Have I told you lately that I love you? You see two waters up here today. That means you’re going to get a double-barrel sermon.
In the past sixteen weeks since mental illness took Matthew’s life one of the passages of the Bible that has encouraged me the most is 2 Corinthians 1. I want to begin with it today. Verses 3-11 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others with the same comfort that we’ve received from God. [In other words we go through problems, God comforts us and then we pass it on.] For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we’re distressed, it’s for your salvation and if we’re comforted, it’s for you comfort… Our hope… [I want you to notice this sentence] Our hope for you is firm because we know [we’re going to come back to that] Our hope… is firm because we know that just as you have shared in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort. We don’t want you to be uninformed brothers and sisters about the hardships that we have suffered… We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, [this is Paul talking here] so that we despaired even of life itself. [In other words, I’m so depressed I’m ready to kick the bucket, I’m ready to throw in the towel, I’m ready to give up and die. That’s depression. We despaired even of life itself.] Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us… and we’ve set our hope on him that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us… as you help us by your prayers. Then, [Paul says] many will give thanks to God for the gracious favor granted to us, in answer to your many prayers.”
I love that last sentence. “Then many will give thanks to God for the gracious favor granted to us in answer to your many prayers.”
Even in intense pain for sixteen weeks – four months – a third of 2013. Even in that intense pain our family has felt the favor of God. And we’ve felt the favor of God because of your prayers for us. I want you to know that we intend for the rest of our lives to spend the rest of our lives comforting others with the same comfort that we have been given from God because of your prayers.
So I want to begin with some thank yous. First I want to say thank you to my staff – all four hundred of them, because they have been serving you with excellence, with integrity, with compassion for a third of this year without their leader and they’ve done a great job! Let’s thank the staff for doing a great job! I love these guys!
Second, I want to say thank you to my fellow Southern California pastors. And actually pastors all over America. I received maybe twenty, twenty-five thousand cards and letters. Even today as I got up, my IPhone was jammed with other pastors saying, Rick, were praying for the service. Last night, there was a huge crowd of pastors who came from all over Southern California just to be here with me and to pray for me.
I want to say thank you to those of you watching online and around the world. Thank you so much for your prayers.
And not just pastors but a lot of people. In fact, two of my favorite rabbis are right here in this service today. They’re good friends of Saddleback Church. I’ve been at both of their synagogues and they’ve been down here to Saddleback. Elie Spitz and David Wolpe, are here, and where are you guys. Why don’t you stand up and let us say hi. Thanks for being here. I love you very, very much.
They couldn’t come on Saturday for obvious reasons. So the pastors come on Saturday and the rabbis come on Sunday. That’s a good thing, great thing.
I want to say thank you to my family. Not just to Kay but to Amy and Josh who are really the heroes in this story. Because they loved their younger brother fiercely and they protected him. Matthew was basically born with mental illness. He grew up all of his life struggling – very difficult life. His bigger brother and big sister protected him, loved him unconditionally, served him, talked him off the ledge I can’t tell you how many times. Then when they married Jaime and Tommy, who adopted Matthew as brother and so many others. Tom and Chaundel and Alyssa and Ryan and Andrew and Luke and Kay’s brother Andy and her mom, who’s the one great grandparent still alive. It’s just been incredible.
I am in a family of spiritual redwoods. They are strong. They are giants in faith. Really they are. In fact when all of this happened Amy looked at me and she said, “Dad, Satan picked the wrong family to pick on because he’s going to lose so bad in this because of the platform that God has given to our family.”
I want to say thank you most of all to you, to all of our Saddlebacks. To Saddleback Lake Forest and also to the other eight campuses here in Orange County who are watching right now. And to Saddlebacks all around the world – Saddleback Hong Kong, Saddleback Buenos Aires, Saddleback Manila, Saddleback Moscow, Berlin, London, Amman. We’re starting Saddleback Mars next week! It’s intergalactic evangelism. The world is not big enough for Saddleback Church.
But I want to say thank you that while I have been gone for a third of the year attendance was strong, giving was strong. You showed up. We had record attendance last week – over thirty thousand people were here at Saddleback and I hadn’t been here in sixteen weeks. It just shows that this is not a personality driven church. It’s a purpose driven church.
Let’s go back to the text. Circle three phrases. I’ve put them in caps. OUR HOPE, IS FIRM, BECAUSE WE KNOW. Circle those: our hope, is firm, because we know.
What I want to say is that what you know is what gets you through in life. What you know is what gets you through. If you don’t know the right things when the rouge winds of life come and the tsunamis of life come you’re going to fall over. You’re going to cave. You’re going to crumble. And when the great tragedies and the losses of life, which are inevitable, come into your life, if you don’t know the right truths you’re not going to stand spiritually strong. What you know is what gets you through.
The question I’ve been asked more than any other question is, how is your family getting through this? The answer is, because of what we know. Because our lives are not built on the shifting sands of popularity and popular culture which changes every month. But our lives are built on rock solid, bedrock truth of the Bible so that no matter what hits us we have a solid foundation. We know some unchanging truths.
Today I want to just mention three of those truths. If ever you needed to take notes it’s this week.
I don’t like to say this as your pastor because I love you, but you’re going to go through tough times. And you too will experience major losses in life. There is no growth without change; there is no change without loss; there is no loss without pain and there is no pain without grief. You’re going to go through losses in life. And you need to know these things that we’re going to talk about this morning and you need to remember them to make it through. How do you get through what you’re going through?
- The first thing we know is this: We know that life doesn’t make sense. Life doesn’t make sense, but we know we can have peace because we know God is with us and he loves us.
Life doesn’t make sense but we can still have peace because we know God is with us and God loves us. You have noticed, I’m sure, that life is often confusing. There are a lot more questions than answers. And there are a lot of unanswered questions. The truth is we simply don’t know why things happen the way they do. We’re not going to know. But we’re always asking the question, why? Why is this happening? Why is this happening now? Why is this happening to me? Why? Why? Why did my husband walk out on me? Why did my wife die of cancer? Why did I lose my job? Why didn’t I get that promotion? Why was my baby born with mental illness? We’re not going to know on this side of eternity the answer to those why questions. You’re just not going to know.
Life does not make sense when you just look at it. Bad people prosper, good people suffer.
All kinds of different things happen.
In my grieving, I’m not just grieving but I’m observing my own grief because I’m a teacher. As I looked at what I was going through I could see six discernible stages of reaction to loss. You might write these down. You’re going to go through them. You can go through them all at once and you can go back and forth. But here are the stages, what I call the six stages of loss.
