Peninsula Community Church
Grief: Lessons of Grief
February 17, 2019
Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.
As we have been doing for the last couple of weeks, I want to continue our study in grief. For this session we will focus on some of the lessons of grief that will help us in our journey toward a new normal. We will focus on how to begin to move forward in our grief so that we can begin a transition toward a place of a new normal. The question therefore is “How do we get to where we need to be in order to do what God has called us to do.”
In preparing this, my heart was moved by this passage and I felt it applied perfectly to our discussion. As we consider this we find that Habakkuk is dealing with an empty heart and one that is fruitless and barren. There is an emptiness that is measurable and deeply felt. It is noteworthy the Book of Habakkuk begins with a cry of desperation (Habakkuk 1:2-3). O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
While the book begin with such pain and agony, here in this passage we find that Habakkuk has an epiphany, a vision of truth. Therefore, we could say that our text was inspired by the Holy Spirt for one purpose. It was given to us to provide the opportunity to look beyond the pain and barrenness of loss to what really matters. And what matters is that God is with us and He is giving us strength and help in our time of need. Habakkuk is saying is that no matter what your circumstances are, look around and you will find God. No matter how empty you are, you will find God is there to fill your emptiness and the longing of your heart. No matter how barren you are, you will find that God will make you fruitful and vibrant again.
Did you catch it the wording of this passage? Habakkuk recognized that things were barren in his life, but that did not sway him from the truth. He is saying I might be barren, but I will worship God. I may be filled with deep grief, but I will praise the Lord. I will be grateful. I will have joy not in circumstances, but in the joy that is mine through Christ. I will not focus on my weakness, but on God’s strength to help me, because when I am weak He is strong. He is all powerful.
I found this as I was studying for this message. It is from a pastor named Geoff Thomas. He had this to say. In this passage Habakkuk makes an extraordinary affirmation… I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. In his tone there is a note of determination. Habakkuk is joyful. This joy is not based on a perfect harvest, or herds of sheep filling the fields, or the end of hostilities and peace with Babylon. It is not dependent on a change of circumstances. There is still a famine all around; there are still armed marauders stealing one’s possessions; the cupboard is still bare; the possibility of slavery in Babylonian exile still hangs over this family, and yet the people are not despondent. They are rejoicing. How can you explain this? It is simply that their joy was in the Lord their God and their Savior. How powerful is that truth?
Corrie ten Boom knew something about tragedy and suffering. She lived with a courageous faith. Upon emerging from a Nazi concentration camp she said, “There is no pit so deep that God isn’t deeper still.” She picked an apt analogy because pain, tragedy, and grief can be a dark pit. For some, it may seem like a bottomless pit or as David suggested, it is a miry bog or a slimy pit (Psalm 40:2). Many experience a falling, a disorientation, a terror, as they grab for walls that are out of reach. They see only blackness, and hear only echoes of the life they used to know. For many, they claim that God is not present. But Corrie ten Boom, like Habakkuk, reminds us that even in the pits of tragedy, God is still there. He is present.
With that said let me give you a couple of ways this is worked out in our lives. First, we must consider that we cannot let our grief define us. Because of grief’s pain and the attention we get from our grief, there are times where can we begin to be defined by our grief. But, it was never God’s purpose for us to be defined by grief or pain. We must also understand that this does not just apply to grief, but to every problem we face whether good or bad. While our past experiences might shape us, these experiences cannot define us.
You see, some people can begin to rely on their grief and it can become a crutch to excuse their failures. They can become so stuck in their grief that grief begins to define them and rule their life. I would, and you fill in the blank, but I am grieving. I would serve more, but I am grieving. I would develop more relationships, but I am grieving. I would go back to church, but I am grieving. I would get up and make my bed, but I am grieving. This is not an argument against grieving or how long we should grieve, but rather that we must be careful and not allow grief to dictate our future. We are never defined by our past. Loss does not define us. Death does not define us. Divorce does not define us. Broken hearts do not define us. We are defined by God to be more than our experiences and our pain. We are His children and we are called by His name.
In preparing for this message I realized something amazing. The goal in the journey of grief is to reach a new normal. This week my attention was drawn to the story of Ruth and Naomi. Because of her grief and pain Naomi wanted to change her name from Naomi to Mara which meant the “Almighty has dealt bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:19-21). She had been through so much. Her family faced a famine. She lost her husband and her two sons. She was in a foreign land. Her one daughter-in-law abandoned her in her weakest moment. She was grieving and was filled with loss. She wanted to change her name so that she would be identified by her experiences but God never allowed that to happen.
If you look in the Book of Ruth you will find that no where is she referred to as Mara, she is only known as Naomi. Her name did not change because God would not allow her to be defined by her past. Instead, He wanted her to focus on what was in store for her and what He was going to do in her and through her. God wanted to use her. He had a plan for her. She was to return home to her country so that Ruth her daughter-in-law could meet Boaz. And why was that? It was because Ruth was to be the grandmother of David who served as a direct descendent of Christ. The craze today is to have one’s DNA done so we know where we come from. If Jesus did that, he would find He was related to Ruth. That would not have happened if Naomi wallowed in her pity and did no allow God to bring her to a new place in her journey.
It is for that reason that we must not get bogged down in grief so that we never move forward to a new normal. To get bogged down means we can never move to the place God has for us. I think of Joesph who could have wallowed in His pity and shame. In some people’s eyes, he would have been justified because of the experiences in his life. Job could have been swallowed up by his grief, but he refused to get bogged down by the pain and sorrow of his grief. If he had, perhaps he would not have been open to the blessing that came from God at the end of his life. I think of the apostle Paul who could have been bogged down by the grief of prison, ministry rejection, and the failure of people around him; but he continued to be focused on the God who would direct his steps and keep him focused on what God had planned for him.
In the final analysis, God secures us and gives us the power to move forward. Look at our passage today. We do not have to be bogged down because we have been given Hind’s feet. Hind’s feet or deer’s feet is a picture of agility, quickness, and sure-footedness. A hind deer is a female deer that can place her back feet exactly where her front feet stepped. Not one inch off! She is able to run with abandonment! In times of danger, she is able to run securely and not get “off track.” The hind deer is able to scale unusually difficult terrain and elude predators. It is the most sure-footed, focused and agile mountain creature, and it is the only animal that can scale mountains such as these. Look at this slide of hind deer.
When we feel barren, lost, and destitute God comes long and gives us the feet, the stability, we need to navigate whatever is thrown at us. David echoed this sentiment in Psalm 18:31-33 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. Yes, we will face grief and we will face sorrow but God will steady us and provide security as we press ahead into the future. So do not let grief define you and do not get bogged down in grief to the degree that you cannot move to the new normal that God has for you. This does not mean that we forget or that we do not ever grieve again. It means that we focus on what God has for us and where He is leading us.
Here is the deal as we close. We do not deserve it but His grace finds us and strengthens us so that we are given the power we need to overcome every situation. His grace is so amazing and powerful. That is why and how He gives us the stability we need. His grace finds us.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom