Rev. Nola Anderson encourages grievers not to despair
Crossroads District Superintendent the Rev. Nola Anderson spoke at the Memorial Service on June 2 at the 2016 Annual Conference session. Her speech focused on the theme, “A Reason to Hope.”
Rev. Anderson exposed the lesson “The Book of Lamentations” can teach people when they are faced with intense grief. “Lamentations’” five chapters are considered funeral hymns; it is Jeremiah’s response to the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of Judah when invaded by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
Rev. Anderson painted a picture of what it must have been like for Jeremiah.
“As he walks through the remains of the city, just imagine the scene,” she said “It’s like one of the TV news reports showing a scene after an earthquake or a disaster zone following a fire, tornado, or hurricane: darkness, despair, sadness, and suffering. He’s at the lowest point he could possibly go.”
Though “Lamentations” is filled with Jeremiah’s cries of despair, there is a hinge found in Lamentations 3: 21-23, that must be remembered.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” it states.
The hinge is the hope people find in God. The Lord’s steadfast love never ceases; despite the most tragic circumstances, the Lord’s steadfast love does not end, Rev. Anderson said.
The Memorial Service honored the 24 clergy and 27 clergy spouses that have recently passed away. The deceased clergy included: Peter Hanson, Verne Schattner, Everett Fitts, Theresa Hough, Robert A. Johnson, Herbert Loomis, Theodore Richards, Andrew Russ, Charles Warner, Norman J. Mead, Jon C. Stenberg, Walter G. Conner, James Barrett, Gregg Trask, Stephen Parr, David W. Bouton, Dolen Morris, James Carr, Roger J. Crout, Emerson Rugh, Roger Smith, David L. Derk, Richard Anthony Santella, and David Schalk. The deceased clergy spouses included; Elizabeth Freeman, Joseph Coltrain, Leora Trmbly, Donna Doud, Mary Rowe, Carol Craik Viger, Marguerite Shumway, Sarita Fiske, Alberta Geisler, Karen Bartz, Lois Peterson, Dorothy Dolch, Alice Wheatley, Vivian Mayo, Alice Phelps, Mary Emma Mohler, M. Danielle Kish, Helen jones, Daniel Baker, Wilma MacLaughlin, Hildred Brothers Cayce, Mary Lou Day, Nancy Clark, Caroline Grant, Virginia Caldwell, Linda Crout, and Mary Mowry.
Rev. Anderson urged the loved ones of those who passed away not to lose hope. She told them grief is acceptable just like it was for Jeremiah.
“There is a very honest grief in ‘Lamentations,’” she said. “The author does not propose any easy answers. No ‘things will be okay.’ No ‘this too shall pass.’ Just raw grief and lament. The first 16 verses of Chapter three get pretty intense. The image of God is not pretty, and the believer is not afraid to utter it. Fortunately, by verse 17, the mood turns, and one last summary leads into verse 21, in which God’s lasting and eternal quality of hesed (loving kindness) is recalled.”
Rev. Anderson acknowledged that despair is an automatic response to grief. She likened despair to a computer’s default settings.
“Each of us has a ‘despair’ default,” Rev. Anderson said. “If we don’t reconfigure our minds, we slide down the slippery slope of discouragement and complaint. In order to break out of the pattern and cycle of despair, Jeremiah needed to be vigilant about what he allowed himself to think about. He needed to bring other things to mind.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 brought the following truths to the surface that grievers need to bring to mind.
- God’s loyal love
“The basis for renewed hope is god’s great love,” Rev. Anderson said. “God sticks by the people he has chosen.”
- God’s compassions
Rev. Anderson explained that compassion is plural here because God’s concern for his people is limitless. She revealed that the Hebrew word for compassions, “rehem,” means “womb.”
“This is meant to explain to the reader that it is an intense compassion,” Rev. Anderson said. “This reveals the gentle, but strong feelings of concern for the people who belonged to God.”
- God’s mercies
Again, pluralized, God’s mercies come day by day.
“We would much rather see the burden removed once and for all,” Rev. Anderson said. “Yet, like Jeremiah, when we surrender to live for God day by day, we feel fresh breezes of love, grace, and compassions blowing across our soul. God’s supply comes when we need it–not earlier and not later. God gives us what we need for today.”
Rev. Anderson encouraged grievers not to despair, that to despair is to “mourn without hope.”
“We who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior know that death is not final,” she said. “It is merely a door through which we pass to Eternal Life with Jesus Christ. So no matter how great our sorrow, no matter how deep our pain, we know that the power of God is greater, to give us faith that makes us more than conquerors, a faith that helps us look up and have hope.”