The first one is shock.
Your world is just thrown upside down. You lose your job, you’re in shock. A loved one dies, you’re in shock.
The shock over Matthew’s suicide lasted not days. It lasted at least a month in my life. At least a month. I was in shock for a month.
But then we move to stage two, which I call sorrow.
You move from shock to sorrow and now you begin to grieve.
Sorrow is a godly emotion. Shock is a purely human emotion. God is never shocked because God knows everything. He never goes – Wow! I didn’t see that one coming. So God is never shocked. That’s a human emotion.
But sorrow is a godly emotion. The Bible says God grieves. The only reason you’re able to grieve is because you’re made in the image of God. The Bible says “Jesus wept.” The Bible says “Jesus was a man acquainted with sorrows.” He understood sorrow.
Grieving is a good thing. Grieving is the way we get through the transitions of life.
Then you move from shock to sorrow and the third stage is struggle.
In struggle is where you ask the why questions. Why? Why me? Why now? Why this? Why did this happen? And on and on.
You’re not going to get the answers to the whys, but it’s still ok to ask them. Even Jesus asked why. On the cross Jesus cries out “My God! My God! Why…?” Even Jesus asked the why question. Because we don’t always know what’s going on in that moment. So it’s ok to ask why.
But the test of your faith is what do you do when you don’t get the answer, because you’re not going to get it.
The fourth phase if you want to get out of the struggle into peace you’ve got to go to stage four which I call surrender.
Surrender is where you just stop asking and start submitting and start surrendering and start accepting. Surrender is the only path to peace. It is the only path to peace. You just say, you know what? I’m going to give it up.
Then you come to stage five. It’s a big Bible word but it’s the word sanctification.
Sanctification is when God starts bringing good out of bad. When God starts making changes in you. When your personality, when your character starts being transformed like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Sanctification is when God makes you more godly. You’re never going to be God. You’re never going to be a god, not even a little god. The new age movement says you’re a god. Oh really? If you’re a god why don’t you solve all the world’s problems? You can’t even solve all your own. You’re not a god. You’re not even a mini-me god. But you can become godly where you become more like God in love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness – all of those qualities. The fruit of the Spirit.
Then once you get into sanctification where God is working on you then you come to stage six which is service.
And it’s this – God wants to take your greatest pain and turn it into your life message. He wants to use your mess for a message. He wants to use your tests for a testimony. He wants to take the thing you are most embarrassed about, that you’re most ashamed of, that you most regret happened and he wants to use it for good in the lives of others.
Who can better help parents of a Down syndrome child than parents who have had a Down syndrome child?
Who could better help somebody struggling with an addiction than somebody who struggled with an addiction?
The very thing you want to least talk about is the very thing God wants to use most in your life to help other people. Your ministry comes out of your pain.
In the next six weeks we’re going to look at each of these stages individually in detail. But what I want you to get today is this one concept. No matter what stage you’re in you’re not in it by yourself. You’re not alone. God is with you and God loves you.
- That’s why we can have peace even when life doesn’t make sense. Because God is with me and God loves me.
You’re not going to go through any of these stages on your own. There are over 6000 promises in the Bible. Let me just show you a few of them.
The first one is Isaiah 43:2. God says this, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you pass through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned up. It will not consume you.”
Somebody asked Kay about two weeks after Matthew died, how you doing? She said, we’re devastated but not destroyed.
“It will not consume you.”
For twenty-seven years I prayed every day that God would heal the mental illness of my son. Because he lived a very tortured, painful life. His life was not a happy life. It was a painful life. Yet that prayer was never answered. It didn’t make sense. We went to the best doctors in the nation. We had the best medications. We had the best therapies. We had prayer. We had healing. We had thousands, tens of thousands of people praying. It didn’t make sense. We have an incredibly strong family, deeply loving, supportive, full of faith. Strong family. It just didn’t make sense.
I remember after Matthew died writing in my journal, “I’d rather walk with God with none of my questions answered than to walk through life without him and know all the answers.”
Why? Because when in pain, explanations don’t help. They don’t help. Whenever you have a major loss your tendency is to immediately look for a cause, a reason or an explanation. You go, I’ve got to figure this out. Why? Why did he leave me? Why did I lose my job? Why did I get cancer? Why, why, why? And you’re looking for an explanation.
Explanations don’t help. You don’t need an explanation. You need God. You need the comfort of God. You need the presence of God.
If Kay were to drop dead tomorrow and I knew the reason it wouldn’t lessen the pain any bit. So stop looking for an explanation. Stop looking for the why? It’s not going to make you feel any better. You don’t need an explanation. You need God. You need his presence.
One day you’re going to understand why everything happens but right now your brain isn’t big enough, and neither is mine. God has not promised to give you an explanation for why everything happens in the world. But he has promised you’re not going to go through anything on your own.
Look at this next verse. Hebrews 13:5, “I… [This is God talking.] I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” He says this over and over again from Genesis to the end of the Bible. It’s in all Scriptures. God says “I will never abandon you.”
You may have been abandoned in life by a spouse or a parent. Maybe you’ve been rejected. But God’s never going to abandon you. And God is never going to reject you. When we’re going through intense pain like the pain I’ve been in, we are tempted to think that God has forgotten us. It is impossible for God to forget you. He created you as an object of his love. You were made to be loved by God.
The Bible says in Isaiah 49:15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast or the child she has born?” The answer is obviously no. No woman could be nursing a baby and forget the baby at the same time. Obviously not. He says “Even if that were possible, I will never forget you! Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!”
God says “I have engraved you on the palms of hands” so I can’t forget you. A lot of people get tattoos to remember somebody they love. God has a tattoo of you. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”. Where did he get that tattoo? On the cross. With nail pierced hands, outstretched arms he said this is how much I love you. I love you this much. I love you so much it hurts. I love you so much I’d rather die than live without you. I love you so much this is how much. Sacrifice.
In heaven no one is going to have any scars except Jesus. He’s going to have the hands, the feet, the side, the head. Why? Because he wants to always remember, This is how much I love you. It is impossible for God to forget how much he loves you.
So we know that no matter how we don’t understand what’s going on in our lives we do know this: I don’t have the solutions, I don’t have the answers, Idon’t have the reasons. I don’t have the explanation. But I do have the presence of God. And I do have his love in my life. When life doesn’t make sense you need to hold on to the promises.
