John Markum

Good Grief

Good grief

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
– 1 Thessalonians 4:13

I get weary at nearly every funeral of the counsel people try to give to the family of the deceased. Many well-intentioned friends and relatives quote scriptures about Heaven and say things like “they’re in a better place.” It’s not that these quotes are incorrect, it’s that they are almost universally ill-delivered. I always know it’s grating on the grieving individual when they quietly but consistently respond to each new piece of advice with “I know.”

Translation to the “I know” response? Internally, that person is thinking something like, “Yes, I too have heard, quoted, and memorized every single verse you’re giving me now. I know that I’ll see my Dad/Mom/kid/friend/etc. in Heaven one day, and that right now they are in Jesus’ presence enjoying perfect rest. But I was just having lunch with them a week ago and now they’re gone… I can’t talk to them, laugh with them, or turn to them when I need them anymore. And all of your ‘advice’ feels a lot like you’re telling me to suck it up and get over the fact that my ______ just died and I feel like I’m burying a piece of my soul with them.”

I’ve even heard some suggest that we should not grieve at all for the loss of a loved one because they’re “in God’s hands now” and we’ll see them again.

This may be a revolutionary thought for some, but grief is a good thing.

Jesus grieved at the loss of a friend, Lazarus. Psalm 34 tells us that God is “near to the broken-hearted.” And even the above passage from 1 Thes. encourages us who are in Christ, that “we do not grieve like… those who have no hope.” But we do grieve. And grief is good.

Grief is accepting and acknowledging that we’ve suffered a loss.

It’s giving that loss it’s proper place of honor, and it is also an important piece to the healing process in our own hearts. Not grieving a loved one who’s passed is a lot like getting a serious wound and not treating it – healing is slow, if not unlikely, and infection of the wound is almost guaranteed.

I’ve seen many Christ-followers carry an infected heart because they were taught to “not grieve” and the hurt of losing someone has left them with an aching, wounded soul. They often turn that blame straight to God for taking their loved one instead of properly grieving and leaning on God’s grace for hope and healing.

Grief is also the price we all inevitably pay for love.

Every person you and I love (including ourselves) will one day face death. And the greater the love for that person, the greater the grief. Grieving that person’s loss is acknowledging how loved they were. In an unexpected way, grief is also a sort of celebration that a person was well loved, and greatly missed – even if Heaven is a future hope. It’s healthy to remember that.

So not grieving them is almost like denying that they were loved at all.

There comes a point when we must all move passed the grief, of course – accept a new normal without that loved one in our lives, remember and celebrate the life that we enjoyed with them, live the rest of our days in a way that person would be proud of us, and look expectantly to the day we are all reunited in God’s big family.

Yes, we should encourage people with the promises of God in His word.

But more than anything, a grieving person needs to see us live God’s word out to them in their loss, not just heard quoted at them from a safe distance. Instead of just quoting a verse at them, get close to them. Mourn with them. Be the promise that God gave to those who suffer loss. Be near the broken-hearted. Like Jesus did.

Pastor John

The Questions You Asked… Part 2

  1. Question: “Are there people in Heaven right now?” Answer: 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather, to be absent from the body and be present with the Lord.”
  2. Question: “Would something artificial (hearts, lungs, etc.) be considered bad?” Answer: The Bible gives us no direction on this. Some argue that “the life of the body is in the blood.” (Leviticus 17:11) and therefore we shouldn’t have a blood transfusion. I don’t find that conclusion in this passage. As far as I am concerned, there are no guiding principles against it, and if I (or any of my family) ever needed an artificial body part in order to live a relatively functioning lifestyle, I would accept it.
  3. Question: “What is the best way to speak to people of other faiths, including atheists?” Answer: In general? Find common ground and love them to Jesus. That is a gross over-simplification, but without dealing with every specific religion individually, that’s the best advice I can give. That, and be sure of what you believe, and why you believe it. Oh and one more thing… decide not to argue with anyone. Most of the arguments we get into drive people away from Christ, and if they just want to argue with you, they’ve already chosen to blind themselves for this conversation at least.
  4. Question: “Are piercings bad?” Answer: Like tattoos, I would say it depends. Why are you getting a piercing? What are you hoping people notice about you or think about you? Can you do it for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)?
  5. Question: “What [clothing] is considered too revealing?” Answer: As Pastor Craig and I dealt with this in Elevate this past Sunday, if you’re having to ask that, it might be too revealing! Remember to ask yourself, “who am I trying to impress, and what do I want to impress them with?” If the answer is some aspect of your body, it’s probably inappropriate. Even worse, you will attract guys, but not the one’s you really want to be in a relationship with. If you’re unsure, ask someone you trust like a parent, pastor, pastors wife, etc…
  6. Question: “How far should education be allowed to go with sex-ed, ancient cultures, violence…?” Answer: Excellent question! Personally, I am adamant that this is the role of parents first and foremost. I’m comfortable with schools dealing with issues of anatomy and physiology. But sex-ed is an entirely different subject. If/when my kids are at that age and being directed to a sex-ed class in school, I will withhold them on religious grounds. Even churches need to be cautious about dealing with minors on this subject without parents’ knowledge.
  7. Question: “What if a girl says no to a date?” Answer: Ask a different girl out! Don’t get your feelings hurt. And don’t be desperate.

Jesus died for Bin Laden

I know everyone is excited about the news this week, and certainly that is understandable. The death of a evil man responsible for countless terrorist attacks against our country specifically, is – at the least – cause for major relief. As a pastor, I have already had several people from my church family ask me how we should respond to the news of the death of America’s #1 terrorist.

On one hand, Bin Laden has killed thousands of American lives. Many of whom did not have a relationship with Christ were sent to an untimely appointment before their Creator. The Bible certainly seems to condone the use of deadly force when required, and is the foundation for capital punishment. (Exodus 21:12)

But on the other hand, Jesus tells us to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to them that hate you…” He says that “By your love for one another, the world will know that you are my disciples.” And the apostle John writes concerning Jesus that He, “died, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.”(1 John 2:1-2)

We must understand that the role of government is first and foremost to protect it’s people. Part of that means holding criminals to the standard of justice for their crimes. Romans 13 even tells us that God has placed authority over us to deliver justice against injustices, and that authority does not “bare the sword in vain.”

Yet as individuals, we are commanded to be a people of love. God restores the old and makes it new. He cleanses dirty, broken lives, and turns them into beautiful works of art, perfect to be used of Him. We must remember that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto repentance.”

So as a nation, it is appropriate for us to rejoice in the ridding of a very dangerous man to the livelihood of our children and neighbors. But as followers of Jesus, we must also remember that He died for every act of terrorism, white lie, lustful thought, pride, greed, selfishness, rape, dishonor, etc… And as terrible as all of that sounds – that God would be willing to extend mercy to someone that badHe also died for me And I know me better than anyone. If God could sacrificially forgive me from my sin, then I must love whomever He loves.

Someone asked, “So are we just suppose to be pacifists in all of this?” the answer: no. Radical love is never passive. Let’s celebrate more about the rising of a Savior than the death of another sinner! We are the church! And we will be known by how we love!



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