In the midst of grief you do not always sense His presence. In fact, sometimes in grief God feels distant and far away, because we are numb physically, spiritually, and emotionally. This makes grief a difficult process, but we can know that regardless of how we feel; God is always there and we can take our grief to Him. 

Stephen Viars, counselor and pastor, had this say about grief. “I can’t understand God as my rock unless I am willing to acknowledge that I’m feeling overwhelmed. To be able to talk to God and to other people in my life about it is an important step in processing grief with truth.” Look at David’s words here in this passage. David who knew grief well called out to the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress.

When we are in the midst of grief, it is hard to navigate grief, but never hesitate to bring your grief to God. We can do that because God loves us no matter what we experience. His love for us is steadfast which means it is unmovable and unchangeable. Additionally, we can be assured that God knows and sees our affliction and the stress we experience. This is not a surprise to Him. Finally, trust God because He will deliver you and help you establish a new normal in your life. Are you ready? Are you ready to take this journey together?

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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It is a New Day

Peninsula Community Church

It is a New Day

January 6, 2019

Isaiah 42:5-9 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

As we enter a new year I trust that you are as excited about the prospects of what God will do in and through us as I am. The question for us is one that is simple. How will we respond to what God has for us? What we will do with His will and purpose in our life? Will we respond to Him as He leads us, or will we be wrapped up in other ideas that prevent our success in Christ?

As a church, 2018 has been a great year in many ways. We have grown as a body numerically, spiritually, and financially. In terms of attendance, we have seen a 40% growth with the added attendance increasing our giving by 15 – 20% over 2017. If we include all giving we have seen a 27% growth. This includes monies donated for the roof and parking lot as well as the memorial gifts given for the sign. That totals $40,000 in additional income with another $20,000 still outstanding that is yet to be donated to the sign. This will allow us to get three major projects completed early this year: the roof, the parking lot, and the installation of a new sign. 

While this is exciting, there has also been an exponential growth in opportunities for spiritual growth, fellowship,  and outreach. I am more blessed by this than anything else. Including the worship time, we have opportunities each week for our adults to get together with other believers to grow in the Lord and to grow relationally. These include Sunday School, Ladies Tuesday Book club, Ladies Thursday Morning Bible Study, BSL on Thursdays, Men’s Study on Tuesday nights, Wednesday men’s lunch at McDonalds, and Life Groups. We have also seen an increase in our Life Kids and younger adults. Two years ago the average age of our attendees was 56 years old. Our average to date is approximately 45 years of age. That is awesome. That is a 20% drop in the average age of our attendees. 

All of this should be seen in light of the fact that statistics say that 1200 churches a month are closing their doors. That is also in view of the fact that 1500 pastors a month are leaving the ministry. For those churches who continue to existence many are experiencing stagnate or declining growth. I give God the praise that we do not fit into any of those categories. 

With that said, this is not a time to puff ourselves up but to give God praise for all that He is doing and has done. In fact, we cannot rest on our laurels and the good things we have seen occur thus far. While this is exciting, we must continue to seek God’s will and purpose for the ministry of PCC and all that God has for us. We must not settle for the good and fail to move toward finding God’s best. We must never be guilty of worshipping the ministry we have and failing to worship the God of the ministry. If we are not careful, it is possible to transform Godly victories into spiritual traps, because we begin to idolize and worship the ministry and our successes, more than we worship God. As we consider this, I am so glad for those passages that cause us to focus on what is important and critical to our success as a church and as individuals. The Isaiah passage we just read is just such a passage.

The first truth is He is the Lord! I love the language in this passage. “I am the Lord!” This is a declarative statement of fact. This means that He is in charge and that He never changes. His character is constant and His ways are so far above our ways. No matter when you encounter Him or experience His Grace, He is or to use incorrect English “He am.” He never ceases to be. He never stops being the Lord! And, because He never stops being the Lord, His character does not change. His love does not change. His grace does not change. His willingness to forgive does not change. The bottom line is “He is” and will always be.

As we look ahead to this new year, I have come to an important conclusion. While everything has changed, the truth is nothing has changed. Now before you get too excited or worried, let me explain. While our circumstances change and we cannot control the events of our life, the one constant in life is God. He never changes and He is always with us to help us and direct our steps. I believe this passage tells us that and shows us that God never changes but is always with us. It is only as we recognize this that can we move ahead to a new day and a new adventure with God. Here is the fact. No matter what comes in 2019, God’s got it and He has you because He is the Lord!

Secondly, the Lord proclaims that I have called you in righteousness… As Lord, He has called us to righteousness! The problem with our interpretation of righteousness is that too often we relate righteousness with a list rules and regulations. Most of these rules and regulations have little or nothing to do with salvation and eternal life. When we understand the righteousness given to us by Christ, we find that our righteousness has little to do with us and everything to do with the one giving the gift. We are righteous because He has made us righteous. We do not have to work to be righteous because we are already righteous through Him. 

Notice something here. It is the Lord that has called us righteous. For too long we have tried to live up to what others think of us and what others perceive as righteous living. Too often we become stymied by feelings of trying to please others and to get others to recognize us for who we are. The Lord is the only one who can call us righteous. He is the only one who sees us for who we are. We are called to righteousness and we must now live in the righteousness He has called us to.

Thirdly, He will lead you and He will keep you! In this passage, we find that the Lord says I will take you by the hand and keep you… Did you catch that? I have called you in righteousness and I will also lead you and keep you through whatever you face or encounter as you live your life. Here is a fact. I do not know what 2019 will bring you. I do not know what may come to you, but I know that He will be there. He will guide you by His hand and He will keep you. There is nothing that can destroy you. Through good and bad we are guaranteed that God will be with us.

I love how the New Living Translation treats Psalm 32:8 The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. If we trust God and lean upon Him He will guide you along the best pathway for your life. If we listen and obey He will give us the best He has for us. So we must let go of the reigns and give Him control over our life. Do not make Him your copilot, but rather put Him in the pilot’s seat. 

Fourth, you are in Covenant with Him in order to draw others into covenant relationship with Him. Listen to the words of Isaiah. I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. Notice the wording here. It is so powerful when you realize what God is saying. God has purposefully placed you where you are as a means to lead people by the light that is resident in you. 

He calls us to righteousness and He will keep us and hold our hand not so that we can become self serving and self focusing, but so we become the light in a dark world. We are called to give sight to the blind, to release those who are in bondage. We have a mission. We have a purpose. There are people who need what God offers. We are advocates for Christ and we are His instruments of service. The question today is what kind of light are you emitting. Is it one that draws people to Christ or is it one that pushes them away? Are you an instrument to free people from their bondages, or do you not care, or even worse are you contributing to the bondage people share? We are in covenant with Him so that we draw others into a covenant relationship with Him.  

Finally, He wants your commitment to Him. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. One of the things we find about God is that He is a jealous God and He does not want His glory to go to another person or being. God wants to be first in your life. He wants you do what you do to honor Him and bring His praise. He wants to know that He holds a spot in your life that no one else can hold. Choose to serve Him. Choose to follow Him with all of your hearts. Choose to make Him number one and all else second.  

God has a plan for your life and He has a plan for your 2019. What was is now passed but we now have a new future. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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