10 Statements Not to Say to Grieving People

Perhaps you recently went to the local funeral home to share your condolences when a friend’s spouse or parent died. You might have felt uncomfortable because you didn’t know what to say.

As a member of the clergy, I have conducted, and attended, hundreds of funeral services. I have heard people say some hope-filled words during these occasions, but I have also heard people say some awful things.

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“He (or she) is in a better place.” You don’t know; only God does. The problem with these words is that the grieving person wants that deceased loved one here, with him or her now, no matter how difficult the past weeks or months might have been.

Better: “I know you miss him (or her).” These words show that you are aware of the pain.

“I know how you feel.” Actually, you don’t. Sure, you might have lost someone by death, but remember that each person’s experience of grief and sadness is different. No two griefs are the same.

Better: “I have been thinking about you a lot. I hurt for you.” These words show that you do have some awareness of the pain, that in some way, you do have some understanding of the pain.

“It was God’s will” or “It’s what God intended.” This statement can make a person feel angry. The grieving person might think, “I don’t think God had anything to do with it.” Or “I think I could have come up with a different plan.”

Better: Just say, “I am so sorry.” That is enough.

“Don’t cry.” During the journey of grief, tears are therapeutic.

Better: Don’t be put off by another’s weeping. Be silent while the person cries.

“God will never give you more than you can handle.” This statement is a distorted interpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 (“He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear”). These words imply that if the grieving person is not handling things well then he or she must be weak, ineffective, or not capable.

Better: “This has to be hard for you.” Such a statement lets your friend know that you have some awareness of how difficult and burdensome the person’s loss has been.

“Time will heal all hurts and wounds.” Time only passes by. What has the potential to heal is not the passing of time, but what we do within that time.

Better: Just give the grieving person the time he or she needs. All people travel through the grief journey differently, and in differing time frames.

“Let me know if I can help.” I know that this common question comes from a heart of gold. However, a grieving person might feel so overwhelmed that he or she does not even know what can help at the moment.

Better: In the words of the athletic shoe commercial, “Just do it.” Say, “How about if I wash a load of clothes for you.” “Today is garbage day; I’ll take your can to the street.” “Who can I call for you?”

“It was his (or her) time to go.” How do you know? If the person died a nice, peaceful death in old age, then maybe this statement is accurate. But what if the person’s death was caused by an accident or a murder? Then it wasn’t that person’s time. The individual’s life was cut short.

Better: Say, “Your dad was loved by this community. He will be missed. These words acknowledge the reality of death, but don’t put pressure on the one who grieves the loss.

“You will feel better soon.” We say these words because we feel uncomfortable watching someone grieve. These words actually make us feel at ease.

Better: “I will be here for as long as you need.” Or “I will stay in touch with you.” These words show you aren’t here today and then gone tomorrow.

Any statement that begins with “You should,” You shouldn’t,” or “You will.” These statements are too authoritative and can make you come across as judge and jury. Some decisions a grieving person makes (like cleaning out the deceased’s closet, removing a wedding ring) are personal decisions only that individual can make.

Better: Say, “Have you thought about . . .?” “Have you considered . . .?” Again, you are allowing the person to make his or her own decisions.

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The next time a friend or family member experiences the loss of a loved one, recall these words of counsel. You can impart hope to grieving people.

The Power of Your Words to Give People Hope

“Your words have put stumbling people on their feet, put fresh hope in people about to collapse” (Job 4:4, The Message)

 I’ve heard Joe Stowell speak many times. In his book, “The Weight of Your Words,” Stowell tells the following story: “My junior high school had scheduled its annual theater production which included some opera-style songs. Talented students were quick to try out for the various parts. I was not so certain of my abilities and had decided that singing in an opera wasn’t really for me. Then Mrs. Wilson, my music teacher, asked me to try out. It was not a coveted role, but it did have three solos. I am certain that my audition was only mediocre. But Mrs. Wilson reacted as if she had just heard a choir of heavenly angels. “Oh, that was just beautiful. It was perfect. You are just right for the role. You will do it, won’t you?” I accepted. When the time came for the next year’s opera performance, most of the students who had played the leads the year before had graduated. And Mrs. Wilson had transferred to another school. In her place was a rather imposing figure who had an excellent singing voice and a sound knowledge of music theory. As tryouts began, I was ready. I felt confident that my talent was just what our school’s operetta needed. With approximately 150 of my peers assembled, I knew everything would go well. But if I live for an eternity I will never forget the words spoken on that day. When my audition was completed, the teacher asked, “Who told you that you could sing?” I felt totally destroyed. Harsh words are bad enough under any circumstances. To a young idealistic boy, they can be devastating. From the time those seven words were stated, it took eight years and coaxing from my fiancée before my voice was raised in song again.”

