The Best Parenting Tips From A King

The Best Parenting Tips From A King

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Because life is brief and families expand rapidly, we cannot afford to learn how to parent by trial and error. Instead, we need to consult with experts for this crucial endeavor. But when it comes to “experts” who claim to know everything but frequently pivot on their recommendations, what do you say? I’m addressing you, Dr. Spock. No, parents can do no better than to look to the foundational truths of the Bible, and the Book of Proverbs is helpful in this regard. 

The typical metric used for gauging parental success is carnal. How well have you provided for the material needs of your children? But teaching your children to have a lasting reverence for God is more important than providing them with life’s amenities. A healthy respect for God is perhaps the best provision a person can give their loved ones. Wisdom warns us not to put too much value on material possessions. 

A righteous person puts God’s kingdom and His righteousness first in everything they do, including parenting (cf. Matthew 6.33). Therefore, parents will devote themselves to gaining knowledge and wisdom from God’s Word. As a result, these parents discover the importance of cultivating a disciplined environment rather than amassing material wealth (cf. Ephesians 6.4; Proverbs 24.3-4). And because of the promises of God, those following God’s wisdom won’t have to forego necessities like food and shelter. 

Discipline is required to achieve this goal. Although physical punishment has been utilized successfully throughout history, Parents should never use it to release anger. The word “child abuse” refers to the inappropriate use of physical punishment on a child. But spanking is different from abuse. To those tempted to “spare the rod,” we remind them that problematic kids aren’t more likely to be born into impoverished households due to a lack of material means but rather a lack of chastening love. 

The advice in Proverbs 22:6 is helpful for any parent. The phrase “train up a child according to his way” is another valid interpretation of this verse. To paraphrase, parents shouldn’t try to instill their own secular goals and aspirations in their kids. For example, parents shouldn’t stifle their children’s interests by insisting that the youngster who excels in mechanics become a doctor or lawyer. Children allowed to pursue their interests and dreams within reason are less likely to grow up as adults who walk away from God. But, if you consistently deny them their hopes and dreams, they will resent you and rebel against everything you stand for, including your faith. That is what you must keep an eye on. 

For your children’s future success, it is your duty as a parent to equip them with the necessary resources. For this reason, conventional interpretations of Proverbs 22.6 invoke the image of an archer pointing his bow. This person aims and releases the arrow. If you aim correctly, your projectile will almost always hit its target. While parents need to consider their child’s natural abilities, they need also be aware of the secular humanistic currents that may blow their child’s eternal trajectory in a different direction. 

So, what are these tips? First, begin your parenting career by emphasizing the fear of the Lord. Solomon says, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure, and turmoil with the treasure” (Proverbs 15.16 NASB). One of the essential tools you will give your child is not a trust fund but knowledge. Solomon reminds us that this knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1.7). Another benefit of the fear of the Lord is a child’s long life (Proverbs 10.27), providing the key to sin avoidance (Proverbs 16.6) and the provision of true wealth (Proverbs 22.4). 

Solomon also advocates that parents create and maintain a loving home that fosters peace. Solomon states, “Better is a portion of vegetables where there is love, than a fattened ox served with hatred” (Proverbs 15.17 NASB). He adds, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17.1 NASB). Materialism is detrimental to both love and peace.  

When parents have a lot of material goods, arguments can arise among the kids. Solomon’s statement may seem hypocritical at first glance, given his vast wealth, but it’s easy to see the difference between his family and his father’s. None of Solomon’s sons attempted to usurp his throne. (Or did he somehow manage only to beget Rehoboam?) And while Solomon’s household does not wholly conform to what a godly family would be (consisting of 700 wives and 300 concubines), he still seems to have been the patriarch of a loving and peaceful one. 

Lastly, there is a need for discipline. Solomon reminds us, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13.24 NASB). Sometimes, a child’s heart harbors “foolishness” that only the rod of correction can remove (Proverbs 22.15). A parent who refrains from disciplining their child only shames themselves (Proverbs 29.15). Think of the last bratty child you saw in public whose mother or father stood silent as the child pitched a fit. The child’s cries may have been annoying, but to whom did you direct your irritated glance?  

