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emotion mental health sadness

Lessons From Adversity: Finding Equilibrium

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

Balance is that for which we hope and are vigilant to achieve. As true as this is for obedience (see 2 Kings 22.2), it is likewise needed emotionally. I’d like for us to note that optimum mental health in a fallen world is also a matter of equilibrium.

 

Let’s begin with the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the “gorilla” we call sadness. Why can’t we always be happy? It’s not that God did not intend for us to be happy. He created a world He described as “very good” (Genesis 1.31) and placed us into the idyllic Eden. Yet, in the exercise of our free will, we couldn’t abstain from eating the fruit of the one tree that was forbidden. Thus, when one is dealing with a broken world, sadness is going to come. We’ve even become so accustomed to its existence we create platitudes touting its presence. The Arab proverb states, “All sunshine makes a desert.” Even though sunshine is grand, weather consisting of only sunny days deviates from equilibrium bringing an environment hostile to life. Hence, it’s a bad thing. We’re left with the astounding proposition that for us to better appreciate the sunshine, we must learn to appreciate the rain.

 

In order to find emotional balance, one must avoid positive feedback loops. Yes, I realize this sounds counterproductive to our goal. Positive is a good thing, correct? Think of positive in this context as “plus.” It adds to. Do you want to read of a Biblical example of one caught in an emotional positive feedback loop? Read 1 Kings 18.20-19.21. Despite experiencing the glorious victory God brought over the prophets of Baal, Elijah retreats into a cave and sulks. Jezebel wants to kill him, and this is what Elijah becomes focused upon. What is Elijah’s positive feedback loop? Despite his faithfulness, his isolation reinforces his belief he is alone in the fight for God (1 Kings 19.10).

 

God clears up Elijah’s misconception, reminding him that there were other faithful servants of God in Israel (1 Kings 19.18). He wasn’t alone. God also gave Elijah a compatriot in Elisha. In other words, God introduced a negative feedback loop. No longer able to fixate solely on himself, Elijah undertook the mentorship of Elisha (1 Kings 19.16). Elisha, in turn, ministered to the needs of Elijah (1 Kings 19.21).

 

When dealing with adversity, it’s our nature to retreat into solitude. Yet, this is not what God intends for us. I’m not denying that we all need private “closet time” (Matthew 6.6). Jesus often sought solitude to pray. However, allowing ourselves to feel cut off from brethren creates a positive feedback loop accentuating our anxieties. Is it any wonder that as Christians we are commanded to focus outwardly upon others (Philippians 2.4)? We are even exhorted to assemble so we will stir one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10.24-25).

 

Let us not allow adversity to destroy our emotional equilibrium. Rather, let us use it, with the assistance of others, to weave richer colors into the tapestry of our lives.

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view from Mt. Carmel (photo credit: Kathy Pollard)
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grief heart sadness Uncategorized

“Heartaches”

Tuesday’s Column: “Dale Mail”

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Dale Pollard

Have you ever been in such emotional pain that your heart felt like it was literally aching? The worst pain in this life is not always physical. Often times it’s the emotional pain of saying “good bye” that can drive us to our knees. It can make us lash out in anger. It can make the toughest man alive break down in tears, and it can crush a young person’s spirit. Why would a God of love and compassion let such a thing happen? If He cares, but He can’t do anything about it, wouldn’t that mean He’s not all powerful? If He doesn’t care, but He has the power, doesn’t that mean He’s cruel?

If you’ve got “heart pain” in your life, the best thing you can do is draw closer to God. Don’t isolate yourself from the only true source of comfort and healing. Don’t throw your head up to the sky, as if looking for some eye-contact with God. Rather, let your head fall to the scriptures. God will tell you that His ways are perfect, His word has been tried and tested, and He is the shield for those who decide to take refuge in Him (Psalm 18:30).

