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 – 11/04/2020

Sometimes the Safe Path is Not the Right Path – Temple Illuminatus

PSALM 25

PATHS 

In my youth I loved to go out into the mountains of the Appalachian Trail and hike for days. Stretching from Georgia to Maine one can find some of the best hiking trails in the US there and truly (although at the time I did not realize it) get closer to God through creation. There were many times we came upon forks or crossroads and relied upon the well marked trail system to guide us along the correct path. 

Life however is not so easy. Rarely do we find well defined trail markers along the path of life. So how do we navigate. Well if I listen to some of my friends its all a crap shoot, fate or chance. In other words in the above illustration they believe you have a 50/50 chance of doing well on either path. 

King David here in Psalm 25 had other ideas. He says (paraphrasing):

v. 1-3  Describes trusts God and His sovereignty

v. 4-5 Prays for guidance in paths

v. 6-7 Prays for forgiveness

v. 8-11  Describes the goodness and faithfulness of God

v. 12-15 Describes reasons for fearing the Lord

v. 16-21 Prays for protection and deliverance

v. 22 Prays for Israel

David recognized that relying on his own heart  was not a good thing to direct his paths (think future, think life decisions, etc.) 

I do not know where everyone is in there life walk today. What I do know that there is never a bad time to be like David and have fellowship time with the Lord. Ask Him for guidance by praying like David: Let me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation; For You [and only You] I wait [expectantly] all the day long. (AMP) 

 

Crossroads

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13-14

I live in Mississippi (although I did not grow up here) and like many of my generation I love MS delta blues. Anyone familiar with the blues knows who Robert Johnson is and the story of the Crossroads.

Legend says the Crossroads is where Johnson sold his soul to the devil for his ability to play the guitar so well.  A trio of electric guitars on a pole in Clarksdale, Mississippi marks the spot. If true,Johnson made a choice at that crossroad to take the easy road of worldly fame and fortune over the less traveled road of service to God. 

EVERYONE has their Robert Johnson moment in life. Romans Chapter 1 tells us that God is made known to all mankind, but they thinking themselves wise are completely foolish. Johnson’s choose the road that led to eternal damnation the other road narrow road, led to eternal bliss. 

Spurgeon¹ encourages us to… not be ashamed of being called Puritanical, precise, and particular: Enter ye in at the narrow gate.”

It is a way of self-denial, it is a way of humility, it is a way which is distasteful to the natural pride of men; it is a precise way, it is a holy way, a strait way, and therefore men do not care for it. They are too big, too proud, to go along a narrow lane to heaven; yet this is the right way. There are many broad ways, as Bunyan says, that abut upon it; but you may know them by their being broad, and you may know them by their being crowded. The Christian man has to swim against the current; he has to do more than that, he has to go against himself, so strait is the road; but if you wish to go down to perdition, you have only to float with the stream, and you can have any quantity of company that you like.

Do not be ashamed of being called narrow. Do not be ashamed of being supposed to lead a life of great precision and exactness. There is nothing very grand about breadth, after all. And I have noticed one thing: the broadest men I have ever met with in the best sense have always kept to the narrow way, and the narrowest people I know are those who are so fond of the broad way.

¹ Source