Contrary to conventional thinking, children crave discipline. They like to know where the boundaries are. Unfortunately, many a parent has mistakenly treated their child as a buddy rather than a child over whom they exercise authority. You may not realize it, but your role in providing those boundaries in your child’s early life will return to bless or haunt you in your old age. Discipline now equals your comfort later (Proverbs 29.17). Why? Your child knows that when you discipline them that you care. When you give your child “freedom” (i.e., no boundaries), they will likewise look the other way when you are infirm and in need of care.  

The last word about discipline is that parents only have a limited window in which it is effective (Proverbs 19.18). It breaks my heart to see parents get serious about the Lord and life after their kids have already grown up. Unfortunately, parents are unable to sway their children at this age. Instead, parents are left to lament the products their earlier neglect created and the years they lost.  

Yes, Solomon offers guidance on how to best provide for a family, how best to raise children, and other aspects of family life. We can all learn from his insight. The quality of our home life significantly impacts our overall sense of fulfillment and the eternal destinies of our offspring, so it’s essential to heed the advice found in Proverbs.  

The Dream Team

The Dream Team

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Proverbs 1.8-9 

“My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck.”

  • Hear: More than just the process of hearing words spoken. The idea is to do something with the valuable information given, i.e., follow it. 
  • Instruction of your father: Just like ignoring proper building instructions/blueprints leads to an unstable house, ignoring wise instruction from the older and more experienced will lead to an unstable life. 
  • And do not forsake the law of your mother: Solomon emphasizes the importance of God’s design for the family. It’s the duty of both father and mother to provide wisdom (James 3.17) in the form of instruction (Prov. 4.13, 8.33, 10.8, 10.17, 12.1, 19.20). 
  • For they will be a graceful ornament on your head and chains about your neck: Training a child to fear the Lord begins with teaching children to have a proper fear (respect/reverence) of their parents and their seniors. For additional motivation, Solomon includes the maturing child’s reward. The ornaments and chains represent an upgrade in social status. As a general rule, godly teaching in the home, when combined with a willingness to hear— leads to financial and social success. 

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” 

– Ex.  20:12

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, that it may be well with you and you will live long on the earth.” 

– Eph. 6:1-3

The Lone Look Into The Window Of Jesus’ Childhood

The Lone Look Into The Window Of Jesus’ Childhood

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Apparently, mankind has been curious about Jesus’ childhood and has desired to “fill in the blanks” concerning His temperament, personality, and activities during those formidable years. Most famously, the apocryphal (literally, “hidden writings,” not claiming or meeting the test of inspiration) “Gospel of Thomas” writes detailed, lengthy accounts of what Jesus did and how Jesus was as a boy. Mary Jane Chaignot summarizes this book, saying, “The gospel portrays Jesus as already endowed with special powers, but still having the mind of a child – a child who didn’t always use those powers wisely” (reference). Truly, a reading of this “gospel” (you can find the entire text: here) contradicts the idea of a sinlessly perfect Savior who could be our substitute and is at odds with the little we do see in the inspired writings of the gospels. It reflects humanity’s tendency to make God in his own image (see Psalm 50:21). Having said that, we benefit from what Luke is led to share with us from an incident when Jesus is twelve years old (2:42). “At the age of 12 a boy was prepared for his entry to the religious community which took place when he was 13” (Marshall, NIGTC, 126).

HE WAS FAITHFULLY TRAINED BY HIS PARENTS (Luke 2:41-42)

Luke reveals another fact consistent with what we’ve already seen from Joseph and Mary. They were faithfully obedient to the Law’s demands and commands. Every year, they went to the Passover feast (41). Did you know the entire nation of Israel neglected to properly observe the Passover from the days of Samuel to the time of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:21-23)? That means that such spiritual greats as David, Solomon, and Hezekiah failed in this regard during their illustrious reigns. Jesus’ parents made sure He was there every appointed time. That’s where we find Him in this account. By application, what a lesson for us as parents interested in the proper training of our children. At its best, this is difficult as we compete with the world’s message and appeal. We cannot afford to lose ground by keeping them from the fellowship of God’s people. Joseph and Mary were stewards of a precious soul. 