He would also tell you that if you are a righteous individual, He’s going to deliver you from any trouble (Psalm 34:19). As a loving Father, God would tell you that He understands what you’re going through (Isaiah 53:3). God would tell you to hang in there because while there is suffering, heartache, and pain here, there is a place prepared by Him where none of that exists (John 14:2-4). God would ask you to draw near to Him, because if you do He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

We can’t always think of the appropriate words to say when someone is going through grief, but God always knows the right thing to say and He is perfect in all His ways. Bring Christ your broken life. He’ll fix it for you.

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Lamentations repentance sorrow Uncategorized

“Good That Comes From Bad”

Neal Pollard

With a name like “Lamentations,” you know it isn’t a joke book. It’s not lighthearted or jovial. It’s the inspired record of Jeremiah’s tears and troubled spirit over the punishment of Judah for her idolatry and abandonment of God. It is graphic (see 2:20-21; 4:4-10; 5:11-14). Conditions became terrible for the nation (cf. 1:9-10). The book is filled with apocalyptic language and hyperbole (3:1-16).

In the middle of the prophesy, though, Jeremiah expresses the hopeful effect of all this calamity and reaping. The desired effect of captivity was three-fold, according to Lamentations 3:40. First, it was for self-examination–“Let us search out and examine our ways.” Second, it was for repentance–“and turn back to the Lord.” Finally, it was for spiritual development–“Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.”

When we sin or even are caught in some long-term transgression, there will very often be consequences. If we fail to overcome it, the consequences will be unending and most serious. Yet, if we “come to ourselves” (cf. Luke 15:17) and let go of what is keeping us from being right with God, it can have those same three positive impacts on us. It cause cause us to engage in proper self-examination. It will hopefully lead us to repent. Then, this paves the road for us to grow close to God through proper spiritual development.

The ideal is to avoid spiritually spiraling out of control or into some sin problem. Yet, if or when we do, let us remember Lamentations 3:40. Good can come from bad.

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brotherly love church church function grief Uncategorized

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

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attitude Uncategorized

You Sure Do Have An Attitude!

Neal Pollard

Unavoidably, you do! And consider what hinges on what kind of attitude you have. Often, the difference in winning and losing is attitude. Happiness and sadness is a matter of attitude rather than circumstances. Failure and success is determined, many times, by what kind of attitude we have toward the task. Even one’s attractiveness and repulsiveness are, many times, gauged by his or her attitude in life.
You, the Christian, have an attitude! You can be a sour-faced, negative, paranoid, bitter, fearful, stressed out, unhappy, grouchy, withdrawn, depressed, whiny, angry, hypercritical, pessimistic, suspicious, and therefore poor specimen of a Christian. Or, you can be a hopeful, interested, enthusiastic, peace-filled, joyful, bright, forgiving, compassionate, holy, pure, winsome, righteous, smiling beacon of light in a world filled with tons of negative, disgruntled, and chronically unhappy people.
Since your sins are forgiven, your Lord and Master is unmatched, your life is blessed, and your future is exciting, isn’t it natural that you should have a good attitude? A good attitude can transform the people around you, positively impact your circumstances, win the hearts of rivals and enemies, transform your own inner trouble, and give pleasure to the God of heaven. You didn’t know you had that much influence, did you? But you do! Use it for good by wielding a good attitude.
Salvation to restore a sin-sick soul, forgiveness for a guilty heart, and acceptance from a loving God despite our unworthiness are often more unbelievable to folks than any physical feat to attain. If our attitude reflects the consequences of having received those things, we can appeal to untold others to achieve the same state of life by following our lead. So, how’s your attitude?
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Categories
children grief hope

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.

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attitude happiness sadness

Are You Stuck In The Doldrums?

