Tag Archive | Church

Christians: Are We Taking The Easy Way Out?

This weekend, I watched a movie that was very good – gut-wrenching, actually.

Movie clips of this particular movie were shown here as well https://www.life.church/watch/ during Pastor Craig Groeschel’s annual teaching of At The Movies (every year at Life.Church, they teach on a different movie each week during the month of July).

If you haven’t seen Hacksaw Ridge, you truly need to.

As I was watching one particular scene, my heart broke in excruciating pain…tears just rolled down my face.

As Life.Church showed this clip, it was used to show the importance of saving the unsaved…which is very important. My mind went beyond that to each person who has ever went through grief – especially those who felt abandoned, betrayed, or wounded by the Church. My heart immediately thought about those who nobody went to check on or those who nobody “went back” to help save them. I hear more stories than I can count of how nobody took the time to love hurting people back to life.

As a grief specialist and grief group leader, I hear the most heart wrenching stories people have experienced. For almost 10 years now, helping people for 20-50 hours each week, these stories have caused my heart to truly go out to those who hurt…stories about death of loved ones, grief over wrong personal decisions or a loved one’s hurtful decisions, adultery, abuse, military grief, PTSD, abandonment, extreme hurt and conflict in families and churches, church abuse, suffering, heavy guilt and regrets, illnesses, addictions…I literally hear every story that has wounded a human heart.

Before a person comes to me for help, many times, they’ve already sought out help from church leaders, family members, and friends. The hardest – and most taboo – situations of grief (suicide/suicide attempts, the after effects of rape or murder, all situations of abuse, death of a child or young person, church/spiritual abuse, etc.) are the most challenging to help.

Something that has happened time and time again, and has been said numerous times, is this:

“I went to my pastor (or fellow church staff or church member) for help, and they never got back to me…I felt I wasn’t important.”

Or worse….

“My pastor, church staff, and/or fellow Christians knew about my situation…and they ignored me. They never even called to see how I was after I reached out for help.”

Watching Hacksaw Ridge, when the main character is courageously sacrificing himself and bravely doing everything in his power to save as many as he can…and pleads, “Lord, help me get (save) one more”…my heart sank.

Just like a physical war, when someone goes through heartache, grief, or pain and they are wounded, if someone does not go and help them…the alternative is to leave them for the enemy to devour. This is beyond true spiritually, too. When a Christian is wounded, and the Church doesn’t take the time to care, the enemy is more than happy to delightfully devour them, too.

Watching that scene of Hacksaw Ridge, all I could think of were the several people I know who have quit going to church, and the ones who have turned to atheism – or even other religions – because they went through a harsh life challenge and felt like nobody cared.

We as Christians have got to demand higher of ourselves. 

Yes, everybody is busy. 

Yes, it may not be someone’s specific responsibility because, after all, they did not cause the pain. 

Yes, it is totally time-consuming. 

Yes, it truly is messy.

And there will always be people in the church or on staff who will make excuses by saying things like, “hurting people hurt people”…”we won’t help others who aren’t taking responsibility by taking the first steps to help themselves”….”nobody is perfect.”

But, the example of Jesus Christ is to deny yourself and pick up your cross…and part of picking up your cross is to actively love people back to life – especially those who are unsaved or those who have been hurt or who have left the church.

And it’s not just church members who have been hurt by the church. There are many who are (or who were) on church staff (or their spouses/families) who have been deeply wounded by either fellow church staff members or members of their congregations, too.

Jude‬ ‭1:22-23‬, “And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.”

  1. Hurting people do not hurt people. Hurting people help heal people because they understand what being hurt feels like. Jerks hurt people and then refuse to make it right.
  2. The attitude of “I’ll help people once they help themselves…” is very flawed. I am so very thankful that God doesn’t treat people that way. He loves…He gives grace…He initiates healing…He lifts us up and carries our burdens for us.
  3. The argument of “Nobody is perfect…” fails what God commands in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Of course, nobody is perfect, but God certainly gives us some very sobering and serious responsibilities as believers on how to treat others – especially reconciling with those we hurt or those who may have something against us. He even instructs us in Matthew 5:23-24 to leave our gifts at the altar until we actively go make things right with those we have hurt or offended…and says to not come back until this is done first.

