Monthly Archives: November 2013

11.24.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Elijah (Opposition and Despair)

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

1 Kings 17:1-16, 18:1-2, 7-8, 16-19

When Ahab became king of Israel, he married Jezebel, a Baal-worshipping queen from Sidon (cf. 1 Kings 16:29-34). Their reign brought Israel economic riches, but spiritual poverty as they actively suppressed the worship of Israel’s God (cf. 1 Kings 18:4). The prophet Elijah boldly challenged the idolatrous king, saying God would send an extended drought. In the difficult drought conditions, God miraculously provided for his faithful prophet.

 

TUESDAY

1 Kings 18:20-46

Elijah confronted King Ahab, and called Israel to account for worshipping the false god Baal. He set up a showdown with the prophets of Baal where the true God could prove himself. Elijah made sure that, if anything, his God faced handicaps (like a water-soaked altar and sacrifice). Both sets of prophets called, but only one god answered. The God of Israel was the true, living God, and Baal was not. The drought broke—Elijah’s victory seemed complete.

 

WEDNESDAY

1 Kings 19:1-14

God gave Elijah a great public victory. But Queen Jezebel was still in power. Angry about Baal’s defeat, she threatened to kill Elijah. Her defiance of him and God was too much for the “successful” prophet, the bold man of action. Tired, depressed and afraid, he ran. God cared gently for Elijah’s physical and mental fatigue. Then God spoke again to Elijah in his wilderness—perhaps in the way Elijah least expected.

 

THURSDAY

1 Kings 19:15-21

Happy Thanksgiving Day! Elijah’s depressed feelings (like most of ours) did not give him an accurate picture. God said Elijah’s complaint that “I’m the only one left” (1 Kings 19:10) was not true—there were thousands of other faithful Israelites (verse 18). And God had much for Elijah to be thankful for—a renewed mission, and Elisha, a faithful helper and designated successor.

 

FRIDAY

2 Kings 2:1-15

The Bible only told of God taking one other person directly from earth without having to go through death. (That’s how most Bible students see the enigmatic story of Enoch in Genesis 5:24.) God honored Elijah’s long, faithful service by making his passage from this life unique and amazing. Elisha watched, cried “Oh, my father, my father!,” tore his clothes (a sign of mourning), and then picked up Elijah’s coat and his prophetic mission to Israel.

 

SATURDAY

Malachi 4:4-6, Matthew 17:1-13

Elijah’s name lived on, a symbol of devotion to God before and after his wilderness experience. The final verses of Malachi’s prophecy pointed to another prophet who would come with a spirit like Elijah’s. Jesus said John the Baptist, his forerunner, fulfilled that prophecy. And Elijah himself joined Moses to support Jesus at a pivotal point in his saving mission.

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Gracious God, guide us through the wildernesses of our lives and give us confidence that we have done what you sent us here to do. Thank you for giving us a sense of purpose in our lives and thank you for your compassion we feel when we are wandering and feeling alone. Keep us on the path you intend for us and mold us into the people you would have us be. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do you struggle to think of all the things you should be thankful for, or does the list seem endless? Are you concerned about taking for granted some blessings that you should be more keenly aware of?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

• Read 1 Kings 17:1-16, 18:1-2, 7-8, 16-19. Which of the people of these stories exhibited trust? What people in your life have been trustworthy about important things to you? Has your trust in them made it easier to trust in God? What might we learn from this? Elijah dared to speak up to a hateful, tyrannical king. Have you ever had to speak up to a person in power? What were the overt results and how did you feel afterward?

• Read 1 Kings 18:20-46. The Israelites were wavering in their beliefs. Is this still common today? Do some people “sit on the fence” when it comes to matters of faith? Do you ever waver? How do your choices about faith affect the way you live your life? Most of the Israelites were worshipping the idol Baal. What are some of the false gods of today? Is the act of our following these false gods a conscious or unconscious act? How can we become aware of and avoid these kinds of spiritual mistakes?

• Read 1 Kings 19:1-14. How would you characterize this period in Elijah’s life? Have you ever experienced a similar downturn in your spiritual life? What did you do about it? Did God help you through it? Have you ever shared stories of your struggles of faith with others? Did your stories seem to have any effect on them? Did God come to Elijah in a way that Elijah might have expected? Has God ever come to you in unexpected ways? Can you relate to God coming in a gentle whisper or as a “still small voice”? Elijah travelled to a sacred place. Do you find yourself drawn to such places in times of trouble? Do these places offer comfort to you?

• Read 1 Kings 19:15-21. Elijah felt alone so God showed him that he was far from alone. God sent him a helper in Elisha and named kings to help overcome Jezebel. Have you ever felt weakened and alone with all the responsibility on your shoulders? Did you discover others who were available to help? How did this discovery make you feel?

• Read 2 Kings 2:1-15. Does Elijah’s “chariot ride” to heaven seem to be just a long ago story, or does it seem to have a hopeful bearing on your life? Why did Elisha keep telling the other prophets to be quiet when they told him that Elijah was going to be taken away? Do you ever try to avoid painful truths that come up in your life? Can you think of an example of when this has happened to you? When these things happened, how well were you able to cope with them? In what ways does God help us cope?

• Read Malachi 4:4-6, Matthew 17:1-13. Peter, James and John were present at an amazing, awe-inspiring event. Would you like to witness such an event? If you were a witness, would you feel any kind of responsibility as a result? Would you have the courage to tell others, or, knowing that most people would think you were crazy or lying, would you be more likely to keep it to yourself? Do you think God is as present in your life as he was for Peter, James and John?

From last week: Did you focus on taking more responsibility for your own actions? Did you pray daily that you might be given the vision to recognize when your actions might create negative consequences for you or others? Did you seek to repair any damaged relationships that might have resulted, and consider better choices from now on? Tell the group how you felt about this process.

 

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, November 24, 2013:

Elijah’s story fills nine chapters of first and second kings, we’ll focus on just bits and pieces of his story today….

