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God's best always flies past counterfeits that are merely good

I’m not exactly an expert birdwatcher, but I enjoy watching birds in my own yard. Lately, I think the tiny hummingbird has been giving me a lesson about life. Isn’t it funny how God uses the smallest things sometimes to teach us great big truths about trusting Him?

OK, here goes.

It seems I may be too easily drawn to things that are good, even if they are not exactly what I think they are. And when I settle for something that is only good, I may be missing something that’s even better.

Ever done this?

Consider the hummingbird. It’s fun to watch these fluttery, flittery little winged creatures flicking back and forth from flowers to feeders in my garden. They may look pretty plain at first glimpse. But when the sun catches them, their iridescent details glimmer. It’s beautiful to see.

Hummingbird, Creative Commons CCO photo
Once in a while, I start to admire such a visitor to my patio, only to find with more careful examination that I am not staring at a hummingbird at all. Yikes. It’s a hummingbird moth. And it’s not nearly the same thing, even if it may appear to be.

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth with Pink Coneflower photo by Yusef Akgul, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License

Take a look.

The hummingbird moth, part of the Hemaris genus, looks and moves and sounds much like a hummingbird. This little creature can hover over flowers and sip nectar, just as a hummingbird would do. And they move so fast that it can be nearly impossible to spot the difference.

Many people assume they’ve seen hummingbirds, but often they are mistaken. There’s a whole lot of difference between a hummingbird and a hummingbird moth, even if we cannot perceive it at first. I’m a big fan of little hummingbirds, but I’m not really all that fond of moths.

Hummingbird, public domain photo

I feel like there’s a spiritual lesson here.

Possibly, lots of us try to wing it, gliding through life without really paying attention. We might not even know what we are missing. Have you heard the old expression that says a person has to grow sick and tired of being sick and tired before he or she can be made well?

During His earthly ministry, Jesus asked a paralyzed man in Bethesda about this very issue.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ (John 5:6, NIV)

Then the Lord told the man to stand up, and the guy was healed, after nearly 40 years of living with his crippling disability.

As a person living with multiple sclerosis (diagnosed a decade ago), I would be the last person to fault that man for staying put and putting up with a seemingly incurable condition for so very long. I am blessed and grateful to be capable of ongoing physical mobility. I fully understand that many who battle MS and other difficult medical disorders do not enjoy such results.

On the other hand, I believe many of us can be lured into growing satisfied with less-than-ideal conditions or choices, simply because we do not stand up in the faith to look for God’s best answers to our prayers.

Hummingbird Moth with Blue Flowers, public domain photo

Let’s go back to the hummingbird moth.

Are we easily entranced by a look-alike moth, or do we discern the difference and look to spot the actual hummingbird?

For many, the less-than-ideal draw is not about coming through a lifelong medical problem. Often, the sickness with which we struggle is sin itself. People can settle into the fleeting pleasures of sin for a season (see Hebrews 11:25), rather than holding to God’s principles for His greater plan for them. Or we might make hasty choices, instead of seeking His direction. And we may end up in a spot that’s not exactly God’s best for us.

Isn’t that sort of like choosing to focus on the lowly hummingbird moth, instead of waiting and watching for the lovely hummingbird?

We tend to be intrigued by cool things. We are drawn to attractive and appealing and mysterious and elusive things like moths to a … well, you know.

I have nothing against moths (unless they hover around my reading lamp at night), but I’d rather watch beautiful hummingbirds. How about you?

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Ouch! Why do we grieve grievers with tacky questions?

Grieving is hard – astonishingly hard. Even psychological experts seem to struggle, when grief hits close to home. Consoling those who grieve can be tricky, even though we aim to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4b, NIV). Often, we struggle to find something comforting to say. In our floundering, we may even misstep and add to the grieving ones’ sorrow.

Adding to their pain is the last thing we intend to do, but it happens. Consider these examples.

  • He died of a heart attack. Was he overweight?
  • She had liver failure. Was she a drinker?
  • His son was killed in a car crash. Was he drunk or high? (Or: Was he wearing a seat belt?)
  • She was in a motorcycle accident. Was she wearing a helmet?
  • He had lung cancer? Did he smoke?
  • She passed away suddenly. Was it suicide?
  • He killed himself. Did anyone ever suspect anything was wrong?
  • She died. Was she a Christian?

These questions, even when they are well-intended, are all painful to hear.

This kind of interrogation does not comfort the bereaved at all. In fact, these queries may only add to their pain, because they imply the lost loved one was somehow responsible for his or her own demise. They’re a form of victim blaming, even if we don’t mean them to be.

Why do people ask such nosy and loaded questions of someone who is grieving?

Maybe we are trying to make sense of the senseless. Death is distressing to us, even when we are fairly certain that the one who died has passed into a blessed eternity with the Lord. By seeking a reason or explanation for the tragedy, perhaps we are aiming to keep it at bay. We may be worried that death might strike even closer, or we may be struggling with the question of our own mortality.

But, to the bereaved, it feels as if we might be trying to impose some sort of sowing upon the deceased ones’ reaping. And that’s not up to us.

Here’s the bottom line.

Life is hard on this side of eternity. It’s filled with inexplicable troubles. (See John 16:33.) It often feels unfair. And we wrestle with reality, grasping for ways to understand what may be beyond our own comprehension. So we forget to be gracious and tactful, and we ask probing questions that  wound the already wounded listeners.

That doesn’t exactly fit the bill, if we recall Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (NKJV).

Those who are grieving need not be burdened with satisfying the curiosity of others about the circumstances of their loved one’s death. If the bereaved choose to share such information, that’s their prerogative. But if not, it’s simply not their job. The work before them is to survive the grieving process, not to keep everyone else informed about all the sad details.

What about asking if the deceased person knew the Lord?

Although some may argue this point, I think it’s not appropriate during the grieving process to ask the bereaved about the deceased person’s condition of faith. If there’s any doubt about it, this is probably not the best time to do that sort of digging. That isn’t going to comfort those who are mourning.

If they are assured that the one who died was resting in faith in the Lord, then they will likely volunteer that information anyway. If they’re not sure, then we can assume it’s already an uncomfortable topic.

The only loving and gracious thing to do at such a time is to offer care and support.

That can take all sorts of forms. Basically, we “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15b, NIV). And, if we say anything at all, it might be something much safer and non-intrusive and general, such as:

  • “I am praying for you.”
  • “I am here, if you need me.”
  • “I’m here for however you need me.”
  • “I simply don’t know what to say.”
  • “I will sit and cry with you, if you want me to.”
  • “I just want you to know I care.”
  • “I’m so sorry.”

Angel Weeping –
 public domain image

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