Rebuilding Your Life When You've Lost Everything
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 25, 2005


Main Passage: Psalm 62:1-8 (NLT)


What a month it has been. In the past four weeks, two major hurricanes have hit along the Gulf Coast, and we’ve felt the impact even here. We all experienced the sudden increase in fuel costs as a result of the storms. We’ve watched the news every day and seen the devastation. In New Orleans, Katrina resulted in 80% of the city being flooded. Of 200,000 homes in the area, 100,000 will have to be bulldozed. Over a thousand confirmed dead so far, millions displaced and affected by Katrina alone.

And then this weekend… Rita slammed into the Texas Coast. Did you see the deadlock on the highways as people tried to evacuate? Storm surges over 20 feet. They actually lucked out in Texas with mostly superficial damage. But parts of New Orleans that had been pumped dry flooded again.

Tens of thousands… perhaps hundreds of thousands… have lost literally everything they’ve ever owned. Lost it all! Well over a hundred billion dollars in damage. And one city… New Orleans… the birthplace of jazz… is fighting for its life. What do they do now? Well, after a disaster there are always three stages:

Stage one is Rescuing. Emergency Response Teams spent days after Katrina trying to find people who were still alive and evacuate them. We all witnessed as helicopters rescued people who were stranded on their rooftops.

Then comes the Resuming Stage. This is when the government comes in and they restore water and power and lights and communication. This is going on now, and it’s going to take weeks and maybe even months.

Then stage three is the Rebuilding Stage. And that’s going to take years in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

I don’t know if you know it or not but there’s an entire book in the Bible about rebuilding a city. It’s the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was sent to rebuild a city that was in ruins. In chapter 2 he says…

Nehemiah 2:17-18 (NLT/NCV)
“You know full well the tragedy of our city. It lies in ruins, and its gates are burned. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this disgrace!”…
Then they said, “Let's start rebuilding!” So they began to work hard.

Rebuilding is hard work. In fact, building from scratch is not nearly as difficult as rebuilding because in rebuilding you have to clear away the debris. You’ve got to deal with the damage. You’ve got to pick up all the rubble. It takes a lot more time because you can’t start with a clean slate. Rebuilding always takes longer than building.

That’s not only true of a city. It’s true of a life. It harder and takes more work to rebuild your life after a major loss than it does to build your life in the first place.

But the fact is, you cannot live without loss. Everything in this world is temporary. You’re not made to live here forever. You’re made to live forever in eternity. You’re only going to get 60, 80, maybe 100 years on this planet. That means everything is temporary – everything. So you’re going to have major losses in your life. Financial loses, health losses, losses of loved ones. Some have lost a marriage. And there are many other kinds of losses in life. How do you recover and how do you rebuild after a major loss? Because it’s inevitable. You’re going to have storms. You’re going to have tragedy. You’re going to have grief. You’re going to have floods of failure in your life.

Now, you haven’t been through a flood like the people in New Orleans. But you have been through other things and you’re going to go through more things. So today we’re going to look at this issue of, “What do I do after a major loss? What do I do to rebuild my life when I’ve lost everything?” You may not need this message now, but you’re going to need it some day. If you haven’t had a major loss in your life yet, you will. I don’t want to be morbid, but you will. Your time is coming. Because nothing lasts on this planet. It’s just a matter of time.

What do you do when you’ve lost it all? Some of you have lost a loved one. Or you’ve lost your job. Or you’ve lost your financial security. Or you’ve lost a dream – you’ve had a heartbreak. What do you do? How do you rebuild your life? The Bible tells us to do seven things.


How to Rebuild Your Life:

1. Release your grief.

Loss always creates very strong emotions in us. We grieve. We worry. We fear. We may have depression. We may have anger. I expect all kinds of emotions welled up inside of you as you watched those homes being destroyed and those people dying in New Orleans. Or when you heard about the busload of seniors that exploded this week. What does God want us to do with those emotions? What does He want us to do with the emotions when we’re the ones who have experienced the loss?

