Lessons From Adversity: An Introduction

Lessons From Adversity: An Introduction

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020
Brent is a 1998 graduate of Faulkner Univ. He’s done full-time ministry  in AL, TN, VA, and NC.

Brent Pollard

Without delving into the minutiae of my medical history, suffice it to say I’ve been through a lot. Consequently, I could not accomplish all I hoped and dreamed to do in life. If you were to ask others about my legacy, you might well hear expressions of admiration about how I deal with adversity. Had I the righteousness of Job and could imagine my plight the consequence of a conversation between God and the adversary, in which God allowed the latter to test me, then I might find a little bit of solace in the thought. Stripping away the complimentary aspect of those words, though, people are telling me I suffer well. Nevertheless, I suppose it permits me a small measure of wisdom, rooted in Scripture, I can share with others.

Jesus calls us to complete submission. As gracious as His invitation is (Matthew 11:28-30), it requires acceptance of a yoke. Though ours is not an agrarian society, we remain familiar with a yoke’s purpose. Yokes enable control over beasts of burden. Agriculturally-engaged animals experience harm, despite benevolent masters, only when fighting the guidance of said masters. (Consider Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus about kicking against the goads in Acts 9:5; 26:14.)

How many realize that with acceptance of a celestial yoke, one agrees to give up any pretense of control he had over his life? I am not referring to self-control, in which we govern our passions. We should discipline our bodies (1 Corinthians 9:27). Yet, we’ve been told it is hubris to make plans with disregard to Divine will (James 4:13-15). Hence, Robert Burns’ maxim: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” There are too many factors beyond our purview to speak confidently of anything aside from that established in God’s word. Sadly, because of false confidence, it takes only tragedy to remind us of reality.

How then should we act? Obviously, we cannot be like the Thessalonians who seemingly gave up on life as they awaited the perceived imminent return of Christ. There are responsibilities that are ours alone. For example, a man must work to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Outside of what is our concern alone, though, everything falls to the Will of God. Even the politics over which we too often become preoccupied is a matter of God’s will for the nations of the earth (Daniel 2:21; Acts 1:6-7; Romans 13:1). And what of life’s length? Barring our Lord’s return, we even have an upcoming appointment with death we cannot change (Hebrews 9:27). These truths drive home Solomon’s inspired observation:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NASB)

Thus, despite how glib it may sound, lesson one is: “Let go and let God.”

683_37247640921_7739_n
A picture of my family in 1990 (Brent, far left). 
The Holiday Blues

The Holiday Blues

Neal Pollard

It is amazing how many people lose loved ones around the holidays. If you consider that there are about six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, you realize the statistical probability. But, for one who loses a mate, child, or parent, the situation is not remotely clinical. It is deeply personal. It hurts more because a season of great memories and happiness is upended by grief and loss. An ominous anniversary now wedges itself into “the most wonderful time of the year.” Our congregations are filled with people who are struggling with such dark days, and they find coping particularly hard. They don’t begrudge the festive mood of their friends and brethren, but they may often feel on the outside looking in at such mirth. Scripture urges us to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). What can we do to help despondent brothers and sisters?

  • Take note. Whenever someone’s loved one, especially a spouse, passes away, keep a record of that and send a card or otherwise let them know you know the significance of the day. What an overt expression of love and concern!
  • Go out of our way. Seek them out and actively console them. You’re not trying to dredge up emotion, but you are desiring to acknowledge it.
  • Go to God for them. Whether or not you tell them, include them and their grief specifically in your prayers. Or, better yet, take a moment and pray with them on the spot.
  • Lend an ear and shed a tear. They may want to talk about their memories, the funeral, the songs that they sang at the funeral, their traditions, or the like. Open your heart and feel for them. It is such good emotional medicine for them and you will be a good servant of Christ.
  • Bring them in. Invite them for a meal, visit them, or ask them to come along on an outing. Take them out to see Christmas lights. They may refuse your invitation, but they’ll know you wanted to help.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Peter urged the Christians to be, among other things, “sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted…” (1 Pet. 3:8). Part of our own personal spiritual growth should be to grow more aware of and concerned about the feelings of others. It is an active mental exercise, but seeking to think about how such a grieving one must feel helps us help them but also helps us.
  • Rope in others. We don’t usually encourage talking about people behind their backs, but this is a significant exception. Inform the potentially unsuspecting of such a difficult anniversary so others can join you in this ministry of consolation. This is a triumphant take on “misery loves company.” Their misery is mitigated by more caring family reaching out to comfort them.

We love our Christian family. We should be quick to express it in ways that can make such a difference. Look out into the congregation and find those hurting hearts. Of course, this is needful even if their loss was in May or August, too. But, minister to minds with these mental millstones. Help them carry their load. Such is an active imitation of our soothing Savior!

holiday-grief

Coping With The Loss Of A Child

Coping With The Loss Of A Child

Neal Pollard

I have never lost a child and pray that I will precede them all in death.  Imagining the difficulty of that situation in no way equips me to feel the grief involved in such a loss.  Yet, the Bible is the answer book on this, as with any, situation.