HE WAS ENGROSSED IN LEARNING GOD’S WORD (43-47)

Jesus obviously did not restrict His study of Scripture to the “assemblies,” though. His family stayed the prescribed time in Jerusalem for the feast (seven days, according to Exo. 12:15), but Jesus, unencumbered with the time concerns of adults, stays behind (43)–not to play or get into mischief, but to sit in the temple among the teachers listening to them and asking them questions (46). His level of comprehension and depth of explanation amazed these experts on the Law of Moses, the best of the best (47). Seeing the spiritual focus of twelve-year-old Jesus, I am convicted to push myself to more intensely long for the nourishment of God’s Word (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Pet. 2:2). 

HE WAS IN SUBJECTION TO HIS PARENTS (48-51)

Luke tells us of the distress His family felt when they discovered He was not in the caravan of their relatives and other fellow-pilgrims making the long, arduous journey back to Nazareth. They go back and search for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple (44-46). Anyone who has even briefly lost their children at the mall or left them at the church building can well imagine what Joseph and Mary must have felt. This special child with which they were entrusted is lost! Where did He sleep those few nights He was alone? How early did He arrive and how late did He stay? When His parents do find Him, they find Him content and apparently unaware that they were looking for Him. His answer perplexes them, that He was being about His Father’s business. They felt mistreated, but nothing in Jesus’ reply demonstrates disrespect or dishonor. Luke reinforces this both with the statement of fact, that “He continued in subjection to them,” and the statement about His character (52). The One who would later demonstrate such amazing preaching and power was properly preparing Himself. That preparation included being what He should be in the home. 

HE WAS GROWING IN EVERY GOOD WAY (52)

There are biblical statements which are incredibly comprehensive. The five fundamental demonstrations of nature, time, force, motion, space, and matter, are revealed in the first verse of the Bible. Here, the four areas of human development, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social, are evident in the life of young Jesus. He “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (52).  Parents, this teaches us about the responsibility we have to encourage the balanced development of our children. We cannot afford to neglect any of these areas. Do not downplay or downgrade the importance of learning and an education which does not come at the expense of faith. Help them to take care of their physical bodies, with proper nutrition, exercise, and teaching them to work and play. Make sure they are socially well-adjusted, not just with peers but also those older and younger than them–able to properly interact with strangers, acquaintances, and friends. Most of all, strive to develop their knowledge of the Bible and faith in the God who loves them. It’s a difficult balancing act, but it can be done! Like Jesus, our children need to grow in every good way!

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

It’s something they never tell you in the romantic movie. The ending of the storyline so full of twists and turns, where he and she might not have ended up together but seemed destined to be together, is so happy and perfect. Both are all smiles, with stars in their eyes, when we see “The End” and the credits roll.

They never tell you what happens after the fairy tale wedding or the long-awaited kiss. He refuses to ask directions as they fade into the sunset. They argue over where to eat that romantic dinner. He speaks without thinking and says something thoughtless, followed by tense silence. 

I am not critiquing one of the sacrosanct principles of romantic movies and books. Happy endings can be a great escape from reality and a feel good experience. Yet, when we hold it up as the unqualified expectation for our own lives, we set ourselves up for trouble. Social media is rife with posts and pictures which can perpetuate the fiction that the people we friend and follow are constantly living out “happily ever after.” Life is always grand, and success and satisfaction is the constant. 

Don’t misunderstand. So much of what we experience in life is shaped by attitude. Being positive can help us negotiate those hairpin curves in the road of life. But, coping through positivity is different from allowing disappointment to make us disenchanted with failing to meet the unrealistic expectation that every problem and adversity can be wrapped up into a pretty, neat package with a frilly bow on top. 

