Commitment to Christ, Grief, Living through heartache, Walking by Faith

Heart of the Matter: Grief and God’s Will

August 16, 2013

Cynthia: This is Cynthia, with Heart of the Matter broadcast
for women who want to obey God in a less than perfect world. Paul wrote to the
Thessalonian church that they should not grieve as the world grieves. Today,
we’re going to explore what that means.

Many believers are seriously concerned, and even frightened,
as we see the changes happening so rapidly in our world. How can we grieve as
God would have us to? Today, I have with me Dianne Butts and she is the author
of Dear America: A Letter of Comfort and Hope to a Grieving Nation.

 Welcome, Dianne!

 Dianne: Hi, Cyndi. I am so excited to be with you today.

 Cynthia: Dianne, you wrote this book for 9/11. Did someone
you know lose their life or get injured in that?

 Dianne: No. When that happened I was sitting out here in
Colorado and I didn’t know anyone that was there, or was directly affected by
that. But in the aftermath, as we all sat there and watched the TV reports and
waited for news and all of that, I bet everyone listening to me will understand
this feeling. We feel like we need to do something. We have to do something. We
don’t know what to do and we don’t know if anything we do will make a
difference to anyone else, but we just have this need to do something.

 And so what is a writer going to do, but write? And so I sat
down and wrote this book. It just poured out and I just wanted to talk about
grief because I had experienced grief in my life and I knew people who lost
loved ones would be grieving. And our nation was grieving. And so I really just
used the attacks of 9/11 as a jumping off point to talk about where is God when
things like this happen.

 What happened? Where was he? Why didn’t he stop it? And then
how to deal with grief, and then the questions that are more familiar now. Who
are the Muslims? What is Islam? Where did all of this come from? Do they
worship the same God as Christians and as Jews? And just all of these things
just poured out.

 Cynthia: You have had some grief in your life, because I
know that your brother, Fred, was hit by a drunk driver on his motorcycle. Can
you talk about that just a little bit?

 Dianne: Yes. I was 18 and two days at the time, and my
brother was four years older than me. He was in the Marine Corps, and he
actually came home on leave. At the time, this was back in the 70’s, and we
were at peace, so it was peacetime. You don’t expect anything to happen to your
military people then.

 But still, there’s that thing that something could happen
while they’re away serving in the military. But when they come home on vacation
they’re supposed to be safe, right? And it just happens that his vacation fell
over my 18th birthday. And even back then I loved to ride
motorcycles and he did too. He had bought a Harley-Davidson before he went into
the service and he left it with a friend while he was gone.

 So of course when he got back to Colorado he went and got
his Harley and was riding it around and a friend of mine had found a couple
guys with motorcycles and we were riding. That was my gift to me for my 18th
birthday. And my brother, Fred, showed up where we were at the disco tech back
then, and we just had a great night. And we rode until the sun was coming up
the next morning, and then my brother went home to my mother’s house where he
was staying and I went to my apartment.

 The next day I was out with my friends, and I lived in a
small town and the town cop came to find me. Well, that’s never a good thing.
But I didn’t understand what was happening. I liked to party but I’d never been
in trouble, and I knew I hadn’t done anything. So why is the cop looking for
me?

 Well, when he found me he said that I needed to call a phone
number and that’s all he would tell me. Well, I didn’t know the phone number. I
didn’t know what was happening. And so I went to my apartment and I called and
a lady answered, who I didn’t know, and she said hold on. I told her who I was;
she said hold on for a minute. And the next thing I know my mother’s voice
comes on the phone of this phone number that I don’t know, who I’m calling, and
my mother says two words to me. She says Fred’s dead.

 And I was just absolutely stunned. I was like what? This is
impossible. I’d just seen him; he’d stopped by my apartment earlier that
afternoon, just a few hours ago.

 Well, what had happened is when he stopped by at my
apartment he was all excited because he had a date that night with a girl he’d
went to high school with. So he went and got her and they went out on their
date and he had come home and dropped off his stuff, and then apparently he
wanted to go back out to get a six-pack of beer. And the liquor store was about
half a mile from my mom’s house, he rode down there, he got his six-pack of
Coors beer from Colorado, and he was on his way back when a car pulled out of
the parking lot of a bar right in front of him.

