Death, Suffering

On Funerals, Grieving, and Suffering

 

I’m at a funeral today. Earlier this week we received the sad news that a young, dear member of our church family passed away unexpectedly. If you have a moment, your prayers for his parents and family would be most appreciated.

If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll recall me saying that blogging is something I do in my spare time. After serving my husband and children. After serving my church family. This week, there’s just no time to spare to write an original article for today. My husband needs shirts ironed for the services. There’s food to cook and helping to do. And, honestly, that’s where my heart and mind are – not on writing, but with my family and church family.

Sadly, at one time or another, death will intrude like an unwelcome visitor on all of our lives. Living in a fallen world, we will lose someone dear to us and we’ll have the opportunity to comfort and serve others who are grieving the death of a loved one.

I’ve written several articles along those lines, and I thought it might be helpful to gather them all into one place for handy reference. Whether you are suffering or you are ministering to the bereaved, I hope you’ll find these to be beneficial resources.

 

 

Ministering to the Bereaved

Churchmanship 101: Funerals

Weeping with Those Who Weep

Band-Aids vs. Chemotherapy: Why Suffering Women are
Drawn to False Doctrine and 7 Things We Can do to Help

 

 

Suffering

Christ- the Suffering Servant

Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering

In the Mean Time

True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical?

God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Churchmanship 101: Funerals

Originally published January 9, 2015

I was born into a church-going family. I grew up in church and have attended faithfully my whole life. These days, that’s becoming more and more rare. Often, people have a very hit and miss relationship with church, and if you haven’t had much experience attending services and other events, it can be easy to miss out on some of the decorum and how-to’s that are a given to those of us raised in church. You don’t want to “do it wrong”, but, then you don’t want someone telling you you’re doing it wrong, either. So, I thought maybe I (and I need some help from you other “lifers” out there, too!) could serve as a resource.

Thus, a new series I’m introducing today: Churchmanship 101. We’re going to take a look at various activities and events of the church and go over some of the biblical basics and/or practical aspects of churchy stuff. (One quick disclaimer: I’m writing as a lifelong Southern Baptist who has spent most of my church life in small to medium-sized, traditional {think steeple and pews, with no laser light show or rock band} churches. That’s what I know, so that’s the perspective from which I have to write. Your experiences might be a little different.) Please ask questions, suggest topics, and share your stories!

funerals

Churchmanship 101: Funerals

As a ministry wife and church musician, I’ve been to a lot of funerals. I mean, A LOT. I’ve seen some awesome ones and I’ve seen things that would make you wonder what planet some of the attendees/bereaved were from. How about a few helpful hints about funerals and wakes for the bereaved, the attendees, and the churches who host them?

The Way You Look Tonight

Yep, I’m going there. In a civilized society we dress appropriately for the occasion. Not necessarily expensively, but appropriately. Generally speaking, the following are inappropriate for funerals:

  • visible cleavage
  • fishnet stockings
  • mid-thigh (or shorter) skirts/dresses
  • stilletto heels
  • excessive bling, makeup, or hair
  • jeans
  • shorts
  • flip flops
  • camouflage
  • baseball caps
  • leather pants
  • overalls

(There could be some exceptions, such as if a baseball player dies and people wear baseball hats to honor him, or something like that.)

If you look in a mirror and you look like you did when you used to go clubbing, or to a picnic, or to mow the lawn, you need to change. A) You’re going to church, and B) somebody just DIED. Show some respect.

Ladies, whatever the rest of your wardrobe looks like, you need one decent, modest dress, suit, or skirt/blouse combo in a muted color that could be worn to a wedding, funeral, or job interview. Men, you need one decent suit and tie or slacks/dress shirt/sport jacket/tie for the same reasons. No, jeans are not slacks. No, a denim or athletic jacket is not a suit/sport jacket. If you don’t want to put out a lot of money because you don’t often dress that way, go to a thrift store. Many times, you can find brand new clothes (tags still on) for a song. Or, if you’re really hard pressed, borrow an appropriate outfit from a friend.

Suffer the Little Children

Wakes and funerals are mind numbingly boring for small children who don’t know what’s going on. If you have small children and you’re a funeral/wake attendee or you’re family of the deceased, consider getting a babysitter. In fact, it would be a wonderful gesture on the church’s part to have someone volunteer to take the children of the deceased’s family members to the nursery (or other kid friendly room) and let them run around and play, feed them, etc.

