Summary: The death of a loved one or other disappointment in life can rob us of a reason to go on. This message is intended to encourage and to point out ways of recovering our "RTGO"
Finding Our RTGOs When Coping With the Loss of a Loved One or Other Disappointments
Several years ago I hired a young couple who were sure they could come in and successfully manage the restaurant at the Lodge. In the beginning they were optimistic but as the difficulties of managing the business began to pile up, the weight of the challenge began to pull down. After a few months of no profit the wife began spending more time working elsewhere. There were days when I would find the husband just sitting and staring. And the kitchen became dirty, especially the refrigerator which eventually became enough of a health hazard that I had to intervene. At that point the husband resigned.
For a long time I thought this was a character flaw on their part. Having been at the Lodge for some time, I understood that 110% effort every day is necessary to make it work. These folk were obviously not cut from the same stock, not up to the challenge, or so it seemed to me. That just shows how wrong a person can be, and it is a good reason why pastors should not retire at age 65. There are still so many of life’s lessons to be learned.
The reason that this young couple went into a funk was not so much a character flaw, and I regret that they may have detected that that is the way I saw them in my thinking (and I certainly hope that they won’t carry a sense of failure with them for the rest of their life)—no, the reason was not a character flaw, the reason was that they were unable to find their RTGOs, their Reasons To Go On. And here is where a good pastor realizes his or her calling… by recognizing that need, and helping others find their reasons to go on.
Stop and think of what people go through when they lose a loved one—the depression that is experienced. Sometimes the entire personality of a grieving person can change. Some turn to alcohol. Others turn to other reckless behavior. And for some, bitterness sets in, perhaps with permament consequences.
I still remember a man I met in a nursing home during my very first pastorate many years ago. This man’s name was Ben. While in their late 90’s both he and his wife were still able to be in the same room in the nursing home, but Ben was racked with pain every day. Ben was a very bitter man who told me right away that he didn’t believe in God but it was alright for me to visit and even have a brief prayer, if I really wanted to. I soon learned that it wasn’t the excruciating back pain that was the reason for Ben’s bitterness. He was very philosophical about the back paid and endured it stoically. The reason for his bitterness was that, as he saw it, God had permitted his son to be killed as a young man in a farm accident years before. Ben blamed God, or at least hadn’t forgiven God for this loss. After the loss of his son, Ben had never found an RTGO.
At this time of the year we remember and honor those who we have gone to be with the Lord. We renew our remembrance and our trust in God who promises eternal life to those who love him. This, however, may not be quite enough for many persons. On the surface it is, but as the losses mount up, as we lose more and more of our family and friends, and experience more and more disappointments in life, at some point the emptiness begins to rob us of our RTGOs and it becomes necessary to look for and to find new reasons to go on.
How might we go about doing that? I’m still working on that one in my own life, but I think counting our many blessings is a start. I think that finding new RTGOs is a bit like being on a diet. When I discovered that I was border-line stage 2 diabetic the doctor immediately wanted to put me on medication. I begged off and asked for time to try diet first. He agreed, provided I go through a series of meetings with a dietician, which I did. Probably the most important thing that I learned from the dietician is the importance of checking blood sugar levels daily, keeping records, and counting the carb units we eat. There is something about regular monitoring and record keeping that heightens awareness and makes losing weight and reducing blood glucose levels so much easier. When I fail to do this, I find that I slip right back into unhealthy habits.
I think it there may well be a similarity when it comes to finding RTGOs after the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, the loss of a job, and other disappointments and setbacks that have the potential of robbing us of a reason to go on. We run the risk of not snapping out of it unless we take the first step of looking for new RTGOs. Like monitoring the carb units we consume when watching our diet n order to keep us on track, getting in the habit of monitoring our attitudes after experiencing a traumatic loss or disappointment can help. When we feel a bit of depression overtaking us, it is right then and there that we need to sit down and count our blessings. Keeping a journal and developing the habit of recording our daily blessings is, I think, an important weapon to include in our arsenal in combatting the loss of our reasons to go on , especially if keeping the record becomes a daily habit to which we faithfully adhere.