January 15, 2013

Dealing with Deaths and Other Bad News

For anyone involved in a church, it's always difficult to hear bad news--this friend is newly diagnosed with cancer, this young parent was killed in a car accident, this youth died of a brain tumor, this couple is getting divorced, this person just was arrested on a trumped-up charge. But it is especially hard as a clergy family to hear all the bad news and often know the people personally. So it's not just "that person I see occasionally" but "that person who sings in choir with me" or "that kid who plays with my child in the preschool everyday."

So what do you do with all the bad news, personally? Recently a young father in our congregation was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer. One day he was planning to run in a marathon, and the next, he was in the hospital receiving 3 pints of blood.The story is tragic and seems all too often repeated these days. But for this man and his family, they are thankful that the cancer was discovered in time; and they are also thankful that they have their faith and church family to help. What they may not know is that their church family is grieving too and just getting over another tragic death in the congregation. But I also know that our congregation will not fail them and there are plenty of people to help.

But for those of us who see this sadness so often, it does take its toil. I am not talking about faith being tested, although there may be some of that. And while I am sad, I also have to keep things in perspective. And I have to find ways to balance the bad news with good news.

If I feel this way, I often wonder how our clergy spouses feel. Because they are usually directly involved. My involvement is direct sometimes but indirect other times. And I don't know about you, but my spouse does not tell me all that he knows about what people are going through. So pray for God to sustain your spouse and give him/her the grace to endure as they listen and minister to the sick, dying, bereaved, and suffering. Pray that there be sufficient joy and peace for effective ministry to prevail.

What do you, your family, and your spouse do to lighten the load of service and find the joy that God really intends for us all?

Grace, Kathy

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