WordsThe words we speak are not just simply sounds caused by air passing through our larynx. Our spoken words have amazing power—words either destroy people or build up people. When the Old Testament man who suffered much, Job, sought wisdom for his problems, one of his friends, Eliphaz, said to Job: “Your words have put stumbling people on their feet, put fresh hope in people about to collapse” (Job 4:4, The Message. Job knew how to use his spoken words well.

For many years I have tried to let the teaching of a Bible verse, Ephesians 4:29 guide my speech: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” The word foul in the verse refers to rotting fruits and vegetables. We should not heap those kinds of words on anyone.

Audrey Marlene, a life coach, suggests a variety of ways we might use our spoken words to encourage others,  just as Ephesians 4:29 tells us to do.

  • Pay a genuine compliment or a kind word to someone who crosses your path.
  • Say something nice to build someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Your power of words can encourage and motivate someone by saying “you did a good job.”
  • Say words of comfort to someone sad or grieving.
  • Use your words to admit when you were wrong.
  • Use your words to say “I’m sorry”
  • Don’t forget to say “Thank You”
  • Use your words to show appreciation
  • Use your words to show respect for others.
  • Say thing funny to make someone smile and brighten up their day.
  • Use your words to help that special someone in your life feel secure with your love.
  • Use your words to speak to God from your heart to give thanks for the blessing in your life.
  • Use your words to praise your child for their efforts.
  • Say words to let your children know what a gift they are to you.

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Let the power of your spoken words be used by God to bring hope and encouragement to others.

 

 

Stop Comparing Yourself With Others

“Peter asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘What is that to you?’? (John 21:21-22)

I worked with a guy one time who was OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). He was just obsessed about the order and arrangement of things. He drove all of us crazy.

I want you to think differently about OCD. Think “obsessive comparison disorder.” Paul Angone, an organizational consultant, came up with this term a few years back. The term describes our compulsion to compare ourselves with others which produces unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us to depression, consumption, anxiety, and all-around unhappiness and discontent.

OCDObsessive comparison disorder is an especially difficult habit for today’s younger generations. Although us older folks do the comparison thing, too.

Comparison has been with us since the beginning, but today, with the Internet and social media, we have taken comparison to new heights.

I still remember some of my feelings when time came for our 10th and 20th high school reunions. I wondered if I would be worse or better off than my classmates. How would I look compared to them? Would I be less successful than some of them?

But with the invention of online social media you don’t need a 10-year or 20-year reunion. Now you have the opportunity to compare yourself with everyone. Every single day.

You know how it is. You go online and see photos and descriptions of your friends experiencing fabulous trips, eating beautiful food, enjoying material things you don’t have, or you see what others are doing and you wish you were doing that, too. And you begin to compare your life with theirs.

5 Reasons Comparison Is Not Good for You

  • Comparison makes you buy things you don’t need or you can’t afford. Comparison really is one of the leading causes of poor money management.
  • Comparison makes you feel depressed. As you look through your friends’ “My Life Is Awesome” Facebook posts, you feel depressed because your life looks nothing like you think it should.
  • Comparison creates big-time discontent and unhappiness. Truth is, you can’t be content and envious at the same time.
  • Comparison blinds you to God’s design for your life. Instead of seeing your unique design and giftedness, you see only the things you don’t have.
  • Comparison damages your sense of self-worth. It leads you to devalue yourself.
  • Comparison will not help you accomplish your goals. Chewing over how someone is better looking than you, more successful than you, or has more than you decreases your motivation to achieve your goals.
  • Comparison is a losing battle. In life there will always be many people who are smarter, better looking, richer, thinner, and more talented than you. So don’t use other people for your benchmark.
  • Comparison will deprive you of joy. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

OCD2The negative effects of comparison are real, and they are harmful. So, how can we break free from this habit of comparing ourselves to others?