There was a famous conflict on Mt. Carmel in which Elijah defeated the prophets of Ba’al, after which Elijah called for rain and it rained. When Jezebel heard that Elijah had defeated and killed the prophets of Ba’al, she issued a death sentence upon Elijah. She had already killed hundreds of God’s prophets. She easily had the power to kill Elijah.

Elijah, feeling alone, afraid, attacked, hopeless, as the most powerful woman in the land has commanded his death, flees the country. This is what we read in the scriptures: “Elijah came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep.”

I wonder if you’ve ever felt attacked, you’ve felt in trouble, the lawyers are sending you letters, the IRS is after you, there is conflict, others are speaking ill of you and you feel all alone? This is precisely how Elijah felt—he wanted to die. The stress seems too great, you just want to go to sleep and never wake up….

That day when Elijah wanted to die an angel of the Lord came to him. He offered him Elijah a meal of bread and water that would sustain him for the next 40 days….Where does Elijah go after feeling like he wanted to die? He continues to make his way south, walking for days on end through the wilderness. Jezebel can’t touch him here. But where is he going? He’s going here, to Mt. Horeb. You may remember Mt. Horeb is another name for Mt. Sinai. This is where Israel’s faith really begins. It is where God had made a covenant with Israel. This was where the Ten Commandments and the Law were given. It was here that God said, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Elijah goes to “the cave”—that’s what the Hebrew says—perhaps the same cleft in the rock where God passed by so Moses could see his glory. When he feels like dying, like giving up, like all hope is gone, he returns to Mt. Sinai.

I wonder where your Mt. Sinai, your Mt. Horeb is? Where do you go to return to God? Part of the reason I love going to the Holy Land is I feel this is a literal Mt. Horeb to me—going to where our faith began. But your Mt. Horeb doesn’t need to be halfway across the world….

I don’t know what Elijah was expecting, or how he was expecting God to speak to him. When God speaks to me it is usually a thought that comes to me, and I can never really be sure it was God, or just me. It happens while I’m listening to music, or reading scripture, or sitting in small group, or listening to a sermon. “The Word of the Lord came to Elijah saying: ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’” Listen to what happens next: “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”…

But while the wind, earthquake and fire were clearly meant to demonstrate God’s power and glory, God was not “in” these manifestations—that is, Elijah did not hear God’s voice through them. It was what happened next that changed Elijah’s life. Elijah heard what the NIV calls “a gentle whisper.” The NRSV says he heard “the sound of sheer silence.” The King James Version called it the “still small voice.” But after all the noise it was when Elijah became still and quiet that he heard God in the silence.

It was in the silence, in the quiet that Elijah finally heard the voice of the Lord. In my own life I often have too much noise to hear God, starting with the thoughts that sometimes won’t stop—I feel like my brain is going non-stop. Then there is the constant noise of life, the phone ringing, the e-mail pinging, the text messages buzzing, the Facebook messages flowing, the tweets twittering….

Father Richard Rohr noted, “We are a toxically overstimulated people.” Rohr is a best-selling author and spiritual director. He wrote an excellent article on the necessity of silence in Sojourners recently. In it he wrote, “I do know that my best writings and teachings have not come from thinking but, as Malcolm Gladwell writes in Blink, much more from not thinking. Only then does an idea clarify and deepen for me. Yes, I need to think and study beforehand, and afterward try to formulate my thoughts. But my best teachings by far have come in and through moments of interior silence.”

He noted, “The ego uses words to get what it wants.” That’s what I feel like my prayer life is sometimes. Sometimes when I pray I get the impression God wants to say to me, “Would you mind shutting up for a bit, I can’t get a word in edgewise.”

I was struck by something Mother Teresa once said: “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

 

Elijah

Elijah, meaning, “my God is Yah” or “My God is Yahweh”. The prophet from the ninth century B.C. from Tishbe of Gilead in the Northern Kingdom has been called the grandest and the most romantic character that Israel ever produced.

He was a complex man of the desert who counseled kings. His life is best understood when considered from four historical perspectives which at times are interrelated: his miracles, his struggle against Baalism, his prophetic role, and his eschatological relationship to Messiah.

His prophetic role constantly placed Elijah in opposition to the majority of the people of his nation. His prophetic confrontations involved King Ahab and later his son Ahaziah. Their toleration of polytheism was the ongoing reason for Elijah’s prophetic denunciations.

Malachi promised God would send Elijah the prophet before the coming “day of the Lord”.

Paul used as an illustration of faithfulness the 7,000 faithful worshipers in the time of Elijah (Romans 11:2-5).

The two witnesses referred to in Revelation 11:6 are not identified by name, but their capacity “to shut heaven, that it rain not” leads many to conclude they are Moses and Elijah.

Source: Holman Bible Dictionary at http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?w=Elijah

 

Elisha

Personal name meaning, “my God is salvation.” Elisha was a ninth century B.C. Israelite prophet….

The beginning of Elisha’s ministry should be dated to the last years of King Ahab’s rule or approximately 850 B.C. The prophet then served faithfully during the reigns of Ahaziah (about 853 B.C.), Jehoram or Joram (852 B.C.), Jehu (c. 841 B.C.), Jehoahaz (c. 814 B.C.), and Jehoash or Joash (798 B.C.). Elisha’s ministry ranged from about 850-800 B.C.

The prophet used his power to provide a widow with an abundance of valuable oil to save her children from slavery (2 Kings 4:1-7). He made a poisonous pottage edible (2 Kings 4:38-41), fed a hundred men by multiplying limited resources (2 Kings 4:42-44), and miraculously provided water for thirsting armies (2 Kings 3:13-22). Once he made an iron ax head float (2 Kings 6:5-7).

