Home > Speaking > Hope In A Season Of Pain

Hope In A Season Of Pain

(This is a message that I preached at CrossRoads of Arlington on 5/29/11.  You can listen to the audio version here or on the CrossRoads of Arlington podcast available on iTunes.)

When Joe told me I would be preaching this weekend, he offered me the option of continuing in the series on Revelation or doing something else.  Revelation or something else?  I chose something else.  Next weekend, Joe will resume our look at the book of Revelation.

The something else I want to speak about today has to do with what I’ve been going through the past few weeks.  Two and half weeks ago, my dad passed away in his sleep.  Two weeks ago I spoke at his memorial service.  My brothers and I were overwhelmed by the number of people that showed up to honor my Dad’s life.  We honestly expected 50 people and the funeral director counted 160.  I posted a copy of the eulogy I gave on my blog and was once more overwhelmed by the number of people who read it.  If you google chris dikes’ blog you should be able to find it.  Or you can facebook, text, email, or call me.  I think I’ve covered every which way in which we communicate these days.

Twenty years ago, we were part of a church in Abilene and the senior pastor’s sixteen year old son died after suffering an epileptic seizure.  After taking six weeks off, he returned to preaching and before he began, he stated, “I speak from a place of great pain.  What I say this morning, I might take back a year from now.”

For me, I speak from a place of pain that emanates from the death of my dad.  And as I prepared this week, I realize that not everyone is experiencing the death of a loved one.  But as I have reflected on the pain I have experienced and talked with some of you, I recognize there is a commonality to this pain.  We experience pain at the death of a loved one, when a relationship ends, maybe through divorce, maybe the ending of a friendship or another relationship, when we lose a job, when a business venture fails, when a child has gone off-track, or when life just plain disappoints us.

As I continue this morning, my hope is that what I am learning helps you in your season of pain.  We’ll look at a number of different Scriptures this morning in this process.

A SEASON OF PAIN

Our experiences in life as well as the Bible confirm to us that there are seasons of life.

Today, we have acknowledged our students who are graduating from high school.  There is a time to start school and there is a time to end school.  There is a time to take tests and there is a time to declare I will never ever take another test again as long as I live.  I am now in that particular season and I hope never to leave it.

There is a season for Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer.

As the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us in chapter 3,

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

In this life, we go through different seasons, even seasons of pain, and those seasons of pain hurt.

From those of you I’ve talked with, it doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve been expecting this pain for a long period of time, if you only had a week’s notice or if it dropped on you like a sudden thunderstorm.  It hurts.

If you have been been there, you don’t need a description of that pain, you probably don’t want to be reminded of that pain, but for those of you who have not been through this season, let me briefly describe what this pain is like.

It’s as if someone punched you in the stomach when you weren’t looking.

It’s as if someone short-circuited your brain.  Despite having lived in Austin and travelled there many times, I kept getting lost wherever I went.  At other times, I would lose my train of thought completely.

It’s as if someone completely drained all your energy and made you incapable of sleeping through the night.  For the first week or so, I woke up at three or four every morning.

The second night in Austin, my brother my California asked if he could stay in my hotel room.  After I said Yes, he mentioned the fact that he slept with the tv on all night.  But being so tired, I didn’t think it would make much of a difference.  I fell asleep, woke up, looked at the clock, and then realized I’d been asleep for about forty-five minutes.  As I rolled over to go back sleep, I heard this voice coming from the tv, a voice that I recognized, and then I had this thought,  “No, it can’t be.  Not an Insanity infomercial.  I can’t even escape people talking about Insanity in Austin.”

As for your emotions, they go crazy.  The tears flow.  Sometimes you know when, and sometimes it’s out of the blue.

One morning, I took Samuel to school and the teacher pointed at me to let me know she wanted to speak to me.  Uh-oh, I thought, what has Samuel done.  Of course, he would do something while Angela is out of town and I’m gonna have to deal with it.  I don’t know what I’m gonna do.  Please don’t let it be that bad.  Immediately, I’m thinking of nothing but the worst.  She walked over and said, “I’m sorry to hear about your Dad.  I thought of you and your family on Sunday.”  This was going to be one of those out of the blue moments.  I could feel it coming on, so I mumbled thank you, and tried to get out of there as fast as I could.  I didn’t think it would be an encouraging sign for the other students coming in to see a grown man walking away from a teacher crying.  I could imagine them saying, “Mommy, I don’t wanna go to class.  That teacher made that man cry.”

And some people have guilt added to their emotional plate.  If I had only done this or that, or I feel bad that I feel relieved.

In these seasons of pain, people deal with the pain differently.