However, if you feel you have to have your child at a funeral/wake (whether you’re a family member or simply an attendee), you MUST supervise and control your child. If he makes a fuss during the service, take him out to the lobby until he calms down. And by all means, do not let him run wild in the church or let him play on the sanctuary stage (there may be expensive sound equipment, office equipment, etc., he could ruin) during the wake. First of all, there will be many strangers coming and going, and these days you can’t be too careful about abductions and abuse, even in a church. Second, your child could hurt himself or run out into the parking lot or street. No need for an additional tragedy. Furthermore, it is awkward for the pastor or someone else to come to a grieving family and ask them to please control their child because he is disturbing or upsetting others or destroying something.

Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room

If you haven’t been able to kick the habit yet and you need a cigarette, go outside. Most churches are smoke free zones. Stand far enough away from the entrance that people don’t have to walk through clouds of smoke to get into the building and that smoke doesn’t waft into the building.

A Picture of Me Without You

Selfies with the deceased are déclassé. If you have to do it, at least wait until no one else is around, and keep it off social media.

Watch Your Mouth

Swearing (even what you might consider mild swearing, like WTH or OMG) is not appropriate in a church. Ever.

Neither is chewing tobacco.

Hangin’ on the Telephone

Turn off or silence your phone.

While there may be lulls during a wake when it’s ok to check your phone/texts/social media, that’s never OK during the actual service except in emergency situations.

Food, Glorious Food

Bring food for the family for after the funeral if you can. If you’re not sure what to bring, you’re probably safe with a cake or a deli (meat/cheese or fruit/veggie) tray. If you’re an attendee, understand that the food that has been brought is for the family even if it’s all laid out in the fellowship hall and looks like a potluck. This is not an open buffet unless you have been specifically invited or a general announcement has been made that all are welcome to eat.

Don’t Make a Scene, Irene

For various reasons, sometimes people laugh or smile at a wake or funeral. That doesn’t mean they didn’t love the deceased or that they don’t miss him/her. (But it isn’t a comedy club either, so try to contain yourself if you’re amused by something.)

Go to the bathroom before the service starts so you won’t have to be embarrassed by getting up and walking out in the middle of it.

Wakes/funerals are not a time or place for family feuds or for airing grievances about the deceased. Keep it to yourself.

During funerals, there’s often an open call for people to “stand up and say a few words” about the dearly departed. The key word in this phrase is “few.” Share a brief and appropriate fond memory or something you appreciate about the deceased. Again, swearing and airing of grievances are not appropriate, and neither is vulgarity, personal, private details, or a long harangue aimed at the bereaved or attendees.

Different cultures express grief differently. It may be totally appropriate for there to be a roomful of loud weeping and wailing at certain funerals. However, if you’re the only attendee doing this, others may not be able to hear the service. Be aware of your surroundings.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore

If you’d like to make a memorial donation to a charity or other organization in honor of the deceased, be certain (especially if you’re considering one that hasn’t been suggested by the family) it’s an organization the deceased would have supported. For example, I would love it if, when I die, people would donate Gideon Bibles instead of sending flowers, but I would turn over in my grave if someone made a donation in my name to Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, etc.

Welcome to My World (A word to churches and pastors conducting funerals)

Churches should be funeral friendly. Make sure your signage is up to date so non-church members will know where the sanctuary, bathrooms, fellowship hall, etc., are. Make sure the bathrooms are clean and well stocked with paper towels, soap, toilet paper, etc. And while we’re on the subject of bathrooms, correct any plumbing problems or at least put up signs indicating that a toilet is out of order, you have to hold the handle down, etc. Church members may know, but visitors don’t. Provide plenty of well placed kleenex boxes in the sanctuary and other rooms family members might use. Provide a “family room,” if possible. Sometimes family members just need a moment alone.

Pastors: breath mints and deodorant. Enough said.

Pastors in the South in the heat of summer- a simple, elegant, and BRIEF service at the grave site is always nice. (Likewise for pastors in the North during the dead of winter.)

Well, those are just some of the observations I’ve made at funerals over the years. Any other advice, suggestions, or questions out there? Are things done differently in your neck of the woods? What has been your most interesting funeral experience?

Faith, Hell, Salvation, Sin, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Are you a Bin Laden?

Originally published March 2, 2011bin laden

Osama Bin Laden is dead.  Across the globe, people are celebrating.  There’s a general sentiment, even among non-Christians, that he is in hell, because that’s what he deserves.

I’m guessing that, some of those people, if you had shared the Gospel with them two days ago, would have said they didn’t believe in hell.  Or that a loving God wouldn’t send people to hell.  Or that God just forgives everybody when they die, and everybody goes to heaven.

If you hold any of those beliefs, the law of non-contradiction requires that they be applied across the board to everybody.  In other words, you can’t say you don’t believe in hell and at the same time believe that Bin Laden is in hell.  If it doesn’t exist, he can’t be there.