 And he went down on his motorcycle and he had chest
injuries, and his aorta ruptured. And so he bled out in just a matter of
seconds. That’s how I remember my 18th birthday.

 Cynthia: What a thing to remember. Oh, that’s terrible.

 Dianne: The rug was really pulled out from under me at that
point, yes.

 Cynthia: And how about your dad? Didn’t he die of cancer
when you were young?

 Dianne: Yes. Two and a half years before my brother was
killed my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And I do remember that all
of the nurses kept telling me oh, it’s going to be okay, he’s going to be fine.
Well, he wasn’t okay. He wasn’t fine. When I was 15 he died.

 So it was two and a half years after that that Fred gets
killed. We had gone to church some when I was a kid. It wasn’t a real strong
church, I didn’t learn a lot there. My mother now says that dumb church never
told us we needed to accept Jesus as our Savior. I had a faith, even though I
knew nothing and yet with all of these things happening I decided oh, well
that’s just something people believe but there’s no substance to it. It’s not
real, it’s not true. If there’s a good God then bad things wouldn’t happen.
Right?

 As a teenager that’s how my mind worked. I couldn’t
reconcile bad things happening if there was a good God who loved me.

 Cynthia: And that is a question that a lot of people have
asked. And because of it they have lost their faith.

 So let’s talk a bit about how these two deaths affected you
and what you learned about grief.

 Dianne: I had decided there must not be a God, and so I just
went my own way and did my own thing. And yet, it’s kind of funny because at
the same time when I thought of God I’d just be angry at him. He’s got to exist
if you’re angry at him.

 My life went on and was pretty tumultuous for awhile. I got
into some things I shouldn’t have gotten in to. Because I didn’t think it
mattered. I didn’t think anything mattered. People just die, so what’s the
point?

 Eventually I had to know the truth. Is there a God or isn’t
there? Do our lives matter or don’t they? It was that seeking truth, I finally
just started praying to a God I didn’t even know and wasn’t sure existed,
telling him I just want to know the truth. If you’re there, I need to know it.
If you don’t exist, I need to know it. Whatever the truth is that’s what I need
to know.

 There’s a principle that if we seek the truth we will find
it. I didn’t even know the Scripture, but that worked out for me, until I
became convinced that there is indeed a God and he is here even when bad things
happen. Like 9/11 or like our own personal stories.

 Grief takes a surprising amount of energy. People get
depressed because they’re simply tired and worn out. Acknowledge that we’re
going to need more rest than usual, that we’re going to get tired, that when
you’re tired things look worse. And so get some rest, and that will help as
much as anything can help in that situation.

 I also learned it’s okay to be angry. I felt a tremendous
amount of anger at that drunk driver, of course. I also felt a tremendous
amount of anger at God, until I finally decided to just quit believing in him.
And that’s not wrong. If we act on our anger we can do something wrong. But
anger in itself is not wrong, it’s not sin. Even Jesus got angry.

 What is okay to do is to be completely honest with how you
feel, and it’s even okay to be honest with God. We can shake our fist at him
and he’s not going to strike us dead with a bolt of lightening. He would rather
us be honest with him so that we can deal with it, than to try and pretend like
we’re not angry or we don’t feel it or it doesn’t hurt, or whatever we might be
trying to tell ourselves.

 If you get honest with God that will help. There’s a
principle I’ve heard counselors say, that you have to feel it to heal it. And
we don’t want to go there. It’s hard, and it hurts, and we don’t want to feel
all of that pain. But you can’t heal it until you’re willing to go there.

 Each one of us grieves individually and privately, and we’re
all different and unique in certain ways. And yet there are common threads that
happen to us that we can relate to each other.

 Another thing I learned, and this is really important to
know, I think, is that people say really dumb things. They say things that they
don’t intend. They say things that are very very very hurtful. It’s helpful to
know that and to acknowledge that what they are trying to do is they’re trying
to help. It helps us if we recognize that and give them a whole lot of grace,
and just assume that their intentions are good.

 And it can ruin friendships. I remember one girl who was a
friend of mine when my brother was killed. She said to me, you just need to
forget your brother and move on. Well, it hadn’t even been 24 hours yet.

 Cynthia: As if you could forget at that moment.