Well, you don’t resist them or deny they exist. You don’t replay them over and over again and wonder what you could have done differently. And you don’t reduce them and say, “it was no big deal”… it was a big deal and it hurt. And you don’t repress them and bottle them up inside. You release them.

Because you will deal with your feelings. Either now or later. If you don’t deal with them now, you’re just putting off the inevitable. Often what will happen is this: when you swallow your feelings your stomach keeps score. Or your back or your neck or something. When you internalize your feelings, when you stuff them down, they come out somehow, often in some kind of illness or ailment. And God says, “No, don’t do that. I want you to release them.” Release them to God in prayer. It’s described in the Bible as crying out to God. We see an example of this in Psalm 18…

Psalm 18:4-6 (NLT)
The ropes of death surrounded me; the floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death itself stared me in the face.
But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help.

I’m not talking about some pansy prayer where we go, “Dear God I’m not feeling too good.” No, we go, “God! Life stinks! I’m afraid. I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m lonely. I’m grieving. My heart is broken.” That’s what it means to cry out to God. Tell Him passionately exactly how you feel. He can handle it.

Where do you think your emotions came from? God gave them to you. Why? Because you are created in the image of God. God has emotions. God cries. God laughs. God gets angry. God grieves. That’s why you do, too. You were made in His image and He can understand your emotions. You can tell Him anything. You just cry out to God. God would rather have you be honest and release your feelings to Him than for you to fake it and pretend like everything’s all right when it’s not.

Remember that old children’s song, “I’m inright outright upright downright happy all the time”? I hate that song. Because it’s a lie. I’m not happy all the time. Sadness is part of life. In fact, Jesus even said it’s okay to mourn.

Matthew 5:4 (NLT)
“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

So He says it’s ok to release your grief and tell God exactly how you feel.

Psalm 62:8 (NLT)
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.


2. Resist bitterness.

Bitterness is far worse than any loss or abuse or assault or problem you’ll ever experience. Why? Because it’s holding on to the hurt. That’s what bitterness does. Your past is past. It can’t hurt you any more. The only way it can hurt you is if you choose to hold on to it through bitterness. That’s dumb. You need to let it go. Because bitterness only hurts you. It never solves the problem. It doesn’t change the past. It can’t control the future. All it does is mess up your life right now.

So you need to ask yourself, “Do I want to be bitter or do I want to get better?” Those are the options. But you can’t have both. You cannot be bitter and get better at the same time. So if you choose to hold on to that hurt and you will not forgive and you will not let it go and you will hold on to that resentment, you’re choosing to not get better.

Hebrews 12:15 (NASB)
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble…

Bitterness just prolongs the hurt. So how do you resist it? Three ways.

How do I Resist Bitterness?

A. Accept what cannot be changed.

The truth is, much of life is totally beyond your control. And sometimes the only way to overcome some problems is to accept them. They’re not going to change and you just accept them. Like your past. Your past is past. You can’t change it. You’re just going to have to accept it.

B. Focus on what’s left, not on what’s lost.

After a loss you need to find something to be grateful for. There’s always something to be grateful for. We take so much for granted in our lives and we need to just stop and say, “God I’m grateful!” I’ve read that scientists have discovered that the attitude of gratitude is the healthiest emotion you can have. And the more grateful and thankful a person you are, the more emotionally and physically healthy you will be. It’s good for you to be grateful.

The truth is, most of the people in the world would love to have your problems. Really! You think your problems are bad, but are you worried about what you’re going to eat next week? Or if you’re going to have a roof over your head tomorrow? Most of the world would love to have your problems. It’s like the old cliché, “I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no legs.” You just need to find something to be grateful for. You focus on what’s left, not what’s lost.

