A Prayer About Guilt At The Death Of A Loved One

Father,

How did we learn about mercy? Was it not from you?
How did we learn about grace? Did not you teach us?
Where did we learn to forgive? Was it not from your example?
And tenderness – did we not hear it first from your lips?

But we have heard other voices, too, Father. We have often heard voices of condemnation. We know that all such voices come from Satan, the accuser of the brethren, but still, we have heard them, many times!

In fact, Lord, we have heard the voices of condemnation so often that we find ourselves repeating their words with our own lips, with our own thoughts, from our own heart.

We cannot forgive ourselves. We try, sort of – but the truth is, we don’t even know how. How can we forgive ourselves when we know, so intimately, so personally, what we have done?

We know our own thoughts.
We know our own bitterness.
We know our own anger, and hatred, and malice.
We try to justify ourselves. We can explain the reasons
we did what we did,
said what we said,
thought what we thought.

And so, we feel guilt, because we really did those things, said those things, thought those things.

This is the load that my friend bears right now. She has no idea – no idea, Father – how she will bear this load.

Her father has died, and their relationship was not what she wanted it to be.

Some of the stories have been told, and will be told. But other stories – no. They’ll never be told.

Oh, the pain! What words can describe this, when even a shrieking wail in the dark is inadequate to express it fully?

Words fail. But the pain doesn’t fail. It’s real, and the scars prove it.

But he’s dead! What now?

Before, there was always a glimmer of hope, some tiny possibility, that relationships would be restored. Confession, repentance, forgiveness. Tears of remorse for years lost, and a healing embrace.

But, not now. The moment is gone and the time is past.

What remains? Guilt. And she has learned what we all learn – that she can’t forgive herself.

Forgiveness comes from you, Father. Only you can forgive.

Father, I’m asking you to make the space and the place for my friend to spend time with you – a space in her schedule, and a place where she can meet with you alone. I’m asking you to give her the clarity of mind to speak to you about each thing she feels guilty about. And, for each thing she brings before you, Father, let her hear your voice: “I forgive you!”

Let her feel your mercy: “You are forgiven!”
Let her comprehend your grace: “You are forgiven!”
Let her believe your truth: “You are forgiven!”

I intercede now for my friend, your child, this hurting one who needs your touch, your reassurance, your tangible expression of love. Take away her guilt, Father. Turn her heart and eyes around so that she looks forward, and not back.

Amen.

–Bob Young
[7/22/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

A Prayer Against Loneliness

“A looking out o’window, Sunshine”
by Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema

Father,

We are in awe of the way you view time. “One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

You created time.
You are throughout time.
You are throughout time, but you are also outside of time.
You are above time, and below time.
You move through time, and watch time move past you.
You are eternal, and our mortal time is but a breath.

Yet you care for us! Our fleeting moment is important to you! We are important to you!

We are in awe.

As mortals, we sometimes catch a glimpse of how you view time. Sometimes, the hours and days go quickly for us. Other times, the seconds and minutes drag on, slowly – oh, so slowly!

And time is never so slow, Father, as when we are alone.

This is one child’s burden, now.

Loneliness.
The time drags,
the ache is sustained.
Hope wanes, and
despair looms large.

And so, now, I come to you, Father, on behalf of this child of yours, this lonely one.

Departures.
Some, because of broken relationships.
Some, because of growth and new beginnings.

But, this one – this child of yours is still here, still before you.

I ask for three blessings for your lonely child, Father.

First, I ask that you will be close. I ask that your presence will be known, felt, seen, heard – waking and sleeping, alone and in crowded places, in the home and in the marketplace – be that friend, that oh-so-close friend, to your lonely child!

And the second blessing, Father –

Provide mortal friends! Bring new loved ones, new relationships!

Move your child out of the sometimes comforting security of solitude and onto the precarious precipice, the cliff-zone, of love and friendship.

And the third blessing, Father –

Make this one brave!

Give your child the heart of a servant, to reach out first, to be a friend first, to create love by being love – just as you have done.

Let the example of your son, Jesus, be the water of life, the well-spring of courage, the source of hope and love and relationship, for your lonely child.

Help your lonely child leave the depths of loneliness and rise to the heights of closeness – to you, and to others.

In Jesus’ name I ask these favors, Amen.

–Bob Young
[7/22/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Hearing The Still, Small Voice

Praying Hands by Otto Greiner (1869-1916)

There is no condemnation in not hearing God’s voice. Society – and often, even the church – discourage us from acknowledging his still, small voice. And yet, when you stop to think about it, you realize that the Bible has always revealed that conversation with our creator is what God himself intended. One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:9:

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

God’s question is shown in its larger setting by including the previous verse with it:

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
(Genesis 3:8-9, ESV)

This is God’s plan. To walk with you and talk with you.

Some will tell you, “Yes, but that was before the fall.”

