Steve Sappington Communications March 2010
Dealing with Sorrow


"God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So, we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my Helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" Heb. 13:5b-6


Hi Everyone,

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This month let's compare what people say and think about current events to what the Bible says.  In many parts of the world, including a number of places in America, people have recently been overwhelmed with bad news.  Various media sources deluge us with accounts of earthquakes in Haiti, war in Afghanistan, gut-wrenching unemployment numbers and plummeting real estate values, among others.

I'm sure if I were able to visit with you face to face, you could also share with me heartaches of your own or of someone close to you.  My friend and mentor Michael Pink recently lost his wife.  Brenda Pink is now in heaven, so it's not that Michael doesn't know where she is.  But she's missing from his side.  Brenda passed away in January, after a tumor was discovered behind her eye only 3 months before her death.

I don't know about you, but the thought of losing my wife makes most of my other concerns seem totally insignificant.  Michael is a remarkably gifted communicator.  Over the last 4 months, he has shared the roller coaster of thoughts and feelings he experienced while watching his wife suffer and die.  I can't imagine how he did this, but I'm grateful that he did.  In addition to his writings, Michael also fulfilled a speaking commitment he had made before his wife became ill.  Here is a link to a 45 minute video of Michael speaking in late January about his experiences:  Click on the "play" button just above the picture of his book, on the right side of the screen.  On the left hand side of the screen, you can click on "Blog" and read his writings of the last few months.  If you're like me, Michael's heart cries will help you put your own challenges into perspective.

For thousands of years people have wondered about "bad things happening to good people," and I probably don't have anything original to add to that discussion, but as the years continue to roll by in my own life, I am beginning to see how the Apostle Paul could say in Philippians 4, "for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound:  everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

Over the years, I've had nice material "things," and I've had to eat "rice and beans" and then "beans and rice."  I don't know how non-believers get through these situations, but I am beginning to see how so many things that I once believed were so very important, are really insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Now don't get me wrong, "things" are nice, but as I look back on the most important values I have, and on the most important lessons I've learned, invariably they resulted from "tough times," not when everything was going smoothly.  So now I'm less surprised when I hear myself saying "Bring it on" or "What do you want me to learn from this, Lord?" whenever I encounter a new challenge.  I realize that the difficult circumstance has probably arisen because either I missed God or because Satan tries to kick back at my efforts to diminish his kingdom.

Jesus said this, "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets."

This is a hard verse for me to enact.  I like for people to like me.  I also make mistakes, so I'm not always hated because I did something good, but I do see more persecution of Christians today, even in America.  I've also noticed over the years that most of us often think that our sins or our problems are too big for God can handle.  We must remind ourselves and be quick to tell others that nothing we omit or commit is immune to the power of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.  The only thing God won't overcome is someone's choice to reject Him.

Last Sunday, my pastor spoke of having to spank his small children when they disobeyed him and stepped into the street without their parents.  Since God loves us more than we love our children, He sometimes has to allow pain to reach us, so that greater pain is avoided.  The pain God allows may not be His best for us, but I for one am thankful that He allows it in my life in order to prevent worse things from happening.  Please don't interpret this as my saying that God chooses to hurt us.  But in an imperfect world, I know from experience that He will go to great lengths in order for us to have every opportunity to choose Him and His ways. 

I encourage you this month to re-evaluate your choices and your experiences.  Have you come to a wrong conclusion about something?  Is something you thought was detrimental really a blessing in disguise?  Is something you thought to be valuable, really inconsequential in the long run?  Ask yourself and ask God how these experiences can refine and purify your character, and how what you've learned can be used to bless others.  As I say in the beginning of my book, "What if something you thought was true turned out NOT to be true?  When would you want to know that it was indeed not true?"  This question can be applied to many areas of your life, including physical, financial and spiritual.

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Until next month,