It occurred to me the day Matthew died, God knows what it’s like to lose a son. I’ve had many people ask me as pastor, Pastor Rick, where was God when my son died? The same place he was when his son died. Weeping, grieving. The Bible says that God weeps. You know that the Bible says God has stored up every tear you’ve ever cried. You don’t even know about that but God does. He knows more about you than you do.
As I said, Matthew lived a very tortured life. Part of the problem was he was incredibly bright. A lot of people who are mentally ill don’t know they’re mentally ill. Matthew did. Growing up he’d ask, why can’t I be normal? Because he was so smart he knew what wasn’t right. He felt odd. He felt on the outskirts. He felt like he didn’t fit in. He felt like nobody understood him. Why can’t I be normal? He had a tender heart but he had a tortured mind. And he struggled all through life with the unanswered questions about his illness because it didn’t make sense.
But I want to tell you this: One second into heaven all of Matthew’s questions were answered. And all the sudden, he understood it all. Life doesn’t make sense but we can still have peace because we know that he loves us and he’s with us.
There’s a second thing we need to know and remember.
- Everything on earth is broken, but we can still have joy because we know God is good and he’s got a greater plan!
Everything on earth is broken. Now, the fact is, since sin and evil entered the world it messed up everything. And nothing on this planet is perfect. Everything on the planet is broken. Nothing works perfectly.
The weather does not work perfectly. We have tsunamis and we have earthquakes and we have fires and floods and all kinds of natural disasters. God didn’t want that. He created a garden of paradise. A Garden of Eden. Sin broke the planet. It broke the weather, it broke the climate.
The economy doesn’t work perfectly. None of your plans work perfectly. Have you noticed that? Not one of your plans works perfectly.
Your body doesn’t work perfectly. Anybody agree with that one?
No relationship works perfectly. Anybody want to give a testimony? No matter how much you love you still have this.
No brain works perfectly. We all have broken brains. We’re all mentally ill. And we have thoughts that we can’t control and compulsions and desires and attractions and fears and depressions and worries and rage. You name it. Everything is broken in this world.
Now, as I said, we’re all mentally ill. We’re not insane. Very few people are insane, but we all struggle with mental illnesses, because everything is broken.
Isaiah 24 says this. By the way, if you ever want to read a perfect description of modern culture you need to go study in detail Isaiah 24. Because Isaiah 24 explains all of the problems in our culture today. People locking their doors for fear of crooks and why the cities are in chaos. It’s an amazingly accurate passage.
Let me just show you a couple of verses. Verse 5 and verse 19 “The earth suffers [everything is broken] for the sins of its people, for they have twisted the instructions of God, violated his laws and broken his covenant. Therefore… the earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, [we’re all lost spiritually] everything is abandoned and confused.”
We have confusion about everything. Confusion about the economy, there’s confusion in every area – about money, about sex, about life, about time. There’s confusion everywhere.
Why is there brokenness and suffering in the world? Because of sin and evil. Why is there sin and evil in the world? Because God allows you and me a free choice. We can choose to not love him. We can choose to go our own way.
You say well, why doesn’t God eliminate all the sin on the earth? God could easily eliminate all the sin on the earth. Get rid of you. And me. Because I make a lot of choices that flat out suck. And they hurt people. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. We’ve been hurting each other for thousands and thousands of years. You get enough sin habitually in the lives of people. It affects the environment, it affects your DNA, your genetics. It affects everything. Everything is broken.
If everything is broken, how can we have joy? Because we know God is good and because we know that he has a better purpose and greater plan.
Romans 8:28 one of the greatest promises in the Bible, says this, “But we know [circle “we know” – the second thing you need to know] that in all things [not some things, not the good things, we know that in all things] God works for the good of those who love him, and have been called according to his purpose.”
This is a great promise but I want you to know this is not a promise for everybody. “He works for the good of those who love him, and have been called according to his purpose.” If you love God, everything that happens in your life, God is using it, and he’s going to work it for good. Even the bad. Anybody can bring good out of good. God specializes in bringing good out of bad.
If you don’t love God all things are not working for good in your life. In fact, all things are working for bad in your life because you’re going against your Creator. Your arms are too short to box with God. You’re going to lose that one.
This is one of the most misunderstood, misinterpreted and misused verses in the Bible. Notice what it doesn’t say.
It doesn’t say everything that happens is good. It says all things God works for the good. It doesn’t say it’s all good. There’s lot of bad stuff in the world. There’s a lot of evil in the world. Racism is bad. Rape is bad. Bigotry is bad. Terrorism is bad. Cancer and leukemia – that’s bad. God is not the author of evil. It doesn’t say that everything that happens is good. There’s a lot of bad stuff.
It doesn’t even say everything that happens is God’s will. That’s nonsense. Friends, a lot of people confuse heaven and earth. This is not heaven. In heaven everything is perfect. Why? Because God’s will is done perfectly so everything is perfect. In heaven it’s all perfect because God’s will is always done. On earth everything is broken because God’s will is rarely done. Rarely done. That’s why Jesus said we are to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Because in heaven it’s done perfectly and instantly. And on earth it’s done rarely or never.
Not everything that happens on this planet is God’s will. I’ve been at funerals and someone says “It must have been God’s will.” Or they’ll say “God must have needed Matthew more than you.” There’s a word for that – nonsense. God needed that baby more than me so he took him home early. Are you kidding me? God doesn’t need anything. So don’t blame God for that. Death is the result of sin and evil. It entered the world because of that. God is not the author of it.
Matthew’s life was robbed by mental illness. It was robbed by mental illness.
You need to understand that you have an enemy on this planet. His name is Satan. Satan is not your friend. He’s not your friend. In fact the Bible says he came to kill and destroy. He wants to destroy your life. Why? Because he hates God. Satan cannot hurt God. God cannot be hurt like that.
So what happens? He tries to hurt God’s children to hurt God. If you can’t get to me, the quickest way to hurt me is hurt my kids.
Satan wants to destroy your life; he wants to mess up your life. He wants to keep you away from God because that makes God grieve. God grieves when you don’t love him the way he loves you, when you don’t know him the way that he knows you.
When Matthew died, Satan thought he had won. But he had lost big time. Why? Because he couldn’t torture Matthew any more. His entire life he went through mental torture. But now he’s out of reach of that torture. Now in heaven there’s no more pain, there’s no more sorrow. He’s at peace.
What’s he doing today? He’s in heaven in the grandstands cheering me on, right now.
On the day that Matthew died we were suspecting, because we hadn’t heard from him all day, he hadn’t texted all day, that our greatest fear had probably happened. The day I prayed would never happen, the day I feared might – that he would take his life. We went over to his house and we couldn’t get into his house because we didn’t have a key to his house. His car was there and he wasn’t answering the door. We were worried that our deepest greatest fear had happened.
As we stood there in the driveway waiting for police to come to break in and to see what inevitably was true, Kay and I stood there in the driveway hugging each other, sobbing. Our hearts were breaking into a million pieces. As we stood there trembling and sobbing out loud Kay reached up and grabbed her necklace which had two words on it. She showed it to me. It was the words of the book that she wrote. The title of the book that she wrote a year ago: Choose Joy.
I thought, are you kidding me? How in the world do you choose joy in the deepest grief? How do you choose joy in the worst pain? How do you choose joy when your greatest fear is being realized?
I’ll let Kay tell you that. Would you welcome her?
Thank you. Thank you, Saddleback. I have missed you.
As Rick said I was wearing a necklace that says choose joy. After I wrote that several years ago, I wrote the book because I struggled with low levels of depression my whole life. Yet here’s a verse like Romans 5:3-5 on your outline that says, “We can have joy even in our troubles because we know these troubles produce endurance. And endurance produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will not disappoint us, because God has poured his love to fill our hearts.”
I began to look for some jewelry that I could wear on a daily basis to remind me that I could choose joy, that there could be joy even in troubles.
The day that Matthew passed away, as Rick said, I, in particular, had a terrible sense of foreboding. I had very good reasons to believe that he had taken his life. But we had to wait hours before it could be confirmed. When I got up that morning I deliberately went to my jewelry box and with my hands shaking and my heart pounding and my stomach heaving I picked this necklace out of the jewelry box. I wasn’t really thinking very clearly. But I knew that by putting it on in some way I was fighting back against the nightmare that I was pretty sure was going to unfold that day.
As Rick said, as we stood at Matthew’s house together waiting for the police to confirm this terrible news, I don’t know why but in a moment I looked down and saw it and then I raised it to him in a very tiny feeble attempt to affirm what I knew to be the truth. Even as he said, our hearts were shattering.
How could I do that? How could I even wear the necklace that day? How could I lift it to him in a gesture of belief in God? A belief that joy can be chosen even in our darkest moments. How could I do that? And how could he through his tears receive it and not push me away and not tell me I was crazy and to stop it, and to doing that?
It’s because of what we know. Because we know that joy is still present. We know it, because God is good. And because we have spent the last fifty years of our lives putting our spiritual roots down deep into the rich soil of God’s grace, his mercy, his faithfulness and his goodness. And because of that, because of those roots that have gone deep into the soil of who God is, getting to know him, when troubles have come our way we have been able to produce endurance. It has been produced. And hopefully character. And from that character, hope and joy.
Verse 5 from Romans 5 again, look at that, “And this hope will not disappoint us, because God has poured his love to fill our hearts.”
I was learning a lot about joy in the last few years so I could say, yes God, I trust you and I’m going to have joy even in his very dark day.
But hope? I want to talk to you a little bit about hope. Because I would be lying to you, completely lying to you if I said that hope didn’t disappoint me. In fact I was crushed by hope that didn’t come true. But that takes us to point three which is the next thing that you and I need to know.
- Life is a battle, but we can have hope because we know that there is more to the story.
There’s more to the story. When Matthew’s mental illness, his borderline personality disorder and major depression disorder, when it began to get worse about five years ago I found myself frantic trying to find a treatment, to find a medication, to find a physician, to find a psychiatrist, to find a hospital , to find anything that would make a difference in his worsening condition. A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of agonizing moments of darkness as we watched helplessly as our son just spiraled slowly, slowly down.
Each member of our family tried to bend ourselves into pretzels in some way to care for him to make a difference. Eventually I realized that I needed a stronger spiritual approach to the situation because it was a long haul. Matthew wasn’t getting any better and my emotional and spiritual resources were being taxed to the limit.
So I enlisted a group of confidential friends and family who would commit to praying for Matthew and for us. So I began to send them very specific prayer requests, week after week. And these incredible people would pray for him and for us and they would send back encouraging notes. They would send back verses and Scripture that would give us hope to hold on to the belief that God was going to heal Matthew’s mind. If you’re in this service or even somewhere around the world, around the United States, you know who you are. And I can’t ever thank you enough for the way that you prayed for him and for us. You don t know the tremendous strength that I’ve drawn from that.
Then a year ago this drumbeat of mental illness began to be harder and faster and harder and faster. Every day was a guessing game of whether this would be his last day on earth. I found myself really losing hope that God was going to heal Matthew’s mind.
A dear friend gave me this box. It looks like alabaster or marble. I don’t know, maybe it’s plastic, but it looks good. In the middle of this box is the word “hope.” I began to take those Scriptures that others had sent to me, those verses that had been so enormously comforting that held my faith strong. I wrote them on cards and I put them inside this box. It became part of a daily ritual of my time with God. As I would spend time every morning I would pick up this box and I would open it and I would read verse after verse that inspired and filled my faith and my hope.
Verses like the verses in Psalm 116 and Psalm 18 where it says “The cords of the grave have encompassed me and I am held down tightly.” And another verse, “God, you have removed the tears from my eyes and kept my feet from stumbling so that I can live in the land of the living again.” And verses out of Isaiah, that “No we weapon formed against me shall prosper.” And verses where Jesus would say, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”
All these verses that talked about faith and hope in God’s healing. One particular verse that I loved that talked about my belief that I would see Matthew again with his arms raised in praise as he stood in the congregation. Those verses became lifelines for me of what God was going to do. I went out on the audacious faith limb, believing that God was going to heal Matthew. In fact, even the morning that Matthew passed away, very early in the morning I opened this box even with a sense of dread and read through those verses.
I even created a playlist of songs on my IPhone, probably fifty or sixty songs of hope and faith and courage. Songs that talked about and affirmed my faith in God and my hope in what he was going to do. They were songs about healing and songs about restoration, and songs about God, you have the victory. I would play them over and over in my car and in the sleepless nights. When I would go to bed at night, and as I was doing housework or at work I was listening to those songs over and over again and they built my faith and they built my hope. I called it Kay’s Picks.
Then I even did something that was kind of crazy. But in this journey of believing and having hope of what God was going to do in Matthew’s life I even put out what we call a fleece. If you’re not familiar with that let me just tell you quickly it comes right out of Scripture in Judges 6. Gideon is told by God that God is going to use him to defeat the Midianites. And Gideon is basically like God, you’ve got to be kidding me! I am not a mighty man of faith. You can’t possibly mean that you’re going to use me. And God says, Yes I am. And Gideon says, you’ve got to prove it to me.
