Category Archives: grief

Seven Steps To Help The Hurting

hurting peopleI’ve been sharing the highlights from a recent series  on RelationSLIPS. In my last message I talked about how we often slip up with people who are hurting. Rather than offering words of healing, we often put our foot in mouths. So, I’d like to give you a brief recap of the advice I gave in this message.

When Bad News Happens

Imagine that a friend drops some big news on you. Bad news. They are getting divorced. They’ve got cancer. Their mother just died. Their teenager was just arrested for drugs. They lost their job.

…let your friend know that you will stand with them through their pain.

It’s going to happen. Are you prepared? Do you know what to say?

Seven Steps to Help the Hurting

Here are seven ideas to help you know what to do and say (and not say):

  1. Listen without any distractions. Turn off the tv and your phone. Don’t let your kids interrupt. If you can’t avoid being interrupted, then tell your friend that you want to give them your full attention so you need to schedule a better time.
  2. Dial into their emotion. Bad news strikes at our fear of losing control. It might also undermine our sense of worth if the loss has to do with being rejected (divorce, fired from job, etc.). Dialing into those emotions will give you empathy for what your friend is experiencing. The pain isn’t just from the loss itself but from what the loss means for their future.
  3. Don’t share clichés, even if they are from the Bible. This is harder than it sounds. Profound truths will pop into your mind and so you might be tempted to think that God gave you wisdom for the moment! Probably not. Wisdom just listens. So don’t say any of the following: It’s all a part of God’s plan, God won’t give you any more than you can handle, There’s a reason for everything, You need to just let go and let God. When someone dies, don’t say; God takes the people he loves the most, or God needed another angel, or They are in a better place now.
  4. Don’t correct them, even if they need correcting. Sometimes your friends’ bad news is a direct result of their poor choices. Bite your tongue. That’s not the time to show cause and effect. It’s not a teachable moment, so don’t try. If you do, you might lose a friend. They will be waiting to see if you seize the moment to preach at them or love them. So love them. You might get a chance later to share your wisdom…if they ask for it.
  5. Ask people what kind of space they need to process their pain. Everyone’s different. What comforts one person, offends another. I’ve learned this as a pastor. It’s frustrating. I’ve found the best thing is to just ask people: How can I help you right now? Would you like to meet to talk or would you just like some space to process this on your own?
  6. Affirm your commitment to stand with them. One of the most powerful verses in the Bible is when God tells us that he will never leave us or forsake us. You see, one of our greatest fears is that we’ll be alone. Abandoned. Left to face the world by ourselves. So let your friend know that you will stand with them through their pain. It doesn’t mean you will agree with everything they do, but you will stand with them.
  7. Offer to help in a specific way. People often tell a hurting person; If you need anything, just call. Odds are, they won’t. They don’t know what they need. Having to think of something and then call you is just work. So identify a need and just do it, like, mow their lawn. If you know them well, offer to pick up their kids or shop for them. This will be a huge relief.

Hurting people are an opportunity for you to show God’s love in a powerful way. Don’t run from it. But don’t run to them unprepared either, causing a relationSLIP.

What are some other tips you might offer to help a hurting friend. Scroll to the bottom of this page to leave your comment.

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God Can Refill Your Losses

Everyone is hit with loss. How you view your losses determines if you get stuck in loss or bounce back.

I’ve talked in other posts about the difference between a scarcity vs. an abundance mindset. Let me contrast these two again with pie charts.losses

Each wedge in this chart represents a loss and the damage to your life:

  • A: Abuse
  • B: Rejection
  • C: Failure
  • D: Betrayal
  • E: Your ever shrinking sense of wholeness

If you view your losses through the grid of scarcity, you see your life getting smaller. You become increasingly hopeless as you feel losses chipping away at your life. You wonder if you can hang on any more because bad things keep happening. This view is often accompanied by anger and depression.losses

But if you look at loss through the grid of abundance, your life isn’t chipped away. The loss causes a temporary set back (the blue wedge) but as you invite God into your life, he helps you to grieve the loss, absorb it, and continue on with your life.

A scar remains, reminding you of the loss, but the wedge is gone. It shrinks back to nothing. So instead of loss chipping away at your life, with God’s influence, loss actually expands you as a person; it makes you deeper and able to be a resource to other hurting people.

I hope this helps you or the people you might work with.

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Free Book in Exchange for Your Review

PLEASE NOTE: This offer is no longer available. We have already exceeded the number of reviews Out.of.Exile.angleAmazon allows to post on a new book. My apologies. I got a greater response on this offer than I imagined. – Remy

I’m about to launch my third book, called, “Out of Exilea forty day journey from setback to comeback.”  It will eventually be released in two versions; one for pastors and one for the public. But the pastors edition will come first.

It’s always nice to have reviews on Amazon.com for people to read so they can decide if they want to buy the book or not. If you would agree to read and review the book I will do two things:

  1. Give you a free book. Your choice of PDF or Kindle formats.
  2. Put your name in my acknowledgements page and possibly quote your review in the book.

Your review doesn’t have to be favorable, just honest. And you don’t have to be a pastor. Actually, the book will help anyone who has experienced a setback in life. But most of my examples are of pastors or people in ministry. It’s a fairly quick read, about 150 pages. I’m hoping to get the reviews published by December 1, 2014.

To help YOU decide if you want to read this book, here is what is on the back cover:

When pastors respond to God’s call, most think they will save the world, but too often they end up on the backside of a desert, what the Bible refers to as “exile.”  That’s not the worst thing. In many ways, exile is a rite of passage: a preparation for ministry to come. But too often pastors get stuck in exile. Rather than exile being a time of spiritual growth and intimacy with God, it becomes a time of disillusionment and despair, with no clue how to reclaim their lives or ministry. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

In Out of Exile, F. Remy Diederich looks at the losses all pastors face in ministry, how the losses create a feeling of “exile,” and then shows how to return from that exile. It is set up as a 40-day devotional journey: short essays followed by questions to help you move through your time of loss to a place of restoration and renewal. 

If you have suffered a significant life or ministry setback this book might be what God uses to help you make a comeback. If you’ve given up hope, let God use this book to breathe life back into you.

As a pastor for over twenty-five years, F. Remy Diederich knows the pain of exile himself. He shares openly about his journey from setback to comeback, showing pastors how they can do the same.

Thanks for your partnership. I’m hoping God uses this book to encourage many broken pastors and helps them to get their lives AND MINISTRY back on track.

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Out of Exile: Day 39 – Double Blessings

I mentioned the other day that King David was confident that God restores our soul (Psalm 23).  It’s interesting to look at how God has restored people through the years.

A common theme in restoration is that God restores you to a place that is better than you were before your exile, often with a double blessing.

  • Naaman’s leprous hand “was restored like the flesh of a little child…” (1 Kings 5:1-14).
  • God restored Job’s fortunes “two-fold” (Job 42:10).
  • God restored Nebuchadnezzar with “surpassing greatness” (Daniel 4:36,37).
  • God spoke through Zechariah that he would restore double to them (Zechariah 9:11,12)

Is it too much to hope that God might restore double to you as well? 

Restoring double implies that the exile is at last over, you are fully accepted, and the gate of blessings is now wide open to you. 

Exile stripped you but God wants to make your life good again. More than that, he wants to celebrate you…YOU…in all of your weakness and failure.

Isaiah’s famous words say it best so I will quote them for you:

1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted , To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners (exiles);

2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God ; To comfort all who mourn,

3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.

5 Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

6 But you will be called the priests of the LORD; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, And in their riches you will boast.

7Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs. Isaiah 61

I’ve been trying to show you a way out of exile. Above all, you need to have hope. You need to believe that God desires your best.

Like the Prodigal, he welcomes you back from exile. But more than that, he puts a robe around your shoulders, a ring on your finger, and sandals on your feet. Why? To restore you. Exile stripped you but God wants to make your life good again. More than that, he wants to celebrate you…YOU…in all of your weakness and failure.

But as with the Prodigal, you have to be willing to receive the blessing. He could have refused, saying that he wasn’t worthy. But he stepped into the blessing.

Do you have hope of being restored?  Is God trying to bless you now but you are unwilling to receive it? Leave your comment below.

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Out of Exile: Day Thirteen – Invalidation

In Day Twelve I talked about secondary losses and how not knowing about them can leave you in exile.

Over the next few days I want to talk about five categories of loss and the secondary losses that accompany them.  Remember,  a primary loss is like “losing your car keys” while the secondary loss is what happens as a result of losing your keys, like losing respect from co-workers because you are often late for work. 

People don’t understand pastors or what it means to be in ministry. We are set up to be invalidated.

The first category of loss is INVALIDATION. To invalidate someone is to insult them or to put them down. It means to disrespect or discredit someone: to make them feel worthless.

Simon Cowell made a name for himself invalidating people. That’s why people got so mad at him. If you are in ministry, you are an easy target for the mini-Simon Colwell’s who are in your congregation.

Here is a list of quotes from pastors that gave me an example of their being invalidated:

I’ve had several variations of this conversation: “So you’re a pastor?” (oh, how interesting, a female pastor, tell me more) “Yes, I work primarily with the youth at the church.” “Oh, you’re a YOUTH pastor.” (oh, just a youth pastor) (as if that somehow makes my credentials not as legitimate)

Oh, it must be nice to work one hour a week.

A pastor… Right, preach a sermon and then back to drinking coffee.. All you do is drive around and socialize with people, what a easy job..

First compliment I ever received from a member (who actually went to the trouble to use the phone): “Great job getting us out of there on time today pastor.”

“Oh, you’re a chaplain? I could never be a chaplain. I could not compromise the word of God.” (Spoken by someone uncomfortable with my ministry to non-Christians in the hospital.)

Someone asked for financial assistance we couldn’t give and said, “you pastors don’t know what it’s like to have to work for a living.

My wife and I often find ourselves excluded from social gatherings. We’ll hear of groups that get together for parties, or to catch a game, or a night out for drinks. . .and we just never got invited (even though we would consider these people friends). I think, in their minds, having the pastor along would be weird, if not a complete killjoy.

We served a church 3 years. The church doubled in size. Everything was going great. New youth group and plans to build and hire a youth pastor. One night the elders decided they wanted the church to remain small and asked me to resign. They said we ruined their quite country church with all the “new” people. They’ve been through 3 other pastors in the last 2 years since we left. It was and has been heart breaking. 40 people have been displaced.

The invalidation that gets me is when people  ask me what I do for a living. That’s a conversation stopper. The other day I expanded it. Instead of saying that I’m a pastor I said that I’m a writer, speaker and I pastor a church. I thought giving them a few options might help. It didn’t. I got the same blank look and the conversation quickly shifted.

People don’t understand pastors or what it means to be in ministry. We are set up to be invalidated.

So let’s look at this…What’s the secondary loss associated with invalidation?  I think it’s the loss of respect.  Everyone wants their worth to be recognized.  No one wants their life’s work to be trivialized.

Plus there’s the loss of control.  We want to stop people from saying stupid things. Or, in my case, I want so much for someone to show a shred of interest in the life of a pastor. Just once it would be nice for someone to lean forward and saying, “Wow. Interesting. What’s that like, getting to work with hundreds of people, talking about some of the most important issues in life?” But we have no control of what people say or don’t say to us, and so that’s a loss.

Remember, loss always leads to anger. You need to identify the loss and own the anger if you want to grieve the loss and move on and out of exile.

What are some ways you experience invalidation (pastor or not)? What are the secondary losses that come with it?  I’d love to get your feedback. I find the comments to be much more interesting than what I’ve got to say.  Thanks for dropping by.

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Out of Exile: Day Nine – Experiencing Loss

I’ve talked about what exile is and described a variety of exiles.  Now I want to look at what sends you into exile. 

Your emotions give you a clue to some wrong, even toxic thinking that might be present within you.

Of course, outright sin is the fast track to exile. But I want to focus on the more subtle causes of exile.  What often sends us into exile is loss.  Loss happens when your experience falls short of your expectation.  If you look back over the last few days, that’s what happened to Abram. He expected glory. He experienced famine. That was a loss.

Most of us are ill-prepared for loss. I’m not sure why that is. Are we that optimistic or that naive? We see loss all around us. But we rarely think it will happen to us. When it does, we are often devastated and disillusioned. It can knock us off course for years (thus: exile).

Loss produces a variety of uncomfortable emotions. The big three are:

  • anger– you are mad that your expectation wasn’t met; mad at whomever you think is responsible.
  • sadness– you mourn the loss of what you expected to have forever.
  • fear – you are afraid that you will never achieve your expectation: that loss will be a way of life.

If you don’t find an answer for these emotions, they will control you forever.  They will be like a choke-chain, able to jerk you around at any given moment.

You need to know that these emotions are normal. In fact they are good. If you didn’t have an emotional response to loss, there would be something wrong with you. We have a word for people like that: sociopath. So be glad you have emotions. God gave them to you to move you to resolve  your problems.

But, you don’t want to get stuck in your emotions. You need to move through them to a better place. Be careful that you don’t stuff your emotion as a “quick-fix” to their discomfort. These emotions help you explore what’s going inside your head and heart.  They help you understand where you stand with God and people. They give you a clue to some wrong, even toxic thinking that might be present within you.

What are some emotions you’ve experienced in exile? How do they make you feel? Do you try to suppress them? What have you learned about yourself and God from your emotions?

Please leave a comment and share this post by clicking one of the media buttons. Thanks.

Be sure to track back to catch the previous days of this 40 day journey. 

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Out of Exile: Day Six – I Didn’t See This Coming

On Day Five I gave a brief overview of the many exile stories in the Bible.  Today I want to look at one story in particular: Abram. I think anyone who has ever been called of God can relate to Abram’s calling:

pastors

Called to Exile

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.  He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Genesis 12:1-5

It’s interesting, in retrospect, to see what I focused on when I sensed God call me into ministry. I focused on the words “great” and “blessed.” I didn’t think much about the cost of leaving what was familiar to me. I didn’t think much about “being 75,” that is, my limitations. And I didn’t think much about the “Lot’s” in my life (unhealthy people) who would go with me. 

When there’s a famine in the land, you doubt your call or you doubt God’s goodness, or both. 

I focused on verse two: I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing

I bet that’s what Abram heard too. He was convinced that Canaan would be amazing. Sarah probably wasn’t so sure, but Abram was sure she’d come around once she saw what a great place it was.

In Canaan, Abram was going to establish God’s kingdom. In Canaan, he was going to be the GUY. God’s guy. He was going to call the shots and make things happen in a way that he never could as long as he was under his dad’s oversight back in Haran. Canaan was definitely the land of promise! Abram couldn’t get there fast enough

Did you respond to God’s call that way? All you saw was the glory?  But what did Abram find in Canaan?

At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Genesis 12:6

Wait a minute. Canaanites? God never said anything about Canaanites. God never told me that I’d have elders that disagreed with me or worse, undermine me. God never told me that I’d have people complain when new people came to the church and upset the balance of power. I thought God would send me to people that loved Jesus.

But that’s not all. There’s more. Or I should say, less:

Now there was a famine in the land…   Genesis 12:10

A famine? If God called me, how could there be a famine? I thought God would take care of my needs. I shouldn’t have to take a second job. I thought this would include a good health insurance plan. I thought I’d be able to afford a vacation.  

And then come the doubts: Maybe I didn’t hear God. Maybe that was just youthful ambition. Maybe that was zeal without knowledge…or bad onions for supper last night. I’m not so sure of what I’m doing. 

When there’s a famine in the land, you doubt your call or you doubt God’s goodness, or both.

There are many losses associated with the call of God. That’s not bad. But you need to name them, assess the loss , and grieve it; otherwise you will bury the pain of loss and it will rot and smell and undermine your life and ministry.

More on Abram on Day Seven. Subscribe to the blog to join the journey.

What did you expect in ministry that never materialized for you?  Share it below. Go ahead. Be honest. I bet others can relate.

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