 Dianne: It’s been over 30 years now, I still don’t want to
forget him. Well, she didn’t mean it that way, and I learned later she wanted
to say something that would be helpful, that would encourage me, while it was
too early to get past the pain. But there are no magic words.

 If we’re with a friend who is grieving there is nothing we
can say that’s going to take their pain away and make it be better. I think the
best thing for us to do when we’re helping someone else, or with someone else
who is grieving, we don’t have to say anything. Our presence with them says as
much as anything.

 Be careful about what you say, but don’t worry about it if
you mess it up. Just know that there’s nothing perfect that you can say, except
maybe I love you and I’m sorry.

 One more important thing is that you will not be sad
forever. When you’re in it you don’t think it’s ever going to end. You can’t
ever see your life being happy again. I think a lot of us also feel that if we
allow ourselves to move on, and I’m talking a year or two or three or four
after the death, that we’re somehow betraying that person or showing that we
don’t love them because how could we move on without them, well there comes a
time when we need to honor the life God has given us. And go ahead and live it,
because staying stuck in that point of death with somebody we loved isn’t
helping them, and it isn’t helping us.

 And so it’s okay, after a time, to move on. We can’t do it
too soon. We can’t rush it. I see sometimes people on TV when there’s a
tragedy, that immediately they’re saying oh we forgive that person. Well,
that’s not real forgiveness. You can’t forgive somebody that fast. I don’t
believe you can actually truly forgive somebody if you haven’t yet felt the
entire weight of the grief.

 If you try to go to forgiveness too soon you’re just
skipping over the hard part, and that’s living in denial. And that’s not true
forgiveness either.

 Cynthia: Some of the women that I’ve met are very
discouraged and upset about some of the things happening in our world, where we
just are going into a moral decline in our country. So could you be able to say
to them that it’s really okay to be angry? Because that doesn’t sound very
holy.

 Dianne: Oh, I think it’s extremely holy to be angry over
sin. God is angry over sin. God does not tolerate sin. He loves sinners and he
will forgive our sin for people who to turn to him in repentance. And
repentance means I’m sorry God and I’m going to try my best not to do that
again.

 But what we can’t do is let it overcome us. What we need to
do is realize that God is in complete control, and sometimes I look around at
our nation, it has been what? A dozen years since 9/11? And so much has changed
since then, and I see us in a moral spiral going down. And it’s frightening, it
makes me angry. This is not what our nation is supposed to be like.

 But God is in complete control. I believe that we are seeing
the end times prophecies coming true and right on the horizon, and maybe we’re
in the midst of it. I mean, who can tell? But even this, God foreknew. And if
you know the end of the story God wins. And we’re on God’s side. And so it’s
going to be okay. He is in control.

 Since Dear America I’ve written some more books, and my two
most recent books are about prophecies fulfilled. I wrote one that was released
around Christmas called Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus, and then
one last spring Prophecies Fulfilled in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

 Now, these are prophecies that were given and have already
been fulfilled in our past. But I’ll tell you Cyndi, writing those books, oh my
gosh. Going through step by step the prophecies that were given and then
fulfilled, in every detail 100%, was so encouraging. Because it just showed me
over and over and over again God is in control. He’s got this figured out,
things are working and progressing just like the inner workings of a
pocket-watch. It’s intricate and it’s beautiful, and it’s always dark before
the dawn.

 But those of us who have the light we shine brightest in the
darkness. It’s going to be okay. God is right there. He knows what’s going on.
As Christians we just need to keep trusting him, first of all. And I feel the
way that we trust God is by knowing him. The better we know him the more we can
trust him. And the way we know him is to read his word, to see what he’s done
in the past and then to have confidence that he’ll do the same for us in the
future.

 It’s going to be okay.

 Cynthia: It is going to be okay. Even though we’re grieving
over what we see, we can be confident that God is in control. I know that some
of the ladies that I’ve taught have said oh, but all these awful things have
happened and are happening, I want to be safe. And I tell them you are, in the
ultimate sense, because for eternity we are safe. There may be some bumps in
the road here, but even in the bumps in the road the Lord is with you.

 And you think about Stephen when he was stoned. He looked up
into heaven as he was dying and he saw Jesus at the right hand of God. So he
was safe, even at that moment. He was with the Lord. And so that’s where we
need to plant our tree, right there, because God is with us.