It’s quite the balancing act, isn’t it? Scripture teaches to think on healthy, beneficial things come what may (Phil. 4:8). Or, as Solomon puts it, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15). Yet, Job (14:1) and Solomon (Ecc. 2:23) do not sugarcoat the reality that life is often painful, grievous, and full of trouble both day and night. 

May I offer some encouragement?

  • To the newlyweds, neither of you is perfect and there is no way you can always agree and get along without mutual compromise and effort. You will have so many great days, but there will be some mountains to climb and valleys you must pass through. No couple out there is breezing through married life. Turning to one another (and God) rather than on one another when marriage is hard will forge your bond come what may (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • To the new parents, though that baby looks perfect and angelic, he or she will introduce demands, needs, concerns, and challenges you never knew existed before. Each developmental stage will be accompanied by incredible highs and lows. As you look into the faces of your children, you will be looking at eternity and knowing the weight of your decisions and leadership. But, savor those little ordinary moments. You are placing puzzle pieces that will one day become your children’s picture of their childhood. How you handled the hard times will be at least as important as how you handled the fun times (Prov. 22:6). 
  • To the new Christian, it is right for you to relish the feeling of relief and joy over being forgiven and cleansed from sins. The burden of guilt has been lifted. You are experiencing something in Christ that you never knew existed. But, there will be difficult days. The devil lurks (1 Pet. 5:8). Selfish desires can derail (Jas. 1:13-15). Suffering for your faith should be expected (1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 14:22), but by hanging on your eternal destiny is better than you can imagine. Along the journey, you will grow, mature, and develop into someone better and stronger as Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20). 
  • To the Christian who publicly repents, you had no idea how much support, love, and encouragement you were going to receive. You feel the relief of forgiveness and restored hope. There’s clarity and purpose where there had been confusion and distraction. Things are better now (cf. Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9), but the battles and temptations that led you away are still there. You will still have to face the consequences of bad choices, but you will not regret turning to God and your spiritual family for help. This is the first step of your rededication. Keep walking and never stop (Mat. 7:13-14; 1 Th. 2:12).

There are so many other phases and circumstances deserving the same kind of encouragement. The bottom line for each is the same. When viewed with heavenly eyes, each of us is staring at the ultimate happy ending. Even as our exterior deteriorates, our inner man is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). Our momentary difficulties will give way to incomparable glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18).  The best is yet to come (2 Cor. 5). But, between now and then, we all have to negotiate bumps in the road. That’s OK. Keep following Christ on this narrow road and the “ever after” will transcend your greatest hopes (Mat. 16:24ff). 

“Father’s Table Grace”

“Father’s Table Grace”

Monday’s Column: “Neal At The Cross”

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Neal Pollard

In 1960, Otho Jones and Homer L. Sewell wrote a song made popular by Flatt and Scruggs. It’s a song written from the point of view of a man’s oldest son, a son who felt he was old enough to be on his own and leave home. He describes his father as simple and not filled with a formal education, but also as one very devout and the spiritual leader of his home. He describes himself as “young and foolish.” When I listen to this song, I think about the way I could be as a teenager and how I tried my parents’ patience. My dad, a gospel preacher since 1964, has always been a diligent praying man. While I never heard him say these words in my presence, I wonder if he ever prayed them about me in my younger days.

“Our gracious heavenly father we all gathered here today
To give the things for blessings so humble we pray
My oldest son is leaving but I’m sure he knows what’s best
But just in case would you stand by and help him stand the test

Lord he’s awful neglectful about church on Sunday morn
And if he gets with a wrong crowd would you let him hold your arm
And if he flies too high would you clip his wings
But don’t let him fall too hard, I’m sure you can handle things

I’ve tried my best from day to day to teach him right from wrong
And he’s grown to be a fine young man and he always blessed our home
We pray dear Lord for guidance that he won’t build upon the sand
But I won’t worry half as much if I know he’s in your hands

And oh yes Lord it won’t be long till I’ll be coming home
Don’t make me wait too long
We pray dear Lord for guidance please cleanse us from our sins
So we can all be together in heaven in Jesus name amen.”

