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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Getting Over Grief

Robert Jeffress - Getting Over Grief

Robert Jeffress - Getting Over Grief
TOPICS: Our Problems and God's Answers, Grief, Pain

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Nothing is more painful than losing a marriage partner, a child or a close friend to a tragic accident or a devastating illness. The loneliness and sense of loss bring more pain than we can bear. Today, I'm going to present an honest and sensitive message on the subject of grief and how to deal with feelings of loss. My message is titled, "Getting Over Grief", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote, the statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of every one dies. It's the truth, you're not going to get out of this world alive. But what about those of us who are left behind when we do lose a loved one? How do we cope? Tonight as we continue our series on our problems and God's answers, we're going to talk about the very common experience that we're all going to go through at one time or another and that is the problem of grief. And I know there are those Christians who would say, "Well, Christians aren't supposed to grief". Nothing could be further from the truth. If there is one thing I want to leave with you tonight it is this, grief over the loss of a loved one is both a normal and a necessary emotion for our healing. And we're going to see that tonight in God's word.

I want to begin tonight by talking about the biblical basis for grief. If you have your Bibles turn to John 11. John 11 and this is the familiar story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Do you remember Jesus had three really close friends here on earth? Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Look at John 11 beginning with verse 1. Now, a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha. And it was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair whose brother Lazarus was sick. And the sisters therefore sent to Jesus saying, "Lord, behold, the one whom you love is sick". But when Jesus heard this he said, "The sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified by it".

Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. When therefore Jesus heard that he was sick, he stayed then two days longer in the place that he was. Look at verse 11. Then Jesus said, and after that he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I go that I might awaken him out of the sleep". When a Christian dies, he doesn't cease to exist. The Bible simply uses the terminology sleep. A Christian sleeps, by the way that word sleep refers to the physical body not the spiritual soul of a person. There's no such thing as soul sleep. And Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8, for a Christian to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord. But our physical body is said to go to sleep awaiting the great resurrection. Finally, after the days had passed, Jesus came to Bethany.

Look at verse 20. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went out to meet him but Mary still sat in the house and Martha therefore said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died". In verse 33, when Jesus therefore saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in the spirit and was troubled and said, "Where have you laid him"? They said to the Lord, "Lord, come and see". And then of course, the shortest verse in the Bible, Jesus wept. I think this is interesting that Jesus who knew more than we would ever know about the resurrection, about life on the other side of the grave, Jesus who had all of the correct theology, Jesus who knew in just a few moments he was going to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead, nevertheless, when Jesus was confronted with death, he wept.

Ladies and gentlemen, don't let anyone tell you that to grieve, to weep, to have sadness over the death of a loved one is somehow unspiritual or unchristian. Jesus wept, it was a natural part of the grieving process. And by the way, that is why Jesus can empathize with the pain you're going through. He's experienced death, he knows what it is to stand in front of the tomb of someone he loved dearly. Hebrews 4:15-16 remind us for we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but one who was tested and tempted in all things as we are and yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we might receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. When you're experiencing the loss of someone important to you, you have someone in heaven who understands, someone you can talk to, someone from whom you can receive grace. Let's talk for a moment about grief and particularly about the stages of grief.

Remember, a couple of weeks ago, I said going through depression is like going through a tunnel, it's dark. The good news is once you have started in, you're already on the way out. The same thing can be said about grief. Grief is like a tunnel that you must pass through to get to the other side. And through this tunnel of grief, there are four specific stages that I think again, all have a biblical basis behind them. When you've lost a loved one, the first stage is that of shock. Shock over the death of a loved one. Sometimes that shock is expressed in an uncontrollable emotion. Wailing, weeping but more often than not, the usual response is a numbness. When that loved one is suddenly no longer there, even if you've been anticipating their death for a long time, there is a numbness, a shock.

And by the way, never congratulate somebody who immediately after the loss of a loved one seems to be containing their emotions. We make a mistake when we say, "Oh, you're holding up so well". This holding up so well many times is just a case of shock, it's a case of numbness. And what we're saying to that person is we're congratulating them on holding in those emotions that very soon they're going to have to express. Tears are very much a part of God's plan for our grieving. Both revelation 7:17 and revelation 21:4 say that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. And by the way, the context of that is in the future. One day God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and Psalm 56:8 David said, "Put my tears in thy bottle, are they not in thy book"? Anger, guilt, bitterness, grief are all strong emotions that if pent up will eventually lead to physical and emotional sickness.

The second stage of grief is that of despondency. Someone has written about the laziness of grief. A person who is in this stage of grief will find it hard to perform the simplest tasks. May ask, "What does it matter? What's the use"? The stage of despondency is followed by stage three, regression. Actually, it appears that the person who is grieving is getting worse not better at this stage. They begin to ask the why questions? "Why did God allow this to happen"? Many times, they will turn bitter, they will start to blame themselves, "Why didn't we go to get another doctor's report"? Or they'll blame other people for not showing the kind of concern they think is warranted in that situation. During the stage of regression, the person who is grieving will become many times obsessed with their loved one who has died, trying to remember everything they can about them, putting all kind of pictures around the house, a preoccupation with the deceased. During this period of time by the way, the most important thing you can do is not condemn the person, understand this is a part of the grief process.