God doesn’t give us these responsibilities of how to treat others – or how not to treat others – to be difficult; He gives us these precious responsibilities so we will be careful with each other’s heart and spirit. He understands the potential terrible cost if we are not careful with His instructions.

I heard the most profound statement this week from a young person who had been deeply wounded and wronged by their church:

“People always knock certain shady TV evangelists, but all they do is steal money. What about the pastors at churches who hurt people in their congregations? They steal peoples emotions and spirit. Money is readily replaceable…trust is not.”

To hear someone young be so wounded and jaded by the Church really concerned my heart. Hearing their story…and then hearing how the leaders at their church knew about the hurt they inflicted — yet didn’t show good character by going to them and working things out…there just are no words. 

Satan loves taking people out. The enemy knows if he can get Christians or church leadership to wound someone, the likelihood of additional generations being spiritually destroyed will ensue:

Proverbs‬ ‭27:23-24,Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation.”‬ ‭

When someone is deeply wounded, it doesn’t just affect the individual who was hurt. It affects everyone they’ll ever come in contact with…and future generations.

•You may be reading this, and you may be one who has been deeply wounded. On behalf of every Christian, I apologize profusely to you for your pain. You should never have been left alone in your time of hurt, somebody should have cared enough to reach out to you and loved you back to life. Please, please, please know that God wanted for you to be treated with love, kindness and respect…it’s not His fault – or His Will – when people disobey scripture by mistreating others or not helping them. I humbly ask you to please forgive the Church. God loves you and has not forgotten you!

Isaiah‬ ‭40:27-31‬,Why would you ever complain, O Jacob or Israel, saying, “GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. Butthose who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

Isaiah‬ ‭49:15-16‬, “Can a woman forget her nursing child? Will she have no compassion on the child from her womb? Although mothers may forget, I will not forget you. I have engraved you on the palms of My hands. Your walls are always in My presence.”

•You may be reading this right now and you know for a fact you’ve wounded a fellow believer, but you never made it right. I strongly plead with you to go to that person (or persons) and courageously apologize for your wrongdoing…Most importantly, for them. Secondarily, for the judgment that can fall onto you:

Matthew‬ ‭5:23-24, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”‬ 

Colossians 3:25, “For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”

Proverbs‬ ‭17:13, “Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good.” ‭

•You may be reading this right now and you personally know of someone who was wounded by another believer. If you know of someone who is wounded, please consider being the one to make a difference. 

Matthew‬ ‭25:40, 45‬, ““The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.’…and…“He will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.’” 

 I don’t think most people drop the ball purposely, but it does happen unfortunately. An apology, or genuinely caring for others from the heart, goes a long way.

My heart is for the hurting, the grief stricken, and those who have been spiritually wounded. I know of many Christians who this is so very important to their heart, too.

Majority of the Christians I know are really amazing people who genuinely care about others. They actively love people and truly enjoy serving others. When others hurt, they genuinely hurt for them, too!

We all (totally including myself) need to do better and become more mindful of others.

When we’re tempted not to make things right with those who we have hurt or offended…or we are tempted to leave it up to someone else to do our part…or we believe the lie that we are too busy or things are too awkward or messy to get involved…I really pray that we each will consider how we can make these situations better for everyone we know.

I know I can do better.

The rest of this year, let us prayerfully consider reaching out to those who used to attend our churches or those who were once in our LifeGroups, Sunday School class, or Small Groups – those who we never see anymore. I pray we consider the people we know who quit going to church because they were hurt, deeply offended, or wounded. 

Consider calling one person a week to check on them to see how they’re doing and ask if there’s anything you can do to help them. May we each choose to love people back to life.

As a Christian, we never want to be known as someone who took the easy way out… Especially since Christ never did.

Be the example of Jesus to others that you would hope someone will be to you and your family.

Jesus’ example is very, very clear:

Luke‬ ‭15:4-7‬, ““Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

I love how God used sheep in this passage of scripture. I don’t believe it’s coincidental that the above scripture and the following verses deal with sheep and lions. Think about this:

1 Samuel‬ ‭17:34-36‬, “David replied to Saul, “I am a shepherd for my father’s sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it, and rescued the sheep from its mouth. If it attacked me, I took hold of its mane, struck it, and killed it. I have killed lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them because he has challenged the army of the living God.””