Some of the miracles of Elisha are quite well known and loved. Who has not been moved by the story of the Shunammite woman and her son? This barren woman and her husband who had graciously opened their home to the prophet had in turn been given a son by the Lord. One day while the boy worked in the field with his father, he suffered an apparent heatstroke and died. The compassion and tenacious hope of the mother met its reward when she sought and found the man of God and pleaded for help. God’s power through Elisha raised the boy from the dead (2 Kings 4:8-37).

Yet another well-known story is the healing of Naaman the leper and the subsequent affliction of Gehazi, Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 5:1-27). The prophet’s miraculous powers were prominently displayed still further in the war between Syria and Israel. The Syrian soldiers were blinded, then made to see. Divine intervention totally foiled the Syrian siege of Samaria (2 Kings 6:8-7:20).

Chosen by God and hand-picked by Elijah in the latter half of the ninth century B.C., Elisha directed the historical drama of Israel.

Source: Holman Bible Dictionary at http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?w=Elisha

 

Final application:

This week, pause to give thanks every day. Take the time to make a written list of your blessings then add to the list each day. Pray daily, giving sincere thanks to God for each item and ask for his continued blessings upon you, your family and all those who are in need. Next week, let the group know what this process meant to you.

 

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11.17.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The God Who Sees

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

Psalm 118:1-9

This psalm was part of a hymn collection rooted in God’s action at the time of the Exodus to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt. Its message fits perfectly with the story we’ll study this week: the story of Hagar, an Egyptian slave girl who twice found herself cast off and alone in the wilderness. Her story, like Psalm 118, said we are never abandoned, because God is always with us.

 

TUESDAY

Genesis 16:1-6

Sarai and Abram had waited ten years for God to fulfill the promise that they would have a son. Sarai gave Abram her servant Hagar as a “wife” (verse 3), but a secondary one, a common practice in their culture. After Hagar got pregnant, she too lived out their culture’s values, seeing her ability to become pregnant as a sign of superiority to her barren mistress.

 

WEDNESDAY

Genesis 16:7-15

Hagar’s lack of respect angered Sarai, who treated her harshly. Hagar, probably young and inexperienced, fled from Sarai’s abuse into the desert—a harsh and desolate landscape, in which a pregnant woman alone was unlikely to survive. But God’s messenger met her in the desert, and gave her the same promise God gave Abram: so many descendants “they can’t be counted!” (verse 10). Hagar was amazed that God saw and cared about her.

 

THURSDAY

Genesis 21:1-11

In God’s own time, the promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah (God changed their names; cf. Genesis 17) became reality. They named their son Isaac (Hebrew “laughter”). When they celebrated his weaning, Sarah saw Ishmael laugh. She demanded that Abraham evict Hagar and Ishmael, so that there could not be any doubt that Isaac was Abraham’s promised heir.

 

FRIDAY

Genesis 21:12-21, 25:8-9

Abraham was sad to send Hagar and Ishmael away, and tried to give them a few provisions. But bread and water could hardly keep them safe in the desert. Hagar was again cast off and abandoned, but again God did not let her and Ishmael perish. God heard their cries for help, and showed Hagar a well of life-giving water. Ishmael and Isaac went their own ways, but not in hatred or hostility. In the end, they reunited to bury their father Abraham.

 

SATURDAY

Hebrews 13:5-8

We mean well when we tell a child or a lover, “I will always be there for you.” But we cannot guarantee that promise on this earth. Our mortality, if not our changeability, tells us that. Only God can actually promise to always be there for us—and God makes that promise. The writer of Hebrews quoted Psalm 118, and alluded to the Genesis stories of God’s faithful care for God’s people, to tell all God’s children that we can trust that God will never, ever abandon us.

 

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord Jesus, teach us day by day how to more firmly anchor all our hopes and dreams in you. Help us to trust that you will protect and provide. Help us to trust in your wisdom and guidance even in the most difficult situations when we feel lost. Nourish our souls with the wonder and glory of the truth that we have you, and that your presence will never leave us. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

When you need to get away from life’s ravages and find some peace and quiet, where do you like to go? What do you like to do?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

 Read Psalm 118:1-9. To you, what is this Psalm’s central message? Why did you answer as you did? How vital is it that we remember that God is always with us? Why? How crucial is it that we believe that God’s love for us endures forever? Why? Do you really believe these statements? What tends to remind you of God’s love in your daily life? Verse 6 said, “The Lord is for me [or “with me”]—I won’t be afraid.” What bad things in your life has God’s presence helped you outlast?

 Read Genesis 16:1-6. What would you say about Sarai blaming Abram for her problems? Why do we sometimes tend to blame others for the results of our own actions? How does this affect our relationships? Do we ever overlook the decisions we’ve made that resulted in some problems in our lives? How do people learn to take responsibility for the decisions they make? Is Hagar at all responsible for the situation she found herself in? Did Abram do anything to contribute to this conflict? How can hearing this story of Sarai, Hagar and Abram affect your life and attitudes?

 Read Genesis 16:7-15. God saw and felt Hagar’s pain and sent his messenger to her. Has God ever sent a “messenger” into your life? Do you believe that God is able to see within you and feel what you are feeling? Does this belief help you to endure things in your life that require endurance? Hagar was a member of a culture that was (and is) often hostile to the Israelites. But God showed in this story that he loved and had mercy for Hagar as well. What does this say about the breadth of God’s love and how we should feel about people of different cultures and beliefs?

 Read Genesis 21:1-11. Abraham and Sarah had to wait a long time for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Sometimes in the Bible, God’s promises weren’t even fulfilled within an earthly lifetime. When have you had to wait longer than you wished for a prayer to be answered? Are there things you are still waiting for? What helps you hold onto trust as you wait? Why did Abraham and Sarah have different emotions toward Hagar and Ishmael? When have you faced a situation, in family, friendship or workplace, in which loyalties and emotions conflicted? Did God’s principles help you to sort things out?