So Gideon takes a piece of wool and he lays it out before God and he says in the morning God, if this is really you talking to me and you’re really telling me this is what you want me to do, then God, I pray that in the morning everything around this fleece will be completely dry but the fleece will be wet. So the next morning when Gideon got up, sure enough the ground all around that piece of wool was dry but the fleece was wet, so much so that he could twist it and wring water out of it.
But Gideon wasn’t convinced. I might be a little convinced but he wasn’t. God now don’t get mad at me, but could we do it again, only this time reverse it. Just so I’m really sure it’s really you talking to me. This time instead of it being the fleece that’s wet, I want everything around the fleece to be wet and the fleece to be dry. If that happens, then God I’ll know it’s you talking to me.
So God very graciously did that and the next morning when Gideon got up everything around the fleece was wet but the fleece itself was dry. And Gideon then believed that God wanted to use him. And God did. He used him to defeat the Midianites.
So I decided I was just going to keep going on this faith journey. So I asked God for that. I had a very specific request. And I said God I don’t need this for my faith because I’m going to trust you no matter what. Whether you answer this specific prayer, this funny little fleece thing that I’m doing. Whether you answer that the way I want you to or not, God I’m yours. But it would do so much for this mother’s heart of mine if you would just prove to me that you’re going to heal Matthew’s mind here.
Without telling you all of what I did, within a very short space of time, exactly what I had prayed for happened. But then being a little Baptist girl who doesn’t do fleeces, that’s so far outside my comfort zone, I didn’t know whether it was really true. I came back and I told my son Josh, this is what happened, but I don’t know if it’s true or not, if I should believe it. Was it really a fleece? Should I do it again?
He goes, Mom! This is the way faith works. You either believe it or you don’t. So are you going to believe it or not, Mom? Don’t you love it when your kids school you in faith?
So I believed. And I believed that God had even given me an answer in such a supernatural way that he was going to heal Matthew’s mind.
Then April 5th came and Matthew died. And with his death my hopes for a healed mind here on earth died too. My playlist of songs seemed pointless and stupid. My fleece was just a piece of wool after all. My Hope box seemed to mock me. It sat next to my chair where I have my morning time with God and for a month I didn’t even open it. I tried not to even look at it because my hope had been severely disappointed. I felt bruised by hope.
So what do you do? What do we do when hope doesn’t turn out the way we’re expecting it to? What do we do when we’ve gone out on those audacious limbs of faith and things in life and situations don’t turn out the way we were so convinced they were going to? You’ve got a couple of options.
One of them you can curse God. You can give up on God. You can say God is a fake and a phony and he’s a tease. Or you can give God an out and you can take the blame on yourself. It was my faith that wasn’t strong enough, if I’d been a better Christian, if I’d been better mother, if I’d been a better whatever. If I’d had more faith then Matthew would still be alive. And you take the blame on yourself and give God an out.
Over these nearly four months I have decided that neither of those responses is adequate or helpful. What I know about God prevents me from concluding that he is a fake and a phony and a tease. And what I know about myself prevents me from concluding that it was my fault, that Iwasn’t good enough, thatI wasn’t strong enough, that I didn’t have enough faith, that somehow my love failed him, that somehow it was my fault that Matthew died. That I could somehow maybe have kept him from hitting that mental illness brick wall.
So what am I left with? If I’m not going to blame God and I’m not going to blame myself where do we go with these dashed hopes?
What I’m left with is mystery, big fat mystery. What I’ve done is I’ve put all that I know of God, all that I don’t know of God. I’ve put it, if you will, in a little pan – a saucer, on the burner of my mind. Not on the back burner because I think of this every day. But I don’t know, as Rick said, I don’t know the answer to the contents of that little pan sitting on the stove of my mind. But I’m content to leave it there. Because I know that the day that I meet God face to face every single one of those mysteries will be solved.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 14 says “We often suffer, but we’re never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again… because we know God raised the Lord back to life. And just as he raised Jesus, he will also raise us back to life, and will bring us into his presence together.”
So I’m rebuilding hope. You can’t live without hope. I’m in the process of rebuilding hope; I’m rebuilding my play list. It’s now called Kay’s Picks 2. And it has a whole bunch of different songs. They’re songs about the future because I know this isn’t the end of the story. I know that Matthew’s story isn’t at the end. My story isn’t at the end. God is still writing it. And because of that I’m willing to try hope again.
So I have a new set of songs. There aren’t quite as many but there’s one I love. It’s called Not For a Moment by Meredith Andrews. Some of the lyrics, we sing it here at Saddleback, some of the lyrics go “Not for a moment have you forsaken us. Not for a moment have you abandoned us…”
And my hope is that not for a second did God abandon my beautiful boy, not for a second. And not for a second has God abandoned or forsaken us.
I’m rebuilding my Hope box. I took out the verses that I had prayed for several years, not because those verses are not true. They are God’s Word and they are truth. They don’t apply to my life right now. I’ve begun to put other verses in here, that give me the hope for the future, for this unfinished story that God is writing.
1 Corinthians 15:43 is one of the incredible verses. It comforts me and builds my hope. It says “Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness but they will be raised in strength!”
When I leave the cemetery where I visit often it helps me mourn to be there and grieve and access God’s comfort. And when I leave I say, I whisper it, “Matthew your body was buried in brokenness. That is true. But you, your body will be raised in glory. You were buried in weakness but you will be raised in strength.”
Hope may not look the way I thought it would but hope is alive in me because of what I know. And maybe today you’re in that place where we were for so long. You have your own figurative hope box. If you don’t, please build one. Put the Scriptures that God uses to encourage you to believe him for the situations, where you’re believing for a healed mind here, or you’re believing him for healed bodies here, or you are believing him for healed situations and marriages and things beyond your control, but you are believing.
I encourage you, I urge you to go out on that audacious faith limb and believe God. God is still the Red Sea God. He hasn’t changed. He still parts the waters and allows us to walk across on dry land. He still heals. He still redeems and restores and revitalizes the ruins of our lives. That is God and I beg you to have hope!
There’s hope box number one for those of you who are still dealing with a situation that needs God’s incredible touch.
Then you may be like us and your hopes didn’t turn out the way that you thought that they would. Some of the things or someone, something in your life has died. And you’re tempted to walk away from hope. Don’t! Rebuild your hope. Don’t be afraid to have hope again. Don’t be afraid to trust again. God is good. God is not finished writing the story. Please believe with all that you have that what has been broken can be restored. It is not the end of our story.
