My home state of California is known for many things: sunshine, lovely scenery, the ocean, incredible natural parks, technological innovation, high taxes, and more. Unfortunately, in recent years, my West Coast home has also gained notoriety for the high number of wildfires occurring in our dry seasons and beyond.
Of course, Californians have been familiar with large fires for decades. In many ways they are a part of life, just like mudslides, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. However, the recent spate of fires have been both numerous and massive—and especially deadly. Millions of acres have been consumed in these blazes, along with hundreds of lives.
When news reporters interview survivors in the aftermath of such fires, one phrase gets repeated over and over: “We lost everything.”
One resident gave the following account when wildfires tore through the wine country fifty miles northeast of San Francisco in September 2020:
The entire side of the hill was on fire—all trees, all burning, all roaring like a jet. . . . At that moment we realized that it was time to go. We [later] found out that our house was indeed gone. It’s a very sobering thing to find out that all you’ve worked for and all that your parents have worked for, in a moment, is gone. It gives you pause. And it gives you a moment to realize what’s really important in life. Because what we thought was important is now ashes.1
Our hearts break when we hear stories like this. It is wonderful news that this man and his family survived. And his take on what happened reveals the correct perspective: “It gives you a moment to realize what’s really important in life.”
Still, that perspective was gained at a high cost. A deep loss. When people lose their homes and businesses in such a quick and dramatic fashion, there is more involved than the loss of wood and brick, photos and furniture, paperwork and equipment.
There is the loss of a dream.
Have you dealt with such a loss? Perhaps not the complete loss of your home, but what about the loss of your dream job? What about the loss of your dream marriage, your dream ministry, or your dream retirement?
Such losses are devastating because our dreams are a reflection of who we are—our passions and values, hopes and desires, plans and priorities. How could we become deprived of such dreams and not believe that God has forgotten us?
The key to recovering from deep loss—especially the loss of a dream—is to let God. Specifically, here are four steps you can take: Let God comfort you, let God restore you, let God redirect you, and let God use you.
LET GOD COMFORT YOU
First, let God comfort you. In a time of loss, our greatest need is immediate and effective comfort.
When Job suffered the loss of all he had, his three friends came “to comfort him” (Job 2:11). They failed in their task, for they tried to comfort him with “empty words” (21:34). Job finally muttered in disgust, “Miserable comforters are you all!” (16:2). In the end, only God could comfort him by teaching him valuable lessons, deepening his faith, and restoring the things Job had lost.
The psalmist expressed his praise in Psalm 71 for having a God who comforted him “on every side” (v. 21). He said in Psalm 94:19, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” In Psalm 119:50, we read, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.”
David Jeremiah, God Has Not Forgotten You: He Is with You, Even in Uncertain Times (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2021).
We have just released a new Bible Study on the book, God Has Not Forgotten You.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and David Jeremiah.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.