Death, Grief, Growth/Maturity, Pain, Praise/Worship, Spiritual Therapy

When It Hurts

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  Psalm 34:1 NKJV

If you have been around Christians for any length of time, I’m certain that you’ve heard this statement at least once if not many times.  It’s a powerful statement, for it declares that regardless of what may be occurring in life, you will continue to praise God.  It’s an easy declaration to make when things are going great, kind of sort of good, or okay, but what about when it hurts?  When you are disappointed, broken, distraught, delayed, empty, and seemingly defeated, can you still bless the Lord?

Saturday our congregation found itself in mourning as we lost the life of a wonderful teenager, Miles Blackwell.  When I arose on Sunday, the first thing that came to mind was, “What will worship be like?”  For the past several months, worship has been indescribable.  The presence of God has been so overwhelming that members hate missing service and Sunday worship has become a hot topic for Facebook (also referred to as Spacebook by our pastor).  How would people worship after suffering such a loss?      

As I pondered the possible shift in worship, God reminded me that worship is in order even when it hurts.  Worship is not something that we do only when “we feel like it.”  Instead, “Praise is what I do, EVEN WHEN I’M GOING THE THROUGH, I’ve learned to worship You.  I vow to praise You, through the good and the bad.  I’ll praise You, whether happy or sad.  I’ll praise You, in all that I go through, because praise is what I do.

Praising God in spite of hurt can be seen through two great characters of the bible.  In the first chapter of Job, we find that Job loses ten children and all his earthly possessions, yet he bows down to worship God (Job 1:20).  In Genesis 22, Abraham similarly worships God after being instructed to sacrifice his only son whom he loves (Genesis 22:1-5).  Here we have two men, broken, mourning, hurt, but still worshiping.

Through these men, we come to understand what Jesus means when He speaks of true worshipers.  “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” John 4:23 NKJV.  True worshipers bless the Lord even when it hurts!  It’s not enough simply to praise God when things are well.  True worship requires that we sacrifice our feelings, emotion, pride, and yes, our very lives to bless God (Romans 12:1 NLT).

Unfortunately, in this life we shall encounter mountaintops and valleys.  There will be days when blessing God will come with ease.  But, there will also be days when praising God may seem hard.  I pray that when the latter days come you remember Abraham and Job and continue to worship even when it hurts.  We certainly did!

Dear Daddy,

Thank You for giving us the strength to worship during hard times.  When it hurts, help us to remember the One whom we worship, rather than the things that we endure.  Teach us how to bless You at all times, understanding that You are worthy of praise even when it hurts.  Father, we bless You for the wonderful God that You are.  May Your name be exalted throughout the earth.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Ladies, I EMPOWER you to worship God when it hurts.  Practice blessing God not only during good times but also during times of difficulty.  God is seeking true worshipers.  I urge you to let your worship be real.

In Loving Memory of Miles Blackwell

 Read a related EmpowerMoment: Praise the Lord Anyhow!

Ms. Latasha McCrary is an active member of St. Luke Christian Church in Huntsville, AL where she serves as a Young Adult Facilitator and is training as a Life Skills Coach. She is passionate about the practice of law and views her profession as an extension of her calling to serve. Latasha firmly believes that “Service is the price we pay for the space we occupy” and is grateful for God’s continuing favor evidenced in her life. “By this I know that you favor me, because you have not let my enemies triumph over me.” (Psalms 41:11)

Death, Faith, Growth/Maturity, Inspirational, Patience, Submission/Surrendering, Trusting God

The Most Heartbreaking Time of Year…

…Or is it?

It’s that time of year again…at least it is for the Midwest!  Leaves are changing colors, time to switch out tank tops for sweaters…YES! The season is changing!  When you think about it, it is an incredibly profound time of year; the whole climate zone goes through an extreme makeover.  For me, autumn has always been the most beautiful time of year and I have newly discovered it is also the most heartbreaking.  Recently, I became very interested in what exactly happens when seasons change.  I always HATED science in school, which is why I’m now a history teacher. (Funny, but true!)  However, I knew there was a reason God placed this on my heart so I decided to research my favorite time of year.

Autumn is the transition period from summer to winter.  Summer represents life, abundance, warmth, and happiness while winter represents death, lack (no growth), cold, and sadness.   One would think winter would be the most heartbreaking but once something is gone, it’s gone.  David said it best “…but now that [it] is dead why should I [mourn]?  Can I bring [it] back again?” (2 Samuel 12:23a NIV) So then what does autumn represent??? The PROCESS to death!   

When the full extent of what happens in autumn hit me, at first I was incredibly sad.  “This beautiful landscape is dying!  Why can’t this just stay?  God! Why did you set things up this way?  Why does this have to die?”  At once God led me to scripture, “…I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds…” (John 12:24 NIV)  It made so much sense to me. God set things up this way so that re-birth, rejuvenation, and progress can take place!  If there is no winter, there can be no spring!  If nothing ever dies, then nature cannot birth something new, rejuvenate, or replenish itself.  Ok God, I get it!! Great!!  But God would not let me leave the subject alone as if He were saying, “Nope!  You ain’t got it yet!”

I started to examine my own life and the “season” change going on within it.  I realized I had been asking God the same kinds of questions regarding my own situation.  “I love how my life is right now! I love who is in my life right now!  Why can’t I stay with him/them?  God! Why did you set things up this way?  Why do these relationships and friendships have to die?”  God led me further down John 12, “…The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life…” (v. 25 NIV)  I knew then what nature seemingly has known all along– one must submit to the will of God in order to get everything God has for them.  That means WHATEVER God wants to kill/sever/remove from my life, I must accept it. I cannot love my life so much that I don’t submit to God’s will! Yes, I will be the FIRST to admit that this is not an easy task especially when you really love or are attached to the thing God wants you to let go. However, we MUST trust God!