So I’d like to pose two questions to people who hold the aforementioned beliefs:

1. If God decided not to send Bin Laden to hell, but rather allowed him into heaven, has justice been done?

2. Do you think it’s fair that you will have to spend your own eternity in heaven with Bin Laden?  And Hitler, and Nero, and Mussolini, and Caligula, and Jack the Ripper?

As broken and messed up as we are, even we humans demand that there be justice –punishment– for people who have committed such heinous crimes.  If God doesn’t punish these awful people, what does that make Him?  How could He be perfect in every way and let such people off scot free?

I can tell you how.  Because I used to be Bin Laden.  And Hitler, and all of those other people rolled into one.  Me.  A good little Sunday School girl.  Guilty.  James 2:10 tells us:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

In God’s eyes, when I broke curfew to stay at Bible study just a little bit longer, I was as guilty as a serial murderer.  When I said, “Oh my G-d!” I was on par with a child molester.  When I refused to forgive someone, I might as well have flown one of those planes into the Twin Towers myself.  And I deserved the same punishment as all of those horrible people.  Hell.

God is perfect.  He’s perfectly holy and perfectly just.  And that’s why He can’t let any sin slide, no matter how small.  But He’s also perfectly loving and compassionate.  He knew none of us would measure up to his standard for us –perfection, no sin whatsoever– so He made a way for us to escape punishment, yet still serve justice: Jesus.

God Himself came here and lived out His perfection as a human being.  And when it was time, on the cross, He took the punishment for our crimes against God.  He got our sin and our punishment, and because of His death and resurrection, we can get His sinless perfection.

We can get it, but it’s not an automatic thing that just happens to everybody when they die.  As I said in a previous post, you can’t have it both ways.  If you decide to get married, you give up the single life.  If you decide to become a star athlete, you give up being a couch potato.  And when God enables you to turn from your sin to faith in Christ, He empowers you to give up a life of embracing sin, and, instead, embrace Christ and the new life He has for you.  Here.  Now.

Is Bin Laden in hell?  I can tell you with certainty that if he did not, in the last moments of his life, sorrowfully turn from his sin and bow his knee to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, yes, he is indeed in hell.

And there, but for the grace of God, go I.  And you.

Church

Churchmanship 101: Funerals

I was born into a church-going family. I grew up in church and have attended faithfully my whole life. These days, that’s becoming more and more rare. Often, people have a very hit and miss relationship with church, and if you haven’t had much experience attending services and other events, it can be easy to miss out on some of the decorum and how-to’s that are a given to those of us raised in church. You don’t want to “do it wrong”, but, then you don’t want someone telling you you’re doing it wrong, either. So, I thought maybe I (and I need some help from you other “lifers” out there, too!) could serve as a resource.

Thus, a new series I’m introducing today: Churchmanship 101. We’re going to take a look at various activities and events of the church and go over some of the biblical basics and/or practical aspects of churchy stuff. (One quick disclaimer: I’m writing as a lifelong Southern Baptist who has spent most of my church life in small to medium-sized, traditional {think steeple and pews, with no laser light show or rock band} churches. That’s what I know, so that’s the perspective from which I have to write. Your experiences might be a little different.) Please ask questions, suggest topics, and share your stories!

funerals

 Churchmanship 101: Funerals

As a ministry wife and church musician, I’ve been to a lot of funerals. I mean, A LOT. I’ve seen some awesome ones and I’ve seen things that would make you wonder what planet some of the attendees/bereaved were from. How about a few helpful hints about funerals and wakes for the bereaved, the attendees, and the churches who host them?

The Way You Look Tonight

Yep, I’m going there. In a civilized society we dress appropriately for the occasion. Not necessarily expensively, but appropriately. Generally speaking, the following are inappropriate for funerals:

  • visible cleavage
  • fishnet stockings
  • mid-thigh (or shorter) skirts/dresses
  • stilletto heels
  • excessive bling, makeup, or hair
  • jeans
  • shorts
  • flip flops
  • camouflage
  • baseball caps
  • leather pants
  • overalls

(There could be some exceptions, such as if a baseball player dies and people wear baseball hats to honor him, or something like that.)

If you look in a mirror and you look like you did when you used to go clubbing, or to a picnic, or to mow the lawn, you need to change. A) You’re going to church, and B) somebody just DIED. Show some respect.

Ladies, whatever the rest of your wardrobe looks like, you need one decent, modest dress, suit, or skirt/blouse combo in a muted color that could be worn to a wedding, funeral, or job interview. Men, you need one decent suit and tie or slacks/dress shirt/sport jacket/tie for the same reasons. No, jeans are not slacks. No, a denim or athletic jacket is not a suit/sport jacket. If you don’t want to put out a lot of money because you don’t often dress that way, go to a thrift store. Many times, you can find brand new clothes (tags still on) for a song. Or, if you’re really hard pressed, borrow an appropriate outfit from a friend.