 Read Genesis 21:12-21, 25:8-9. Although Abraham reluctantly sent Hagar and Ishmael away, Ishmael returned to help bury Abraham. What does this say about the relationship between Abraham and Ishmael? God heard the cries of Ishmael in the desert. Can you count on God to hear your cries? Have you ever had a sense that God was hearing your cries? God “opened her eyes” so Hagar could find water. Has God ever opened your eyes to something you needed to see?

 Read Hebrews 13:5-8 and the paragraph under “Saturday”, above. What experiences and insights have helped you to place your ultimate trust, not in any human leader or institution, but in Jesus? How have you found your trust in Jesus to be a source of “hope, which is a safe and secure anchor for our whole being” (Hebrews 6:19)?

From last week: Did you pray daily that you might make the right choices in your daily life? Did you make your choices more consciously and deliberately? Did you ask God to guide you and give you the strength to make the right and wisest choices? Did you feel any change in your usual decision making during the week?

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

 

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, November 17, 2013:

The text calls Hagar a wife to Abraham, as we see in verse 3, but she is a secondary or subordinate wife—she is still Sarah’s servant girl. Once Hagar conceives, she begins to act differently towards Sarah, or at least Sarah imagines this is so, and Sarah begins to treat Hagar harshly. She is bearing the child for her husband that Sarah never could. The word here for how Sarah treated her Egyptian slave girl is the same word used for how the Egyptians would later harshly treat the Israelite slaves.

Abraham, rather than intervening, allows Sarah to mistreat Hagar, and Hagar, the young Egyptian slave, pregnant with the 86-year-old Abraham’s child, finally runs away. She runs towards Egypt, her homeland….

I love this. Hagar gives God a name. She is the first person in all of the Bible to give God a name, saying, “You are El-roi.” El is short for Elohim, the standard word used for God throughout the Ancient Hear East. And Roi means “to see.” “I will call you The God who Sees.” She realized that God had seen her in her suffering, and that God was always watching her. Notice God did not deliver Hagar. He did not change Sarah, and make the situation all better instantly. But now Hagar knew that God saw her and heard her, and with that knowledge she could face what lay ahead. God had given her a promise, that through her son Ishmael (a name that means “God hears”) she will have descendents too numerous to count. She has a great future she cannot see….

One day, after Isaac is born, Sarah sees Ishmael playing with him, and she becomes angry, and she tells Abraham: “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” This was very distressing to Abraham, but God told him not to worry—he would take care of Ishmael. So Abraham tells Hagar she has to leave. Abraham divorces Hagar, and sends her away to return to Egypt, but with only enough supplies to make it to the first inn on the way. This is the Bible’s first divorce. Hagar is treated unfairly. Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, acts dishonorably….

Many of you have known the wilderness of divorce. Or perhaps it was not divorce, but rejection by a girlfriend or boyfriend who broke your heart, parents or children who rejected you. I imagine Hagar crying out to God to stop this. I imagine her saying, “Where are you now? You who see? Where are you now, you who hear?”

Rejection is a part of life, and when we’re rejected and hurt we may feel like this is the end. It may often look like this is the end.

But Hagar’s story doesn’t end in the wilderness. Remember Ishmael means “God hears,” and once more, in her wilderness when things seemed most bleak, God heard, God saw, and God sent a messenger. God provided just what she needed when she needed it—water. He reiterates the promise: you are going to survive this, Hagar! Your son too!…

Ishmael’s descendents today are known as the Arabs—Saudis, Palestinians, Yemenis, Arab-Egyptians and a host of other Arab people groups. The fact that God speaks kindly of Ishmael, and that God has plans to make him a great nation, tells me that God still cares about the Arab people. About 10% of them are Christians, the vast majority are Muslims. But they are still children of the promise God made to Hagar. He cares for them….

I was 11 or 12 when my parents divorced. It was frightening. A year later my mom remarried. Four years later my step-dad left. The house we were living in was foreclosed on. We moved to an abandoned farmhouse with no furnace and windows knocked out, just north of 157th and Metcalf. Our church family came the weekend before we moved in and put new glass in the windows, put a wood burning stove in the house, and helped us move. I’ll never forget my mom’s courage in doing whatever it took to keep our family going. Nor will I forget when Jesus sent his angels to care for us—the people in our congregation who helped….

I want to end by saying this to any of you who are divorced or rejected: we want to be your church. Some churches inadvertently make divorced people feel like they don’t belong. I’m telling you, we want you, value you, and would love for you to call us your church family. We offer Divorce Care Recovery on Thursday nights, separate groups for men and women, where you can find healing and hope—we even offer childcare for these groups….For those who’ve been rejected, as God sought Hagar out, twice, in the wilderness, and as God saw her, heard her and sent messengers to help her, so in your moments of rejection God seeks you out, sees you, hears you and will send you messengers. You are his child, he loves you, and you have great value to him.

 

Hagar

Hagar in the Hebrew Bible and Judaism: Though Hagar appears only in the book of Genesis, she plays an important role as Sarah’s slave and the mother of Abraham’s firstborn son Ishmael. The Sarah and Hagar saga “forces a choice between two central principles: reverence for their Jewish ancestors, through whom God creates the nation of Israel, and concern for the powerless, which is enshrined in biblical and subsequent Jewish law” (Reinhartz and Walfish, “Conflict and Coexistence,” 102):

• Josephus defends the idea that God told Hagar to return to Sarah, after she suffered abuse at her hands, by claiming that such a return would teach Hagar self-control. He speaks favorably of the salvation Hagar receives in the desert once she is driven out with Ishmael in Gen 21 (Josephus, Ant., I.10.4; I.12.3)….

• Later rabbinic sources question whether Hagar was a daughter of Pharaoh, given to Abraham after he tricked Pharaoh into thinking Sarah was his sister….Rabbis also question Sarah’s mistreatment of Hagar (Reinhartz and Walfish, “Conflict and Coexistence,” 105–12)….

