Posts Tagged ‘prayer’


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.

Another Monday is here.  For me, Monday’s are a day when new to-do lists are written out and a successful Monday will set the tempo for my entire week.  It will frame what I accomplish and often will frame how I accomplish it.  Part of my Monday practice includes a time of deep contemplation.  It could be on a variety of things but usually settles on a ministry methodology, a scriptural passage or future planning.

Today I find myself contemplating the significance of a verse that the Apostle Paul penned.  He wrote in Philippians 1.21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  I am not sure why it has become stuck in my head but it is there stuck nonetheless.  Besides the obvious question: is this verse a reality in my life? I find myself contemplating what this verse actually looks like in our society and what it’s implications are.

I believe when evaluating  modern society  the verse could sound something more like this: For to me, to live is all about me, and to die is failure.  As a whole, humanity has defined living to be all about us.  We seek to cram as much as we can into our lives and enjoy our life to it’s fullest as if that is all there is.  Yet as society has nosedived away from accepting God-given principles as the normative way of living there too has been a cascade affect within the walls of the church.

I read articles nearly everyday written by men who I believe truly desire to make an impact but they are inherently flawed in their approach.  They ask the wrong question.  The question should not be be how can I please the masses rather it must be how I can please the Master.  At some point I wonder if those of us in leadership have forgotten that seeking blessing from God does not always mean pleasing and appeasing.

After all when you consider the life of Christ, it was one that was marked by hardship yet coupled with effectiveness.  He faced rejection everyday yet approached His ministry with a posture of prayer.  Yes, the masses followed Him yet the masses also rejected Him.  That did not make Him ineffective rather it showed the dichotomy that exists between a life that is focused on Christ and a life that is focused on self.

I wonder what you think…How do we fix the me-focused society?  How do we fix me-centered husbands?  How do we fix me-centered wives?  How do we fix me centered children?  How do we fix me centered churches?  How do we fix me-centered _________________(fill in the blank)?

Not a theological dissertation rather the musings of someone trying to make a difference…

Lord help me to maintain an eternal focus.  Please remove the temporal focus that so ofter pervades my thinking.  Allow me to model what a life lived for you truly is to look like to all who cross my path.

In Nehemiah 1 we find Nehemiah ask a question of some fellow Jews.  He wants to know how his people are doing that are back in Jerusalem.  The answer he receives greatly distresses him.  He is told that they are in distress and reproach and that the walls of the city are broken down and the gates have been burned.  In other words, his people are exposed.  Exposed to the elements.  Exposed to enemies.  Exposed to wild animals.  They are both hopeless and helpless.  This drives Nehemiah to respond in three ways that all leaders need to embrace if they are going to lead well.

1. A leader has genuine concern for the people he or she leads. (vs. 2)

The first thing Jeremiah did when he saw his fellow Jews was inquire to the wellness of their people.  He did not throw a party and make small talk.  He got to root of the issue.  Why?  Because he cared!  Too many leaders are more concerned about themselves.  Failure to show concern for the people God has called you to lead is a good indicator you are not being the leader that God has called you to be.

2. A leader is emotionally invested in his followers.  It is not just a job, his heart is attached. (vs.4)

The response that Nehemiah had after he asked about his brothers in Jerusalem was one of a broken heart.  We are told that he sat down, mourned and wept for days.  Historically sitting is a posture of mourning.  In Job 1 and 2 we find Job mourning.  Each time he mourned he first sat down.  In Daniel 10 we find Danial mourning for 21 days.  What was he doing?  He was sitting.  In Psalm 137 we find a statement “we sat down and wept.”

Nehemiah allowed his heart to break for his people.  It killed him that his people were in pain.  Their pain was his pain.  A true leader is never doing just a job.  His heart is attached and intimately wound in and through not just his organization but through the lives of the people he serves with.  A leader who lacks love for his people will also lack effectiveness.  This is why we find Christ in the New Testament weeping over Jerusalem.  This is why we find so many statements about Jesus that say, when He saw them, He felt compassion.  It is easier for people to move for a leader who first allows his heart to be moved for them.

3. A leader recognizes the power of prayer, their own weakness and the greatness of God. (vs. 4-11)

The third thing we find out about Nehemiah and great leaders in general is that they yield themselves to a higher power.  Nehemiah knew a broken heart, a spirit of mourning and pain would not change the reality of a bad situation.  At that moment he did the only thing he could.  In his place of pain he cried out to the God of the universe.  He worshiped Him, he confessed to Him and implored God to intervene.  He looked for divine intervention!  A leader that does not pray is not a leader.  I know this is a bold statement but one cannot lead for God if he is not communicating with God.   A leader who fails to pray will sooner or later blur the lines between bringing God glory and serving to receive the glory himself.  After all, how can a man lead people to a God he himself is not communicating with?

As a leader….are you concerned about the people you lead???   ….are you emotionally invested in your followers???   ….are you regularly submitting yourself to the God you are called to serve???