One of the most suspenseful TV shows that was ever on was 24. Anybody remember that? Jack Bauer could solve three world problems in every single episode. I wanted to be Jack Bauer. But I have to admit I never even watched the show until it went off the air and went into DVD because I hate watching commercials.
But then I bought the entire – I think six or seven years of series, or five years… whatever it was. I remember Kay and I were watching the first year of 24. We were sitting on the couch and Jack is getting into one of his predictable really bad messes like five seconds to save the whole world. I started to get a little tense and I started to think, is Jack going to make it? Is this it? Is this the end for our hero? Is Jack going to make it?
And a little voice said in my ear, relax Rick. There’s five more seasons!
Your tension goes down when you know the end of the story. You’re reading a mystery novel and you’re scared to death, but if you know the end, you know it’s going to work out.
This is why believers grieve so very, very differently than the rest of the world. We grieve with hope because we know the end of the story.
We grieve, Christians, believers, people who know Jesus grieve just like everybody else in that we sorrow when we lose loved ones. I told you, I’ve cried every single day since my son died. But I’m not grieving for him. I’m grieving for me. I miss him. I’m not grieving for him. He’s in a far better place. No more sorrow, no more torture, no more problems in his life. He’s where we’re meant to be forever. We’re not made to stay on this earth forever. We’re made to be in heaven forever. You were made to last forever. God has long range plans for you.
When we grieve we grieve for ourselves. But we grieve with hope because we know the end of the story.
Now let me tell you, I know the difference that makes. Because as a pastor I’ve done the funeral of people who didn’t have any hope. I have looked into the faces, into the eyes of people who don’t have a relationship with Christ, who don’t have the hope of heaven, who don’t know what we know, what we’ve learned. The fear and the panic and the hopelessness in the eyes of people who don’t have that hope is crushing. It’s just crushing. I have seen it in their faces and it is not something you want.
But we grieve with hope.
To live with hope in a life of pain and by the way, I’m sorry to say this to you, you’re going to have pain the rest of your life. But in that pain you can have hope.
How? You’re going to have to get a bigger perspective. You’re going to have to have a longer view. You’re going to have to refocus your attention. You’re going to have to stop thinking about just here and now and you’re going to have to start living in light of eternity.
This is not all there is. And if you just look at today and what’s happening right now you’re going to be hopeless. But if you can see in light of eternity you realize that this life is preparation for the next. You get at the most a hundred years on this planet. But you get trillions and trillions of years in eternity. This is simply the get-ready stage for the real show.
Here’s what the Bible says. 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we don’t focus on the troubles we see right now; instead we look forward to what we don’t see yet. For the troubles we see now are temporary… [Thank God they’re only temporary! Even if I had a problem my entire life it’s only temporary because it’s not going to last in eternity.] The troubles we see now are only temporary, but the joys to come will last forever.”
A lot of people when they have a loved one die they have a celebration of their life – a funeral – and they remember all the happy times. That’s a good thing. In fact, I would encourage you to do that. Remember all the happy times of your loved ones.
But that’s not my comfort. It is not my comfort. Because Matthew’s life was not a happy life. In many ways it was a tragic life. He was tortured. He had a tender heart but he had a tortured mind. Matthew had an ability to walk into a room at a party and instantly know who was in the most pain. And he would make a beeline for that person and spend the entire evening with them, comforting, consoling, and encouraging. He would have made an incredible counselor. He had a very, very tender heart. But he had a tortured mind.
For the last two years over here at the bridge entrance there’s been a lone protestor. And those of you who come across the bridge, you’ve see him there. He’s been there every week. It’s a very sad situation, a very broken man and some real resentment in his life. I think about the fact that every Sunday thousands of people drive across that bridge not even caring about that guy. Seeing him there week after week and not even knowing his story. As far as I know outside of myself and a few other pastors on staff who’ve actually taken the time to talk to him and hear what his hurt is, most people couldn’t care less.
I remember one day this was just in the last months of Matthew’s life, I happened to mention something to Kay. And Matthew’s ears picked up. He hears about it. He gets in his car and drives down and spends two hours with that guy, talking to him. Why? Because he had a tender heart. But his life in many ways was very tortured and very tragic.
So as a father my comfort doesn’t come from thinking about the happy moments of Matthew’s life. The were some, but not that many. My comfort comes not from thinking about happy moments on earth but holy moments in heaven he’s having now. That is a comfort to me.
Friends, the biggest epidemic in our society, in our world today is hopelessness. It’s in epidemic proportions. It’s the biggest problem on the planet. The biggest problem on the planet is not poverty. We’re trying to do something about that with the PEACE Plan. The biggest problem on the planet is not disease. We’re trying to do something about that with the PEACE Plan. The biggest problem on the planet is not illiteracy or ignorance or lack of education. We’re trying to do something about that.
The biggest problem on our planet is hopelessness. People are living and dying without any hope. We are in a battle against hopelessness.
That’s why Purpose Driven Life is still a best seller around the world. Why it’s the most translated book in the world except for the Bible. Because people are hungry for hope.
The week Matthew died I was in a massive battle for hope and against hopelessness. Let me tell you the behind the scenes story that happened that week.
Matthew lost his battle with mental illness five days after Easter. Last Easter I spoke thirteen, fourteen times to about fifty thousand people. I preached on The Hope of the Resurrection. That we know there’s a life hereafter because Jesus came back from the dead. The hope of the resurrection.
On Monday we announced nationally that after thirty-three years of saying no I was going to allow my sermons to be put on the radio and we started a nationwide radio program called Daily Hope. That was Monday.
On Tuesday I announced that I was going to take a four month sabbatical and write the first major book in eleven years since Purpose Driven Life and it was going to be called The Hope You Need.
You can see a pattern here. Sunday – The Hope of the Resurrection. Monday – Daily Hope.
Tuesday – The Hope You Need.
On Wednesday I sent out the newsletter I send out to all of who are signed up for it – News and Views. And I announced this next weekend, the weekend after Easter, we’re going to start a series on hope. And the first message I’m going to do is out of 2 Chronicles 20 on When You Feel Like You’re Under Attack. That was the message I announced on Wednesday.
On Thursday Christianity Today released a major article on our Peace Plan to mobilize churches and organizations to take down the final frontier. The last three thousand tribes in the world that don’t have hope. That don’t have a Bible, don’t have a believer and don’t have a body of Christ. The title of the article was called “Rick Warren’s Final Frontier.” It was an article on taking hope to the final people who still don’t have any hope, who haven’t heard the message of Jesus. That was on Thursday.