C. Play it down and pray it up.

Particularly if you’re a parent and you go through a crisis, you need to do this with your children. The ones I worry about most on the Gulf Coast are the children because children are traumatized faster than anyone else. Parents don’t need to say to their kids, “This is terrible! We’ve lost everything!” They need to reassure their kids and say, “We’re going to make it. We’re here. God’s here. You’re here. We’re going to make it.” You play it down and you pray it up and you talk to God about it.


3. Re-evaluate your life.

Ask yourself, “What direction does God want me to take now?” Disasters have a way of changing our direction, challenging our conceptions, and redefining our values. It is in a disaster we realize what matters most and what doesn’t matter most.

If you measure your life by how many possessions you have and if your success and your happiness is dependent upon the things you’ve got and the things you’ve collected and the cars and the toys and the boats and the possessions and if your life is defined by what you own you’re in trouble. Because you could lose it all in a snap! Don’t confuse your possessions with your purpose in life.

Luke 12:15 (NLT)
“Real life is not measured by how much we own.”

So don’t ever confuse what you live on with what you live for. A lot of people have a lot to live on and they have nothing to live for. The greatest things aren’t things.

I can imagine that right now in New Orleans under all of that water there are thousands of very expensive cars rusting. And on many of those cars is probably that stupid bumper sticker that says “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Kind of irrelevant right now, isn’t it? Life is not about the collection of toys.

1 Timothy 6:7 (NLT)
We didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die.

U-Haul doesn’t do funerals. So since it’s all temporary, why build your life around it? The best use of your life is invested in that which outlasts it.

Can you lose your career? Yes! So don’t put your security in your career. Can you lose your bank account and your investments and your RRSPs? Oh, yeah! So don’t put your security in your nest egg. Can you lose loved ones? Can you lose your husband or your wife or your children or dear friends? Yes. You love them but you don’t put your security in those people. Can you lose your youthful beauty? Don’t put your trust in your good looks because you’re not going to have them forever… look at me! You can lose it all.

There’s only one thing that cannot be taken from you. That is a relationship to Jesus Christ. Remember Braveheart? What did he say? “You can take our lives, but you can never take… our freedom!” Well, not even death can take away the freedom you have in a relationship with Jesus.

Matthew 16:26 (NIV)
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

At the end of your life do you want to look back and say, “See all these things I’ve collected? That’s what I gave my life for. I worked real hard to collect all these things. Houses, cars, boats, clothes, Wayne Gretzky’s rookie card…” Then you’re going to go into the next life and leave them. That’s not really long-term thinking, is it? It’s pretty short-term thinking to invest all your time and energy in stuff that you’re not going to take with you into the trillions of years you’ll spend in eternity.


4. Receive help from others.

God never intended for you to go through life on your own power… as a lone ranger without anybody else helping you. You were made inadequate so you would need other people. And I was created inadequate so I would need other people. See? There a reason! We’re created for community. We’re formed for a family. You need me, and I need you. We need each other.

You know, most people have never experienced true intimacy. Why? Because we tend to keep people at a distance. We don’t let them get too close. We think, “If they get too close, they’ll see my fears. They’ll see what I’m afraid of. They’ll see my weaknesses. If they get too close they will see the real me, and what if they don’t like me?” Well, that’s a risk you have to take. You must let people get close to you.

One of the most famous friendships in history was between David and Jonathan in the Old Testament. We read about it in 1 Samuel…

1 Samuel 20:17, 42 (NLT)
And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself…
At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have made a pact in the LORD’s name. We have entrusted each other and each other’s children into the LORD’s hands forever.”

And later when David was being hunted by King Saul…

1 Samuel 23:16 (NLT)
Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.

And then in 2 Samuel 9, we discover that even after the death of Jonathan, David fulfilled his oath of friendship with Jonathan’s children.

This is what Jesus said about friendship…

John 15:12-13 (NLT)
I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.


5. Rely on the Lord.

You receive help from others but you rely on the Lord. You cannot rebuild your life after a major loss without God. At least, not the way you’re intended to rebuild it. Because there are five qualities you need to rebuild your life. What are they and where are you going to get them? In your notes…

God Will Provide…

A. Peace.

Isaiah 26:3 (NCV)
“You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on You.”

