The world may minimize, rationalize, deny, or medicate their losses, but God calls us to a different path in the new family of Jesus. Simply put, grieving well is a core discipleship issue – especially for those of us who lead. Consider a few of the great men and women in Scripture who were great grievers and great leaders: Isaiah, Hannah, Jeremiah, Moses, Mary, Paul, Peter, and most importantly, Jesus. Unless we courageously allow our losses to break open our hard hearts, we will project or inflict our unprocessed pain on others. But if we follow God’s pathway for us – paying careful attention to our pain, waiting with him in the confusing-in-between, and letting the old birth the new – we experience a stripping away of our false selves in order to become the new men and women we were truly meant to be. We move from spiritual babies with an incessant need. Read more.
I covered over my losses for years and years, unaware of how they were shaping my current relationships and leadership. God was seeking to enlarge my soul and mature me, while I was seeking a quick end to my pain. For my first seventeen years as a Christian, I treated grief as an interruption, an obstacle to my path to serve Jesus. In short, I considered taking time to grieve a waste of time that prevented me from maximizing my leadership. “Just get over it, Pete. It will pass,” I would mutter to myself. The problem here is that this is unbiblical and a denial of our common humanity. The ancient Hebrews physically expressed their laments by tearing their clothes and utilizing sackcloth and ashes. Jesus himself offered up prayer and petitions with loud cries and tears (Heb. 5:7). During Noah’s generation, Scripture indicates God was grieved about the state of humanity (Gen. 6).. Read more.
Embracing transitions is one of the critical leadership tasks every leader must master if we are to do God’s work, God’s way, and in God’s timing. Sadly, endings and transitions are often poorly handled in our families, ministries, organizations, and teams. When this happens, we miss God’s new beginnings—both personally and in the ministries or organizations we lead. While our culture views the endings in transitions as a sign of failure, i.e. something to avoid, God views them as maturing discipleship moments to receive His new beginnings. Scripture requires we embrace God’s 3-phase process: Endings: Nothing new takes place without an ending. A real ending—a final death—often feels like disintegration, falling apart, a coming undone. It feels that way because that is what death is. Waiting: No one enjoys waiting. But waiting for God is one of the most important things we do in the Christian life. Letting the Old Birth a New Beginning:. Read more.
Last week, Geri and I found spent 2 nights in Christchurch, NZ in the midst of a neighborhood devastated by the earthquake of Feb. 11, 2011. People talked about their losses at our conference much like we did in NYC after 9/11. 9/11 didn’t transform us as the church in NYC – long term. Why? I don’t believe we allowed God’s gift of losses to do its deep work in our soul. The following is an adaptation from The Emotionally Healthy Church: Updated and Revised, 2010. I lay it out here for my new friends in New Zealand as well as a pause for all pastors and leaders who are reading this today. Biblical grieving has three phases: 1. Phase 1: Pay Attention Deeply. The ancient Hebrews physically expressed their laments by tearing their clothes and utilizing sackcloth and ashes. During Noah’s generation, Scripture indicates God was grieved about the state of humanity (Gen. 6).. Read more.
A pastor friend of mine shared over dinner that, a number of years ago, his son had committed suicide. He talked openly his loss and the way it had changed him. He recommended Grieving a Suicide, by Albert Y. Hsu where Hsu talks about his father’s suicide and that of many others – Christian and non-Christians. While I have written about a theology of grief and loss, God used this book to enlarge my own heart and challenge me to enter into this very different world. Approximately a million people around the world kill themselves each year. Every suicide leaves behind at least six survivors, sometimes ten or more. Their level of stress is ranked by the APA as “catastrophic — equivalent to that of a concentration camp experience.” A spirituality of suffering, grief, and loss is untidy – bottomless. I found, however, this quote by Walter Wangerin a helpful summary of Hsu’s reflections::. Read more.
I finished Elie Wiesel’s memoirs last night. He is a Nobel Peace Laureate who lived through the horror of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. I find his writing a sharp, challenging contrast to the kind of sanitized spirituality found in most Christian leadership bookstores. We had an inexplicable confidence in German culture and humanism…We kept telling ourselves that this was, after all, a civilized people, that we must not give credence to exaggerated rumors about an army’s behavior. (27) Moshe the beadle… madness in his eyes. He talked on and on about the brutality of the killers. “Listen to me!” he would shout. “I’m telling the truth. On my life, I swear it!” But the people were deaf to his pleas. I liked him and could not bring myself to believe him. (29) Yet we practiced religion in a death camp. I said my prayers every day. On Saturday I hummed Shabbat songs at work. I. Read more.