1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

The above verses speak of sheep and lions. Just as David vigilantly looked out for his earthly father’s sheep, how much more should we as Christians look out for, and help and defend, our Heavenly Father’s sheep? The enemy’s goal is to challenge and hurt God. If we don’t actively care for those in the Church…yes, even those who have left it…then we are part of the problem.

When people waver in their faith or leave the church, or when we know of people who are hurting or who have been deeply wounded, or when there are leaders (or church members) in the church who have hurt people and not made it right – yet no one corrects them or holds them accountable – we really need to start addressing that in our churches. When no one seems to care during these situations, we must ask God to soften our hearts and also for wisdom to know how to effectively reach out to those who have been wounded.

We have got to stop taking the easy way out…..we have got to expect more of ourselves and do better.

If a family member of ours stopped attending family functions and quit communications, would we simply shrug our shoulders and have an apathetic attitude of, “oh well?” Would we merely accept it and just move on? Would we think that it wasn’t our problem or responsibility? Absolutely not! We would call them and we would fight for that precious family member and our relationship with them. 

God considers Church family relationships to be of utmost importance…they’re a reflection of His relationship to us, His Bride. That is something we all need to deeply consider.

The only response a Christian should have to those who are struggling is this: Snatch them from the flames…help and encourage them…be the best version of “Jesus” to them…meet needs wherever possible…and love them back to life!

We have got to do a better job of focusing on helping people in their spiritual walk, being deeply concerned with their eternal destination, as well as care about peoples hearts, their hurts, and what truly matters.

Galatians 6:1-2, ““Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

John‬ ‭13:34-35‬, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Never discount a person’s hurt…or their potential. There are some people in life who have been deeply wounded, but they will blossom greatly when the right people genuinely take the time to care about them. There may be weeds, but please understand that underneath the hurt and weeds is good soil. All they need is for someone to take the time to rinse the mud off of their heart, and water them with compassion, so the Sonshine can work miracles.

Luke 10:2….“The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Tell God you’re willing to be a worker for Him in building people back to life. Ask God to grant you the gift of seeing people how He sees people, and to love people how He loves people. Ask God to impress on your heart, and every believer’s heart, to deeply care about saving both the lost and the hurting.

I’ll always be grateful to the people in my life who had a deep burden for the harvest. They saw an ugly, dying weed, but decided to care about me and love me back to life.💕

Please take a moment and soberly watch this video and listen to this song. Then pray and ask God to show you who you can love back to life. We each need to make a strong commitment as Christians to stop taking the easy way out.❤️

Movie clip from Hacksaw Ridge: https://youtu.be/Oy6kwogmhRY

Song by Keith Green: https://youtu.be/8yJd0JMzq7k


Who can you love back to life today?

If you have been hurt or wounded by the church, I highly recommend Saddleback Church in California. If you don’t live in California, they offer online services, too. Life.Church also offers online experiences.

http://www.saddleback.com

http://www.life.church

You are so very valuable and loved!

Gratitude & many blessings,
Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617 

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

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Helping The Hurting To Stay In Church

An alarming trend I have seen — and have also heard about from several pastors — is the amount of hurting people who are leaving the church.
There are many reasons why this happens, but here are a few reasons I have seen firsthand:

  1. After a person goes through grief, their church family is usually excellent at being there for them the first few weeks, but when the grief intensifies several weeks or months after the funeral, it can feel as though they have been forgotten or abandoned.
  2. After going through a hurtful or tragic situation, many do not understand how to reach out or know what to say to the hurting person. The hurting person then feels avoided and assumes they’re not important or cared about, so they leave.
  3. A griever tires of being told unhelpful cliches (“At least they’re in a better place,” “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” etc) or they may be prematurely pressured to “get on” with life, without anyone truly taking the time to help them through their grief and pain.
  4. The hurting person’s church may not have a Care Pastor who they can talk to, or their church may not offer care ministries where they can find help and encouragement, so they look for a church that does offer these things.
  5. Church staff or church members deeply wound or mistreat others or “drop the ball” in a hurtful situation.
  6. After a big grief event or loss, they find it very challenging not to cry in church, especially during worship.
  7. After going through grief or loss, they feel such a strong void and intense pain that they do not wish to  be around others.
  8. They feel they are being judged by their situation, or they feel embarrassed or self conscious about their loss.