Circle “peace.” You get peace from depending on God.

B. Hope.

Psalm 62:5 (NIV)
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.

Circle “Hope.” A couple weeks ago, Oprah pre-taped an interview with Rick Warren which will air this Wednesday. Rick Warren, of course, is the author of The Purpose Driven Life, which is the book that our 40 Days of Purpose Campaign is based on. I was talking with Oprah the other day, and she let me in on some of their conversation. (Okay, maybe not. But I did read a bit about it.) Oprah apparently asked Rick if he knew why his book has been the best selling book in the world for the last three years. And he said it’s because it’s a book about hope. And he went on to say…

“Everybody needs hope! Human beings can go weeks without food. You can go days without water. You can go a couple of minutes without air. But you can’t go one second without hope. If you don’t have any hope you’re not living. You’re just existing. You need hope to cope.”
~ Rick Warren

C. Courage.

Hebrews 6:18 (NLT)
Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to his promise with confidence.

You’ve got to have courage to rebuild your life. You get it from God.

D. Wisdom.

James 1:5 (CEV)
If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you.

If you’re going to rebuild your life you’re going to need some wisdom. And God can give you that wisdom.

E. Strength.

Exodus 15:2 (NLT)
The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my victory.

The Lord offers you power and strength. He’ll give you the strength to rebuild your life.

When typhoons hit the south pacific islands, the islanders used to tie themselves – and still do in some places – lash themselves to giant trees so that when the winds came through the palm trees they would be able to stand and not blown off the island. And when the winds come through your life, you’d better be tied to something that’s unmovable.

You need to be attached to God. You lean on Jesus for peace and you look to Jesus for hope and you learn from Jesus for courage. And you listen to Jesus for wisdom. And you live in Jesus for strength.

Where do you need strength in your life right now? What are you going through? What problem are you facing that you’ve been trying to face on your own? Perhaps some of you still haven’t recovered from a loss that happened a week or a month or a year ago or a decade ago. And you’re still holding on to that hurt. You need to let it go and rely on God. You need to start rebuilding.


6. Refuse to be discouraged.

Joshua 1:9 (NLT)
“I command you--be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

God’s purpose is greater than the problems you’re going through. So do not be discouraged by them. Notice what Jesus said…

Luke 21:19 (NIV)
“By standing firm you will gain life.”

Circle “standing firm.” Sometimes you can’t even move but you just stand firm. That means you refuse to be discouraged. The word “refuse” means it’s a choice. It’s your choice. You don’t have to be discouraged. If you’re discouraged right now it’s because you’re choosing to be discouraged. As one person said…

“If you look at the world you’ll be distressed. If you look within you’ll be depressed. If you look at Christ you’ll be at rest.”
~ Rick Warren

What do you do when you’ve done all you can and it seems like it’s never enough? What do you say when your friends turn away and you’re all alone? What do you give when you’ve given your all and it seems like you can’t make it through? You just stand firm. When there’s nothing left to do you just stand and watch the Lord see you through.

Psalm 40:1-2 (NLT)
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.


7. Reach out to others.

When we help other people, God helps us. When you start helping others He heals you. When you do it. It’s not, I’m going to get my act together, then I’ll start helping other people. No. It’s when not then. It’s when you start to help other people, before your life’s all figured out. When you do that, God starts healing you. You start helping other people and that’s part of the healing process of recovering from a loss yourself.

Galatians 6:2, 7 (NLT)
Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ…
You will always reap what you sow!

How do you reach out to others?

• By praying for them.

1 Samuel 12:23 (NIV)
“Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”

• By sharing with them.

1 John 3:17 (NIV)
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

• By serving them

Galatians 6:2 (NCV)
By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.


Much of this message was adapted from material by Rick Warren at Used with permission.




Copyright © 2005