Posts Tagged ‘church’


One of the great tragedies of the modern church is the belief that many hold that Christ followers have it all together. There is almost a stigma attached to those who are stuck within the grief cycle. There are well-meaning believers who look at others who are struggling and place judgement on them because they perceive that Christ’s joy is not in their brother or sister’s life. This drives many who are struggling into a life of make believe. They create a persona of joy and happiness that not only fails to mirror their soul but is an outright lie of where they truly are. They then often question their own spirituality secretly believing that what they feel or don’t feel is directly attached to their lack of spirituality.

We must divorce ourselves of these two mindsets.
The mindset that says, others must be wearing a happy face if they truly are a Christian is one that is removed far from reality. It paints an unhealthy and unbiblical expectation that is unfairly placed upon those who are experiencing grief. It forces many to unnecessarily live underneath the watchful eye of judgement. Quite frankly this bizarre view that seeks to force others to live as though they are untouched by the painful realities of life is a big reason many won’t get near organized religion and often label Christians as hypocrites. Let’s face it, who can blame them. If Jesus came for the sick, why are the sick and grief stricken often treated by Christ-followers as though they are spawn’s of Satan? Sounds pretty hypocritical to me.

The mindset that is created due to being victimized by other’s views is a dangerous one. It declares that I do not measure up because I am stuck in the cycle of grief. It says, I am not spiritual because I do not appear to be joyful. The problem is that while one chooses to live underneath the microscope of other’s judgements they rarely heal properly. Rather, they live to present the appearance of healing to those who judge them. They walk around as wounded souls all the while wearing a mask that declares I am ok knowing full well that they are living a lie.

So what do we do to overcome these two mindsets?

I would propose that those who find themselves within Christian circles must begin by validating grief. Grief is not abnormal. It is not something to be feared. It most certainly does not warrant condescension. Grief is not sinful. It is natural.

Part of the reason grief makes us so uncomfortable and it is often not dealt with properly is because all grief is unique to it’s own circumstance. Therefore, one rarely knows how to handle the grief another. It is not just birthed from a unique circumstance but grief is also manifested uniquely by all individuals. Therefore we cannot treat all individuals the same and cannot expect them to all handle grief in the same manner. The most comprehensive workbook on grief is guaranteed to fall short because of the unique way all individuals respond to grief.

If the uniqueness of grief is indeed a true statement then one must not begin by pointing to a solution but rather begin by accepting the reality of the grief. Grief must be validated.

One Scripture that validates grief and the many manifestations of grief is found in the 102nd Psalm. The first eleven verses say this:

1Hear my prayer, O Lord!

And let my cry for help come to You.

2 Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress;

Incline Your ear to me;

In the day when I call answer me quickly.

3 For my days have been consumed in smoke,

And my bones have been scorched like a hearth.

4 My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away,

Indeed, I forget to eat my bread.

5 Because of the loudness of my groaning

My bones cling to my flesh.

6 I resemble a pelican of the wilderness;

I have become like an owl of the waste places.

7 I lie awake,

I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop.

8 My enemies have reproached me all day long;

Those who deride me have used my name as a curse.

9 For I have eaten ashes like bread

And mingled my drink with weeping

10 Because of Your indignation and Your wrath,

For You have lifted me up and cast me away.

11 My days are like a lengthened shadow,

And I wither away like grass.

One has to believe that if the inspired word of God acknowledges the reality of grief without condemning it that we too can do the same. Consider the eleven verses that a mentioned here. (1) The author desires to be heard. (2) He feels like he can’t see God. It is as though God’s face is hidden. (3) Feels like he is living in a dirty cloud that hurts his sight and feels consuming. Smoke overwhelms all the senses. (4) Feels like his soul is dying a slow death and times does not even remember to eat. (5) Groaning flesh clinging.  He is no longer living but rather is dwelling in survival mode. (6) He looks like a starving bird. In other words, his grief is worn. Others can see the affects of grief in his appearance. (7) Is within a cycle of sleeplessness where he is often consumed with a deep sense of loneliness. (8) He feels like the whole world is against him. (9) Food no longer brings him joy or comfort. (10) Feels like God has forgotten him and is angry at him. (11) Feels as though his days are clouded from anything that is good and feels as though he is dying slowly inside.

This is a depressing chunk of Scripture but points out a valuable truth. Before the author of this Psalm can ever deal with the truth of who God is he must first deal with where he is. He devotes a large portion of his writing to the painful grief filled existence that he is living within. He does not put on the Sunday morning smile and tell everyone he is blessed simply say “I’m well” when asked how he is doing.

I would submit that if one is ever to truly deal with the reality of grief that they must first start by embracing it’s reality. Grief must be validated. It is real therefore it must not be ignored. Playing pretend will never foster an environment where healing can be promoted or can happen. Healing does not happen by accident.

It is ok to admit that healing is required. We read of many who cried out to Jesus declaring their need of a healer. What we never read is of Jesus silencing them. He encouraged those who cried out and discouraged their discouragers.

Cry out to Jesus. Crying out to Jesus was not relegated to those who were blind, mute and in need of physical healing. It was made available to all. The model prayer of the blind man, Bartimaeus, who said, “Jesus have mercy on me” (Luke 18.38) is a prayer that does not need to end in the Gospels but is a prayer that should still be prayed by the dispirited, the grieving and the hurting hearts. Make that your prayer today. Shed the facade that declares I am ok. If you hurt, cry out to Jesus.