These are just a few of the common challenges I frequently hear about why those who are hurting leave the church.

So what is the solution? What are we missing?

I believe the more we build the heart and spirit of our churches, the better we will be able to meet the needs of every member — especially when they are grieving or hurting.

People commit (and stay committed) to churches where:

  • they trust and respect the church staff and leadership. The church ideally will also have a staff member or trained volunteers who are able to take on the role of being a Care Pastor to encourage and help those who are hurting.
  • they are taught God’s Word and have continual opportunities to learn and grow in their faith.
  • they are taught how to handle grief, conflict, disappointment, and spiritual warfare from a biblical perspective.
  • they are offered the ability to attend strong care ministries, so they can be helped and encouraged during their toughest times in life. It is very helpful for those who grieve to have a place where they can be with like-minded people who “get” what they are going through in life.
  • they are taught how to become a genuine community. They truly learn how to rejoice and mourn together.
  • they feel genuinely welcomed, accepted and truly cared about
  • they understand the value of being a part of a community and learn how to help each other and build one another up — genuinely encouraging and enjoying fellowship with each other.
  • they feel they can truly “come as they are,” but are encouraged to grow…and have ample opportunities to do so.
  • they experience depth.
  • they can see the church has an overall agreed upon vision—without depth, unity, or vision, the people will perish, spiritually die, or leave during hard times.
  • they have the availability to serve and help others and they understand the importance of their role in belonging and serving others.
  • each member shows – in action – the love, mercy, character, and kindness of Christ.
  • the church staff and members are real, genuine, and authentic.
  • everybody feels like they belong.

Some more tangible ways of helping the grief community in your church are:

  1. Provide grief classes and care ministries to the bereaved
  2. Provide grief education at least biannually to every staff member so they understand how to better serve and minister to those who are hurting
  3. Partner with a trusted and respected Christian counseling center so you have a place to refer those who need extra encouragement and help. The counseling center can also refer their clients to your church’s care ministries
  4. Create a Care Card Ministry where volunteers make and send cards to those who have lost loved ones. Send those who are hurting a card once a month during the first year of their loss
  5. Create a Hospitality Ministry Team that can set up dinners for those who have lost loved ones. Ideally, this team can have volunteers “on call” who can make and deliver dinner each night (or at least every other night) for two weeks after a church member has lost a loved one. This team can also coordinate providing a lunch or dinner to the hurting family on the day of the funeral at the church or funeral home
  6. Host an annual grief conference at your church and extend an invitation to your entire city to attend. At the conference, have a table set up with information about your various care ministries. Also have flyers available that share details about your care ministries and the days and times they meet
  7. Be sure to share with your congregation info about the care ministries you choose to offer. Also, there are many free Bible Reading Plans on grief, trials, and hardships on the YouVersion Bible App. Find quality resources and encourage your members to get involved
  8. Take the time to truly care. Invite someone who is hurting out for coffee or ice cream. Listen to them and be there for them in their time of need. Be a good friend to them. When helping someone who is hurting, ask yourself, “if I (or a family member) was in their position, how would I want for someone to reach out to or be there for us?”
  9. If you know you have personally hurt, offended, mistreated, or wounded someone…or improperly handled a situation (past or present), have the integrity to reach out to that person and apologize
  10. If you notice someone who has been active in your church no longer attends, contact them to see how they’re doing and tell them they’re missed

I hope you found this article helpful. I pray that each of your churches are blessed beyond measure as you minister to and help the hurting! All you do for the grief community matters and is so appreciated so thank you for all you do!

Gratitude and many blessings,
Kim

©2016 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!❤️

For more encouragement:

Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617 

FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

5. Singing Through The Storm: http://bible.com/r/Sj

Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️

Loving The Hurting, Remembering The Forgotten: An Important Challenge To Churches Everywhere For 2016

This morning, I attended a very special All Staff meeting at my church.