In 2nd Samuel 12, the writer tells the story of King David and his very ill son.  While the son is sick, David in nearly unconsolable.  He’s crying, weeping, praying, and begging God to heal his son.  And when his son dies, the people that work for him are afraid that he’s really going to lose control.  If he was this bad when he had a little hope, what’s he going to be like when he has no hope.  But when the child dies, David gets up, showers, eats, puts on lotion, and then goes to console his wife.

In 2nd Kings 4, the writer tells us about a Shunnamite woman whose son dies.  When her son dies, she doesn’t tell her husband.  When her husband asks where she’s going, she tells him to see the man of God.  He asks why, it’s not the new moon or the Sabbath, basically it’s not the day for church, and her response is “Everything’s all right.”  Her son just died and the only thing she can say is “Everything’s all right.”  She tells her servant, “Go as fast as you can and don’t stop for anything.”  When they arrive at the man of God’s house, she runs up, grabs a hold of his legs and won’t let go.

So what can you do for a person in the midst of a season of pain?  Having been there myself, let me give you some practical advice on what you can say and what you can do.  If you remember this, you will be the greatest friend ever.

“I’m so sorry for your loss.  I’m sorry for the pain you’re experiencing.”  Or “My condolences to you and your family.”  Or “your family is in our prayers.”  That is all you have to say.  You can say it in a text, an email, a phone call, or a card.  That is enough.  That is all you have to say.  You will be the greatest friend ever just by saying those words.

I would caution you against asking “How are you doing?”  The likelihood is that the person is doing okay at best.  But if you are going to ask that question, do it at a time and a place when you can sit there and listen.

As far as things that you can do, simply ask “Is there anything I can do for you?”  or offer to do something specific for them.

One of my brother’s friends asked if she could come and help us clean the house.  Could she?  Absolutely.  She spent three or four hours helping us and I will be forever grateful to her.

A little while later, my brother came up and said, “My friend who owns a catering company offered to bring us a meal.  Are we interested?”  Let me repeat that:  My friend who owns a catering company offered to bring us a meal.  Are we interested?”  Yes we are.  Even if you don’t own a catering company, you can offer to bring a meal and it will be greatly appreciated.

But if they decline your offer of help, that’s okay as well.

And don’t forget to keep checking on that person.  For that first week, they are likely inundated with family and friends, but after a couple of weeks, everybody moves on but that person is still in that season of pain.

PRESENT HOPE

So we know that a person is going to go through a season of pain, we’ve described what they’ll be feeling, how we can help them, but what about the person in that season of pain?  There is a part of them that no person can touch, no amount of assistance with food or meals can help, so what is there for that person in their pain?

The next passage of Scripture we want to look at is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 11.

Leading up to this chapter, the tide of public opinion has begun to turn against Jesus.  Where at one time, crowds flocked to hear him, to be healed by him, now some of the political and religious leaders have begun to challenge him.  They did not like what he had to say, they did not like the problems he had begun to cause them, and in chapter ten, they had gotten to the point where they were ready to pick up rocks and throw them at him until they killed him.  In the midst of this controversy and these threats on his life, Jesus received word that his friend, Lazarus, had become ill.

As we look at this story, we see Jesus in his full God-ness and his full humanness.

When someone told Jesus that his friend had become ill, he didn’t run off to Bethany.

In verse 4, “4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

So Jesus has an understanding of the situation, a foreknowledge of what is going to take place, what he is going to do, that he is going to raise Lazarus from the dead, and how people are going to respond to that.

But if God loved them so much, if he cared for Martha and her sister and Lazarus, then why didn’t he go immediately?  Why didn’t he do something?  Why didn’t he act?  Why didn’t he move?  Why did he stay put for two more days?

And that very question comes into our minds in the midst of our pain:  God, if you loved me like you say you do, like it says you do in this Bible, then why couldn’t you have prevented (and fill in the blank)?  Why did this have to happen?

Sometimes we get answers to those “why” questions and sometimes we don’t.  I wish I had a better answer, but I don’t.  Sometimes, we don’t get an answer.

When they finally start towards Bethany, Jesus engages his disciples in a conversation.  Being sensitive to their understanding, he begins by telling them that Lazarus is asleep.  The disciples respond with “That’s good, he’s sleeping.  Sleep leads to recovery.”  But Jesus stops and speaks to them directly.

In verse 14, “14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Here again Jesus is showing that He knows everything that is going on.  He knows what has taken place and what will take place, that He is going to raise Lazarus from the dead.

He is bigger than anything we can comprehend.  And so, yes, we may want to know what is going on and why certain things have happened.  But on the other hand, we can take some comfort in the fact that although we might not know or understand, Jesus does.  He knows what is happening, He knows why these things are taking place, and He sees far more than we do.