 Dianne: That is so true. And these last few years, and with
some bumps in the road that I’ve had recently in my life, I have just become
ever more, ever more, ever more convinced that I need to be stronger in my
speaking out as a Christian. I am really kind of ticked off at myself to
discover how much of a wimp I am and how frightened I and how I let my fear
keep me from speaking out.

 I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to get to the
other side, to eternity, and look back and go oh, why didn’t I speak up for
Christ? Why didn’t I say something? Why didn’t I talk to people? Why didn’t I
teach what I know? Why was I afraid?

 And I think there is a lot of fear. I don’t want to be that
kind of a Christian. I want to be unafraid to speak out. Yes, Stephen got
stoned to death, but look at the speech he gave. Look at how many people were
transformed because of what he said when he spoke up. And none of us are
guaranteed the next day or the next minute even. So Stephen was stoned to
death, but we could be in an accident today and lose our life.

 I want to use the time I have here on this earth to do the
most that I can to bring the most people to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Cynthia: Right. And if you see someone in a burning
building, or someone who’s just about to have a car accident, or someone who’s
going to be injured, you’d want to stop that. And we as believers know that we
have hope and we need to stop these people who are endangering themselves and
tell them that they have hope, and the hope is in Christ.

 And so that’s what we need to be doing at this crucial time,
when the world seems to be really going downhill. We’ve got to keep the truth
out there in front of them all.

 Dianne: That’s absolutely true, Cyndi. That is so true. My
brother died on his motorcycle in 1977. I have been riding a motorcycle ever
since. I even rode before then. I love riding motorcycles. But this coming
Sunday it will be eight weeks ago that I myself was in a motorcycle accident.
The front tire on my motorcycle deflated. It didn’t blow out quickly, it went
down. I don’t know why, I don’t know if I picked up something in the roadway. But
I couldn’t control my motorcycle because it had slowed down, traffic was
passing me, and when my motorcycle veered left I actually sideswiped an RV.

 I had on blue jeans and a tank top, so no sleeves, and my
black leather vest and boots, and I went tumbling down the Interstate highway.
I was going at least 60 miles an hour when I went down. I had a full face
helmet on, which surely saved my life. It’s sitting right here and it’s all
scratched up, and I’m going to keep it to remind me. I have some road rash,
large patches of road rash on my arms. A chipped bone in my ankle, stitches in
my elbow.

 I was banged up. But I had no internal injuries, no spinal
injuries, no life-threatening injuries. And yet, a couple of weeks after that
my husband came home from men’s Bible study and said a couple in the church had
just lost their 27-year-old son in a motorcycle accident.

 And so I’m standing there going okay, I could have died but
I survived. And yet this young man died. Well, somebody said to me at church,
Dianne, that just shows that God is not going to let you die one minute before
you’re supposed to.

 And that helped me. We can go out like Stephen and be bold
and talk, even if we have enemies out there that would seek our life because of
it. And God is not going to let them take our lives one second before the days
that he has ordained for us are up.

 Cynthia: Absolutely.

 Dianne: So why aren’t we bold? Why aren’t we out there being
bold?

 Cynthia: Very
good. Dianne, where can we find you?

 Dianne: I have a website, you have to know how to spell my
name right. It’s www.dianneebutts.com
If it’s easier to remember, I also have a blog for writers, http://buttsaboutwriting.blogspot.com
My last name is Butts. That has links to all my websites, and all of my books
are there.

 Cynthia: Okay. Well, I appreciate you sharing your heart
with us today and encouraging us to grieve as God would have us to. Thank you
for your time, Dianne.

 Dianne: Well, thank you, Cyndi, for having me on. I really
pray for the listeners.

 Cynthia: Thank you.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Paulette L. Harris August 20, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Wonderful interview ladies, I enjoyed both of your thoughts about relationships.

    They were full of love and encouragement. Both of you are full of good thoughts and I enjoyed them. Thanks for sharing.

    Hugs from me. 🙂

  • Reply Paulette L. Harris August 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Wonderful interview ladies, I enjoyed both of your thoughts about relationships.

    They were full of love and encouragement. Both of you are full of good thoughts and I enjoyed them. Thanks for sharing.

    Hugs from me. 🙂

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