We received phenomenal leadership and encouragement about change from our pastor. It was a great time of worship, vision, learning, and community.

While Pastor Craig was sharing his heart, my mind began to come up with so many fresh, new ideas of change for my grief ministry, as my spirit absorbed the wisdom, passion, creativity, and vision God had planned for me.

I have a huge passion for those who hurt, those who feel rejected or displaced, those who deeply grieve, those who feel life can never be better, and those who have turned their back on God and the church. And I absolutely love that my pastor has a huge heart for these precious groups of people as well!

I’ve felt the sting of each of these situations through different seasons of my life, and none of them were a fun place to be. Because of personally experiencing these situations, God has been good to allow me to gain insight and understanding so I could know how to encourage and help in these areas…but today I wondered “is it enough?…am I doing enough?” 

The answer, if I’m honest with myself, is no, not always. 

So another question came to mind, “what can you change?…what needs to change?

Every church cares. Most Christians truly care.

Every church wants people to feel as though they belong. Many Christians go out of their way to show love and acceptance.

Every church truly wants to minister to everyone. There are a lot of staff and Christians who spend many, many hours in ministry helping and equipping others. 

Every church wants to make a huge difference. There are too many ministries to count that genuinely make incredible impacts.

So what are we missing? Also, who are we missing? 

What changes can we all implement to be more loving, accepting, kind, and effective so we can minister, serve, and encourage to the best of our abilities to make the absolute greatest impact?

There are no perfect Christians, no perfect churches, no perfect ministries, no perfect staff, no perfect people, no perfect anything. Perfection is something we definitely pursue, but Christians fall short…all people fall short—regardless of their religious affiliation. Ministries fall short…just like workplaces fall short.

So how do we bridge the gap between the church and people who are hurting…people who are deeply grieving…people who have given up on—or even reject—God and the church…people who have never and won’t even consider stepping foot in a church…people who feel like life is hopeless?

I’m truly excited by what God showed me this morning and the ideas He gave me!

I look forward to ministering like never before, serving more vibrantly, boldly caring, and writing more in 2016.

As you read this, you may not share my enthusiasm. You may even have already thought of past hurts you’ve experienced.

If you fit into any of the above categories, I hope you’ll closely follow my blog and find encouragement. I am so very sorry if you have been wounded or offended by someone in the church…so very sorry if you’ve experienced deep grief…incredibly sorry if you ever felt as though life was hopeless or made to feel that your life was void of value…so sorry if an event happened that made you turn your back on God and the church. Truly, truly, genuinely sorry. If someone has not sincerely apologized to you personally, then I offer my deepest apologies as a part of the body of Christ!

God has great compassion and incredible love for you! You DO matter! Your life IS valuable! Your heartache, grief, and pain DOES count! God hears your heart’s pain and cries…and if anyone on earth failed to hear, understand, or realize your pain or grief (or failed to make it right), that is NOT okay with God…and I guarantee you it truly broke His heart. 

This year, I want to vibrantly continue to help and encourage the grief community, and I also want to pour into people who have felt hurt and offended by anyone in the church.

I look forward to encouraging everyone in 2016…especially with the vision God gave me today!

Rolling up my sleeves to truly make a greater impact is my heart’s desire this year. If you are a part of any church, please join me in this endeavor. It is desperately needed! 

If you know of anyone who has been through deep grief, anyone who is down in life, anyone who has been deeply hurt or offended by the church—whether by church staff or fellow believers, reach out to the offended and the hurting! 

We need to never be so quick to be offended or put off by a person’s disbelief, mistrust or abrasiveness…instead, we ought to look into their hearts and seek to understand the reason behind why they’re hurt, offended, or bitter. There are a crop of people we need to seek to intentionally love back to life! 

We, as the Church, constantly say and promote, “it’s okay not to be okay”…but then when people aren’t okay, or they later become not “okay,” do we as the whole church truly put our money where our mouths are and intentionally pursue the hurting and also genuinely care when others are hurt, offended, or leave?

Church is a family…ultimately one big family…who will ALL be living together in heaven some day. Is it not going to cause us shame when we see Christ and have to explain to Him how we treated some people as unvaluable or, worse, disposable?