Stage three is followed by stage four, adaptation. And at that stage, a person is starting to pass through the grieving process. He begins to accept the death of his loved one. He has a new perspective on the person whom he has lost but that feeling is somewhat different. Now, he'll only reach that stage, that adaptation stage if the others have been gone through successfully. If you're one who is going through that process, remember, you can't rush it. It's like breaking your arm and then saying to your arm, "Hurry up and heal," that's not going to do the trick. It takes time to heal. It takes time for our emotions to heal as well.

Remember Psalm 30:5, weeping may last for the night but a shout of joy comes in the morning. The Bible says that we as Christ representatives, we operate as priest in the world, representing God to other people and also representing other people to God. And because we have all been called to minister to those who are hurting especially those who have lost loved ones, a question might arise, "How can I help people who are experiencing grief? How can I minister to them"?

Let me give you just several suggestions, ABCD, just some practical tips for dealing with those who are going through the grieving process.

The A stands for ACT GENUINE. ACT GENUINE, don't be pompous. If you are shocked when you hear the news, tell that person you're shocked over the loss of their loved one. If you feel like crying, cry but don't hold in your emotions. Don't worry about how you should act in front of the grieving person.

The B stands for BE QUIET, BE QUIET. When you're around somebody who's grieving, for some reason, Christians especially feel like they have to talk a lot. They feel the need to preach a sermon. They feel the need to quote Bible verses and many times they only make things worse. The truth is you and I don't have the answers of why, we should never pretend that we do. Many times the best thing we can do is simply say we're sorry and be quiet.

C, COMFORT BY BEING SUPPORTIVE. Comfort the person by being supportive. Again, it doesn't take words, people don't need your words, they need you. Charles Swindoll in his book, "Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life" tells a story of a little girl, five years of age who lost her playmate in death. She reported to her parents that she had gone next door to the grieving mother to try to console her. "What did you say to her"? The parents asked their daughter. The little girl said, "I just crawled up in the mother's lap and I cried with her". Many times that's the best thing we can do, is simply to be supportive. By the way, the time people need us most is a couple of weeks after the funeral is over. After the crowds have dissipated, that's when people need us the most.

And D, DO SOMETHING PRACTICAL. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a grieving person is the dishes or mowing the lawn or doing something very, very practical. I remember when my father died and we were busy trying to make the arrangements, my brother, sister and i, I'll never forget.

Mary Caroline Lavorgna who is now in heaven, she sent over an envelope to our home and inside the envelope was a gift card to the island park cafeteria. And that was just such a thoughtful thing, she knew we didn't have time to prepare meals and worry about that, it was something practical. Do something practical, by the way, don't ask somebody, "Is there anything I can do for you"? All that does is put pressure on the person to come up with something. Instead announce what you're going to do, just do something practical. Finally, answering the why questions. At some point especially if you're close to the grieving person, he or she is going to ask you, "Why would God allow this to happen"?

Now, again, we don't have all of the answers and I think we should only respond to the why question if we're directly asked. But I want to give you four insights to share with people that might help answer the why question of why God allows death. First of all and the most obvious answer is because of sin in the world. Turn over to Romans 5:12. We live in a fallen world. Death was never a part of God's plan for his creation. We live in a fallen world and Paul reminds us in Romans 5:12 that the by product of sin in the world is death. He says, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world and death through sin and so death spread to all men because all sinned".

We have inherited bodies that are flawed, that are prone to sickness and to death. We are surrounded by evil in the world that sometimes leads to death. But that doesn't mean we're victims, doesn't mean we're victims of sin and other people. It simply explains why it is that we die. But the good news is, there is hope beyond the grave. What is present in the world right now, the sickness that leads to death will not always be here. In Romans 8:22-23 Paul says, for we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only that but we ourselves having the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons the redemption of our bodies.

Secondly, sometimes the reason for death God allows it is to focus our hope on heaven. Death has a way of keeping us from putting our hope in this world. There is perhaps no greater object lesson in life than a funeral to remind us how brief our time on earth is. And many times one reason for death is to remind us that this world is not all that there is, that there is something better that awaits us. God allows death to focus our hope on heaven.

Third, God allows us to experience the loss of loved one so that we might comfort others who have gone through the same experience. Go back to 2 Corinthians 1 for just a moment. 2 Corinthians 1. Every life is either self-focused or God-focused. And when we understand that we as Christians are here to minister to other people, God has called every one of us in the ministry, it gives us a whole new perspective on the problems that we go through including the loss of a loved one. Look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1, beginning with verse 3. Blessed be the Lord and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of all mercies and the God of all comfort who comforts us in our affliction so that we might be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the same comfort with which we are comforted by God.

Fourth, God allows the loss of loved ones to transform our character, to transform our character. That's what Peter writes about in 1 Peters 6:7. In this you greatly rejoice even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials knowing that the proof of your faith which is more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Grief is one of the many trials God will allow in your life to make you more like Jesus Christ.

Have you ever discovered it's not during the easy times that we grow, it's during the difficult times. It's in those difficult times like grief that we learn the lessons that God wants to teach us. Someone has written, "I walked a mile with pleasure, she chatted all the way but not a thing I learned from her through all she had to say. I walked a mile with sorrow and not a word said she. But all the things I learned from her when sorrow walked with me". Some of the most important truths you will ever learn about God and his sufficiency in your life will be learned through the process you go through of getting over grief.
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