The release of Fear No Evil is about a month away now. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7, where I describe how New Life took a huge step toward the healing we are now experiencing as a fellowship. The proceeds from my first book will help us open the Dream Centers here in Colorado Springs. You can pre-order the book or download it to your Kindle by clicking here.
ISAIAH 61:2-3 OFFERS a series of promises to those who had mourned in Zion—and to you and me when we grieve today. Speaking prophetically of Jesus Christ, it says that a major reason the Messiah would come in human flesh to planet Earth was to “comfort all who mourn.” He would “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,” verse three picks up, “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
I can’t pinpoint the exact date or time when the shift occurred, but somewhere along the way—during the eighteen months that it took to move from the lion exhibit to the giraffes—beauty really did spring up from ashes. Gladness really did take mourning’s place. And the despair I had come to believe would never depart somehow morphed into heartfelt praise. I woke up one day in June 2009 and realized I was available for God’s use once more.
Let me explain what I mean.
Scores of people I know have suffered great loss in life and are emotionally shut down as a result. They never learned to properly mourn and grieve, and so the pain gets stuffed further down. The day finally dawns when they can’t engage in any aspect of life, because their enthusiasm and passion are gone. They can’t engage with their spouse. They can’t engage with their kids. They can’t engage with their role at work. They can’t engage with the vision for their local church. The emotional toll they’ve been carrying prohibits them from engaging in any aspect of life. And as a result, they are unavailable to God and others to be salt and light in the world.
I saw this play out firsthand at New Life. A couple that has faithfully served our body for many years approached me one weekend and said, “Brady, we love what God is doing among this church and how you are leading us into a brighter future, but for some reason, we just stay stuck. We haven’t been able to get involved like we used to be involved. We haven’t been able to worship like we used to worship. We aren’t serving like we used to serve.”
Without intending to, this couple had allowed themselves to become unavailable to God. They had neglected to adequately mourn the losses they had suffered, and spiritually and physically they couldn’t find their way back to full engagement.
As you and I learn to grieve properly—and fully—we see God show up with comfort for our weary souls. The two move back and forth in waves: we grieve, God comforts, we grieve, God comforts even more. He exchanges our ashes for beauty and gives gladness where mourning once was. Our growth, a “planting of the Lord” as the prophet Isaiah puts it, displays God’s splendor.32 “This is why I equip you to eventually move on from pain,” God essentially says, “so that my glory can be gathered through you.”
Months after the shooting, we as a church broke ground, laid soil, and planted two tall, beautiful blue spruce trees of remembrance on the parking spot where Stephanie and Rachel Works had been shot. And on that crisp weekday morning, that promise was on our minds. What Satan meant for death would bring forth undeniable life. Where a spirit of despair had once clouded our sight, pure praise would be on our lips. Collectively we declared that we were ready to move forward, to pursue whatever kingdom dreams God had on his mind. Our time with the lions was over; a new exhibit was calling our name.
March 18, 2011 at 8:08 am
I found this to be so true, Pastor, in our circumstance! It is different from yours, but still the same outcome. When Ed & I left NLC to come back home, we mourned leaving NLC so much that one Sunday Pastor Eric (at my new church) Camp asked us to call out where we were Spiritually on a scale from 1 – 10. I was at 9.8 at NLC, but thought about it here and realized where I was now and shouted out ‘4’. Then, he told us to look at a neighbor and tell them WHY we were where we were. My response was b/c I had allowed myself to hit a roadblock in my Woship, in my prayer time, in my Spiritual Walk b/c of grieving over what I HAD at NLC to what is available down here! Have to say, I am past the roadblock now. I am doing a Bible Study on my own (b/c the churc down here doesn’t do any) A lady from NLC helps me if I have questions. But, I am moving past my “grief” and back up the scale (Spiritually, speaking)
March 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm
Yes, I have pain still from when old memories pop up. But learning how to deal with those emotions is key and had I never been taught how to move on I’d be stuck there. Those old memories may never completely leave us, but we now know how to overcome and quickly move ahead. Once again we have solid ground to stand on and a new and fresh outlook.