 

 

 

Breaking Free From Obsessive Comparison Disorder

  1. Be truly grateful for what you have. Gratitude has the power to transform your entire outlook on life.
  2. Be wise when you read social media posts. When I post on Instagram or Facebook I don’t post my worst moments and my worst looks. And neither does anyone else. Someone on your social media account might appear to have an awesome life, but in reality, that individual probably has the same struggles and heartaches that you have.
  3. Celebrate what you do. What have been some of your accomplishments this past week? In what ways have you helped others? How did God open doors for you this week? Quit trying to be something you aren’t.
  4. Prayerfully determine God’s plans for your life. What is God uniquely nudging you to do? You can’t focus on your purpose while looking at other people.
  5. Name your strengths. Write down everything you do well. Make a list of what you are good at doing.
  6. Stop comparing yourself with others. Don’t do it anymore, period!
  7. Enjoy the journey. All of us are on a journey of walking by faith, doing the best we can, and being our best self. Some days we mess up. Other days we amaze ourselves. Accept the journey God has for you. This is where your hope is.

Is It OK to Be Competitive?

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

The sports world lost 2 legends this week: Pat Summitt and Buddy Ryan. Summitt achieved incredible success in her 38 years as the women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. In fact, Summitt became the winningest coach in Division I college basketball. Even more, she lifted women’s basketball from obscurity to prominence.

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Buddy Ryan achieved fame as the defensive coach for the professional football Chicago Bears. His defensive achievements for the Bears became so prominent that Ryan was nicknamed the “Monster of the Midway.” Ryan viewed the game of football as warfare, and told his players not to wait until opposing players did something to them, but to strike first.

I think you can see a dominant character quality in both Pat Summitt and Buddy Ryan. They were highly competitive.

This week as I listened to news reports about their deaths, I kept hearing about how competitive they were. These reports made me think. Is being a competitive person a good thing or a bad thing? Since I am a Christian I also wondered, Is it a Christian quality to be competitive? This blog post is my attempt to deal with the issue of competitiveness.

Most of us are probably uncomfortable with feelings of competitiveness. I know I am. As a kid, I never enjoyed competitive sports. Though, I can be competitive with myself. During my 20s to late 40s I was a jogger/runner. I kept up with my PB for a 10K run (personal best time), and I tried to beat myself each time I ran a 10K. So, I suppose everyone has a competitive streak inside.

Competition shows up in different ways. From competing for a job to competing for the attention of someone of the opposite sex to competing by wanting our favorite sports team to be Number 1.

The negative view of competition says we can push our children and ourselves too hard. Constantly wanting to be first and to be Number 1 can’t be good for us. And we never appreciate the lessons that come from losing. Highly-competitive persons can get into a mode of winning at all costs. If we are too competitive we risk becoming poor losers.

The positive view of competition says it promotes personal growth. Who of us would grow and stretch ourselves if we didn’t have rivals? In addition, competition makes us goal-oriented, and prepares us for the real world, a world filled with competition. The positive view says that life is more interesting and fun when some competition is involved.

Again, but what about the issue of competition as it relates to the Christian life? Should Christians be competitive people? Should they avoid being competitive?

We do have in the Bible the words of Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Philippians 3:14 does tell us to “Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called” us. And Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Of course these Bible verses all refer to doing our best for the Lord, as well as doing our best to achieve Christlikeness. These verses don’t have anything to do with competing for a job or competing on the football field.

We certainly don’t want to be competitive like, “My church is better than your church.” Or “I know more Bible verses than you.”

I turn your attention to the words of Jesus in Matthew 20 (you’ll find these words at the beginning of this post). Jesus taught that our goal as His followers should not be to be Number 1 or “the best,” but rather to have a servant’s heart..

Yet note again what Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you.” The idea is that times are when we want to be great, when we want to do well, when we want to achieve. I don’t think Jesus condemned the desire for honest achievement or the aspiration to be our best self. Nothing wrong with this at all.

But I’m thinking that when it comes to competition as you and I see it played out today, a Christian should want to be his or her best for Jesus’ sake. That’s the best kind of competition, and what’s more, it brings us hope.

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What are your thoughts about Christians and competition. Use the “comments” portion to share your opinions.

God’s Got This!

“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2).

I felt a horrible wave of sorrow and sadness wash over me when I heard the news reports of the June 12 shooting in Orlando, Florida. Many heroic stories began to emerge. Joshua McGill was one of those heroes. When the shooting started, McGill ran out of the nightclub and hid behind a car in a parking lot, when he noticed a man with multiple gunshot wounds to his arms and back.