Hagar is the only woman in the Hebrew Bible to encounter the divine. She receives a promise of blessing that could be seen as equivalent to Abraham’s promise of numerous offspring (see Gen 16:10; Spitzer, “ ‘, ‘Where Do you Come From,” 9–10).

Hagar in the New Testament and Christianity: Hagar represents the line of Abraham that does not remain within Judaism….In Galatians 4:21–31, Paul compares Hagar, who he calls the mother of the child of the flesh, and Sarah, who he calls the mother of the child of promise. Paul’s audience in Galatia understands themselves as descendants of Sarah….

• By the third century, “Hagar” was a code for “synagogue” (Trible and Russell, “Unto the Thousandth,” 8).

• Luther says that Paul “squelched the proud Jews” through his use of Hagar (Luther, Commentary on the Epistle vv. 22, 23)….

• In Galatians, Sarah and Hagar become two types of doctrine—legal and evangelical (Calvin, Commentary on Galatians, v. 24).

Influenced by cultural perspectives, the treatment of Hagar in the Bible is often questioned….Hagar’s struggle is alive today—“The low-born, hard-working domestic laborer, used and misused and cast out by her employers, the single mother abandoned by the father of her child, the foreigner and refugee far from her native land, desperately trying to survive, frantic in her maternal concern for the safety of her child—this Hagar I have met many times” (Michel, “Hagar,” 99).

Hagar in Islam: Though Hagar does not appear in the Qu’ran, she is important in the traditions (hadith) as the mother of Ishmael (Sahih Al-Bukhari 4:372–76) and the matriarch of the Abrahamic descendants who founded Islam. Later generations of Muslims developed the idea that Ishmael was the beginning of the Arabs. Islam believes Hagar to be…“the matriarch of monotheism” (Trible, “Unto the Thousandth,” 9–10). Her name is frequently linked with hajara, which means “true faith,” or hijara, signifying the journey she made to the Arabian Peninsula (Trible, “Unto the Thousandth,” 10)….Islam tradition also holds that her tomb is near the Ka’bah, where Ishmael was later buried; her tomb is one of the holy places of Islam (Trible, “Unto the Thousandth,” 10).

(from the Lexham Bible Dictionary, John D. Barry and Lazarus Wentz, ed.)

 

Ishmael (Heb. yišmā‘ēl, ‘God hears’).

The son of Abraham by Hagar the Egyptian handmaid of Sarah. When Sarah realized that she was barren, she gave her handmaid to Abraham to conceive seed for her (Gn. 16:2). An example of this ancient custom has been discovered in the *Nuzi tablets (ANET, p. 220). After conceiving by Abraham, Hagar began to despise Sarah, who then drove her out of the home with Abraham’s reluctant consent. On her way to Egypt she was met by the angel of Yahweh, who told her to return and submit to Sarah. He also gave her the promise of a multiplied seed through her son Ishmael, who would be ‘a wild ass of a man’ (16:12; cf. Jb. 39:5–8).…When Ishmael was about 16, a great celebration was held at the weaning of the child Isaac (21:8). Ishmael gave vent to his jealousy of ‘the child of the promise’ (Rom. 9:7–9) by ‘mocking’ him. The apostle Paul employs the verb ‘persecuted’ (ediōke) to describe this act (Gal. 4:29) and builds upon it an extended allegory of the opposition of legalistic religionists to those ‘born according to the Spirit’ (Gal. 4:21–31). Sarah insisted that both Ishmael and Hagar be expelled from the home, and Abraham consented only after the Lord revealed to him that ‘through Isaac shall your descendants be named’ (Gn. 21:12). Hagar and her son nearly perished from thirst in the desert of Beersheba, until the angel of Yahweh pointed her to a well of water in response to Ishmael’s cry. He grew to be an archer, married an Egyptian and fathered twelve princes (25:12–16). Esau married one of his daughters (28:9; 36:3, 10). He joined Isaac in the burial of their father and died at the age of 137 (25:9, 17).

(From the New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, N. Hillyer and D. R. W. Wood, editors)

 

Final application:

This week, focus on taking responsibility for your own actions. Pray daily that you might be given the vision to recognize when your actions might result in negative consequences, for you or others. Seek ways to repair any damaged relationships that might have resulted and review last weeks’ application about better choices. Next week, let the group know how you felt about this process.

 

11.10.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Wilderness of Our Own Making

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

2 Samuel 11:1-27

David didn’t choose his first wilderness time (cf. 1 Samuel 23:14-24). King Saul’s paranoia forced that on him. But by the time of this story, David was king of all Israel, respected and loved. Dazzled by Bathsheba’s beauty, he seized her for his own pleasure, though she was married to one of his loyal soldiers. To cover his role in her pregnancy, he first tried to manipulate, and then killed, her husband Uriah. He wounded his reign, and badly damaged his moral character and leadership.

 

TUESDAY

2 Samuel 12:1-14

As we read yesterday, King David masterminded a terrible series of events. He committed adultery with a friend’s wife, and got her pregnant. Then he tried to cover up his affair, and ordered Uriah placed at the front of a battle line, guaranteeing his death. David had to face up to the wrong he had done. God used one of David’s closest friends and advisers, Nathan the prophet, to hold him accountable.

 

WEDNESDAY

Psalm 51:1-10, 32:1-5

David turned away from his reckless, destructive course after Nathan’s challenge. Psalm 51 reflects the profound spiritual dynamic involved in setting aside excuses, and taking ownership of his errors in order to accept God’s forgiveness and renewed peace. Psalm 32 addressed the inner emptiness that came from concealing what he had done, and the freedom and release that came with letting go of the cover-up mindset.

 

THURSDAY

2 Samuel 15:1-16, 16:15-17:14

David’s repentance and God’s forgiveness did not wipe out all the consequences of David’s wrong actions with Bathsheba. David’s self-inflicted wound cost him many people’s respect. Absalom, one of his sons, led a major revolt, exploiting that lesser public regard for David. (Putting 2 Samuel 23:34 with 2 Samuel 11:3, many scholars think Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather. That would explain why David’s advisor helped the rebels.) His initial success drove David from his beloved capital, Jerusalem, and into a new wilderness journey.