In 2 Samuel 12:18-24, the Bible says, “And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?   But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.  Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.   Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.  And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?   But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. And David comforted Bathsheba his wife….”

The occasion of the death o a pre-born, newborn, infant, or young child must be a peculiarly difficult burden to bear.  It is untimely.  It is filled with the most painful of mysteries.  It is a most intense reminder of the ultimate end of all humanity (Hebrews 9:27).  Yet, it offers a ray of hope and comfort like no other funeral can.  Even as tears stain the cheek, there can be rejoicing in knowing the child is eternally safe.  It will never know the heartache, pain, disappointment, shame, guilt, fear or betrayl through which we routinely go simply by virtue of earthly life.

The Bible says that other parents lost small children.  An unnamed woman lost a son to death at the age of three days old (1 Kings 3:16-27).  1 Kings 14 tells of the death of Abijah, son of Ahab and Jezebel.  All we can tell from the term “child” in that text is that he was anywhere between infancy and adolescence; thus, a small child.  In the New Testament, Jairus lost a “little daughter” (Mark 5).  From ancient Job to the New Testament widow of Nain to today, parents have endured the difficult, unnatural task of burying their children.  Yet, there are special lessons to be learned in the account of David and Bathsheba’s little boy.  Consider four things, from the above text, to be gained when dealing with the loss of a little child.

Do not forget your relationship with God (20).  When David hears news of the child’s death, what is the first thing he does?  He arises from the dust of dejection and goes to church!  He had been praying to God all the time the child was dying.  It is natural that David continued his relationship with God.

It must have been a test of David’s faith.  Read the Psalms and you find the man after God’s own heart (cf. 1 Samuel 13:14) often asking God “why?”.   In Psalm 10:1, he said, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”  He later says, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.  O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2, NASU).   Remember that David cried seven days and nights over the child he lost.  Certainly, he knew that God was near, God cared, and God loved him, but he was hurting and things surely seemed unfair.

You may very well feel the same way when you lose a child.  Remember that this is natural, but do not forget your relationship to God.  Know that God is near, cares for you and loves you, too.  An oft-quoted but appropriate saying goes, “Where was God when my child died?”  “Exactly where He was when His Son died.”  Tragedy and suffering can always serve to build spiritual strength.  It can cause us to realize our dependence upon God.  It can help us sharpen our focus on heaven.  It can lead us to count our blessings and remember what we do have.

Remember that your lives must resume (20-22).  No, not today… or tomorrow.  In an unavoidable way, life could never be exactly the same.  Grief is natural and necessary, and it has no exact timetable.

Yet, look to David.  He got back to daily life.  When he received news of his baby’s death, he got up, went to worship, ate a meal, and resumed his work affairs.  As painful as such a loss has to be, one can be thankful and mindful of all that remains that is to be lived for and the many loved ones with whom one has left to live.  As hard as it is to imagine in the midst of grieving such a peculiar loss, you will laugh again and enjoy life again when the time is right.

Let a heavenly reunion motivate you (23).  To me, these are the most impressive words of the story.  David says, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”  We know where the baby was, so we know where David wanted to go.

Those who lose a little child have an extremely powerful motivation to go to heaven.  Not just that heaven is infinitely better than the awful alternative.  Not just the excitement of seeing God “face to face.”  There is a little child up there waiting for the arrival of his/her parents.  Imagine what a sweet reunion that will be, to see it there.  Each time such parents sing, “Won’t it be wonderful there…?,” they will have an extra measure of appreciation of those words.  Parents grieving this loss can live the remainder of their lives determined to “go to him.”

Find comfort in one another (24).  There is something in the text easy to overlook.  David goes and comforts his wife, Bathsheba.  Didn’t David need comforted, too?  Yes, but Bathsheba had a bond and relationship with the child that David did not.  Her emotional makeup and needs, in such loss, were different from his own.

There is a special need for a wife and mother at such a time as this.  As this tragedy can bring parents closer to God, it can also bring mutually aggrieved mates closer to one another.  It is a time when you can better appreciate Ecclessiastes 4:9, that “two are better than one….”  Thessalonica was going through tremendous heartache and even loss, and you will notice that at least seven different times Paul admonishes them to “comfort one another.”  God knew there would be times when we would need support.  There is special support available from one’s help-meet and companion.

When a little child dies, there is grief because of that tragedy.  There is also cause for rejoicing because of the assurance that can be had concerning the baby’s soul.  The sun will shine again through the clouds of sorrow.  The brightness of God’s love will break visibly before the dewy gaze once more.  Thank God for the comfort possible only in Christ.