Neal Pollard

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, “The Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, is the region that circles the Earth, near the equator, where the trade winds of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres come together” (via http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov).  The ITCZ (“itch”) is a major weather player, affecting rainfall, storms, and wind currents across the world along the equator but also extending north and south as the position of the earth to the sun changes seasonally.  Another feature of the ITCZ is the dead calm it can cause at sea, a weather event sailors long ago named “the doldrums.”  A sailing ship that gets caught in that area of the world can be stuck there for days due to windless conditions. It is said to be from an Old English word that gives us the modern word “dull” (via online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com).

Have you ever heard someone say that they were stuck in the doldrums?  They mean they feel a prolonged sense of sadness and depression. Sometimes, this can occur and the sufferer does not even know exactly why.  Since we live in an imperfect world, times like these are inevitable. People disappoint us, discouragement paralyzes us, sadness overwhelms us, and anxiety overtakes us.  What can be done if we find ourselves “stuck in the doldrums”?

Smile.  A dose of determined joy and deliberate happiness may be necessary.  Proverbs 15:13-15 says, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness. All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.”

Serve.  Distracting yourself from the doldrums may remedy them. There is no better way to accomplish this than by seeing someone in need and helping them.  As Christians, we have been called to “through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).

Supplicate.  No earthly power may be able to put wind in your sails, but the power of God in heaven never fails.  We should ask, when in our doldrums, have I spoken to God about it?  Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).  Supplication is a noun meaning “to make known one’s particular need” (Zodhiates, δέησις).

Hang in there!  The winds will resume and push you forward.  Just be alert when they begin to blow so you can leave those doldrums behind you!

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Bear Valley church of Christ Daily Bread Neal Pollard Pollard blog Uncategorized

“SACKCLOTH UNDERNEATH”

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Neal Pollard
The first time I recall understanding the significance of the story in 2 Kings 6:30 was sitting in a class taught by Wendell Winkler. He called the lesson “Hidden Cares.” He told us to remember that sitting in the audience each week we preached would be any number of folks carrying around hidden cares. In over twenty years of full-time preaching, I become more aware of that every day. Recently reading about the woman in Mark five who had been suffering for twelve years, I was reminded of this as I thought about the faces of individuals I see all the time suffering in a variety of ways. While we usually know some of the burdens our brothers and sisters are bearing, there are still many others whose troubles are not as widely known.

Jehoram is no Old Testament hero, but is rather a wicked Israelite king. He does not make the cut for the Hebrews eleven list and he does not even behave properly regarding Elisha after the event mentioned in the verse above, but he does illustrate the many who walk around with hidden cares. The verse reads, “When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes-now he was passing by on the wall-and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body.”

The sackcloth was coarsely woven cloth, often made of goat’s hair. It was worn to show mourning and submission to God. No doubt, wearing one of these for any length of time would bring itching, irritation, and discomfort. The garment was apparently meant to reflect outwardly the feelings of the heart and affliction of the spirit of the wearer.

Whether we are preaching or teaching or simply dealing with one another, may we keep a few things in mind. At any given point, the person with whom we are dealing is likely wearing their own “hidden sackcloth.” We may not be able to tell this by looking at their facial expressions or through any verbal cues when we converse. Further, the hidden cares they carry may affect the way they respond to us. Let us not assume they are upset with us or that it is even about us at all. Finally, keep in mind that people cope with their hidden cares in different ways. It is no reflection on the quality of our friendship or relationship if they do not share it. Each of us must determine how, when, and with whom we disclose these things. Let us pray for family, church family, coworkers, neighbors, and others with whom we have relationship as they wear these unseen cares.

To those with sackcloth underneath, remember that God has made us family. There are those you can trust to help bear the burdens. Pray about this and then act. Let these cares refine your relationship with God and sharpen your focus on the place where there will be no such cares. Remember that God is gracious and will not give you more than you can bear. This may seem doubtful at times, but on the other side of the sorrow it will be clear.

No matter how “spiffily” or “slobbily” one is dressed, be aware that underneath may be that figurative sackcloth. May this drive us to be more compassionate and understanding in our dealings with one another.