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The man was Rodney Sumter Jr., a 27-year-old bartender at the club. McGill, a nursing student, pulled Sumter behind the car and used his shirt to make a tourniquet on Sumter’s arms. Then he helped the man to a safe area and used the victim’s shirt to stop the bleeding on his back.

An Orlando police officer told McGill that it would be about a half-an-hour before an ambulance would arrive, and that Sumter was bleeding too much to wait. The office had McGill to get into the back seat of the police cruiser, place Sumter on top of him, press down on the gunshot wound on Sumter’s back, then talk to him constantly to keep Sumter awake.

“I told him ‘Everything would be OK,’” said McGill. “I got you, just calm down. I need to cut off as much blood as I can.’”

“I promise you, God’s got this. You’ll be OK,’” McGill recalled saying. McGill later learned Sumter was in stable condition.

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Most likely you were not a victim of the Orlando shooting, and your present troubles and difficulties might not be as miserable as those folks in Orlando are facing. Yet, you possibly are facing your own hard time right now. A hardship or trial has come into your life. Remember Joshua McGill’s comforting words: “God’s got this.”

That’s the message from Psalm 18 in the Bible. When you trust God for help during your tough times, 8 assurances, spoken about in this psalm, give you hope.

  1. God is your strength. When you trust God and look to Him, He never leaves you weak and helpless. He becomes the strong breakthrough you need.
  2. God is your rock. The word rock is a common metaphor used 24 times in the Book of Psalm with reference to God. Rocks were used to build walls, fortresses, and towers in Bible times. The idea of God as our rock shows that God is our solid foundation when life’s hardships shake the ground beneath us.
  3. God is your fortress. When you trust God during your tough times it’s like you are inside a fortress. And no enemy, no power, can penetrate God’s fortress.
  4. God is your deliverer. God is not your “preventer,” meaning that He never allows any bad circumstances to come your way. Instead, God is your “deliverer,” meaning He rescues you when those tough times do come.
  5. God is your refuge. He is your safe place when you need protection, comfort, and assurance.
  6. God is your shield. In ancient times soldiers used shields to protect themselves from the enemy’s penetrating arrows, swords, and spears. To say that God is your shield means that He screens everything that comes your way. Nothing can penetrate you until it goes through God’s screening process first.
  7. God is your horn of salvation. During battles the sound of a horn inspires the troops and gives them motivation for surging forward. The sound of the horn says, “We will win.” Each time God gives victory and breakthrough in your life, you have something for which to praise Him.
  8. God is your stronghold. A stronghold refers to something that cannot be moved nor shaken. God’s work on your behalf is a like a place in your life that has been so fortified that you are forever protected and assured.

So, the next time you find yourself facing discouraging circumstances, read the words of Psalm 18:1-2. The 8 images of God in these 2 verses give us hope during tough times, and remind us that “God’s got this!”

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Are We Lonelier Than Ever?

“God places the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6).

The Beatles sang these words in their song, Eleanor Rigby: “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”

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Feelings of loneliness have been with us since the beginning of time. I have endured times of loneliness in my life, and I am sure you have as well. But I’m thinking that American people might be lonelier today than ever. You might be thinking, Why would you say that?

  • 67% of Americans say there is more loneliness in today’s society than there used to be.
  • Six in ten feel they have fewer meaningful relationships than they did five years ago.
  • While 80% feel it is easier to connect with friends and family today than it was five years ago (a result of increased use of email, text and social networks to keep in contact),
  • 60% say they have fewer meaningful relationships.
  • Facebook users report an average of 136 friends but only 6 committed confidants.
  • Only 29% of Americans feel conversations made via technology always, or almost always, make them feel closer to the other person.
  • Since 1985 the number of persons who said there was no one with whom they discussed important matters tripled.
  • Four in 10 people feel they now have less daily interaction with people they know than they did just 5 years ago, while only 1in 7 feel they have more. Even when people do interact with others outside of the workplace, it is more likely to be through a phone call, email, or text message than through direct face-to-face contact.

What’s the culprit for our growing sense of loneliness? I recently read a book that jolted me, Reclaiming Conversation: the Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle, a professor of social science and technology at MIT. Turkle wrote, “Our increasing use of mobile devices is changing our culture, perhaps making us lonelier and less able to form meaningful relationships.” I promise you that Turkle is NOT antitechnology.

But more and more of us have sacrificed real face-to-face conversation for connectedness through our mobile phones, laptops, and personal computers. The result: We are lonelier than ever.

I’m thinking that many of us have forgotten how to talk with others face-to-face. Instead of having close friends with whom we can share our lives we have digital Facebook “friends,” and Twitter “followers.” We don’t hug our friends, we poke them. The more “friends and followers” the less lonely we think we’ll feel.

Instead of doing things in person, we now do them online. Instead of sharing our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and feelings we express them through an emoji.

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What are some resolutions for our increasing loneliness?

  1. Remember that we were made for deep intimacy with God. As one person has said, “Friends and other companions may be a wonderful blessing, but they are neither ultimate nor adequate for a heart made for God. Loneliness acts like a divine sticky note that says, ‘Don’t forget for whom you were made.’” You might feel lonely at times, but you are never alone. Why? Jesus said, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). As the hymn writer said, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Turn to Him when you feel lonely.
  2. Battle feelings of loneliness with community. Take a look again at the Bible verse that begins this post, Psalm 68:6. Colin Sedgwick has pointed out that in ancient Israel the word families in the verse means much more than our Western concept of dads, moms, and kids. The word actually refers to whole clusters of people. For Christians that “family” is the church family. If you are not actively involved in a church, find a good Bible-centered church to attend. Participate in a small group at church. You will make friends. You will find community.
  3. Make a commitment to do more face-to-face interaction. How many people would you say you interact with on a daily basis? Not online, or in text messages or emails, but in real life? Invite someone to have coffee or go out to lunch. Put away your cell phone, and spend the time in face-to-face talking. I understand the convenience of texts and emails. But don’t sacrifice some human interaction for technology. In your home value face-to-face talking with your spouse and your children. Do more of it.

How to Trash Your Marriage

A popular story tells of 2 porcupines freezing in the winter cold. Shivering in the frigid air, the two porcupines moved closer together to share body heat and warmth. But then their sharp spines and quills pricked each other painfully, and they moved apart. Soon they felt they must come together once more, or freeze to death. But their quills caused too much pain, and they parted again.

MyWayWhat causes the most pain in a marriage? What tends to drive couples apart? And what is the single, best way to trash your marriage? Selfishness!

I define selfishness as “individualism gone to extremes.” Individualism is a historic American trait. We Americans advocate taking responsibility for yourself, achieving your goals, pursuing your dreams, and making your mark on the world. Individualism, when held in check, can be honorable.

But what we are seeing today can be described as expressive individualism, a view that my personal fulfillment is the priority.  Any relationship I am in, including marriage, exists to make me self-fulfilled. My personal desires and my personal fulfillment, trump my marriage commitment. And when my spouse and my marriage cease to fulfill me and make me happy, I will be hesitant to stay in my marriage. My highest loyalty is to myself, not to my spouse.

Taylor Swift sings a popular song, “Out of the Woods.” The song is about a relationship on the rocks. I read an article by Trevin Wax recently in which he pointed out the main words in Swift’s song: “She lost him. But she found herself. And somehow that was everything.”

Did you get that? “She lost him.” The relationship ended. The relationship never made it out of the woods. But . . . “She found herself.” The broken relationship wasn’t all that sad because it was that broken relationship that allowed her to find herself. When the relationship died she became alive to her true self. “And somehow that was everything.”

This is expressive individualism. That the highest purposes in life are “to discover you, to fulfill you.” And all my relationships are subordinated to that goal.

MyWay3How can you know if expressive individualism, extreme selfishness, is hurting your marriage?

 

 

  • Your marriage has become all about you.
  • Communication between you and your spouse is poor.
  • You are hesitant to express love to your spouse.
  • You have become more demanding.
  • You harbor feelings of hurt and resentment toward your spouse.
  • You and your spouse are not “one.”
  • You feel you are competing with your spouse.
  • You think you are better than your spouse.
  • You believe your needs are more important than anyone else in the family.
  • You have become lazy about your marriage—you don’t give it the attention it deserves.
  • You believe your spouse is flawed.
  • You want things your way.

How do you break the hold of selfishness and expressive individualism?

