Make a Faith Exchange

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This is my final segment on Dealing With Grief. I wasn’t sure if I could write the last section because I didn’t know if I was emotionally ready to move forward. Recent events changed all of that. On Thanksgiving night, 24 year old Shuntell Turk was murdered by her boyfriend. My family has known Shuntell and her family for years as members of our church. 

When I was Youth Minister she was one of the kids in our youth group. I watched her grow into a kind, sweet, and respectable young lady. I was tasked with delivering her eulogy on Saturday and God directed me to Isaiah 61. There I found words of comfort for the family and the courage I needed to deal with my own grief.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭61‬:‭1-3‬ NKJV)

We will all deal with grief and loss in various seasons of our lives. No matter how severe the pain or tragic the loss, we must all move toward Acceptance. WebMD describes the Acceptance stage of grief this way:

Acceptance: In time, an individual may be able to come to terms with various feelings and accept the fact that the loss has occurred. Healing can begin once the loss becomes integrated into the individual’s set of life experiences.
http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief

In Isaiah 61 we can see how God sends chosen, anointed people to preach good tidings, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty, open the doors of bondage, and more. God sends those who can comfort and console us in our mourning. I personally believe we can’t accept the reality of our loss without accepting the comfort of God. When we pray and cast our grief on the altar of our hearts, God cares for us. He replaces that grief with good things that inspire us to live and thrive beyond our pain. 

Through faith, we make an exchange with God to fill the emptiness in our lives. Yes, we may feel like we’ve been left with ashes, but God can exchange them for beauty as we envision the abundant life ahead of us. We can trade in our mourning for the joy of the Lord as we reflect on his goodness and blessings in our lives. When we acknowledge the sovereignty and majesty of God (for He’s worthy of praise), we will be motivated to put on the garment of praise and shake off the spirit of heaviness.

Isaiah told Israel after their mourning they would become the “planting of the Lord”. Over time, we too must replanted by God. Just as a seed must go into the ground and “die” before it sprouts up with new life, we too must allow God to plant us in the good ground of his word, shine on us with his Son, and water us with his Holy Spirit. Out of the ashes of our grief, God will cause us to blossom into a vibrant life that glorifies him. 

Attached below is Shuntell’s Eulogy. I pray it brings you comfort. 

Shuntell Turk 12/06/14
Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭61‬:‭1-3‬ NKJV)

Back in July, my uncle was murdered in Birmingham. It was a complete shock to the family. Even now my soul grieves when I remember the phone call I received. I bring this up because I want you know that I empathize with your feelings today. Over the last few months I’ve done all that I could to reach out to my family and minister to them in the midst of our grief. I’ve written a series of blog posts on dealing with grief that I hope will help you. So far there are 5 posts and this week I will write the last installment. You can find it at http://www.greaterfriendship.com or http://www.twocommandments.net

So my goal today is to help us all deal with the grief of this tragic loss. I believe Isaiah sheds some light on how God can help us overcome our sorrows. 

We must listen to the Holy Spirit. 

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound

God is real. God is all knowing. Through salvation we are invited into an intimate relationship with him. He lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. He speaks to us. He guides us through life’s challenges. He is still speaking today. He has anointed his servants to deliver his words to us. He has chosen people to speak into our lives. These are People who speak with the authority and insight of God. Some of us will need those anointed words to bring us out of Denial, numbness, and shock. We can’t seem to believe this has happened. We feel empty and numb. We can’t seem to get past the sudden shock because we all know how sweet and kind Shuntell was. 

We inwardly wonder “how could this happen?” Some of us have been bargaining with ourselves. We say “if I had just said these words, or done these things, none of this would’ve happened.” We say these things as if we have the power to change the outcome but we don’t. Our loss is like an opened wound and we need healing. We need a word from God. Isaiah says God has anointed him To preach good tidings, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty, and to open prison doors.We will need more words like these in the weeks and months to come. Let me encourage you to draw closer to God and seek his word as you wrestle with your feelings. 

We must receive His comfort. 

Isaiah says God has also anointed him  To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion,

Sometimes our mourning can lead us to deep wells of depression and anger. We become so overwhelmed with despair that we become inconsolable. We turn inward to stew on our emotions and will sometimes shut others out. Our sadness casts a dark cloud over every area of life. Laughter escapes us. Food loses its flavor. Colors are less brilliant than before. Left unchecked, this depression can begin to diminish our quality of life. We begin to feed on it not realizing how it is wearing us down. 

Anger is no different. Some of us are angry and upset about the circumstances. We’re angry and vengeful toward the shooter, toward ourselves, and toward God. We don’t realize it but we’re pushing others away and feeding on the adrenaline rush of our emotions. We refuse to accept the truth that our depression and anger won’t change a thing. It won’t help the situation. It won’t bring Shuntell back. But God has provided people who are trying to comfort us. He has been sending people to us who genuinely care about us and our loss. In the past week we’ve heard them tell us comforting words and give us reassurance that everything would be alright. 

When my son was very young, his great aunt would sometimes give him coffee. But the coffee was always too hot for him. So she would drop an ice cube into the cup to cool it down. The cube would crack and melt and eventually he could drink his coffee. Our depression and anger are the same way. They are hot emotions that need to be cooled down with comforting words. People have tried to comfort us and their words have cracked and melted under the heat of our feelings. We don’t always want to hear those words, but we desperately need them. 

We can’t reject the comfort God provides. We can’t push the love of others away. We must stop long enough to realize people are being moved by God to encourage and comfort us. We must look them in the eye, acknowledging their presence and receive their words of comfort into our hearts. Over time, with prayer and consolation, our depression and anger will cool, allowing us to move toward healing. 

We must make a faith exchange. 

Isaiah says God has anointed him To give those who mourn beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” 

The complete and total healing of our hearts can only be accomplished by allowing God to touch us. But we need to accept the reality of the loss. Our souls may ache and we refuse to be ok with the circumstances but that doesn’t change the reality. Shuntell isn’t with us anymore. This is a complete life change for us. All of her light, laughter, and smile will be absent from our lives from now on. We must prepare ourselves to face life without her. The first step for us is acceptance. 

Don’t accept what happened. We do not stand for it and we don’t condone it. What happened to Shuntell is tragic. It is senseless, irrational, evil, and unacceptable. But unfortunately it is real. Our pain is real. Our sadness is real. Our anger is real. Our disappointment is real. The emptiness in our souls is real. The wound in our hearts is real. Our tears are real. And it’s too much for us to carry it on our own. That’s why we need the Lord. 

Isaiah says the Lord has anointed him to exchange Beauty for ashes. Out of the ashes of our loss, God can bring beauty. God can inspire us to create beauty in our own lives to cover the ashes of our loss. Make your life count. Make it as vibrant and beautiful as Shuntell’s smile. In her honor, remove the darkness from your lives and bring beauty to everyone around you. God can also give you the Oil of joy for mourning. As your mind drifts to memories of Shuntell, allow God to pour joy from happy times into your hearts. But be careful to Resist regret. Stave off disappointment. We will all be tempted to speak negative words to ourselves as an expression of our grief, but we must condition ourselves to follow grief with Joy. Remember, Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. Most importantly, God can give you the Garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. 

God is still God. He is still our provider. He is still the lover of our souls. God is still sovereign. He is still all powerful and all knowing. God is still able to wipe the tears from our eyes. Because he is God, even now, He is worthy of praise. From the rising of the sun until the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise. You’re hurt but he’s worthy of praise. You’ve suffered loss but he’s still worthy of praise. You may cry at night but God is still worthy of praise. You may grieve but God is still worthy of praise. 

Make a faith exchange with God. Believe in him. Trust him. Trade in your sorrow. Trade in your pain. Trade in your emptiness. Trade in your tears. Trade in your mourning. Trade in your broken heart. Cast your cares on him for he cares for you. 

Conclusion:
Isaiah said God would replant us. We will blossom and birth something beautiful from our pain. But we must be planted in good ground. There is no better place to be than the presence of God. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Shuntell believed. She has everlasting life. Though her life on this earth has ended, she has received an everlasting life that can only come from God. I miss her today but I’m sure I’ll see her again. 

What about you?