Helping others and conflict resolution can be uncomfortable. It can be gritty and messy, for sure—definitely not all cotton candy, unicorns, sunshine and rainbows. It requires sacrifice and selflessness. People are worth it, though. So very worth it!

Isn’t this exactly what God did for each of us? I am forever grateful to those who loved me back to life and those who intentionally invested in me. Because they took the time to genuinely care for a broken, hurting, mess of a young lady years ago, my life was spectacularly changed! Now, all because of their love and concern, 200 million users on YouVersion have an opportunity to read the Grief Bites reading plans, and people in 110 countries receive grief encouragement weekly on my blog. None of this would’ve happened had certain people not seen me as someone valuable enough to care about. I had plans to be an atheist and reject God and the church…but I saw—and truly experienced—Christianity in the most pure, loving, amazing, kindest form. And it made all the difference in the world!

Who else in the world needs to experience the love of Christ? And what amazing spiritual gifts are hidden behind each hurting or hardened heart?

Sometimes, people have hearts that have had a lot of mud flung their way. Who is willing to accept the challenge to use their Christ-like love to water and nurture these hearts so their true heart can shine through?

People who have been through major grief, life challenges, or tough circumstances in life, they all have hidden treasure locked inside of them…each has their personal life story that can help others. What stories are not being shared due to not being nourished and nurtured? Like Pastor Rick Warren says, “Who better to help the grief community than someone who has been through grief? Or the atheist community than a former atheist? Or the addiction community than one who battled addiction?” There are a wealth of amazing people out there who are being lost in the shuffle and it’s up to the church to love, help and encourage them. If they were once plugged in and left a church…and no one cared…that falls on each of us.

Every person has great value and has the amazing ability to create lasting change inside and outside of their church. Ask God to use you and ask Him to show you where…and with who…He wants you to begin!

We have 11 1/2 more months of 2016 to see what God is capable of doing through this challenge. Let’s seek to obey Him with everything we’ve got!

Make the incredibly important decision to love the unlovely, encourage the hurting and grieving, and to go after the ones who have left or abandoned their faith so they know someone cares…so they know that God and the church truly does care.

I know this will be some of the best time we’ll spend this year in service and devotion to God!

Be His heart…be His hands…be His feet!

So who is up to this challenge?

I hope everybody!

Every single day, ask God to show you someone to encourage, and ask Him to bring to mind those who have left the church or who have abandoned their faith.

May God richly reward and bless you as you love people back to life and shine the brightest light possible for Him this year!

Gratitude and many blessings,
Kim

©2016 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

If what you read was helpful, please feel free to share it❤️

For more encouragement:

Best decision of your life: http://peacewithgod.net

Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays
2. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 
3. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 
4. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 

Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617 

❤️

Grief & Holidays—helpful tip #5

Going through grief during the holidays brings many challenges—seen and unforeseen.

Grief, especially during the Christmas season, can feel like a minefield of the soul. Step left, and you’re okay…but step right, and an explosion of memories and heartache can blow right up in your hurting heart.

Today’s holiday grief tip is: Watch out for, plan for, and be mindful of triggers.

While going through deep grief, there usually isn’t much of a desire to do anything at all, but with a few preparations, many situations that can present further heartache can be pre-planned for, contained or avoided.

Whether you have lost a treasured loved one, are going through illness, a divorce or family conflict, or are going through another heartbreaking loss, grief during the holidays can certainly bite. Grief can bring many unwanted surprises and heartache that hasn’t been planned for. It also can be a challenge to balance grief, while also honoring and treasuring remaining loved ones. Hopefully, today’s tip can help prevent further grief so the holidays are more peaceful.

Some people who are deep in grief have the full ability to do all of the usual Christmas traditions and activities they’ve always enjoyed doing…this even brings great comfort to some. For others, doing the usual activities and traditions feel as though their heart is being pierced with an indescribable pain. 

Sometimes, there’s a need for a griever to change things up so they can figure out how to enjoy the holidays once again. No choices need to be permanent or “set in stone”…change may be needed just for this year. 

