Thursday, November 23, 2017

On the Topic of Grief

I find myself caught in a precarious situation as of late. 

I believe that the mind is powerful. Words are powerful. Actions, or lack thereof, are powerful. What we sow, we reap, in the areas of belief and intention. You can make a choice to live in joy and gratitude, or you can make a choice to live according to the whims of your emotions… which will always choose the path of least resistance by the way.

But, I also find myself in the most grief ridden place currently. My relationship with my highschool sweetheart that had turned into an 8 year marriage was unfairly ripped from me due to his repetitive, destructive life choices. If one doubts the power of Godly covenant, it only takes a break in that covenant to recognize the all encompassing nature of that relationship. Places I didn’t know existed in me hurt as though a death had occurred. Due to the nature of the situation, many of these pains hurt worse than those of the grief of deaths of those close to me. 

At the same time, I have been displaced from the place I knew as home due to toxic mold, and have to get rid of 50% or more of my belongings. This combined with the physical recovery after living in a home that was poisoning me, has left me feeling as though I stand on shifting sands.
So, I hold these two truths in my hands. My mind is powerful. And grief unlike any I’ve ever experienced seems to have overtaken me beyond my control.

I find that, on the topics of grief and mourning, God shares some very specific and oft repeated messages of consolation. Here are a few key lessons that God is sharing with me on this journey of grief:

1. Overcoming grief is a journey. There is no shortcut

Isaiah 43:2 says: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

I have received many many pieces of advice and exhortations from others since my life took a turn. I am always thankful for people’s kindness, empathy and desire to help relieve stress on me by sharing wisdom they have learned. Sometimes the words are just what I need to hear. But, other times, I can’t say I’m always thankful for the advice. That doesn’t mean I’m stubborn and unwilling to hear, but often I find that people are speaking to me from a place that doesn’t fit the situation. Sometimes this is from lack of knowledge of the back story, sometimes it is actual ignorance as to the nature of grief, and sometimes… especially when coming from others who have been through equally tough things… it is speaking from a place in the process that I cannot grasp yet.

When I read that verse in Isaiah, I see God’s great promises. But I also see that His promises come while in the process of walking through the difficult circumstances. His words of comfort do not make the flames go away, but they remind us that the flames need not touch us. 

There is no one “word of wisdom” that creates a shortcut through these flames. We are promised his comfort as we walk through them. I know that God often supernaturally removes blocks in our lives, but He also supernaturally provides comfort through others. The grief process is one that brings about great lessons and change as we walk through it, and I may be at a different part in that journey than someone else. It doesn’t make my journey any less. I am walking through, and learning as I go.

2. God promises his comfort, not instant removal of grief

Matthew 5:4 says: Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

2 corinthians 1:3-4 says: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

This truth says the same thing as the first, just in a different way. God promises to comfort us, but the mourning comes first. One way in which I was surprised by grief, was that unlike other emotional upheaval, I seemed less able to “pull myself up by the bootstraps”. And, there has been plenty of encouragement to do just that. Reminders that it could always be worse, to be thankful for what I have, to in essence “get over it”, are easy to come by. My typically cheerful self, agreed… and then proceeded to fall flat on my face in trying to follow through.

God didn’t give us these verses as an exhortation to just “get over it”. The emphasis is on resting in him for comfort. That actually has very little to do with what we do or don’t do. All the emphasis is on what He does! What a relief! I don’t have to have this one all figured out.

3. Grief is not bad

Lastly, and most importantly, God has been helping me to realize that grief is not bad, and need not be felt as dirty, or stuffed away in secret. One needs look no further than Jesus himself to see this. Jesus wept, more than once. He wept for his friends, he wept for the state of the world. He was very public about his grief.

I find that grief in public makes people uncomfortable. I imagine Jesus made quite a few people uncomfortable in his time. But, being uncomfortable doesn’t mean what we are witnessing is bad. It may speak more to the state of our own hearts and fears.

So, I will choose to see grief as the tool that it is. I am committed to this journey and I know I will come out the other side. Some days, like today, part of that journey includes many tears before the day even gets going. Other days, I feel hope and potential. But, I choose to love myself no matter the state that day.