Striking Rocks, pt.2: Handling Sadness

Moses had led the community of Israel to Kadesh.  There the people began to complain bitterly about both Moses and their living conditions:

In the first month of the year, the whole community of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Zin and camped at Kadesh. While they were there, Miriam died and was buried.
There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The people blamed Moses and said, “If only we had died in the LORD’s presence with our brothers! Why have you brought the congregation of the LORD’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!” (Num. 20:1-5)

Moses was faced with a big decision: “How will I respond to this latest challenge to my leadership?”

I recently heard a television commentator share some advice that he said his grandfather had given to him: “Never make a big decision when you are sad, tired or angry.” Moses hit the trifecta!

He was sad. Moses’ sister, Miriam, had died. God was responsible for saving Moses from death as an infant, but He had used Miriam as the instrument to accomplish it. Throughout the exodus from Egypt, the 40 years of wandering, Miriam had been right there with him and Aaron. Now she was dead and Moses was grieving her loss. He was grieving the loss of a sister, a supporter, a leader and a friend. He was grieving the loss of stability and familiarity. Perhaps he was grieving his own mortality as the death of peers dramatically brings to light our own human frailty.

The enemy often attacks during times of grief for a number of reasons:

  • Grieving can increase our vulnerability by decreasing our vigilance because we are distracted by pain.
  • The desire to relieve our pain can lead us to be tempted to do so with illegitimate solutions to make us feel better or dull the hurt – substances, sex, more work, entertainment, etc.
  • Pain can dull our senses towards God.

The people’s challenge to Moses’ leadership only added to his sense of isolation as now he was also grieving the loss of respect and authority.

From the initial loss of her person and to eventual loss of her presence, my mother’s terminal journey with Alzheimer’s produced in me an extended period of grieving. In one form or another, I  experienced all of the aforementioned enemy attacks.  As a pastor, I am expected to have words of comfort – my own and God’s – for those who are hurting. What about when I’m hurting?

What about you? Are you grieving loss? Have you experienced the enemy’s sneak grief attacks? How have you handled them? How is it impacting your decision making?

In my next entry, I will address the second part of Moses’ trifecta: fatigue.

Please add your voice to the conversation.

Jason P.

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4 thoughts on “Striking Rocks, pt.2: Handling Sadness

  1. Good word for today!

  2. It’s interesting, b/c I don’t think I’ve ever processed much the idea that in the midst of the people’s complaining Moses had just lost his beloved sister. I think most preach this passage with the focus on Moses dealing with all these trifling people! =) Anyway, I definitely see this in my life. The devil has attacked my husband & I so fiercely in ministry…and especially in times of grief. I too, decided last year not to make any major decisions in a time of grief….that is why I waited until now to decide to take a break from ministry…I had to get through the biggest parts of sorrow before I could see clearly as to whether or not that would be a good choice for me, our marriage & our family. Now I see that it must be done though it produces it’s own sense of sadness and grieving. I suppose the grieving of the “loss” of my ministry has led me to pray and to tangibly trust God more than I have in a long time…so this is probably right where the Lord wants me.

  3. One of things I’ve learned about pastoral ministry is that it is what I do, but it is not necessarily who I am. When I came to this understanding, it relieved me from some of the stress and grief that comes from leaving a position. When I interviewed for my current position, an elder noted that a person with my background and resume was “ridiculously overqualified” for a part time associate pastor job. I responded, “How can I be overqualified to be a servant?” My identity is NOT in what I do or where I do it, but in Whose I am – I am a servant of God who can utilize me anywhere and in any way He pleases. I encourage you to grieve the loss of relationship, familiarity and security that is natural, inevitable, and normal with the change of roles. I also encourage you to embrace the joy of pressing hard into God and seeking His heart, face and mind in fresh, new ways.

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