Friday was the day Matthew died. The message that was playing on Daily Hope all across America that day was this, “Winning the battle for your mind.” That was the message I was teaching on the radio across America.
I got up Friday morning not knowing what was going to happen that day and my chest was caving in. Kay goes, are you having a heart attack? No. no, no. I have a strong heart. I think I have bronchitis. So David Chrzan takes me to a doctor and he does an X-ray and he says, you’ve got double pneumonia.
I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve gotten double pneumonia or pneumonia after a Christmas or Easter. I preach thirteen, fourteen times, wear myself out, hug three thousand people, pick up your germs and get pneumonia! It’s the cost of being a hugger. So what? You’re worth it believe me!
But I’ve gotten upper respiratory and pneumonia; I couldn’t count the number of times. So it’s not a big deal to me after Christmas or Easter. But I’m sitting in the doctor’s office and I call Pastor Tom, our senior teaching pastor. I said, Tom I’m not going to get to start the series on hope this weekend. You’re going to have to preach. I don’t want you to preach my message “When you feel like you’re under attack.” I want you to preach on 1 Samuel 30. Where King David goes back to his hometown Ziklag and the enemy had burned the town down and they’ve taken all the women and children and residents captive. David and his men are devastated. They sit down on the ground and they just weep and they grieve. Then they do certain things. I said I want you to call the message “What to do on the worst day your life.”
Little did I know a few hours later it would become the worse day of my life.
We are in a battle against hopelessness. When something happens and you have a major loss in your life you tend to think, this is the end of the world! No. It’s not the end of the world. It’s an end of the moment. And in your life you’re going to have many ends of the moment. It’s not the end of the world.
I don’t know what you’re going through and it doesn’t matter how deep you think your problem is right now, the one you’re going through right now, it isn’t the end of the world. Why? Because when the real end of the world comes Jesus shows up. Then you know it’s the end of the world!
One day Jesus is going to settle the score, even the odds, pay off the debts and heal the hurts. The Bible says what it’s going to be like in heaven when it’s all over here on earth. The last chapter in the last book of the Bible Revelation 21:4 say this, “Then God [this is in the future] will wipe away every tear from their eyes. [this is in heaven] And there will be no more death or [there will be no more] mourning or [there will be no more] crying or [there will be no more] pain, for the old order of things will pass away.”
I’m looking forward to that day! But we’re not there yet. And what do we do now in this little parenthesis between the sweet by and by and the nasty now and now. Where everything is broken and life doesn’t make sense and it’s an incredible battle. What do we do during this middle time?
We live in peace even when life doesn’t make sense. Because we know that God is with us and God loves us and he’ll never stop loving us and he’ll never forget us.
And we live with joy even when everything on this planet is broken. Because we know that God is good and God has a good plan and God has a plan that is greater than the problem you’re going through. His purpose is greater than your problem.
And we live with hope. Why? We live with hope even when we know life’s a battle and everything’s hard and there’s a lot of conflict. We live with hope because we know there’s more to the story than just here and now.
In closing I want to talk to four different groups, just say a word to each of you. Everybody here is in one of those four groups. Those of you who are watching online and at our different campuses here in Southern California or overseas at Saddleback Manila and Saddleback Buenos Aires and Saddleback Berlin and Saddleback Hong Kong. All the different places. But wherever you are you’re in one of these four groups.
First, to those of you who haven’t yet stepped across the line spiritually. You know about God but you don’t know him personally. You’ve heard about Jesus but you don’t know him personally. You don’t have a friendship with him. Hang in there and be with us. Come back in the succeeding weeks. I’ll talk to you more about how to establish that relationship.
You can begin tonight by just praying the prayer we’re going to pray in just a minute. You say, Jesus wouldn’t want me. Oh really? I recently wrote down who Jesus came for. Jesus came for the chewed up and the pushed around, the cracked up and the put down, the crossed off and the ripped off, the crying out and the run down. Jesus came for the dropped out and the run over, the edged out and the shrugged off, the shut in, the flamed out, the shutout and the smashed up. Jesus came for the have nots and the squeezed outs and the held back and the stacked against. Jesus came for the hung over and the strung out and the knocked down and the kicked around and the torn up and thrown away, the left out, loaded down, turned off and used up. Jesus came for the looked over, the lorded over, the walked over and the washed out. The led astray, the laid off, the leaned on, the let down. He came for the messed up, the mixed up, the passed over, the picked on, the piled on, the pinned down. Jesus came for the wiped out and the written off. Jesus came for Matthew. Jesus came for me. Jesus came for you.
God has never made a person he doesn’t love. God has never made a person he doesn’t have a purpose for. God has never made a person that he doesn’t want to know him.
Satan is going to do everything he can to keep you from establishing that relationship because he hates you. If you are that person we want you here at Saddleback.
Group number two. Many of you, and I mean many of you, are struggling with your thoughts. And actually your thoughts torture you. You don’t tell anybody about it but it bothers you. Your thoughts torture you with depression or your thoughts torture you with anxiety. Or your thoughts torture you with self loathing. Or shame.
Some of you are tortured with blame and resentment. And some of you are tortured with fear and worry. And some of you are tortured with compulsions and attractions and addictions. And some of you are tortured with anger and some of you just feel out of place. I’m the odd person out. I don’t fit. I’m not in the in crowd. I’m on the edge. I just feel like the square in a round world.
You have these thoughts and you can’t get them out of your mind. You can’t make your mind mind.
Let me just say this to you as somebody who loves you. You’re not going crazy. If you’re afraid that you’re going crazy – I’m afraid that I’m losing my mind. Let me tell you this: People who are insane aren’t afraid of losing their mind. The fact that you’re afraid means you’re not losing your mind. So take a deep breath and let that one out. People who are insane don’t worry about it. The fact that you’re worried means you’re rational.
So you’re not going crazy but you do need help with your thought life.
The second thing I want to say to you is this: you’re not alone. There are three thousand people in this room here tonight. If this is an average like it is here in America, six hundred of you are struggling with some kind of mental illness. Six hundred.
Sixty million Americans struggle with some kind of mental illness. Four hundred million worldwide. That would be larger than the United States if it were a nation.
And I want to just say this: you may have a chemical imbalance in your body that messes with your mind. But your chemistry is not your character. And your illness is not your identity. And God’s grace doesn’t just cover our genetics, our genes and genetics. It covers our guilt and everything else.