  • Every day remind yourself of the things you love about your spouse.
  • Choose to have faith in your spouse.
  • Purposely show more respect, kindness, and forgiveness toward your spouse.
  • Be responsible. Admit you are extremely selfish.
  • Start thinking and communicating “we” instead of “I.”
  • Stop blaming your spouse for your lack of self-fulfillment.
  • Don’t put your spouse down just to win something for yourself.
  • Focus more on how to make your marriage successful.
  • Commit yourself to your marriage.

It is OK for you to have dreams, goals, desires, and wants. But don’t become overly-selfish for these things, and put your selfish desires ahead of your spouse and your marriage. Selfishness really will trash your marriage.

 

 

What to Do When You Feel Let Down

I recently ordered an item online. My receipt said I would receive the item in 5-to-8 business days. That time period was acceptable. But 12 business days passed and the item still had not been delivered. I called the company 4 times, and sent numerous emails before I got a response. According to the company my item “had been backordered” and would arrive in—you guessed it—5-to-8 business days. What’s worse is that at the time I wrote this post I was still waiting. Talk about feeling let down by this company!

LetdownPerhaps you, like me, have been let down by poor customer service from a business. Even more painful, you might have been let down by a friend or family member. Some people feel let down by their bank, their favorite team, a car repair person, a family doctor, their spouse, or their church. And a few people even feel let down by God.

So, how should we deal with the feeling of being let down? What follows are some ways you can get over the feeling of being completely let down.

  1. Remember that people are not perfect. People will let us down. People will hurt us. People will fail. People are human, and humans make mistakes. For this reason, we never can place all our hopes in fellow human beings.
  2. Tone down your expectations. I must admit that sometimes my expectations are unreasonable. That said, do not be like the poet Alexander Pope who said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” If you expect nothing from people you will close yourself off to the blessings that often come from others. Have your expectations, but just make sure they aren’t impractical.
  3. Focus on the positive. Sure, you’ve been let down, but there are worse things. If you have a roof over your head, and you had food to eat today, you are doing better than many people in the world. If you have friends, family, and church members who care about you, that’s something to be thankful for. Your job might not be your dream job, but if your paycheck helps pay the bills consider yourself blessed.
  4. Give others the benefit of the doubt until you hear their side of the story. Every person on planet earth has stressors to deal with.
  5. Find alternatives, and think in terms of solutions. What actions can you take to remedy your predicament? This approach is far better than wallowing in a corner, feeling sorry for yourself, or complaining to others about how unfair life is and how stupid people are.
  6. If a person has let you down, speak to that individual openly and in a non-confrontational way. Hear that person’s side of the story. If this person has let you down a number of times, that’s one thing, but if it’s the first time, show some grace. You can then decide whether to continue to invest in this relationship.
  7. Be willing to forgive. Again, people are human, and they make mistakes. Forgiveness releases your stored up anger, and prevents you from saying or doing something you might regret.

Now, for 2 other situations. First, what if you are the one who let someone down? Realize your actions have affected someone else. Apologize. Make amends, where possible. Forgive yourself.

Letdown2Second, what if you feel God has let you down? Perhaps a painful circumstances has come into your life, and you feel God could have prevented it, but He didn’t, therefore, He let you down. Remember that God is good, and all the He does is good. So keep on trusting Him, loving Him. Your greatest reward is to thank Him in your weakest moment. This approach maintains hope in your life.

Finding Hope When Your Faith Is Broken and Your Dreams Have Shattered

Recently I set up a booth at the Berry (Alabama) Heritage Festival where I sold my 2 books. One person who came by my booth, Margaret (not her real name), opened up and told me about her situation. She thought my books would give some hope and encouragement to her, as well as to her husband. You see, 6 months ago they lost their 19-year-old son in a car accident.

I nearly broke down in tears listening to her story, and sensing the pain she felt. But I knew better than to do that. I listened to Margaret, and did my best to offer some comfort in the few minutes I had standing with her in front of my book table. As she left with books in her hands, she said, “We are just barely hanging on.”

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Margaret and her husband have experienced shattered dreams and broken faith. I’m sure they had big-time dreams for their son. (Based on what she told me about her son, he was a model teen.) And, of course, Margaret and her husband are asking that huge one-word question, Why?

Maybe that’s where you are, too. Your plans might have crumbled. A dream you’ve had for years recently went up in flames, so to speak. A problem has sent your life spinning out of control. A bad decision might have put your finances into a pit. Perhaps, you, like Margaret, are asking, “God, why has all this happened to me?”

