Archives For sorrow

It’s Valentine’s Day. The Taylor Swift lyric of holidays. Sweet. Sappy. Romantic. I think I got a cavity just writing that sentence.

Watching all the Twitter @ mention and Facebook wall post love flying around this morning (you know, those online digital expressions that have officially replaced the paper Hallmark cards and handwritten notes that are so 2003) got me thinking.

I’m a ridiculously lucky man.

Today, I woke up next to my beautiful Valentine of 15 years. We’re light years from perfect (and we know it), but our undying commitment to one another has led us on quite a journey. An adventure that now includes three little valentines and more undeserved love than we know what to do with most days. Valentine’s Day reminds me to celebrate this.

But I’m not ignorant. I also know this day threatens to swallow some of you. To remind you of what you don’t have. What you fear you may never have. Or maybe something you’ve lost.

An unexpected divorce.

Your annual tax filing status (once again) checked single.

A bouquet of flowers laid on a gravestone instead displayed in a vase on the kitchen counter.

Brokenness. Pain. Whether by poor choice or no choice of your own. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Today, as everyone else celebrates with balloons, candygrams, and romantic dinners for two, you quietly mourn.

I wish I had neat, easy answers. That Rosetta Stone Scripture that could clean it all up, snap it into focus, force it to all make sense.

But I can offer hope. Our God understands our sorrow.

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”
-Isaiah 53:3

So if you find Valentine’s Day more bitter than sweet, just know you’re not alone in feeling alone. Pain is far too often a real place. God didn’t design you to live there. He doesn’t want you to stay there. But if you are there today, just know that He will be right there with you.

My God is close to the brokenhearted.

Dealing with Death

Erik Cooper —  January 19, 2011 — 3 Comments

Some days weigh a lot.

Yesterday definitely needed Weight Watchers, Biggest Loser, or some other soon to quit New Year’s resolution.

At 1:56PM I received an automated call from my kids’ school principal. A seventh grade girl, who undoubtedly passes my daughter countless times in the hallway each and every day, had unexpectedly and mysteriously died. Home sick with what must have seemed like a simple fever, her parents found her unresponsive.

She never woke up.

Gone.

What?

Why?

Shocked parents left to relive that last meaningful interaction with their little princess. A school full of devastated students forced to carry a burden their emotional muscles aren’t ready for. What do you do with death? Especially when the one that died was only 12 years old?

Everything that’s in me wants to explain it. And even though we don’t know this family personally, my kids will be expecting something brilliant from me. I need to find that ideal Scripture about perfect peace or eternal life that will deaden the sting or bring logical understanding into the confusion. That’s what pastor-dads do, right?

Actually, yes. We desperately need the illuminating truth and perspective of Scripture. But sometimes we use quick explanations, even accurate Biblical ones, to dodge the reality and avoid the pain. We think we’re doing a good thing, but maybe we need to take a closer look.

Do you know what Jesus did when His friend Lazarus died? Jesus. Son of God. The One with all the answers. How did he respond?

He cried.

He wept.

He fully embraced the pain and emotion. He stepped into it raw, authentic, and whole.

And maybe that’s what we need to do first. Resist quick answers. Swallow the cliches. Just feel the pain of our broken humanity. Fully. Together.

And experience the presence of Jesus, who knows our every sorrow, walking right there with us, too.

Please pray for the Acton family today, as they find themselves traveling a road no parent should ever have to walk.

Cliche Christianity

Erik Cooper —  June 30, 2010 — 6 Comments

Cliches.

Where God guides God provides.

When God closes a door He opens a window.

God is in control.

God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

I bet you immediately thought of a few you could add to the list.  Cliches are fun.  Quippy.  They roll off the tongue.  And most importantly, they’re a “get out of jail free” card you can throw on the table when someone is sharing a complex, painful, or unexplainable story you just don’t know what to do with.

(They’ve also bred a giant, money-making, Christian knick-knack and greeting card industry I mean really, where would our mantles and bookshelves be without cliches?).

Cliches are very tempting.  In the last month I’ve sat across the table from people dealing with all of the following crap (in no particular order):

  • A spouse that had an affair and walked out on the marriage
  • A  7 month job search filled with hundreds of applications, a few interviews, zero offers (and a shattered sense of self-worth).
  • A 6 year old daughter killed in a freak recreational accident
  • A passionate musician that has slowly lost almost all of his hearing
  • An 11 year old girl who’s best friend just moved 500 miles away (ok, this one’s personal)

Seriously, what am I supposed to do with this stuff?

As I engage these conversations, there is a natural sense of panic. What to say?  How to fix?  Does my understanding of God give a good explanation for these kinds of circumstances?

Somewhere in all the discomfort, these trite little sayings begin filling my mind. 

Cliche Christianity.

And in our over-comforted, consumerist, sitcom-solution society, I fear we’ve begun to believe a lie about God.

Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias loves to quote this powerful truth:

“Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”

In much the same way, I also don’t believe He came to make bad circumstances easy to explain.

Jesus never promised this life would be easy, He just promised to always be with us.  To never leave us.  To be our peace.  To help us live,  fully alive. In all the joy, sorrow, pleasure, and pain.  We need to embrace that truth with one another.

No cliche there.

“In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33 MSG)