Sunday, February 12, 2006

Grief - When the Heart Says Goodbye

Intro.: Have you ever had one of those moments when you realized you finally understood something in a new way. Last night I had one of those experiences.

  1. The theme of today's message, like all of these messages, was chosen last November as I planned my Winter preaching schedule.

  2. The title of today's message, “Grief – When The Heart Says Goodbye”, was something I invented at the beginning of the week. I thought then that it was a powerful title – I still do.

  3. I had spent most of Saturday morning preparing for last nights dinner. I bought two dozen cardboard hearts for decorating the tables. We purchased several packages of sprinkles to spread around the table. We bought a dozen hearts inflated with helium. And I did not see the connection between my title and the upcoming holiday.

  4. And it was not until I found myself in the middle of our Love Banquet last night that I realized that connection. Maybe, grief was an acceptable topic for the Sunday prior to Valentine's Day.


Trans: We say goodbye many times a week.

  1. The end of the workday, at the end of the worship service, after a good dinner out with friends.

  2. Most of the time it really means, “Till we meet again.”

  3. But there are times when we are shaken down to our core.

  4. Saying goodbye is no longer just a common phrase but our whole being is disrupted.

  5. When our hearts have to say “Goodbye” we are going to experience grief.

  6. I want to spend time looking at three times when we experience grief – and conclude with five brief guidelines that can help us through the process.

  1. The lose of a loved one. Luke 11:

    1. I suppose that when I mention grief, the thought that comes to mind most often is the lose we feel of a loved one.

(Ill.) Twice in Jesus' life the four gospel record His tears. On one of those occasions he had just learned that one of his closest friend had died. Lazarus' entire family had been an early follower of Jesus. His sisters, Mary and Martha, could not understand the death of their brother. After all, if Jesus had come, if he had been there, there would be no tears. Jesus did not come. And Lazarus had died. I doubt that anyone is surprised at the tears that are flowing from Mary and Martha. After all their brother had died. But then they go and tell Jesus. And here is where I am confused. Jesus can do something about it. Jesus will be doing something about it. And yet, and here is the surprise, his first response is covered in two words, “He wept.” He was present at creation, he knows you, me, and Lazarus, better than anyone. And he knows that within a very short time He will in Lazarus' life in a way that no one expects. Yet he weeps. Jesus knows the loss. He knows the hurt felt by Mary and Martha – why because He also hurts.

    1. The loss felt when a loved one dies is natural. They've played a key role in our lives – whether for months or for years. And now there is a hole.

    2. I am told that, like other kinds of grief, it is a loss that we have to feel multiple times. It might be on anniversaries, it might be on birthdays. But we will feel it again, and again. And sometimes in the strangest of times it will sneak up on us and we will need to feel it again.

(Ill.) Not many know the origin of the song we just sang (i.e. "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"). This was written by a young man (Joseph M. Scriven) for his mother who was ill. He was in Canada ministering to that nations poorest and his mother lay dying in Ireland. He tried to comfort and encourage her, and intended the poem just for her. No one knew about the words of this beloved hymn until a neighbor was visiting Joseph's home and found a copy laid out on a table. When asked who had written the words, Scriven answered, “The Lord and I did it between us.” i,ii

    1. Even as we lose those we love, God will be there. “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

  1. The lose of our things.

    1. It can be difficult to also lose our things.

    (Ill.) Most of you know how I appreciate the things that are sent by the two companies that I have used to purchase our calendars and pens. Every so often, I hang onto one of those things. One of those things is this key chain – which includes the inscription, “Garland Methodist Church.” It was last week that I almost lost my special key ring. You see the inscription had fallen out of the center. It had lost its value and I wanted to fix it. So I came home that afternoon and quickly found the only glue that I could put my hands on – good, old fashioned Elmer's Glue. Now Elmers is not designed to hold metal to metal, but it was what I had. And I was desperate. So far, it has held the two pieces together. And my lose was minimized.

    1. I suspect that we have all lost something of importance at some point in our lives.

    2. But you know something, I could not find a suitable example from scripture about the loss of things.

    3. Let me suggest one reason for this – A Christian understanding of stewardship suggests that we never really lose anything. In reality, it all belongs to God.

    4. And it is God's to use as He sees fit.

    5. Yet we do feel the lose – not of our, but of God's, things.

  2. A needed change of behavior

    1. But there is another lose, that can be more painful and more difficult to accept.

    2. That is the lose that comes when we realize that we need a change in our behavior.

    3. Paul had as sense of this in Ephesians 4 where he twice reminds his listeners to “put off” their old selves. The image is of one removing his coat and disposing of it. They are being asked to lose something – and it is not a set of keys, or a coat, but lose their old way of living.

  3. (Ill.) Have you ever known somebody in recovery? Somebody who has to struggle with an addiction or a behavior that has its beginning in a family that has been touched by an addiction. It is a painful journey as old, destructive behaviors are let go and new, helpful and healthy behaviors are learned. There will be tears, there will be fits of anger, there will be grief as we let go of that which has been familiar for so long. Making changes to our lives is hard.

    1. And grief is a part of that process.

    2. I don't know what changes God is expecting from you. Maybe its to leave a habit that has dominated your life too long. Maybe its a behavior that might damage your relationship with your spouse. Maybe its an activity that is taking so much of your time that you are avoiding the time needed with your family.

    3. You will experience grief as you begin to “put off”, to use Paul's term, the old behavior and make a new beginning.

Conclusion: Let me conclude with five hints for handling grief:

  1. Don't suffer alone. Share your pain and discomfort with at least one other person. We are the family of God – lets share each others pain as a family.

  2. Find scriptures that can be of help. If you don't have them, ask. I can provide some helpful texts. And if you need more, ask again.

  3. Allow yourself times to cry. If you are in a place that will not allow tears right now, then give yourself time in the future. Jesus cried at the death of his friend – so can we.

  4. Allow yourself to smile – at first they may be few and far between, but these times will become more frequent as you move through grief. Enjoy the feeling when it is there.

  5. If you are stuck, get help.


iTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

iiOsbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions. Includes indexes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.

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