Posts Tagged ‘loss’

comfort

My late wife and friend, Patricia, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. After many surgeries and over a year’s worth of chemotherapy, she went into remission. In August of 2006, she complained of chest pain and went to the doctor. She had a chest x-ray done which discovered that the breast cancer had metastasized to her lungs and chest wall. After seeing her oncologist that treated her the first time, he told her this time it was much worse and that this cancer now is of the terminal kind. In January 2007, her oncologist gave her 8-12 months. In August of 2007, she was still here, and was doing her best to keep on living!

I have always wondered why she had cancer. I have always wondered why it has affected me so much. I have heard of others with cancer, Lance Armstrong for one, who has continued to “beat” cancer. Then there are those I’ve known who haven’t won over cancer, my mother, a real good friend named Bill, and countless others.

Then a friend of mind named Jim sent me a reply to a message I sent him regarding a bulletin he sent about his daughter reporting that her friend Hillary had “beat” cancer. It was about her receiving a “wish” from the Make a Wish Foundation. Her wish was to care for some children in a third world country. Her wish came true.

In his reply, he said that my family was “sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” I was taken aback from his reply; I was kind of hurt by that statement. I asked God, “how is Pat being sick sharing in Christ’s sufferings?” How can that be? Then prompted by the Holy Spirit, I looked up the passage, Philippians 3:10, which says, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”

Did God make her suffer? Did God give her the same cancer – twice? What I came to understand was that God had given her Himself; God was very present with her. He was a God of mystery to her; yet now she knows He is the God of all comfort. She knows that now with Him in heaven. Moreover, I know this now…however much it hurts me inside to actualize the reality that any kind of suffering we experience, Christ suffered the same on the Cross.

Isaiah 53:3-5 explains it, “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

I really know this now. I know this experientially. I feel that most people don’t know this until it actually happens to them. At least, that is how I feel about it myself.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

Through my friend’s words, God’s Spirit touched my heart, and even though I weep at this knowledge, I am comforted as never before. I am comforted knowing that God had compassion on Patricia. He had compassion on even me! God has compassion toward all of His creation. I feel that God may be enabling me to help others to see the compassion of God in times like these, when they are fearful, hurting, doubtful and in despair. Pat went to be with the Lord eight years ago, July 29th.

Save

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*Authors note: The following is the sermon I preached at my father-in-law’s funeral.

We are here today to honor and remember the life of Fran Dahlberg.  It may seem strange to speak about worship, especially since, to some; our prayers for Fran did not prevent his death. In particular, we find our attention drawn to the many good things about Fran, which only makes the matter of his death more painful to us. How is it that we should worship God in times of tragedy? The answer, I believe, can be found in the first chapter of the Book of Job.

We know from the first chapter of the Book of Job that he was a righteous man, a man who was blameless and who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1, 8). We know also that he was a man blessed by God, he was rich in the goods of this world (1:3), and he was blessed with a family of ten children (1:2).

We know, as Job did not, that God had chosen to use Job as an example of a faithful man. Satan, however, protested that anyone would worship God when God prospered him for doing so. “Let his life turn sour, and then see what becomes of Job’s piety,” Satan challenged. This scene in heaven is the backdrop for all the tragedy that is to follow.

I do not want to focus on Satan’s folly, however, but on Job’s righteousness in a time of family tragedy. The biblical story of Job tells us that wave upon wave of announcements of tragedy quickly were thrust upon this godly man. One messenger reported that all of Job’s oxen and donkeys had been stolen, and the servants were killed (1:14-15). Then another came to convey the news that lightening had destroyed all of his sheep, and those who tended them (1:16). Then another came to report that a band of raiders had stolen his camels and killed the servants who cared for them (1:17). The most devastating report came last. A wind had struck and collapsed the home of his eldest son, where he and all the other children were gathered, and all perished (1:18-19).

Satan was certain that Job’s faith would collapse, like the roof of the house of his eldest son, crushing his devotion to God. In addition, there was good reason, in Satan’s mind, for such anticipation. After all, Job was a righteous man. Why should God allow tragedy to strike not only his possessions, but also his loved ones? Even beyond this, we have been told that it was Job’s habitual practice to intercede for his children, asking God’s special care on them. The tragic death of his family was surely contrary to Job’s righteousness, contrary to his prayers, and contrary to his faith–or so Satan reasoned.