Autumn is still my favorite time of year but now for a much more profound reason.  Even though nature is in the process of passing away, there is an extremely graceful and peaceful quality in nature’s behavior.  Summer calmly goes away allowing winter to come in.  I wondered how demise could be so graceful as I walked through the park the other day, and this scripture came to mind, “…he who dwells in the shelter of the most high will REST in the shadow of the almighty.  I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1 NIV) Nature can rest in the will of God because it knows God has everything under control; God will restore everything that was lost plus more.  I hear you God: I submit to my season change! 🙂

Dear Daddy,

Thank You for being an all-wise God that knows everything about us and knows what’s best for us.  Thank You for the awesome destiny we have in You and we are so grateful that You continue to come after us to move us toward that destiny.  We ask that You continue to help us submit to You in every area of our lives.  Please give us wisdom to accept and NOT fight the season changes of our lives.  Lord, we believe but please help us in the times that we struggle to believe that You HAVE US and that You know what’s best.  Help us to know who/what You want to remove from our lives and then give us strength to do what You want us to do.  Also, please help us to not become stagnant and enusre that we are ALWAYS moving toward the amazing destiny we have in You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Today, I EMPOWER you to SUBMIT to your season change! Follow these two steps to aid you in the process:

1) Let it DIE!  Whatever God wants to kill in your life whether it is a bad habit, unfruitful relationship/friendship, and/or unhealthy personality trait…LET IT DIE!  God wants to give you something so much better than what you think you can’t live without!

2) REST in God!  Yes, change is painful. Letting go of something/someone that you really want is no easy task but take comfort in knowing: “…that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…”  (Philippians 1:6 NIV) God knows EXACTLY what He is doing!

Check out these related EmpowerMoments: Seasons Change and Life After Death

Ms. Katrina Richard is an up and coming professional residing in Chicago, Illinois.  She strives to incorporate knowledge and life-skills to teenagers in her profession as a high school history teacher.  Katrina is very active in her church community where she serves in the prayer ministry as well as in the nursery.  She has a passion for serving in the lesser known areas of ministry because she believes every facet of ministry is important to kingdom building and spiritual development of the believers. Her favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Death, Family, Grandparents, Grief, Inspirational, Spiritual Therapy

No Grandmothers on Grandparents’ Day

“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 trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)

I checked my e-mail the other day only to find several reminders for upcoming holidays with an option to send greeting cards to celebrate.  Labor Day was the first notification to be deleted followed by Patriot Day.  The last notice was for Grandparents’ Day.  I instantly remembered when I set the reminder way back in 2006 so that I would be sure to contact my grandmothers.  I clicked on the subject line only to find that this year the holiday fell on my 26th birthday- September 11th!  Normally, I would probably be ecstatic but instead my heart grew heavy because both of my grandmothers passed away a few years ago.

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NIV)

I had been to a multitude of funerals in my life but I had never experienced the loss of someone that I LOVED dearly until one week after I graduated from college.  As I drove home for the Christmas break I never thought that I would be celebrating Jesus’ birth the same week I buried my maternal grandmother.  She had been sick for quite sometime, being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis ten years prior.  She battled with the disabling disease until lung cancer took her final breath in 2007. 

Even though my paternal grandmother was in great health before she passed, I tried to spend as much time with her because I had witnessed God take someone special away before I was ready to let them go.  However, no one could have guessed that a small fall in the kitchen would cause her to miss her annual trip down south that she was in the midst of packing for.  We definitely did not think that the Lord would be ready to call her home at the first sign of a blood clot as a result of her stumble. But in May of 2008, God took her away without letting anyone say goodbye first.

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up.  You will increase my honor and comfort me again.” (Psalms 71:20-21 NIV)

Ladies, at that point I was hurt beyond belief.  God had taken away two people that I loved dearly without any notice.  I had watched my ailing Grandma cheat death on many occasions. We would pray hysterically until the enemy would release his grip but this time there was nothing we could do…God had His hand out waiting for her to grab a hold.  As for my Granny, I never saw it coming.  I felt like someone had stabbed me in my back because I was still recovering from my first loss only to loose again.  But who am I to question God’s work?  I did not understand then but what seemed like chaos to me was an opportunity for us to grow closer. 

As much as I hated to experience that pain, God was ready for them to spend eternity with Him.  He gave me twenty-two magnificent years with them and in that time I had created and stored life-long memories to help me when times got rough…and trust me, it does get rough!!!  Sometimes I reminisce and can’t stop smiling and others I can’t stop crying. Regardless of the emotion, when it’s over I feel God’s love surrounding me even more. 

Dear Daddy,

Please forgive me for those ill feelings I expressed when I lost my loved one.  Thank You for restoring me when the enemy tries to make me feel that I have lost apart of myself because they died.  Please continue to comfort me in my time of sorrow for I know that my strength comes from You.  Allow me to focus on the wonderful memories rather than the pain from their absence.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Today I EMPOWER you to allow God’s love to mend your broken hearts.  Your loved ones are absent from this world of sin but are spending eternity with a world class Master!  Be Blessed Ladies! 🙂 

This is dedicated to my two personal angels in the sky: Johnnie Elizabeth Horne and Margie Sampson — Happy Grandparents Day!

Ms. Latasha Sampson is an accomplished writer who is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Human Resources Management.  She resides in Nashville, Tennessee where she is a faithful member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church.  Her favorite scripture is “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn” Isaiah 54:17