No matter which you are experiencing, if you’re needing to change things up or keep things exactly as they are, here’s a list of questions to help you navigate through the holidays (and triggers) as comfortably as possible:

  1. Traditions~ What triggers do you think have the potential to surprise you? Is it putting up your usual ornaments or doing your usual traditions that previously held great sentimental memories? Is it baking your treasured loved one’s favorite recipe or a baked good they loved? Will doing these things trigger feelings of fond remembrance…or will they trigger deeper heartache? Also, consider places that are tied to traditions. For example, if you recently lost a spouse, and you always went to get coffee or a meal together at a specific coffeehouse or restaurant, will you feel comfortable or uncomfortable seeing other couples at the same place? Or if you lost a child, please consider if it will be too hard to go to the mall and see children there with their parents? Sometimes, it is hard for grievers to see all of the joy-filled couples or families while out shopping or dining. Shopping online or getting take-out can truly be a griever’s best friend during the holidays. Consider all of the traditions that you treasure and then decide which you would like to do, and which ones to wait until next year to do.💕
  2. Events~ What events do you feel you could enjoy, and what events might prove to be too painful to attend this year? What events do you think can provide you with feelings of love, encouragement, and hope? What events do you feel may no longer interest you? Events should make you feel better, and definitely not worse. Look out for any events that you feel would simply be too hard to attend this year. 
  3. Relationships~ Who has been helpful or encouraging to you in your grief? Are there loved ones in your life who don’t quite understand grief or what you’re going through? Is there anyone in your life who you can ask for extra support this holiday season? Grief, sadly, reveals the depth of majority of a griever’s relationships. Relationships can be a blessing, or they can definitely become challenging during times of grief. Communication can greatly help to prevent confusion and heartache. What if you’re already at a family gathering or a friend’s holiday party and you begin to feel uncomfortable? Sometimes, it can be a necessity to go to a different room at gatherings or events if you’ve tried to communicate with loved ones about your grief, yet they continue to compound your grief and cause further conflict. Ideally, do everything possible to keep and maintain peace, but sometimes, it may be best to distance yourself from additional hurt by preventing relational triggers…and instead, primarily and purposely be around those who will offer you kindness and support at family gatherings or friend events. Avoid conflict, especially with family, as much as possible. And always realize beforehand that emotions can be heightened during times of grief so preparation may be needed. Whatever choices are made, do everything in love.
  4. Usual enjoyments~ There are so many things to savor and enjoy during the holidays…all of the sights, sounds, fragrances, tastes, memories, and joys…but after grief shows up, be prepared that these things can now potentially trigger intense feelings of loss and heartache. What favorite holiday enjoyments could possibly be a trigger for you this year? For example: What Christmas songs can bring sadness this season? You might want to make a playlist that you create to avoid hearing songs that will intensify grief. Think about the things you’ve previously enjoyed and decide which you’ll want to savor and enjoy…or not. There’s nothing wrong with waiting until next year to try to enjoy familiar holiday enjoyments if they prove to be too hard, sad, or daunting this year.
  5. Church~ If you’re used to attending church holiday services, or if you’ve never attended, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. Christmas services are an amazing experience every year! Be prepared, however, that they may be much more emotional this year. When going through grief, feelings can be very intense. If you’ve allowed God to guide you and encourage you through your grief, attending Christmas services will be a much more meaningful experience for you. After my sister’s fiancé passed away, she was surprised to find that heavy tears surfaced out of nowhere as the church band played. Be prepared for possibly more intense feelings during church services this time of year. If you know you’ll feel uncomfortable attending services, check to see if your church offers online services. Many churches do. Saddleback, Elevation, and Life.Church all have fantastic online Christmas services. Sometimes, it is very helpful to go ahead and attend church in person so you can be around others and not feel so isolated or alone. There is no wrong or right answer, so do whatever brings you and your family the most peace.

Being mindful of triggers definitely doesn’t mean to avoid Christmas activities or enjoying your loved ones this year. There are so many wonderful things about the Christmas season that can bring unimaginable joy to your heart! Just being prepared, as well as a little planning, can ensure a much more relaxed, comfortable, and more enjoyable and peace-filled holiday season.

Wishing everybody love, peace, encouragement, healing and HOPE throughout this beautiful season and the new year!

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

For more encouragement:

Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

2. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 

3. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 

4. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 

Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (book that shares tips on grief and traditions & holidays): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617