And God’s mercy doesn’t just cover the things we do wrong. It covers our DNA. And we want you here at Saddleback Church. It is not a sin to be sick. And there’s no shame in taking meds. There’s no shame in seeing a psychiatrist. If my back is broken I go to a back doctor. If my heart doesn’t work right I go to a heart doctor. If my kidney stops working I go to a kidney doctor. If my brain isn’t functioning right I go to a brain doctor. There’s no shame in that.
Why is it that any other organ in your body cannot work and there’s no stigma attached to it? If my spleen stops working there’s no shame… if my pancreas stops working… if I have diabetes there’s no shame, there’s no stigma on that. But if my brain stops working why am I supposed to keep quiet and not talk about it and be ashamed of it? That’s just wrong.
Ten years ago God called Kay and then called me and then called many of you at Saddleback to remove the stigma of HIV and AIDS. It’s not a sin to be sick. And now ten years later God is calling us as a church to remove the stigma of mental illness. And we’re going to do that. If you’re struggling with any kind of mental torture we want you here. Cause we’re all a little crazy here.
If you’re perfect we don’t want you in this church. Go somewhere else. And by the way if you ever find a perfect church, please don’t join it because then it won’t be perfect any more. Once you join.
At Saddleback Church we take this so seriously we have literally hundreds and hundreds of support groups and thousands and thousands of people in those support groups. In fact in all of our small groups we have over 32,000 people in seven thousand small groups from Santa Monica to Carlsbad.
In front of you is a card. I want you to pull this out. It says “Saddleback Cares.” If you’re on the second row hand one to the person in front of you. I want you to take two of these with you as you go. Two of these with you – one for you and one for you to give away to somebody else who you know in pain.
Here’s just a list of some of the support groups that we have. Support groups for ADD; for Alzheimer’s; for Asperger’s; for bipolar; for breast cancer; cancer; chronic pain; depression; divorce care; eating disorders; empty arms – that’s people who have miscarried; people who have family, loved ones, in prison; grief support; hepatitis; infertility; kidney disease; living with AIDS; Parkinson’s; on and on and on. There’s almost no problem you could name we don’t have a small group for. You can go out on the patio and get information after the service.
Take this with you. Take one and give one to a friend.
The third group I want to talk to; those of you who are in families and you have a family member like the Warren family did who is seriously mentally ill. Maybe it’s your dad. Maybe it’s your mom, your husband, your wife, your brother, your sister, a child. We want you in Saddleback Church. This is your church. And we will support you and we will help you and we will work on the pain you’re going through together. You should not suffer in silence. We are here to help your family but you’ve got to speak up. And you’ve got to let us know about the pain. As I said we want to remove that stigma together.
Then finally I want to just say this to all of you who are part of our Saddleback Church family and those all over our campuses. You better buckle up! Because we’re moving into hyper drive. Because I’m back. Get ready. Just get ready.
When you’ve gone through what I’ve just gone through publicly in front of the world it honestly it makes you fearless. Greg Laurie asked me coming out, how are you feeling? I said, honestly I feel fearless. If I ever cared what people thought I certainly don’t care now! Because when you have gone through…
You know, as a pastor there are different kinds of funerals. The easiest kind of funeral is for an older person who had lived a godly life. It’s a homecoming. It’s a celebration of their life. My parents, Kay’s dad, others like that. It’s an easy funeral because they’re ready to go to heaven.
A more difficult funeral is the death of a spouse. More difficult than that is the death of a spouse and little children still at home. That’s a tough funeral to do. A murder is a more difficult funeral.
Without a doubt the most difficult funeral of all is the death of a child. Because parents aren’t supposed to outlast their kids. And without a doubt more than that, the most painful funerals of all are suicides.
Now I’m doing a funeral for the death of a child, and it’s my child. And it’s a suicide. And I’m a public figure and the whole world knows about it. I have people who don’t like me – enemies – who are writing blogs celebrating my son’s death. Laughing at my pain. May Rick Warren burn in hell with his son… and on and on and on.
When you go through that kind of fire when you come out you go, is that the best you got? Is that the best you’ve got, really? You come out of it, honestly, fearless.
We are going to redouble our efforts to help anyone hurting. From the very start of this church when it was just Kay and I, just two people – you know, I preached the first sermon. She heard it and she said it’s too long and it’s been downhill ever since. She’s still saying it’s too long!
The world is full of broken hearts, broken bodies, and broken minds. And we’re going to do everything we can to help those people.
Everything we have done and will do in this church is motivated by love – by love for God and by love for the people that he created. Whether it’s the three hundred ministries we do in the community of Southern California. Whether it’s the campuses, the other Saddlebacks we start in Southern California. Whether it’s the international Saddlebacks. Whether it’s the PEACE Plan. Whether it’s the Rwanda Project. Whether it’s the Final Frontier project. Everything we do is to say this to the world: you matter to God. And there is hope and we are in this battle against hopelessness.
I just need to know one thing: Are you with me? As if I had to ask!
The next six weeks, on the back of your outline, we’re going to look at each of these phases in detail. And we’re going to look at a Bible character for each one. We’re going to look next week at shock: When your world falls apart. Bring somebody who needs to hear that message.
Then the next week we’re going to look at Sorrow: When your heart is breaking.
Then the next week we’ll look at Struggle: What do you do when you don’t understand what’s going on in your life.
Then the next week Surrender: How do you experience peace in life?
Then the next week Sanctification: How do I let God turn the bad in my life into good.
Then the next week Service: How do I let God use the pain in my life to help other people. Don’t miss a single week.
Let’s bow for prayer:
Dear God, I look out on these people that I love so much and I thank you for their love for you, their love for each other, their love for people who are hurting. I thank you for our church family. I don’t know any other church like it in the world. I pray that this series will help us be prepared to stand on the solid rock of truth so that we’re not blown away when the tough times come into our lives. I pray it will prepare them to not just stand firm but to help others.
Now you pray. In your mind say Dear God I want to know you better. I want to become a man or a woman of faith. I want to fulfill the purpose that you made me for. Dear God, help me to remember that I’m never really alone. That you are always with me. You’re always thinking about me. And that you will always love me. And you will never abandon me. Help me to build my life on those truths. Help me to remember that you are a good God, that you have a good plan for my life. And that plan is to give me a future and a hope. And God, even when life is a battle and when everything is broken, help me to remember this is not the end of the story, that we win in the end. That ultimately there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more mourning, no more crying, no more death.
Say this in your heart: Jesus Christ, as much as I know how I give you every area of my life. I open up myself to you. Make yourself real to me. I want to learn to love you more. I want to learn to trust you. And I pray this in your name. Amen.