Instead of listening to them, listen to Jesus. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants,… but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15, ESV)

Or, if you prefer, listen to the Apostle Paul: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (II Corinthians 5:18, ESV)

Do we live after the fall? Yes, but also after the reconciliation.

James puts it this way: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

So, why do we have so much trouble hearing God speak? Why does even the church, all too often, discourage us from believing we have heard God? Oh, there are crackpots! Miscreants! Deceivers! There are those who would say, “God told me to do this or that,” and they bring harm to others or their own self-destruction. There are false prophets! And, indeed, we are told by Jesus, James, John, Peter, and Paul that there will be many false prophets – not just a few.

Satan uses this fear against us: “Since we can hear the wrong voice, it’s safer to hear no voice at all.”

No. No, it’s not. To not hear God speak is the most dangerous path of all.

Because God loves you so much, the words that he speaks to you will be words of comfort, encouragement, wisdom, and strength. You will be the better for hearing him. And – this is wonderful – the people you come in contact with will also be the better for it. When you listen to God, and boldly accept his words to you, then you have a powerful and profound and lasting impact on the lives of those around you.

You are in a garden, filled with life, and God is calling out to you.

Don’t be afraid. The Lord is with you.

–Bob Young
9 July, 2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

A Christian Approach To Coping With Emotional Pain

“Psychologically, nothing hurts more than being disappointed by the one person you thought would never let you down.” I saw this post on Tumblr today (psych2go, if you’re interested in the source). That’s got to be really painful, but I’m not sure I completely agree that nothing hurts more. The death of a child. The loss of a limb. Accidental blindness. These agonizing events are all pretty powerful contenders for the title, “Hurts the Most.”

You’ll have no trouble getting me to agree with this: there’s a lot of pain out there. Some of it strikes home, pretty hard. When it’s not out there, but in here. When it’s personal, it hurts, and nothing else is like it.

If you’ve read much of my stuff, you know that I’m pretty big on following Jesus. I’m not talking about religious ceremony or church attendance. I’m talking about reading Jesus’ words, and then actually using what he says as a guide for your own life.*

So, today I’m thinking a lot about emotional pain, because I’ve had several conversations with friends in the last few days who are going through quite a lot. I think it might be helpful to write a brief summary of some of the things that Jesus taught about coping with pain. Here. Try these ideas. You might get some much needed relief.

  1. Shout it out. Express the agony. Don’t hold it in.

Mark describes Jesus death on the cross like this:

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. (Mark 15:34-37, ESV)

Being strong is overrated. Being real is a lot better. Jesus was real. He didn’t feel any sense of obligation to “die a noble death.” Don’t get me wrong. His death was noble. The noblest. But he didn’t try to hide his sense of aloneness, of utter betrayal, of pain, of loss. His purpose, for me, would be less believable if he wasn’t so… so… genuine.

  1. Surround yourself with friends.

Jesus knew he was going to die. He knew that on that very night he was going to be betrayed, and imprisoned, and tortured. Instead of choosing solitude, he found comfort in companionship. He ate his last supper, and instituted the Lord’s Supper, with friends. He went to the garden with friends. He waited for his betrayer with friends. He remained with friends until he was no longer able to be with friends. Those friends, of course, ran away and left him when the soldiers came. They felt guilty about it later, but Jesus knew ahead of time that it would be that way. He forgave them. My point here is that Jesus didn’t want to be alone. You see, there’s comfort in the presence of friends, even when they can’t do a single thing to change your circumstances. Your friends’ presence is, in itself, a sort of pain reliever.

  1. Forgive.

Jesus was on the cross, in crazy pain, betrayed and abandoned, alone in a crowd. And what did he say?

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34, ESV)

Yes, we can make the logical argument: “Oh, they knew what they were doing, alright! The soldier knew he was holding a nail, and he knew he was swinging a hammer, and he knew Jesus was screaming! He knew. They all knew!”

But Jesus – (how many times has that phrase brought me up short? “But Jesus!…”) but Jesus knows that there’s more than one kind of knowing.

I’m going to tell you a strange truth, an amazing truth. If you believe me when I tell you, it’s because of the power of the Holy Spirit to confirm my words (even if you believe me without believing in him). So, here’s a strange and amazing truth: those nails in your hands, in your feet, in your broken, bleeding heart – those nails hurt you less if you forgive the hammer-wielder. This is from God. It’s a spiritual truth, beyond human understanding.

Conclusion

So, that’s it. Three things. Three things that will help you deal with the greatest pain you have ever felt in your life. (1) Don’t hold in your pain. Express it. (2) Surround yourself with friends. Don’t isolate yourself. (3) Forgive.

Prayer

Father, let this Reader, right now, find some easing of the pain in your presence, in your friendship. Amen.