 

FRIDAY

2 Samuel 18:1-18, 18:31-19:8

David organized his loyal soldiers to resist Absalom’s rebellion. He did plead with them not to hurt his son. His veteran fighters beat Absalom’s army, and Joab brutally ignored David’s wish. David’s self-inflicted weakness in the end brought him the shattering grief of losing Absalom, the son he loved despite his disloyalty.

 

SATURDAY

1 Chronicles 28:1-10, 29:1-9, 2 Samuel 23:1-5

David’s bad choices put him (and Israel) through great “wilderness” pain, even to a brief civil war. But because he made peace with God and continued to bear his kingly responsibilities, they didn’t end his service to God and his people. In his final years, he collected supplies for the Temple his son Solomon would build. According to 2 Samuel 23, his final words praised God for guiding him in his duties as king.

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord God, when we stumble, help us to rise again. Build in us the character and wisdom to help us fall less often. Grant that we might be people of action based upon your will and your strength, not ours. Help us to choose wisely. Give us hearts of love for you. Give us honor, courage and ears to hear when you correct us through others who speak for you. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do you do anything in the fall to prepare for winter? Any tips? Do you do anything special to your home or your car?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

 Read 2 Samuel 11:1-27. Do you believe that most of our troubles in life stem more from “life happening,” or are the result of our own misdeeds? In what way did David’s first misdeed cascade even further? How have you made a mistake in life that you tried to fix, and that fix just made your misdeed even worse? What would have been required, for David or for you, to stop this sequence of ever more serious misdeeds? Do you think Bathsheba may have contributed to these problems? If so, who was most at fault for David’s troubles? Who is responsible for the choices we make?

 Read 2 Samuel 12:1-14. What did David have to do in order to receive God’s forgiveness? For what did God forgive David? What does God’s forgiveness of David tell you about God? What does the expression “confession is good for the soul” mean to you? Catholics believe they should confess to a priest. As Protestants, who should we confess to? Would most kings have felt guilty for whatever they chose to do? What does it sometimes take for us to feel accountable for our wrongdoing? Nathan was David’s “mirror.” Who can be your mirror?

 Read Psalm 51:1-10, 32:1-5. Did David take full ownership for his errors? Why did you answer as you did? Did he let go of his tendency to cover up? Are you able to talk to God in the same kind of whole-hearted, forthright and trusting way? Have you ever gone to God to seek forgiveness and felt complete relief and freedom? Freedom from what?

 Read 2 Samuel 15:1-16, 16:15-17:14. If God forgives us for our sins, does that mean that the consequences of our actions are also eliminated? Are there ways we might be able to counteract some of the consequences? Why was Absalom so successful in turning the heads of the people? While this was going on, do you think David had faith that God would see to it that “things would all work out”? Do you always feel that way? Either way, are you able to draw strength and courage from your relationship with God? What helps you to feel this strength?

 Read 2 Samuel 18:1-18, 18:31-19:8. David did not allow his shame and guilt to paralyze him. What can we learn from that for our own lives? When we feel guilt, should we curl up in the corner, or push on in life? Does our faith help us in times like this? Absalom proved to be a poor leader, so how did he fool so many people? How can God’s principles help us make wise choices in which leaders we follow?

 Read 1 Chronicles 28:1-10, 29:1-9, 2 Samuel 23:1-5. Why wasn’t David allowed to build the temple? How do we know God still loved David? Why did God continue to love David? What is the message here for all of us? What choices can you make every day that will help you live with the same kind of spiritual trust and psychological resilience that David showed?

From last week: Did you, if you were experiencing grief and loss, review the suggestions offered and apply them to yourself? If you were not, and you knew others who were experiencing difficulties, were you able to offer any support to help them deal with their situation? Did you pray daily for God’s insight, wisdom and strength for those times when you will face loss and those times when you might be able to help others? Please share your experiences with the group.

 

 

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

 

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, November 10, 2013:

David was a central figure in Israel’s faith. He lived around 1,000 years before the birth of Christ and is Israel’s archetypal king. To this day the Star of David marks Israel’s flag. He was a valiant warrior, a poet and songwriter. His name is second only to Jesus for the most mentions in the Bible—nearly 1,000 times he’s mentioned in scripture (968 to be exact versus 1,090 for Jesus). David has 64 chapters devoted to telling his story in the Old Testament. He is also associated with the writing of 75 Psalms. Combining these two he is the towering figure of the Old Testament. God says of David, “He is a man after my own heart.”

The book of 2 Samuel was composed by the same author or group of authors who wrote 1 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings. These books were written sometime after 587 B.C., more than 400 years after the death of David. The stories about David circulated as short stories and anecdotes told around the campfire, or in the home, to entertain, but also to teach about life and faith and God. When they were finally written down they were masterpieces of ancient near eastern literature. Today we’ll turn to one of the most famous episodes of King David’s life. If you have your Bible, turn to 2 Samuel 11….

We’ve all made bad decisions in our lives. We’ve succumbed to temptation, maybe even chased after it. We’ve walked away from the path God had laid out for us. Isaiah 53:6 notes: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way.” Paul notes in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I John 1:8 says it this way: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Yes, we all stray from God’s path at times. We know the right way, but we feel the lure of the forbidden fruit. It’s interesting that “sin” has become a word that seems judgmental and overly harsh. No one wants to be called a sinner. I’ve met people who protest this idea of sin, and want very much to assert that we don’t have a problem with sin. But just watch the evening news. This week I watched the press conference with the Mayor of Toronto who admitted that he had smoked crack cocaine while in office. You may not have smoked crack, but you have known the war that goes on inside of each of us between the impulse to do what is good and right and loving, and the impulse to do what is evil, and unkind and just plain wrong.

