My Tools For Overcoming Grief (Part One)

In the weeks since my dad’s death, I have tried to do a spiritual check in on myself and recognized that I am struggling. I am out of balance. I am stretched thin and lack a lot of stamina when it comes to spiritual things. I am barely able to provide emotional awareness to my family and I tend to turn in on myself instead of look outward for much needed companionship and support.

I am grieving, I know, and I am not just being hard on myself or trying to rush the grieving process. But, if there is something that I can do now to keep myself from sinking too far into despair or bitterness, I need to try it. If there is something that would be beneficial to me, even in the midst of a dark time, there is no reason to wait. Despite the hurt and difficulty, God wants to help and desires that I seek out means to allow his grace to come crashing through like a tidal wave.

So, I would like to share with you the tools I have used to help me get through my grief. If you are struggling with anything, perhaps some of these tools might be beneficial to you as well.

The Psalms –

Two Psalms in particular have risen to the surface of my awareness. In one of those times when particular passages get mentioned in multiple venues and contexts, I figured I needed to pay attention to Psalm 30 and Psalm 77. In Psalm 30, there are lines like, “weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning;” and “you turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth, and clothed me with joy.”

Psalm 77 begins with…

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.

but later says …

I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Eugene Peterson says that all prayer ends in praise. Many Psalms were reminders that I can’t just remain in my sadness and despair. There is a time and will be a time when I need to consider all of the Lord’s work and begin to turn my tears into joy. The Psalms can guide me through that.

Music –

I have always been encouraged, convicted, and inspired by music. I look back on dry periods in my spiritual life and can recognize that there was a consistent lack of music.

For several weeks, I was having to drive three hours back and forth from my home to where my parents live. That gave me many hours to listen to music and to find comfort and peace there. I found myself gravitating towards the texture of the music rather than the content of the lyrics. I needed sounds that were comforting and uplifting in a sad sort of way. I know, a very specific formula. I found it in a collection of 6 songs by Andrew Bird. Many of his songs, and the way he uses instruments, just wash over you and then carry you away to a reflective place. I was in a reflective mood and needed to tap into this side of me.

 

Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard –

Throughout this summer, I have been reading this classic by my hero, Dallas Willard. I have read it several times since 2002, the year it came out, but this time was different and it was incredibly comforting and motivational.

dallas-cropped-and-small

If you haven’t read it, Willard describes the vision and the means for having Christ transform all of the parts of the self including our thoughts, emotions, will, and social dimension. With each description and process for transforming a certain part of myself, it was easy for me to evaluate what progress I have made in 15 years. Then you throw in being in the arena of struggle, pain, service, and loss, and it is like a Minor League player stepping up into the big leagues.  There was no denying my progress and also where I needed to improve. I saw areas where God has done some amazing things in my spiritual growth but I also saw some areas where I have neglected to do my part and little growth had risen to the surface. I was comforted and convicted at the same time. That is a great place to be in your spiritual life.

Next time: Three more tools for overcoming grief.

 

Lament: When It Is Not Okay and That Is Okay

Lately, I have found expression for my own frustrations and disappointment in the Psalms of Lament. The thing about these Psalms is that they are honest and emotional while acknowledging the reality of God. I find this an incredibly healthy way of interacting with God. I decided to write my own modern lament patterned after Psalm 3.

Lord, where can I find dedication to your Son!

Why do the once faithful seem to move away from you the first chance they get?         Why are they so weak in the face of personal difficulty or challenging social situations?

Many say, “I once believed, until this happened.” Should a few poor situations really push people away from you?

But you have given me an assurance of your faithfulness to me.

Even when I have faced my own bad situation, at church and otherwise, I have never wanted you more Lord.                                                                                                     You have been with me and others through Wilderness times.

Don’t let your church be sullied by unbelief, modern sensibilities, controversies, reduction of the mission, or scandals.                                                                                       Give no one ammunition to bring down your name in response to your church’s example.

From you comes blessing, living water to sustain us, peace, and direction for the future. May your blessing be on your people.

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #13

A modern Western worship team leading a contem...

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When you think of Revelation, you probably think of dragons, multi-headed creatures, blood, apocalypse, battles, destruction, and earthly disasters. But one thing I have noticed is there is more worship in Revelation than anywhere else in the Bible short of Psalms.

Being a sports fan, I recognize this kind of worship. It is the worship of a victor. The kind of worship reserved for those who have conquered and showed great ability to overcome a foe. It is the kind of worship that confirms that God is truly the best and greatest and that there is none like him.

Worship songs in modern American culture are often love songs with God’s name in place of a lover’s name. This is a nice sentiment but I don’t see that played out very often in scripture. The worship we see taking place in heaven is in response to God’s glory and holiness and not as much his love. The angels and those singing praises to God in heaven are not singing love songs but are singing shouts of victory and reverence to a holy and awesome God.

“Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!

“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For all the nations will come and worship before You,
For Your righteous acts have been revealed.”

(Revelation 15:3-4)

Worship God today because of his greatness, because of his amazing works, because of his creation, because of his righteousness, and because of his mighty power?

My Spiritual Enrichment Workout

Because I am a son of a coach and been around sports my whole life and now am at the stage of life where working out is something that is a necessity for a healthy life, I tend to make natural parallels between a fitness workout and a spiritual workout. My Spiritual Enrichment (my name for “quiet time”) involves four main components. This week, I will explain each aspect of the workout:

1. Warm-Up

2. Core Workout

3. Strength

4. Cardio

First let me explain the Warm-Up

Warm-Up.  A reading from the Divine Hours. This is a manual to what is known as fixed-hour prayer. Basically, if we all lived in a monastery, we would have various times during the day when we would stop what we were doing and join together in prayer and worship. The Divine Hours provides scriptures, Psalms, songs, and prayers covering just a few pages. This is a good warm up for me because it reminds me of where the focus of spiritual enrichment should be – God and not myself. Also, for hundreds of years, the Psalms were the prayer, praise, and worship book  of the church and each one of the fixed-hour sessions offer heavy doses of the Psalms. Look here for an example of a morning session. Two words of instruction, first, when you see an asterisks that means you need to pause and second, I always get more out of it when I read through it out loud as if I were trying to memorize some of the readings.

Tomorrow we will look at the Core Workout section.