Devotional Thought for Today – 04/06/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part V

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Today we continue our series by looking at the third stage of the 5 Stages of GriefBargaining.

Everytime I think of someone trying to bargain with someone, (I am speaking under duress of some sort) two things come to mind (neither advantageous), first is the legend of Robert Johnson the famous blues artist of the 1920-30’s. The story goes he made a bargain with the devil at the Crossroads of Hwy 49 and 61 here in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He fame and fortune were short live however as he died young in 1938. The second is folks who want to play let’s make a deal with God. Jewish talk show host Dennis Prager addresses the issue of deal-making in his book Think a Second Time:

I have come to realize that many religious people, of all faiths, believe that they should be able to avoid the calamities that afflict the less pious. They believe, in effect, that they can make a deal with God — ‘I’ll do what You want so that You do what I want.’

It should be apparent that both of these example do not have a “happy or expected ending.” This problem in both is selfishness. The person is asking for a self centered goal, I want because I want, or I am entitled to it and you shouldn;t withhold it from me.

In our study we need to remember a couple things. First Not everyone goes through all stages, or in the exact order. Yet Bargaining really does naturally follow Anger. Once the anger has begun to subsided we tend to try and work out solutions, anything to alleviate the pain we are in or anticipating, even if they may not be the most rational at the moment. It begins with trying to figure out how one could have and should have done things better and usually ends up with statements like:

  • ‘heal this person God and I will change my life around’
  • ‘I promise to be be good if you just let ____ live’
  • ‘I will get the counseling I need if you can stop him/her from dying or leaving me’

It is important to note that folks are feeling helpless both emotionally and physically and we can cause more harm than good if we approach this wrong.

Biblically the question has always been can we bargain with God? My answer is, Yes and No, which is probably not what you expected or wanted to hear. So let me give you some examples that seem to indicate we can bargain with God:

  • Abraham, in Gen. 18:16-33, when he pleads with the Lord over the fate of Sodom
  • Jacob, in Gen. 28:20-22, Jacob make a vow to God concerning finding a wife
  • Jephthah, in Judges 11:30-32, The Amorites have said no to peace so Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: ‘If you give the Ammonites into my hands…
  • Hannah, in 1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah is barren and made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will…

If we look at each of the above scripture it would appear that these individuals struck a bargain with God, for God fulfilled their requests. All these folks had one thing in common they were desperate and seemingly had nowhere else to turn. Yet to imply they “Bargained” with God is to say they held a Low View of God. Which their stories reveal to be false.

For He has not despised nor detested the suffering of the afflicted;

Nor has He hidden His face from him;

But when he cried to Him for help, He listened.

PS 22:24

So how does this apply to Chaplains and Ministers dealing with grieving folks? First we need to encourage them to pray. We need to encourage them to pray in the right manner. Encouraging them to pray in a manner that Bargains or Negotiates with God is wrong. Praying to God for comfort, clarity, healing, etc. assumes He is sovereign over all things. It is not about making a trade it is about putting God’s will first. Now, caution here I am in no way suggesting shoving doctrine or theology down some grieving souls throat. I am encouraging Chaplains/Ministers to guide them (provide that care, comfort and COUNCEL) in praying correctly.

Okay, I hope you can see why I said Yes and No, while seemingly “bargaining” with God. Since God is in control of all things, He wants us to, and expects us to intercede, on behalf of others and even ourselves. This is where we can be most effective, when grief has no voice as I said yesterday, is can become malignant, our job as I see it (care, comfort and counsel) is to guide them (again for the short time they are usually with us) through the grief process. Here in the Bargaining Stage guiding them to “righteous bargaining” or properly put intercession.


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Devotional Thought for Today – 04/01/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part II

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Yesterday, we began this series by explaining the goal to be: to attempt to write a series of posts using mainly the Psalms as text that can be used to provide comfort to those Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying. This was mainly to be from a Chaplain/Ministerial view but hopfully applicalble and helpfull to all.

For me, as a Christian Chaplain, all roads lead to Christ so our first post began with a quick look at Christ, the Great Physician. I can not imagine trying to comfort someone who is completely against the Bible (think Richard Dawkins) with scripture. So the first thing is a triage of sorts to find out about them. As I should have noted yesterday this is not a CONFRONTATION, but a friendly get-to-know-you session. Remember the goal, mission call it what you will of the minister/chaplain is to provide care, comfort, and counsel.

Lamentations 3:31-33

One of the first lessons I learned when dealing with those “suffering” was they are grieving. No matter the person or situation, loss of job, divorce, illness, death, etc. grief is inevitably involved. I began my Chaplaincy working with the incarcerated and even the toughest of those men and women, grieve (even if they don’t show it). Having a right understanding of the grief process is critical to ministering to them.

When I began my journey I was told and taught there were 5 Stages of Grief:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression1
  • acceptance

1 Note some modern text now add two other stages in-between depression and acceptance. They are 1) The Upward Turn– This is where you finally begin to feel better and see the light 2) Reconstruction and Working Through – begins to start to work through the aftermath of loss and take control of your life.

The highlighted link above gives an expanded explanation of each stage. What is important is after meeting and “triaging” a person to understand what stage they are in. It is completely different talking to someone who is in the anger stage after a bitter divorce compared to someone who has just lost a loved one to cancer.

One common denominator in all grief counseling I have encountered is the lack of control someone feels. A common theme is “I could have or should have done…” Even if they do not directly blame themselves they feel a sense of loss of control so great it can in a sense paralyze them emotionally and even physically. That is where we as ministers/chaplains come in to provide that care/comfort and counsel helping them get through their situation.

One last reminder, as noted yesterday, that going it alone should never be an option for anyone. Be sure if you are not a Minister/Chaplain are experiencing grief, are hurting, or have suicidal thoughts you seek help immediately. see links here.

RESOURCES:

C.S. Lewis and the Five Stages of Grief

How to Cope with Grief

Understanding the Grieving Process – Focus on the Family

A Biblical Model of Grieving

Understanding and Recognizing the 7 Stages of Grief