You’re not a terrible person if you feel drawn to sin. You’re human. But at some point you make a decision: “This is not healthy for me, it makes me a slave or it hurts other people.”…

Often our attempts to fix the problem in our lives results in our wading deeper into sin. David violated the 10th Commandment forbidding coveting your neighbor’s mate. Then he violated the 7th Commandment, forbidding adultery. He violated the 8th commandment forbidding stealing what was not yours. One might say he violated the 1st commandment by placing sexual gratification above God. Then he violated the 6th Commandment, forbidding murder. This was the man who had composed at least 75 of the Psalms in our Bible, who was Israel’s ideal king, who was said to be a “friend of God.” Which tells me that even those who love God, who seek to live as men and women after God’s own heart, can make terrible decisions….

Was there any hope for David after the mess he made? Yes, there was hope. David turned to God and repented before the Lord. He recognized the sin he’d committed, the gravity of it. His prayer of confession and repentance is preserved for us in Psalm 51….God forgave even David’s sins. His last years were blessed. Listen to how David’s life is summarized in I Chronicles 29: “The period that [David] reigned over Israel was forty years…He died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor.” He knew his share of challenges. There were consequences and reverberations of his previous actions. But God walked with him, saved him from his enemies, and blessed him.

Here’s the point I want you to see from the wilderness that David created for himself as a result of his sin and poor decisions: God is the God of the second chance, and with him, no matter how hopeless you may be in the wildernesses you yourself have created, he will take you back, give you life, if you’ll just trust in him.

We are all sinners in need of saving. We have a Savior who longs to deliver us, if we’ll only let him. That deliverance will include our trusting in him, not only in the intellect, but also in the heart, and then finally to choose a path of obedience to him, and to lay aside the path that leads to death. God is the God of the second chance. David was one of the Bible’s greatest examples of this.

 

Bathsheba

According to the Hebrew Bible, Bathsheba (Hebrew: ‎Bat Sheva, “daughter of the oath”) was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David, king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. She is most known for the Bible story in which King David took her to sleep with him.

Bathsheba was a daughter of Eliam, one of David’s “thirty” (2 Sam. 23:34; cf 1 Chr. 3:5); Eliam was the son of Ahithophel, one of David’s chief advisors. Ahithophel was from Giloh (Josh. 15:51; cf. 2 Sam. 15:12), a city of Judah, and thus Bathsheba was from David’s own tribe and the granddaughter of one of David’s closest advisors (2 Sam.15:12).” She was the mother of Solomon, who succeeded David as king, making her the Queen Mother.

In David’s old age, Bathsheba secured the succession to the throne of her son Solomon, instead of David’s eldest surviving son Adonijah. (1 Kings 1:11-31).

The story of David’s adultery sets up the context for the penitential Psalm 51, also known as “Miserere” (“Have mercy on me, O God”).

In the Gospel of Matthew 1:6 she is indirectly mentioned as an ancestor of Jesus.

Bathsheba at her Bath is the formal name for the subject in art showing Bathsheba bathing, watched by King David. As an opportunity to feature a large female nude as the focus of a history painting, the subject was popular from the Renaissance onwards. Sometimes Bathsheba’s maids, or the “messengers” sent by David are shown, and often a distant David watching from his roof. The messengers are sometimes confused with David himself, but most artists follow the Bible in keeping David at a distance in this episode.

Considering that David’s Jerusalem was tightly packed and that Bathsheba’s house may have been as close as twenty feet away from David’s rooftop, and that people in ancient times were exceptionally modest about showing their bodies, some have suggested that Bathsheba displayed herself deliberately, so that instead of being an innocent victim, it was actually she who seduced David in order to rid herself of Uriah, and move in with the king.

The faulting of David is made clear in the text from the very beginning. “It was springtime, the time when kings go forth to war… but David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1). If David had been acting as a good king and had been at war, the incident would not have taken place. After the incident, of course, there is Nathan’s rebuke in 2 Samuel 12 and the curse and events that follow.

The Bathsheba incident, then, begins a shift in the book’s perspective. David “is largely at the mercy of events rather than directing them.” He is no longer able to control his family and ends up being challenged by Absalom. In 2 Samuel 13 there is another way the text blames David – in the story of David’s son Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar. The placement of the rape so soon after the incident of Bathsheba seems to draw a parallel between sexual misconduct of father and son.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathsheba

 

 

Final application:

This week, it’s about making choices, so pray daily that you might make the right choices in your daily life. It’s amazing how many choices we make each day without really thinking about them. So this week, make your choices more consciously and deliberately. Ask God to guide you and give you the strength to make the right and wisest choices. Next week, let the group know whether you felt any change in your usual decision making.

 

11.3.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Journey Through the Valley of the Shadow

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

Ruth 1:1-5

A severe famine in Israel sent Naomi and her family to live in the foreign land of Moab. In Moab, her husband and both sons died. That left Naomi and her daughters-in-law alone. That would be an overwhelming kind of loss today. But in a male-dominated Middle Eastern culture, it was even worse. Women with no male relative to give them a “family” identity also lost all legal rights and standing.

 

TUESDAY

Ruth 1:6-18

After the famine in Israel ended, Naomi decided to return home. Though her daughters-in-law set out with her, she argued that they would be better off, and more likely to find new husbands, in Moab. She convinced one of them, but Ruth insisted that she was going to stay with Naomi no matter what. (Interestingly, although we often hear her words in verses 16-17 at weddings, they were originally from a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law.)

 

WEDNESDAY

Ruth 1:19-2:23, Deuteronomy 24:17-22

Naomi’s awful losses left her outwardly vulnerable, with few practical or legal resources. They also left her spiritually vulnerable. In Ruth 1:13 she said “the Lord’s will has come out against me.” In Bethlehem, she told those who knew her, “Don’t call me Naomi (‘pleasant’), but call me Mara (‘bitter’)” (Ruth 1:20). When Boaz, a kinsman, was kind to Ruth (as Hebrew law in Deuteronomy 24 directed), hope began to revive in both women.

 

THURSDAY

Ruth 3:1-18

The culture and customs of early Israel sound strange and puzzling to us. But the gist of this story was that Ruth and Naomi knew they needed God to provide for their future (cf. Ruth 2:20). Yet, while trusting God, they didn’t just wait passively for their luck to change, but actively pursued Boaz’s favor. And as things turned out, God used Boaz’s favor and love to provide for Ruth and Naomi’s future.

 

FRIDAY

Ruth 4:1-12

Again, the book of Ruth assumed readers knew the customs and laws, but we aren’t likely to. For example, we don’t close car deals or home sale contracts by removing a shoe (cf. verses 7-8)! According to Israel’s laws, Boaz was second in line to be Ruth’s “redeemer” (which also helped Naomi, because her son had been Ruth’s husband). Boaz shrewdly negotiated with the relative who was first in line, and happily won the right to marry Ruth.

 

SATURDAY

Ruth 4:13-22, Matthew 1:5-6

Boaz and Ruth married, and had a son named Obed. Naomi’s friends joyously celebrated her new grandson with her. No doubt for most of the people of Bethlehem, that seemed like “happy ending” enough. It’s unlikely that any of them suspected that Obed would one day have a grandson named David, who would become Israel’s greatest king. And who could have imagined what Matthew knew and recorded—that the faithfulness of Ruth from Moab had made her one of the Messiah’s ancestors?

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord God, when we face loss in our lives, remind us that the worst thing is never the last thing and that you are there with us and completing your plan for us. Grant us such wisdom, patience, hope and encouragement during these times that we might bless others. Draw us ever nearer to you and to your path so that we might be a guide for those who might be lost. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

What feeling(s) does the fall season conjure for you? Do you look forward to fall? What do you most like to do during the fall?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

 Read Ruth 1:1-5. As a widow in that society, left without any males in the family, Naomi had hit rock bottom. Have you ever felt that you had hit bottom? How did those circumstances affect your trust in God? Naomi had moved a great distance, and had to do it again to return to Israel, leaving everything and everyone except Ruth behind. Have you ever made a move like that? How did you deal with the losses and changes a move like that presents?

 Read Ruth 1:6-18. What might have caused Ruth stay with Naomi? Have there been people in your life who influenced you to make “their God your God”? Ruth left behind all that she had ever known to follow Naomi. Have you ever had to leave something behind in order to follow God? How did that affect your relationship with God?

 Read Ruth 1:19-2:23, Deuteronomy 24:17-22. What do you think Ruth might have said if someone asked her about God after the experience in these verses? Who was the instrument of God’s mercy? Has anyone, after you have faced trouble, ever blessed you in some way that made you thank God for all his blessings? Do you believe the way Boaz (and God) treated Ruth is relevant to the debates in our country about the proper attitude toward immigrants? Why or why not?

 Read Ruth 3:1-18. Did Naomi and Ruth’s actions open the door for God to act on their behalf? Although there are times in which we should wait and trust that God will act in our lives, are we sometimes expected to be proactive in preparing the way for God’s help? What might be examples of times for us to wait, and times for us to be proactive? Has God ever used others as instruments in your life? How can you be an instrument of God in the lives of others?

 Read Ruth 4:1-12. From what you gather from the story, did this turn out the way Boaz had hoped? Why or why not? Have you ever been “nudged” to give up your own comfort or enrichment in order to bless someone else? Has anyone else ever done that for you? Did you feel at the time that this happened as a result of God’s guidance? Do you have confidence in God’s love for you, and has that confidence affected your actions toward others?

 Read Ruth 4:13-22, Matthew 1:5-6. Through this series of events and the faith of the participants, Ruth, an immigrant who was not Hebrew, became an ancestor of the Messiah. What does this make you think of God’s plans relative to our lives? In reading these stories, are you encouraged that God will complete whatever plan he has for your life, whatever life throws at you? Do you routinely use the Bible to find encouragement?

From last week: Did you make your own, personal and private list of hurtful things others have done to you that you still harbor hard feelings about? Did you pray for these people and ask for God’s help as you let go and forgave them? Did you, if possible, seek these people out and make every effort to reach reconciliation? If you can, share with the group whatever you learned about yourself in the process.

 

 

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

 

Coping with grief and loss

Get support:

The single most important factor in healing from loss is having the support of other people. Even if you aren’t comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you’re grieving. Sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry. Wherever the support comes from, accept it and do not grieve alone. Connecting to others will help you heal.

Finding support after a loss:

Turn to friends and family members – Now is the time to lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Draw loved ones close, rather than avoiding them, and accept the assistance that’s offered. Oftentimes, people want to help but don’t know how, so tell them what you need—whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or help with funeral arrangements.

Draw comfort from your faith – If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort its mourning rituals can provide. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to you—such as praying, meditating, or going to church—can offer solace. If you’re questioning your faith in the wake of the loss, talk to a clergy member or others in your religious community.

Join a support group – Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. To find a bereavement support group in your area, contact local hospitals, hospices, funeral homes, and counseling centers.

Talk to a therapist or grief counselor – If your grief feels like too much to bear, call a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling. An experienced therapist can help you work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grieving.

Take care of yourself:

When you’re grieving, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time.

Face your feelings. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.

Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say; make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life; or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to him or her.

Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.

Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.

Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop, and know that it’s completely normal. If you’re sharing a holiday or lifecycle event with other relatives, talk to them ahead of time about their expectations and agree on strategies to honor the person you loved

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/grief_loss.htm

 

Final application:

This week, if you are experiencing grief and loss, review the suggestions above and apply them to yourself. If not, and you know others who are experiencing difficulties, offer any support you can to help them deal with their situation. Pray daily for God’s insight, wisdom and strength for those times when you will face loss and those times when you might be able to help others. Next week, share your experiences with the group.