Saturday, October 8, 2011
A season of loss
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”-Matt. 5:4
Wow! The other day, I was reflecting back on where I was a year ago and so much has changed. What a year! Life is like that for me (and for all of us). Life brings many surprises our way and our best-laid plans are usually interrupted by God’s better plans. Sometimes the interruptions are wonderful additions to life: spouses, kids, jobs, grandkids, or victories. But sometimes those changes are loss: the death of a loved one, the closing of a business, or difficulty in a relationship. We need to teach our kids how to walk through all the seasons of life. We need to teach those we love how to grieve and deal with loss.
I’ve had two very difficult periods in my life. One was in 1988 when I got a call from my brother that our father had “expired.” I’ll never forget that call. I think he used that cold, confusing word because it just seemed too real to say my dad had died. We thought he’d live forever, I guess. He had a sudden massive heart attack and just like that, he was dead. I was devastated. Someone I had leaned on all my life was gone. He was my mentor, advisor and hero. I didn't know how I’d make it. But during that time of loss, my heavenly Father became more my father than ever before. He was there for me.
The second most difficult time in my life was a little more than a year ago. Due to financial struggles, the Board of the ministry I’d served with for 28 years, decided to close the doors of the Branson campus and consolidate to the Kansas City campus. I had the option to continue with the ministry in Kansas City, but Jeanie and I did not feel led to move up there. So we stayed in Branson. The Lord opened up an amazing door at First Baptist Church and I’ve been so blessed to serve there ever since, but the loss still hurt. To add to the grieving, my mentor and boss, Richard Beach, passed away of cancer a few weeks after the ministry shut down. I still miss him a lot.
Again, I was devastated. In the few weeks we had to shut down the campus, I was little help to the grieving staff around me. I recently discussed this with one of the staff members who was disappointed in me for not encouraging the staff more during that time. I apologized to him because a better leader would have been there to guide the team through the closer. He was right, but thinking back, I had little to give. I was just trying to cope myself. He accepted my apology and I reflected back on that time. It still hurts, but during that time of loss, the Lord taught me how to bear my burden with Him. He reminded me that He is my strong tower that I can run to and be safe.
I’ll admit, I prefer the seasons when I got married, finished graduate school, got a job, and had kids. But the seasons of winter have been more important in my life. They have taught me that God is a phenomenal Comforter and knows the plans He has for me and they are plans for good. Change is an absolute necessity for Him to make us more than we are.
It’s a lesson to teach to our kids early. When the slumber party is called off or our kids don't make the A team in basketball, the hurt is real, but we learn the basics of faith: someone bigger than ourselves is at the helm. So we cry and grieve and doubt. We struggle with God and ask “why?” Then, we trust and have faith. All those emotions are okay. Let your kids experience them all. God loves the dialogue and the genuineness.
And let yourself experience them too.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©