–Bob Young
[6/28/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

*In case you were wondering, yes, following Jesus is more than just a philosophy for me. I’m on board with the Nicene Creed, for example. Nevertheless, if you can’t, at this time, accept the spiritual dimension of Jesus’ identity, I will still encourage you to follow Jesus’ teachings and way of life. He makes sense, Friend. He makes sense.

Love Is Kind

χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη (I Corinthians 13:4)

“Love is kind.” (I Corinthians 13:4)

ἀγάπη is translated as “love.”

χρηστεύεται is translated as “kind.”

χρηστεύεται is an interesting word. In the Bible, its translation as “kind” is based on context. The word means “useful,” or “useable.” And, to be more specific, this isn’t “useful” in the sense of, “He’s useful – he can be manipulated.” It’s the word “useful” in the sense of “beneficial.” When you’re making a pot of soup, a spoon to stir it with would be useful and beneficial. So, Paul describes love as useful and beneficial. You may wonder, “How did the English translators get “love is kind” out of the word for “useful?”

Highlighted excerpt of I Corinthians 13:4

This is where we must consider context. Context can completely change meaning. For example, if a woman is running at ten miles per hour, we say, “She is running fast.” On the other hand, if a man is driving a car at ten miles per hour, we say, “He is driving slow.” Before we can say whether ten miles per hour is fast or slow, we must be clear about the context.

When Paul says that love is χρηστεύεται, “kind,” we must understand useful and beneficial in the context of love.

Paul is telling us that love isn’t some intangible concept, like “hot” or “cold.”

It isn’t just some philosophical concept, like “virtue” or “honesty.”

Love actually has an effect – it changes things. Love is useful; it’s beneficial.

Paul is explaining that, if you love your neighbor, you don’t just feel some warm, fuzzy emotion toward him or her. Love causes you to do things for that person (or group of people) that are genuinely useful in the beneficial sense.

The Apostle James, speaking about faith, explained the idea this way:  “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James’ example of faith in action is Paul’s definition of love being kind.

Your faith in God, and your love for the people God created, are closely tied together.

–Bob Young
6/18/2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

A Slow-Learned Lesson

We are all broken. To one degree or another, the best among us are broken. We’re all in need of some sort of healing, or growing. We all need to be restored, to be put back together.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about brokenness and restoration. Now I’d like to share something with you, something that I’ve only learned through the long, slow, arduous process of repeated breaking and healing.

It is this.

The magnitude of my suffering has never been in proportion to the magnitude of my misfortune. Instead, the magnitude of my suffering has always been proportional to my brokenness.

Hatred, discouragement, bitterness, selfishness, greed, lack of faith, an unwillingness to forgive – these are some of the attributes of brokenness.

These things magnify, ten-fold and a hundred-fold, the effects of misfortune. Misfortune may be an illness, an automobile accident, a house-rending tornado. All of these things are more devastating if you’re broken.

Sometimes our brokenness is a direct contributor to our misfortune. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, and our brokenness leads to crippling debt, a loveless marriage, a painful betrayal, a messy divorce, or cirrhosis of the liver.

In every case – whether we contribute to our misfortune, or whether it’s caused by circumstances we can’t control – in every case, our degree of brokenness affects both our level of pain and our ability to recover.

Enter God.

I’m going to ask you to do something very hard. I hope you’ll try it.

Instead of appealing to God about your suffering, appeal to him about your brokenness. It is here, in the healing of your brokenness, that your suffering will begin to diminish.

You can approach him again, later, about the suffering. You’ll know when it’s time.

Meanwhile, God can do things in you that you cannot do. He wants to. Why not let him?

–Bob Young
[6/15/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

The Cup That Jesus Drinks

Convincing the church to sell Christianity as a way to achieve benefit, rather than offering Christianity as a way to be a benefit to others, is Satan’s most insidious deception.

Jesus did not die just for you – he died for everyone. Jesus invites you to participate in his death and resurrection. Baptism and Communion aren’t symbols of receiving a crown, being seated on a throne, and being given a mansion. Baptism and Communion are symbols of Suffering, Sacrifice, and Service. They are symbols of our participation with Jesus in the redemption of a world of people who are lost, and dying, and broken.

“I am crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:20)

“Buried with Christ in Baptism…” (Romans 6:4)

“Are you able to drink from this cup I drink?” (Matthew 20:22)

“Drink of it, all of you.” (Matthew 26:27)

“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28)

“Follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Being a servant – that is, following Jesus – isn’t popular or comfortable. Following Jesus won’t make you one of the Cool Kids. To be sure, following Jesus has its blessings, but they are the blessings of satisfaction, not the blessings of luxury. They are the blessings that come from hard work, not the blessings that come from relaxing. Following Jesus is work, then rest – not rest, and more rest. Jesus will reward you richly – but first, following him will cost you everything.

Are you ready for this kind of Christianity?

–Bob Young
[6/13/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

 

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