Those words are neither perfectly autobiographical nor an apt description of my dad (who has much more formal education than I do). But I think a lot of parents who continue to labor over their children in prayer, concerned for their safety as they turn them loose in this world. However large the physical or financial threats may be, what should concern us most are the spiritual ones. We will never outgrow our concern for them. We should never stop being the right kind of example to them. May we never sin against them by failing to pray for them. They need us to be the type of Christians described by James, of whom he writes, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (Jas. 5:16). 

My Father, From An Early Age

My Father, From An Early Age

Neal Pollard

My father, from an early age you taught me to be true,
But when I wavered on what that was, I could always look at you.

You taught me how the Lord comes first at work, at school, at play
But how much easier that became when you practiced that each day.

Dear child, I may not perfectly that narrow path traversed
But when you see me fail, dear child, I pray I will reverse

For fathers come, they teach us much, and character is fashioned
By what we think and say and do, by each prayer and passion

Dear Father, help me teach my children to walk in holy ways
But let me do that by my living, I have but a fleeting, few days

May Your lessons, Lord, they come to learn at my feet of clay,
Instill a faith that will survive ’til they get to the Judgment Day.

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Selling Children

Selling Children

Neal Pollard

In March of 2007, in Owensboro, Kentucky, a couple tried to sell the woman’s 15-month-old daughter for $3000 and an SUV. The noble purpose behind this attempted transaction was “money to pay off [the boyfriend’s] fines for previous criminal charges.” Surprisingly, they denied the allegations and maintained their innocence, an effort that would eventually be unsuccessful.

How heartbreaking that anyone could act so heinously. Truly, “Children are a gift of the Lord…a reward” (Psa. 127:3). Yet, while they are a gift from the Lord to us, in another sense they still belong to Him (cf. Ezek. 18:4). We cannot sell what ultimately does not belong to us.

What Charles Hope, Jr., and Amber Revlett did in Kentucky was certainly criminal, but they are far from salon among those trying to “sell” their children for one reason or another. In order to give their children popularity, gratification, or material success, some parents are encouraging their children to live a life of sin, worldliness, and selfishness. Secular courts would never convict them, but what they are doing is even more heinous than that attempted by those lowbrow schemers from the Bluegrass State. As Christian parents, we have an obligation to recognize this tendency and not “sell our children” out to anything that could replace their undivided loyalty to serve Christ. We want their hearts centered around Christ and His will (Mat. 6:33).

Let us both teach our children and realize ourselves their intrinsic value as ones made in the very image of God (Gen. 1:27). Within each of our children is a soul, every one of which is more valuable and important than the whole world (Mat. 16:26). May we never do anything that would lead them to exchange their souls. Whatever they gain, they will lose everything! To the extent we, as parents, can influence this, let us do with diligence. God has placed their training and spiritual wellbeing into our hands (cf. Deu. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:1-4).

Stack Of Cash

Grocery Bag In A Bush

Grocery Bag In A Bush

Scott Phillips

My girls recently modified the game of Slug Bug in order to make it more exciting and faster-paced. A couple of months ago, with the whole family in the car, we were introduced to it when we heard the words “gocery bag in a bush” shouted three times in rapid succession followed by “wow! three in a row” from one of the other girls.

The modification was simple. Instead of calling out VW Beetles, we all began to call out grocery bags that were snagged up in a bush alongside the road. We would also accept “tree.”  A grocery bag caught in a tree was also acceptable. Turns out, “Grocery Bag In A Bush” is much more exciting and fun than Slug Bug. Tons more action! I’ve never seen so many grocery bags in my life! And you should hear the squeals and laughter when one was spotted so far up in a tree that we all knew that it wasn’t coming down until the tree did.

Good times.

I’ve thought about Grocery Bag In A Bush many times since that day, and have made many observations about it. I’d like to share three of them.