Suffer the Little Children

Wakes and funerals are mind numbingly boring for small children who don’t know what’s going on. If you have small children and you’re a funeral/wake attendee or you’re family of the deceased, consider getting a babysitter. In fact, it would be a wonderful gesture on the church’s part to have someone volunteer to take the children of the deceased’s family members to the nursery (or other kid friendly room) and let them run around and play, feed them, etc.

However, if you feel you have to have your child at a funeral/wake (whether you’re a family member or simply an attendee), you MUST supervise and control your child. If he makes a fuss during the service, take him out to the lobby until he calms down. And by all means, do not let him run wild in the church or let him play on the sanctuary stage (there may be expensive sound equipment, office equipment, etc., he could ruin) during the wake. First of all, there will be many strangers coming and going, and these days you can’t be too careful about abductions and abuse, even in a church. Second, your child could hurt himself or run out into the parking lot or street. No need for an additional tragedy. Furthermore, it is awkward for the pastor or someone else to come to a grieving family and ask them to please control their child because he is disturbing or upsetting others or destroying something.

Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room

If you haven’t been able to kick the habit yet and you need a cigarette, go outside. Most churches are smoke free zones. Stand far enough away from the entrance that people don’t have to walk through clouds of smoke to get into the building and that smoke doesn’t waft into the building.

A Picture of Me Without You

Selfies with the deceased are declasse. If you have to do it, at least wait until no one else is around, and keep it off social media.

Watch Your Mouth

Swearing (even what you might consider mild swearing, like WTH or OMG) is not appropriate in a church. Ever.

Neither is chewing tobacco.

Hangin’ on the Telephone

Turn off or silence your phone.

While there may be lulls during a wake when it’s ok to check your phone/texts/social media, that’s never OK during the actual service except in emergency situations.

Food, Glorious Food

Bring food for the family for after the funeral if you can. If you’re not sure what to bring, you’re probably safe with a cake or a deli (meat/cheese or fruit/veggie) tray. If you’re an attendee, understand that the food that has been brought is for the family even if it’s all laid out in the fellowship hall and looks like a potluck. This is not an open buffet unless you have been specifically invited or a general announcement has been made that all are welcome to eat.

Don’t Make a Scene, Irene

For various reasons, sometimes people laugh or smile at a wake or funeral. That doesn’t mean they didn’t love the deceased or that they don’t miss him/her. (But it isn’t a comedy club either, so try to contain yourself if you’re amused by something.)

Go to the bathroom before the service starts so you won’t have to be embarrassed by getting up and walking out in the middle of it.

Wakes/funerals are not a time or place for family feuds or for airing grievances about the deceased. Keep it to yourself.

During funerals, there’s often an open call for people to “stand up and say a few words” about the dearly departed. The key word in this phrase is “few.” Share a brief and appropriate fond memory or something you appreciate about the deceased. Again, swearing and airing of grievances are not appropriate, and neither is vulgarity, personal, private details, or a long harangue aimed at the bereaved or attendees.

Different cultures express grief differently. It may be totally appropriate for there to be a roomful of loud weeping and wailing at certain funerals. However, if you’re the only attendee doing this, others may not be able to hear the service. Be aware of your surroundings.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore

If you’d like to make a memorial donation to a charity or other organization in honor of the deceased, be certain (especially if you’re considering one that hasn’t been suggested by the family) it’s an organization the deceased would have supported. For example, I would love it if, when I die, people would donate Gideon Bibles instead of sending flowers, but I would turn over in my grave if someone made a donation in my name to Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, etc.

Welcome to My World (A word to churches and pastors conducting funerals)

Churches should be funeral friendly. Make sure your signage is up to date so non-church members will know where the sanctuary, bathrooms, fellowship hall, etc., are. Make sure the bathrooms are clean and well stocked with paper towels, soap, toilet paper, etc. And while we’re on the subject of bathrooms, correct any plumbing problems or at least put up signs indicating that a toilet is out of order, you have to hold the handle down, etc. Church members may know, but visitors don’t. Provide plenty of well placed kleenex boxes in the sanctuary and other rooms family members might use. Provide a “family room,” if possible. Sometimes family members just need a moment alone.

Pastors: breath mints and deodorant. Enough said.

Pastors in the South in the heat of summer- a simple, elegant, and BRIEF service at the grave site is always nice. (Likewise for pastors in the North during the dead of winter.)

Well, those are just some of the observations I’ve made at funerals over the years. Any other advice, suggestions, or questions out there? Are things done differently in your neck of the woods? What has been your most interesting funeral experience?

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ 1 Thessalonians 4

In the Mean Time

1 Thessalonians 4

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.