  

I think we can all agree that we have all experienced grief. Grief strikes people from many different directions. Grief is brought on by the death of a loved one. It can be brought on by an illness or an illness of someone you love. It can be brought on by an employer announcing, “we are letting you go.” Or a spouse saying, “I want a divorce.” Grief can happen when we watch those we love suffer from self harm. Grief can come at us when people we love make poor decisions. Many of the parents who are reading this have faced sleepless nights due to their children’s choices. Grief can strike us when friendships are lost and most definitely when betrayal happens. Grief happens when we or those close to us suffer from the hand of an abuser. Grief happens when the joy of a pregnancy is replaced with the pain of a miscarriage. The list goes on and on.    

Sadly we must realize that when it comes to the topic grief the we must realize it is not if but when…

Grief is a natural part of life. Yet, when we go through it, it rarely feels natural. We long for an escape. We desperately want a reprieve but it hangs over us like a dark cloud. A cloud that seems to mirror our every move. It does not leave us or allow us rest. So what is one one to do? 

How do we escape that which is inevitable? How do we see God in the grief? The clouds of grief don’t just place us in a shadow but seem to shield our view of the Almighty as well. Our view of heaven becomes clouded. That which once was bright becomes dark and life feels as if we live in a shadow. Grief can quickly overwhelm us. It can quickly rob us of joy. It can quickly render us helpless and often evokes feelings of hopelessness as well.

Grief is not merely something that you go through. It is something that touches every fiber of one’s being. It touches our sleep, our eating patterns, our feelings, our thoughts, our desires, our relationships, and even our dreams. It often does not leave one stone unturned. It often will haunt us every hour of the day and it is often accompanied by the thought that this will never get better. As stated above, it affects every fiber of one’s being.  

It often does not make sense. It is in these moments of grief that we strive hardest for clarity and understanding yet are often left with confusion and a pattern of answerless questions. We exhaust ourselves as we search for answers that are never to be found.  

Many us within the faith community hear well meaning Christians utter statements that we just don’t want to hear when we are grieving. The one grieving does not want to hear, “All things work together for good.” They do not want to hear, “God won’t give you more than you can bear”. When one is living inside grief it is hard to see any good and within the cycle of grief most feel they have already been given more than they can bear. Our job as Christians is never to remove the grieving. Grieving is modeled by our Savior and is part of life.  

So apart from complete surrender to the inevitable what can we do? 

Well, I would ask you to join me as I each week I will write more on this topic.  Whether you are grieving yourself or not, I can gaurantee you that you know somonebody whose life is currently being touched by grief.  So I would ask that you commit to this journey of grief with me.  For those grieving, it is important that we frame your grrief in a proper manner.  For those who know someone who is wrecked by grief it is imporant that you too understand the framework of grief.  Without proper understanding we can often do more harm than good.

The plan moving forward is to publish articles for at the least the next six wednesdays on the topic of grief.  Please feel free to share your stories in the comments section below and also share this with those you know who are currently wrecked by grief.  

Syncretism’s New View…

Posted: August 22, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Syncretism is the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.

In the Old Testament we find the Israelites attempting to blend their worship of Jehovah with practices that involved worship and sacrifices to idols.  To make a long story short…it ticked God off.  He burned with righteous anger toward He people.  He held them accountable for their actions and punished them.

In the New Testament we find people that have been referred to as Judaizers trying to promote law and Christ at the same time.  They would say on one hand that Christ was sufficient yet on the other hand that you must be circumcised and fulfill Jewish dietary laws.  In essence, they were declaring to a watching world that Christ is not sufficient.

In modern day American churches we find a different type of syncretism.  Baal worship is not prevalent and neither is dietary laws.  What is prevalent is the worship of me.  I am not talking about people worshiping Jon Goodwin but I am talking about people being so focused on themselves that they will go to any means necessary to please themselves and all the while gladly proclaim “I am a Christian.”

The selfish nature of the modern day church is what I believe has contributed to shrinking congregations all across America.  If my focus becomes me, then is sure isn’t on reaching a lost and dying world for Christ.  If my focus becomes me, my family will take a back burner.  If my focus becomes me, then church becomes optional.  If my focus becomes me, then Christ is not my focus.

I am curious what your thoughts are on this subject.  Share your thoughts.  What are specific examples in the modern church where you belief syncretism exists?

Syncretism is the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.

In the Old Testament we find the Israelites attempting to blend their worship of Jehovah with practices that involved worship and sacrifices to idols.  To make a long story short…it ticked God off.  He burned with righteous anger toward He people.  He held them accountable for their actions and punished them.

In the New Testament we find people that have been referred to as Judaizers trying to promote law and Christ at the same time.  They would say on one hand that Christ was sufficient yet on the other hand that you must be circumcised and fulfill Jewish dietary laws.  In essence, they were declaring to a watching world that Christ is not sufficient.

In modern day American churches we find a different type of syncretism.  Baal worship is not prevalent and neither is dietary laws.  What is prevalent is the worship of me.  I am not talking about people worshiping Jon Goodwin but I am talking about people being so focused on themselves that they will go to any means necessary to please themselves and all the while gladly proclaim “I am a Christian.”

The selfish nature of the modern day church is what I believe has contributed to shrinking congregations all across America.  If my focus becomes me, then is sure isn’t on reaching a lost and dying world for Christ.  If my focus becomes me, my family will take a back burner.  If my focus becomes me, then church becomes optional.  If my focus becomes me, then Christ is not my focus.

I am curious what your thoughts are on this subject.  Share your thoughts.  What are specific examples in the modern church where you belief syncretism exists?