The Blessings of Sound Doctrine
(Part one of a four-part series)
Doctrine: “Act of teaching or that which is taught; scriptural teaching on theological truths.”
My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.
One of the potential positives of bereavement is the opportunity it provides for a healthy examination of one’s beliefs and long-held, but untried, assumptions. For me, child loss has been galvanizing. Everything I had been taught about my Father God, the entire foundation of my faith in Christ Jesus, was solidified the instant I heard the words Hans is dead. The lightning bolt that cleaved my heart, in the same strike, fused the Truth of God’s Word and the reality of His love, to the very core of my being.
I know this is not how it is for everyone. The Lord ministers grace to each of us in exactly the way that is needed. There is no one-size-fits-all way to do child loss and I claim no special privilege. I am not sure how I would have held up under a lengthy period of doubt and so I am thankful He made it crystal clear that Hans’ home-going was undeniably from His hand. It was a gracious gift of instantaneous verification, straight from the hand of God.
I believe the Lord enabled me to receive this gift so readily because He had carefully prepared my heart in the years leading up to Hans’ departure. The Holy Spirit of God graciously used the faithful preaching and teaching of His word to lay an unshakable foundation that has allowed me to keep my footing even as the earth seemed to move beneath me.
So, why is sound doctrine important for the bereaved?
Because it is important to God. It promotes right thinking and growth.
When a believer has the Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit as Teacher, Comforter, and Friend, bereavement can be a profitable time of shedding the erroneous and appropriating the True. Child loss, in particular, can raise a lot of questions in the hurting heart. The answers often do not come easily.
Questioning what one has believed and been taught about God is beneficial when asked with a searching and humble heart. Questions are a normal reaction to catastrophe. But fist-shaking, rebellious, blaspheming, angry unbelief, though perhaps understandable, is sin and helps no one, especially not the griever.
Sorrow can refine us and help us to grow stronger. But compounding one’s sorrow with inaccurate notions regarding God’s sovereignty, goodness and love gives our Adversary a formidable weapon. He can and will use the resulting feelings of anger, betrayal, doubt, and abandonment to shred our faith to little pieces. A distance can develop between our broken heart and our Lord Who desires to heal us and bind up our wounds.
For some, bereavement can be a season of disorienting disequilibrium and it may take some time to wade through this to a place of growth, satisfaction and peace. Time in the Word, time in prayer, and time alone with God is what it takes to get there. If this sounds like work, that’s because it is. It is part of the hard work of grieving.
Grief is not an illness or a weakness – it is not that we work to get rid of it (as if that were possible). Being sad because your child died just couldn’t be more normal and it is crucial to understand that pain does not equal spiritual failure. Sorrow, within the framework of right thinking and a right relationship with God, is a tool in His hand for our good.
When we think right, our emotions will eventually follow. There have been many occasions when I have been able to deflect an emotional meltdown by stopping my thoughts in their tracks, redirecting them to God’s promises, and then running His Truth through my mind until the grief-wave passes. This does not eradicate the pain, but it does help keep it under control for those times when a good cry is not logistically possible. When my emotions are kept in perspective, in light of the promises found in God’s Word, I can hear His voice, feel His presence, and know He is at work. I can grow rather than wither.
Wrong thinking about God and about how He operates is a serious handicap to growth and healing and can add years to our recovery. Making our feelings a priority in our post-loss life, rather than making the Lord and His Truth our priority, is a serious mistake. Feelings cannot be trusted and following your broken heart can lead you to a very bad place.
Spending excessive time focusing on the pain of the loss rather than thinking right thoughts about God, creates more pain. We risk becoming disappointed in anyone who does not sufficiently acknowledge or accommodate our loss. Relationships suffer. We become victims instead of victors.
While sound doctrine lays the foundation for right thinking, and right thinking facilitates growth and healing, it is also important to remember that right thinking without obedience, and obedience without love, are nothing more or less than hypocrisy. Without a right relationship with God, the whole thing comes crashing down. And there is bound to be casualties.
Knowing God, pursuing an accurate knowledge of His Word, and believing what He has said, clarifies our perspective and gives us the eyes of gratitude that see His loving hand in all things. For the hurting heart, this is the way of peace.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee:
because he trusteth in thee.