Some of Job’s responses were predictable. He tore his clothes and shaved his head–all signs of mourning and grief. But what he did after this is the key to our comfort in the face of grief–Job fell to the ground and worshipped God (v. 20), and these are his words:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

In these words, we find the reason why Job could worship God, even in the greatest tragedy he had ever known–the loss of his loved ones.

As I point out the reasons for Job’s worship, I want to be clear in saying that Job’s grief was not inconsistent with his faith in God. Job worshipped God with a torn robe and with a shaved head and a tear-stained face–all genuine tokens of his grief. However, in his grief, he did not lose sight of God. Indeed, it was in his grief that God become ever more real. I do not want you to think that grief is inappropriate this afternoon, for it is altogether right. However, in our grief, we will only find consolation, as we are able to worship God in the face of tragedy. There are two truths revealed in these words of Job, which were the basis for his worship.

First, Job was confident of the greatness of God.

He said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (v. 21). Job understood that God was in control of His creation. Whether it is the cruel and heartlessness of a raiding army, or the forces of nature, it was, in the final analysis, God who had given him his riches and his family, and it was God who took them away. Whatever had happened, Job knew that God had allowed it, and that He was still in control.

This same is true of Fran’s death. God gave him a full life and a wonderful family, and God, in His own time, took him in death. Just as Job recognized this when he prayed for the protection of his family, so the Dahlberg family, relatives, and others recognized it when they prayed for Fran. Just as Job remained confident, though his prayers seemed unanswered, we too must be confident of the Sovereign hand of God in the sudden death of this man whom we have loved.

Second, Job was confident of the goodness of God.

God is good, all the time. It is good to know that we can worship a God Who is all-powerful, Who controls every aspect of our lives. Nevertheless, it is even better to know that God, Who is great, is also a God Who is compassionate, merciful, and good. Because of the greatness and goodness found in God, there is every reason to worship Him. Verse 31 says that Job did not sin, nor did he blame God, as though God had done something wrong.

While Job did not understand the purposes that God was working out in this tragedy, He did trust in the Person Who was in control. Thus, he could worship, even in his grief.

In the Biblical letter from the Apostle James chapter 5:10-11 declares, “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast (or patiently endured). You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

What we know that Job did not know.

Knowing the greatness and the goodness of God was the sufficient basis for the faith of Job, which revealed more in his worship at the time of tragedy than at any other occasion. These two truths, the greatness of God and His goodness, should be sufficient for our worship, but there is even more for us, for we have been given additional revelation, which was not made known to Job at his time of sorrow. I will briefly mention these.

The Word of God shows us how and why God was great and good to Job. Job not only glorified God by revealing his faith, but Job grew in his faith as he was tested. In addition, the last chapter tells us that when Job’s faith was strengthened, God prospered him twice as much in the end, as at the beginning (Job 42:10-17).

The greatest revelation, however, is that of the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospels. Here we discover that the believer not only can have victory in death, but also through Jesus Christ, have victory over death.

During His life and ministry, the Lord Jesus raised the dead. In John chapter 11, we have recorded the raising of Lazarus. There, our Lord assured Mary and Martha that He was the resurrection and the life, and that those who place their trust in Him would never die.

The Gospel accounts tell us that Jesus staked His authority and the truth of His message on His resurrection from the grave. Matthew 12:38-40 says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The Gospels continued to describe Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, death, and burial, followed by His resurrection on the third day.

In the Apostolic letters of the New Testament, we are told that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for the forgiveness of sins, and for our ultimate victory over death, for our Lord will come to receive unto Himself, those who have trusted in Him.

I submit to you now, that in the face of the sudden death of Fran Dahlberg there is more than enough reason to worship God. You will only be able to do that when you, like Job, have placed your trust in God Who is both great and good, and Who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in your place, Who paid the penalty for your sin, and to rise again, for your salvation.

Now, today, if you never have, is the time to repent of your sin, place your faith, and trust in the great and good God, through our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian, but have slid back into sin, now, today, is the time to restore your fellowship with God with repentance and a renewed faith in God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.