Observation #1
The grocery bags have always been, and will always be, there. I just never “saw” them before. I don’t recall seeing a single slug bug while playing Grocery Bag In A Bush, even though they were probably there.

Conclusion #1
I will see that which I look for. Matthew 7:7-8 says,  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Observation #2
Grocery Bags don’t belong in a bush or a tree. It’s not what they were created for, but somehow they have found themselves hopelessly ensnared. They will most likely remain ensnared until someone cares enough to pick them up, or a violent storm rips them away from the unreachable limb where they are trapped. And if no one stops and picks them up, they will most likely drift away until they find themselves ensnared in another bush.

Conclusion #2
While we may excel at “stopping to say hello” when a brother is in the way, we should not let the business of “rolling our gospel chariots along” keep us from our responsibility to the lost to “stop and pick them up”.

Observation #3
We all financially support a vast army of sanitation workers through taxes and fees. We even personally pay for these services out of pocket so that they will come by our house each week to take our trash, and grocery bags, to where they belong. And yet, the grocery bags are everywhere.

Conclusion #3
Christianity cannot be outsoursed. It’s not enough to pay for, or support others, to do the work for us. This world is not our home, but it becomes a more beautiful place when each of us can see those around us who are ensnared in sin, and gently help them get to where they belong.

Feel free to make your own observations from this parable. It’s not perfect, and I’m certainly not equating those trapped in sin with trash. But before we start asking God to provide us with more opportunities, we might first ask ourselves if we are really in the  game. Because once you know what to look for, the opportunities are everywhere.

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[Scott Phillips serves as a deacon at the Bear Valley church of Christ. He and Tammi have a son and 7 daughters!]

MOM’S STEWARDSHIP OF CHILDREN

MOM’S STEWARDSHIP OF CHILDREN

Neal Pollard
Feeding schedules, diaper changes, and runaway toddlers seem to consume a mother’s world for what seems like forever.  It may seem like an eternal duty, but those days very quickly pass.  What you learn in each new stage of your children’s development is that God gives you grace and strength to meet the challenges that accompany it.  Sleepless nights, drained energy, and unfinished housework discourage you.  Unappreciative, uncooperative children at times confront you.  Unsympathetic, clueless husbands may (though surely only rarely) irritate you.  But, you, ma’am, are doing important, yea, eternal work!

You hold more than a baby in your arms.  You lead more than a toddler or small child by the hand.  You mold and shape more than a child’s mind, social skills, and heart.  You, dear lady, are influencing this world and eternity.  As you rise to the challenges and succeed in keeping Christ in the center of your children’s hearts, you are partnering with God.  He can help you cope with the temporary trauma, the short-lived chagrin, and fleeting frustrations of motherhood.  God designed the home, and as such He designed it as a place where mother’s touch and influence would settle deep into the hearts and lives of those eternal souls you helped bring into existence.  You can dedicate them to God like Hannah did Samuel (1 Sam. 2:28).  You can sacrifice for them like Samson’s mother did for him (Jud. 13:13-14).  You can treasure the things about your children in your heart as Mary did about Jesus (Lk. 2:19).

In the meantime, while you are coping with the daily frustrations of motherhood, remember the words of Jan Dunlap:

Help me remember, when I feel it’s a chore,
The time will come when I’ll hold baby no more,
Asleep on my chest, the crib refused, the blanket,
the pacifier, gone unused.

What better place is there to lay baby’s head
Than against my heart, my arms her bed?

For children grow up and leave us behind
With only memories left to remind us
Of midnight walking and predawn rocking,
Of sweet, crying babies unable to sleep.

So, keep me patient and keep me awake
While I cradle this dear child,
And don’t let me begrudge another long night
With this baby, my darling, my joy, my delight.

The trials of motherhood are a relative moment.  The lessons you leave them last beyond a lifetime.  Thank you for willingly, lovingly, and righteously pursuing this important facet of God’s work on earth!
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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!

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