Here’s how one of the disciples respond.

In verse 16, 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

It’s a little unclear what Thomas is referring to.  I hope that he is referring to the fact that he wants to go with Jesus and die with him.

But the context of the story makes it unclear.  Because it also seems like Thomas is referring to Lazarus.  But, Lazarus didn’t die as a martyr.  Lazarus got sick and died.  I hope that Thomas didn’t mean ” Let’s go to the place where Lazarus became sick, get sick like him and die as well.”  If he did, I hope that one of the other disciples kicked him in the back of the pants and John just left that part out of the story.

When they finally arrive in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days.  Somebody tells Martha that Jesus is near and she bolts out in that direction.

In verse 21, “21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

In her season of pain, Martha is not making much sense.  On the one hand she believes that God will do anything for Jesus, but when he mentions Lazarus rising again, Martha doesn’t believe that’s possible in the present.  All her hope is pinned to the future.

Next, Mary figures out that Jesus has arrived and and she goes out to find him.

In verse 32,   32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

He was deeply moved and troubled.

This is the first of three pictures that John is going to give us in this story showing us about Jesus’ care and concern for us in our season of pain.

Jesus knows what is going to take place.  He knows what He is going to do.  Jesus is going to fix this, He is going to raise Lazarus from the dead, and by His very word He is going to eliminate this season of pain that they are enduring.  And yet, he is still moved and troubled by the pain they are in.

What this reflects to us is that this God understands the pain we are experiencing.

In verse 34, “34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.  “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  35 Jesus wept.

One of the most moving pictures.  The God of the Universe, the Creator of Everything, the One who knows that in a moment He will fix it all, and He is not so busy, not so preoccupied, not so task-oriented, that He doesn’t stop and embrace the pain that Mary and Martha are suffering.  God himself is moved to tears.

This God cares.  This God understands.

In verse 36,  36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.

He probably could’ve spoken the word to raise Lazarus from anywhere.  From the road.  From another town.  From the house.  But he came to the place of suffering and pain, He came to the tomb and experienced the pain himself.   After experiencing the pain with them, He then raised Lazarus from the dead.

There is hope in the present because this God understands.  This God cares.  This Jesus comes to the place of our pain, He comes to our tombs, and stands there with us.

This Jesus understands our pains because he experienced the same pains that we do.

In a story found in Luke 8, Jesus once again is going to a home where someone has died.  When he arrives at the home, he tells the people stop crying and mourning, she is not dead.  And in verse 53, Luke wrote, “they laughed at him.”  They laughed at him.

As he continued his ministry of preaching and healing and telling people about God, he didn’t experience a growing surge of followers, but rather fewer and fewer people followed him.

The religious leaders had him arrested, tortured, and killed.

This God understands the season of pain that we endure.

Sometimes, he sweeps in and restores everything.  Sometimes, he brings about reconciliation in the relationship and he restores things and the pain is gone.

And at other times, He stands there with us at the tomb, at our homes, at the place of our pain, weeping with us, moved with us, and He is just there.

And to this God, to Jesus, we can pour out our hearts and our hurts and our pains.

The hope we have in the present is with a God, with Jesus, who understands exactly what we are going through.

FUTURE HOPE

When we look to the Scriptures, not only are we reminded that God is with us in the midst of our pain, but the Bible also speaks of a future hope.  The storms associated with this season of pain will likely pass, but there is a part of that pain that will always be with us.  But as we look to the future, we have a promise from God that eventually all the pain will be gone.

I know I said we weren’t going to study Revelation, but I want to look at one section found in Revelation 21.

In verse 1, 1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

In Jesus, we look forward to a future hope when all the seasons of pain will come to an end and when pain will be no more.  Those hurts, those disappointments, all of that will come to an end.

CONCLUSION

Today, we are going to close by taking the Lord’s Supper.  It is ironic that one of the symbols of our hope in Jesus is represented by Jesus’ greatest pain.  The bread symbolizes that his body was beaten and broken.  The juice represents that his blood was shed as a sacrifice for us.  As followers in Jesus, as those who believe in Him, He told us to take this bread and take this juice until He comes again.

In doing so, these symbols do a couple of things:  We are identifying ourselves to God and to those around that we are followers of Jesus Christ.  We are committed to Jesus.  In another way, as we look at this bread and this juice, before we take them, we say to ourselves, “God knows.  God understands.  God cares.”  And as we look at this bread and this juice, we remind ourselves that there will come a day when we don’t eat the bread and drink the juice and on that day, there will be no more pain and no more sorrow.

Amen.

Advertisements
Categories: Speaking
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: