Category Archives: suffering

The Gift of Cancer

gift of cancerIn my book, Out of Exile, I help people reframe their loss by showing how God might use it to broaden them as a person. When you are able to believe that good can come from evil you are able to return from “exile” and live a fuller life that blesses others. With this in mind, I’d like to share with you what my sister has come to call her “gift of cancer.”

Last year my sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and has been receiving chemotherapy for the last several months with very positive results.

Before I share her thoughts, it’s important to admit that, if your life, or the life of a loved one, was ravaged by cancer, hearing it called a “gift” might be offensive. I understand and appreciate that. Everyone’s experience is different.

If my sister’s treatment hadn’t gone so well, maybe she’d have a different perspective. But I’m happy to know that she’s gained something from her cancer experience and not let it steal from her. I hope her words might encourage you. This is what she wrote:

The Gift of Cancer

In reading other blogs, I have seen that maintaining a positive attitude through our journeys is common of the bloggers and their followers.  On that note, I have rewritten a common saying on what cancer cannot do to what it can do for us.

This saying has been sent to me a couple of times over the past 8 months and they are posted in my office.
Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal eternal life,
It cannot conquer the spirit. – Author unknown

I believe all these statements are true, but I also see that cancer has been a gift in my life.  I have chosen not to fight it, and be angry with it, but to recognize its gifts, be grateful for them, and then encourage it to leave my body.  So far, it’s been a good approach.

We are parting ways each day and I honestly feel it has left my body.  I am hopeful that the gifts it showered on me will remain with me the rest of my life and the cancer will not return.  I have chosen to rewrite the common cancer phrases in a more positive light.  I hope you can understand my position on why I choose to follow this journey:

Cancer can be a gift…
It can expand your love,
It can encourage hope,
It can enhance faith,
It can bring peace,
It can build friendships,
It can make new memories,
It can develop courage,
It can blossom the soul,
It can help me face eternal life,
It can inspire the spirit. – author – Diedre Kaye

No matter what journey we are following, whether it’s a loss of a loved one, a concern for a child, a tragic occurrence, depression, or any disease, we all need to keep the spirit of joy, love and gratitude in our hearts.  May we all look for those gifts every day that make us happy. Diedre Kaye

Back to Remy here. From my perspective, you can trust God to make good out of anything, even cancer. It’s the ultimate act of worship. Rather than focus and lament over what’s been lost, why not focus on what’s been gained?

Too often I hear people speak as if God owes them a pain-free life. Any pain is fought with bitterness and they resent God for allowing it to visit them.

But I never read that guarantee anywhere. I’m grateful that God is willing to walk with me through my pain and give me eyes to see the silver lining that exists if I look for it.

Bitterness will shut you down and close you off to all that’s good, even the healing you might be longing for. Gratefulness does just the opposite. I hope you might see the gifts in your life today.

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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.

(Note: this post went out by mistake on Friday. Sorry if you got this twice).

You can download the text of my message here, but I’d like to give you  the main points in this post.

Seven Steps to Help the Hurting

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? 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, 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.). By dialing into those emotions it 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 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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“Out of Exile” is Free This Week

This week I’ve made my book, “Out of Exile” available for free on Kindle. Soout of exile, free scoop it up and tell a friend!

The book was written to encourage hurting pastors who feel stuck in the “wilderness” from some kind of setback. It’s set up as a 40 day journey with 40 short chapters, followed by questions to help you process your loss.

But don’t let the “Pastor’s Edition” scare you away. We all suffer loss. We all get stuck in the wilderness, or “exile,” and we all need to find a way back. I’m currently rewriting the book with examples that apply to a variety of losses. But in the meantime, I think you will find it very helpful.

Download “Out of Exile” for Free This Week

You can download it here on Amazon.com. 

Please tell your pastor about this offer. If you read the book reviews, you’ll see how it’s encouraged people and renewed their vision for ministry. In fact, here’s what one pastor wrote:

God used Remy to save my soul. I forgave my offenders, forgave myself, and recalibrated. I’m back in ministry, due in large part to the writings you’ll find in this book.

As someone who knows quite personally the pain of exile, I found this book to be exactly the gentle salve I needed. I stumbled upon Diederich’s writing quite accidentally, but it was the best accident I’ve ever experienced. His writings offered deeply biblical perspective for overcoming the ministry hurts I’d experienced, and renewed my perspective on how God might orchestrate a comeback through exile.

Let me be blunt… I hated those who had railroaded me, had just about given up on God, couldn’t imagine another day in ministry, was deeply skeptical of the local church… but God used Remy to save my soul. I forgave my offenders, forgave myself, and recalibrated. I’m back in ministry, due in large part to the writings you’ll find in this book.

Am I overstating? Not if you knew my story. Thank you, Remy, and thank you, God, for excellent writing that offers hope and perspective when ministry gets the best of you. I’m on the comeback trail.

If you read it, let me know what you think. Since I’m still rewriting the new version for the general public, let me know what you’d like me to add. Thanks!

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Jesus’ Suffering Offers Us Hope

I recently wrote about how to return from exile, that is, a time in your life where you got off track and life became very hard and lonely. I mentioned that you can end up in that place for a variety of reasons. It can be because you rejected God, made a bad decision, or had bad luck. But sometimes God actually calls you into exile. Jesus’ suffering informs us here.

Jesus' suffering

Called to Exile

Seasons of Suffering. What I mean is, there are seasons in life that you might be called to sacrifice for the good of others. Parents know about this. I have some friends who are serving their son who is battling cancer. There are men and women called on by their country to go to war. Or someone might be called to forsake a lucrative business career to serve others in a non-profit or ministry.

All of these people may find themselves in a place of “exile”: a place where they feel disconnected from the life they thought they would live and going without something or someone dear to them. Exile is a painful time that makes you want to give up on life.

Jesus is a perfect example of this kind of calling. He was called to suffer and die for the good of others. It’s interesting to see his reaction to his calling. It’s not what you might expect. Two of his followers recorded a time when he was overcome by the stress of his exile. One said that he was deeply grieved and overwhelmed to the point of death. The other one said that the stress caused him to sweat drops of blood.

Jesus’ Suffering Offers us Hope

I see three things about Jesus’ suffering that might help you through your time of suffering:

  1. Jesus’ suffering validates your suffering. When we suffer we often think that it’s wrong. Only bad people suffer or weak people suffer. We look around at other people and assume that something must be wrong with us. Suffering is for losers. I’m suffering. I must be a loser. But Jesus suffered. Not only did Jesus suffer, he struggled with it. He wanted to give up but he prayed for strength to continue. If you suffer or feel like giving up, you aren’t a loser. You are human. Jesus’ experience tells us that.
  2. Jesus’ suffering shows us that suffering has a purpose. One of Jesus’ followers wrote that his sacrifice made us perfect in God’s sight (Hebrews 10:14). The word “perfect” here means that we lack nothing in God’s eyes. When Jesus died, we were set right with God. We can quit working so hard to please God, and we can quit worrying that we aren’t good enough because we’ve been made perfect. 
  3. Jesus’ suffering tells us that good can come from exile. God took one of the worst experiences (death on a cross) and used it to restore humanity to God. God brought hope from fear, life from death, and restoration from devastation. He can do the same in your life.

    God brought hope from fear, life from death, and restoration from devastation. He can do the same in your life.

When Jesus prayed for strength, God immediately gave him what he needed to continue. I hope you will also ask God for the strength you need to continue and look for his comfort to see you through.

Question: have you ever seen good come from a time of suffering in your life?

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Hard Times Reveal Strength or Weakness

You never know how prepared you are until you hit hard times. Andy Stanley makes this point in his book, The Principle of the Path. This is part three in a series on the book.

Hard Times Don’t Cause Problems. Hard Times Reveal Problems.

It’s true isn’t it? Hard times are revealing. Andy says that economic downturns don’t cause problems as much as they reveal them. When you are flush with income, it doesn’t really matter how well you save or invest. You can afford to run up some debt because you always have enough to make the next payment. No one really knows if you are financially responsible or not because there is always enough money to go around.

But turn off the cash flow and it’s amazing what you find.  Some people are able to whether the storm because they’ve developed a cash reserve. They aren’t overextended on credit so they don’t have many bills to pay. Others aren’t so lucky. When the money dries up they are in crisis. No reserves and heavily leveraged.

Warren Buffet said you never know who is skinny dipping until the tide goes out. Exactly. Hard times are revealing.

Death and Sickness Reveal Your Relational Path

I’m currently involved in a funeral preparation for a family in my church.  As I drove away from the hospital on the night of the death I was impressed with the level of support that immediately surrounded the family of the deceased.  I have another church member suffering a significant, life-threatening disease. They too have been pleasantly surprised at the depth of support they have received during this time. As hard as these two situations are, they both revealed something very positive.  Through the years they walked a path that cultivated strong relationships with quality people.

What Path Are You Following?

But not everyone is so lucky. The Principle of the Path is a warning that we are all on a path somewhere.  You might think life is good and you are headed in the right direction until you hit hard times. You might not have the money you thought you had. You might not have the friends you thought you had. You might not have the connection with God that you wished you had.

The Principle of the Path asks, if you hit hard times today, are you deep enough financially, relationaly, spiritually, etc. to not just survive but overcome?  Answer that question and then make the corrections necessary to get on the path that will help you thrive, even in the face of hard times.

Question: What have hard times revealed in your life? Leave your comment below.

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The Weakness of God and Newtown, Connecticut

In the wake of the Newtown, CT massacre, people are asking an obvious question: Where was God? Christians talk about an all loving, all-powerful God. So where was he?  Doesn’t something like this undermine the Christian message? How can you believe in God when he doesn’t show up? This continues my meditation on the weakness of God.weakness of god

People have asked these questions for centuries. They’re fair questions.  If God exists and God is all-powerful, then logic tells us that bad things shouldn’t happen, right?

The weakness of God

When God doesn’t show up in the way we want him to, that’s what I call the weakness of God. Is God weak? No. But if we are honest, that’s how we feel.

This is what we need to know: God often comes in what seems like weakness. But he never ends in weakness. He comes in humility, but ends in greatness.

The value of weakness

The apostle Paul makes a radical statement in the Bible: “…power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Power is somehow brought to its full expression in weakness. This seems contradictory. It doesn’t make sense. What does power have to do with weakness? But Paul came to appreciate weakness. He wasn’t ashamed of it. It didn’t embarrass him.  In fact he said…

Most gladly… I will …boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9,10

Paul had his share of trouble: persecution, shipwrecks, prison, left for dead. But he didn’t accuse God of abandoning him or of being weak. He came to appreciate that weakness provided an opportunity for God to show up in his life in unique ways. Maybe not the ways he always wanted, but present nonetheless.

Disillusioned with God

Many people turn to God because they are promised that God will solve all their problems.  These people tend to be the ones that are offended when God doesn’t “show up.”  No one ever told them that God allows suffering so they feel like the victim of “bait and switch”…they came to God thinking that God was a problem solver and now they are disillusioned. That is also why – when they read about 27 people being shot – they don’t have a theology that allows for that.

God with us

But the Bible doesn’t promise that God will only come in strength. Think about the first Christmas. It’s not a pretty story. There is oppression, poverty, and the slaughter of innocent children. When Jesus showed up, he didn’t solve any of that. He came in weakness: just a child.  The Christmas story doesn’t tell us that God rescues us from problems. It tells us that God is with us in our problems.

Overcoming evil

Last Friday, evil shocked us. But let’s not run from it or accuse God of being weak. Let’s look to God to reveal himself in our suffering. God is a master at making good out of evil. The resurrection is the obvious example.  Some people probably accused God of abandoning them the day after Jesus was crucified. But their doubt and questions were answered on Sunday.

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The Gift of Pain – Helping Others from Our Hurt

The Gift of Pain

The Gift of Pain

I just finished a three-part series called Walking with God in the Desert at my church. It seemed to impact a number of people in a good way. My goal was to help us develop “desert eyes”, that is, to see what good might come from hard times. I called it the gift of pain.

I mentioned that we need to develop three kinds of “desert eyes”; eyes to see our dark side and deal with it. Second,  eyes to see the small kindnesses that God brings our way. And last, we need eyes to see the gifts that come from our pain that help others through their desert times, or, the gift of pain.  

Following is an excerpt where I talked about the ” gift of pain “.  

The Gift of Pain

The easy teaching about the desert is that God wants to comfort you. That’s absolutely true. But if all I did was tell you stories of comfort then I would really be doing you a disservice because God’s comfort is only half the story in the desert.

God comforts us for two main reasons. One, he loves us. He wants to help us. The second reason is so we can turn around and comfort others. Your desert experience is a training ground to learn how to help someone else in the desert. The apostle Paul understood this. He wrote this to a church in Greece…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Then Paul applies this directly to his situation…

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort… 1 Corinthians 1:3-6

That’s like a friend of yours feeling sorry for your situation and you say…oh. Yes…I suppose it’s bad news for me but it’s good news for you. And they ask, What do you mean? And you say…because of my distress I’ll be able to comfort you better when you go through hard times.

That’s what I mean by the gift of pain. Paul used his desert experience to help others. When you go through hard times you learn things like humility and empathy and compassion. You learn what it means to be intimate with God. You can’t go to college to get these things, right?

These gifts only come one way…through pain. But once you have them then you have something to share that you never would have had to share before. God wants to work something deep into you so that he can pull it out of you to benefit someone else. It’s the gift of pain.

Question: Have you been given a gift of pain? How has your past pain prepared you to help others going through a similar trial? Please leave a comment below and “share the knowledge” by clicking the links. Thanks.

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