Life is full of losses. It’s sobering to remember that nothing around us is permanent. Pastor, everyone in our congregations will go through seasons of loss where they lose their finances, jobs, health, marriage, or loved ones. And we need to help them through these periods.
Here are five steps we can share with our members to help them navigate seasons of loss:
Help them release their grief.
Tragedy always produces strong emotions—loss, anger, fear, depression, worry, and sometimes guilt. Some people never deal with these feelings. They simply push them down and pretend they’re not there. Then they’re still struggling with their unresolved emotions 30 years later.
A myth exists that God wants us to walk around with a smile on our faces no matter what we’re dealing with on the inside. Jesus taught the exact opposite. He said in Matthew 4:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (NIV). When a loved one dies, it’s only natural that we will miss the person.
It’s important that instead of rehearsing these feelings in our heads, we begin to deal with them. We do this by crying out to God. Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust him at all times, you people. Pour out your hearts in his presence. God is our refuge” (GW).
Encourage them to receive help from others.
It’s human to want to pull away from others when we’re hurting. But we need to do just the opposite. Galatians 6:2 reminds us to get involved in people’s lives during these difficult periods. Paul writes, “By helping each other with your troubles, you truly obey the law of Christ” (NCV).
When people go through seasons of loss, they need the support and perspective of others. It’s hard to see the whole picture when pain narrows their focus.
You can’t provide all of that support and perspective for the people in your congregation either. That’s why it’s important to get people involved in small groups before they face periods of loss. It’s much easier to develop these relational bridges earlier so that when the loss happens, they already have a support network.
Show them how to fight against bitterness.
We’ll always be hurt by other people intentionally and unintentionally. There’s no getting around it. But when we allow bitterness to build up in our lives, we’re only hurting ourselves, making us miserable. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Guard against turning back from the grace of God. Let no one become like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison” (GNT).
That’s why it’s so important to help people be honest about the bitterness in their lives. How do we do that?
- First, we teach them to accept what can’t be changed. Faith isn’t ignoring the difficulties in our lives. Faith is refusing to be discouraged by those realities.
- Second, we help them look at what’s left rather than what’s left. Encourage people to make a list of 100 things they are grateful for. A person can’t be grateful and depressed at the same time.
Remind them what’s important.
Losses and tragedies have a way of putting everything into perspective. They clarify your values and help you understand your priorities. Jesus once said, “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because a person’s true life is not made up of the things he owns, no matter how rich he may be” (Luke 12:15 GNT). It’s easy for us to confuse our net worth with our self-worth at times, but there’s a big difference between the two. During a season of loss, it’s important to clarify what really matters.
Teach them to rely on Christ.
Paul teaches us the secret to dealing with grief in Philippians 4:12-13: “No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.”
He points us to Jesus.
People who are grieving need to learn three things:
- Lean on God for stability. A major loss always throws us for a loop, and we will hunger for stability.
- Listen to Jesus for direction. We need to rest in the hope that God has a plan for our future.
- Look to Christ for salvation. Many people are more open to the good news of the Gospel during times of loss than at any other time.
Helping people deal with seasons of loss is an important part of ministry. It’s not your job to explain all the tragedies of life. But you can give them a reason to hope.