You aren’t alone. A servant of the Lord named John found himself in a similar situation. Matthew 11, a Bible text, describes John’s circumstances. John served as a preacher who prepared people for the coming of Jesus. He urged people to turn from their sins, and then to be baptized as an outward indication they had changed their life’s direction. John had been faithful to the Lord. He had fulfilled his calling well. But some time later, John found himself in prison because of his bold preaching. He sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, “Are you really the One? Or have I been mistaken? I mean, is this (prison) what I get for obeying you?” John’s faith was definitely shaken. His dreams had crumbled.

How did Jesus respond to John? For sure, Jesus did not condemn John for doubting, or for having a shaken faith. Jesus did assure John that he had fulfilled his calling, and that eternal rewards awaited him one day. Jesus also gave John the ultimate compliment. He said, “Of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.” All these words were Jesus’ way of assuring John, “I love you dearly. Trust Me, even in a dark prison.”

I think Jesus would say similar words to you as well. You might not understand what is happening to you, or why your dreams have shattered. But you can’t turn away from God in anger or fear. Be like John and go to Jesus. Tell Him your doubts. Bring your shaken faith to Him. Ask Him to help you see things more clearly. Don’t stop praying. Don’t drop out of church.

Do trust the bedrock truths you already know. God loves you. He hurts with you. The Bible remains God’s word to you. He will use your trials as part of His plans for your life. God is in control.

SolidRockShout with the hymn writer, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

(Gary wrote this article for The Post, May 1 edition, and is sharing it with the larger Hope Discovered audience.)

What to Do When You Feel Beat Up, and You Don’t See a Way Out

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

One time we opened our patio glass door, and would you believe, a bird flew into our house. We opened the patio door as wide as we could, then did our best to force that bird to fly back outside. We used a broom, we waved our hands wildly, we yelled at the bird. And, of course, the bird was scared by all our craziness. I did not understand why the bird did not see his way out.

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Have you ever felt stuck on the wrong side of the glass door, so to speak? You might feel that way now. You need money, but it’s not there. You need health, but it isn’t there. Your problems feel overwhelming, and you aren’t sure you have what it takes to make it through. It’s like your hands are tied. You are nursing your wounds. You just feel beat up, and it appears to you that you have no way out.

The greatest temptation in these situations is to give up. You know, throw in the towel and quit. But God calls us to refuse this temptation, even when we feel beat up. God actually calls us to respond forcefully. Our Bible verse, 2 Timothy 1:7, shows us how to do this.

Why is this verse so important when you feel beat up, and have no way out?  It was written by a New Testament missionary, Paul. At the time, Paul was in prison. He definitely saw no way out. But Paul did not cave in. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit he wrote some words that help us today.

  1. When we see no way out, God gives us courage. That’s the opposite of the word timidity in the verse. Instead of being intimidated by your challenges, face them with courage that comes from God. How is this possible? Isaiah 41:10 answers that question. “Do not fear, for I am with you.” We can be courageous because God is with us. What a difference His presence makes!
  2. Face your challenges in Jesus’ power. Our verse says, “a spirit of power,” speaking of the power of Jesus. Maybe you feel like a powerless victim. No pile of bills, no insult, no hurt, no problem, or no failure is too big for Jesus to handle.
  3. Keep on loving. Our verse says, “of love.” Often the problems and challenges we face are because someone made bad choices that affect us negatively. A coworker comes to work late habitually, and you are left to catch up the slack. A committee member doesn’t do what he or she promised, and you end up cleaning the mess. Someone impulsively spoke harsh words to you, and you want to strike back. You received terrible customer service, and you feel irritated. In situations like these, choose to love everyone. Look for ways to bless and help people.
  4. Stay on course, and keep going. Notice the last phrase of our verse: “of self-discipline.” The word carries the idea of self-control or a cool head or a sound mind. So don’t allow fatigue and all the headaches you face to stop you. When you feel knocked down, then get up. Don’t run from your problems. Stay on course. Conquer that temptation to quit.

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I hope these words give you some hope to face your particular challenge. The next time you feel beat up by life’s challenges, and you don’t see a way out, I want you to reflect on a Bible verse, Romans 8:37: “We are more than conquerors through him (Jesus) who loved us.” You never are a helpless victim when you call on Jesus for help.