Tag Archive | grieving

grieving.

We’re all familiar with grieving when someone dies.

But we can be grieving over other things and not realize it.

Working really hard at something, only to watch it slip through your fingers. This is grieving, too.

Disappointments, unfairness, betrayal, and more.

We are aware of the unhappiness playing in the background. Not enough to plunge you into despair, but you feel it swirling around your heart, wanting to remind you of what wasn’t.

So what do we do?

We often turn to temporary comforts to help. Everything from “me time” – a day at the spa, a vacation, shopping – to alcohol, sex, and illegal drugs.

There’s nothing wrong with some practical (healthy) comforts. But that unhappiness is still there, isn’t it?

I have been well versed with the God-is-doing-a-new-thing in contemporary Christian circles. While I would never limit God’s ability to do new things, I have found it can play with our emotions.

Mostly, it does nothing for the unhappiness every one of us feel.

When you go home after a contemporary worship service with lots of exhortations and edification, that unhappiness is waiting for you at home.

How are you on Monday morning? When none of that is around?

Recently, I heard a preacher on the radio say something about being careful not to trade the old hymns for contemporary music; lyrics which often reflect how we feel.

The hymns are rich with truth and honestly, when I have suffered, when I have grieved, it was the hymns I wanted.

I found out a long time ago, the way to manage unhappiness is to accept it. Yes, there are things we can do to change our situation. But if there is nothing we can do, we have to accept it. But we do not accept it without hope. We have the hope of eternity.

If we are filling ourselves with the kind of faith these days that require energy to “name and claim”, “stake our claim”, or the like – consider it may be much to do about nothing if it does not sustain your soul day and night.

That mindset did not get me through my oldest son’s death and it doesn’t get me through grieving over other personal disappointments.

What gets me through is the awareness of being anchored to the Lord. No bells. No whistles. A quiet, presence of God’s promises to be near the brokenhearted. And the reminder of our home in eternity as promised by God.

Shouldn’t Christians be about living with eternity in our view instead of God-wants-to-fix-this? Yes, we should ask and pray.  But we also keep eternity in our view. It should be a very present thought and common in conversation.

We are supposed to encourage each other with these words. These words will carry you through anything.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. After that, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4

IMG_6578

happiness.

There are many wonderful things in life that make us happy.

We should relish those things and keep them close.

But life is not always happy.

When we face  situations that make us unhappy, we feel empty. We don’t like our happiness taken away.

I believe with all my heart that God knows the next step and something good can come out of our unhappiness.

Your unhappiness has the ability to drive you to find happiness somewhere. This is why so many turn to “other” things to cope.

True and permanent happiness comes from God. I mean, he created happiness in the first place.

What does this mean? It means when you are alone in your sadness, reach out to God. Talk to him. When you draw near to him, he draws near to you. He will not force himself on you. But he gives you plenty of clues that he is around.

We all know we are happiest when all is well. This means that something in our lives is secure. We don’t have to worry. When things are out of our control, we look for something to make us happy again. Even if it’s temporary.

I read this today and this popped out to me:

Laments (deep grieving or sadness) lead to a deeper resting in Him for our happiness.

img_8971

The happiness from God is deeper than any happiness found on earth. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the happy things that life gives us. It means when those happy things are not there we can still maintain a deeper, steady happiness that is like a slow burning candle deep within us.

The roots of a tree dig deeper into the earth when there is a drought.

We have to dig deeper, too.

~~~

photo from The Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller

the truth shall set you free.

Since losing Christopher, there have been small markers along the way which have helped me to live with such deep sorrow and loss.

If you’re a mother, you know what I mean. A piece of my heart is missing. I know it. I feel it.

I know God sees it, too.

Eleven years later, he still whispers truths to me that open my eyes to greater understanding.

The truth shall set you free.

It doesn’t put the missing piece back in my heart, but it helps my mind.

There are things that do not occur to us. We just don’t know everything.

Here is an excerpt from a book I am reading, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. It was a truth God showed me some years ago and reading it only solidified it in my mind.

(I did not begin reading all kinds of books on grieving and suffering after Chris’ death. I took the position of letting God “lead” me. Reading would have been a kind of mission for me and it would have only complicated my already overwhelmed mind.)

” … … the meaning of life in our Western society is individual freedom. There is no higher good than the right and freedom to decide for yourself what you think is good. But if the meaning of life is individual freedom and happiness, then suffering is of no possible “use”. In this worldview, the only thing to do with suffering is to avoid it at all costs, or, if it unavoidable, manage and minimize the emotions of pain and discomfort as much as possible.” 

Isn’t it true? We try to manage or minimize the emotions of pain and discomfort as much as possible. Mostly because of other people who expect us to be who we were.

Heck, even we want to be who we were until we figure out we can’t do it.

And if we aren’t doing it to ourselves, others are doing it for us. Even the distance so many feel from friends and family is a form of managing or minimizing the discomfort.

Why?

In the Western world especially, but not exclusively, (because of the great strides of progress and readily available solutions throughout all the world), we fail miserably at understanding grief.

Because it takes time.

There are no quick fixes.

And that good ol’ American spirit just doesn’t jive with suffering.

God wired us to handle suffering.

And he promised to walk through it with us.

Let truth set you free.

 

sad

 

~~~

 

streams in the desert.

Measure your life by loss and not by gain,

Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.

For love’s strength is found in love’s sacrifice,

And he who suffers has more to give.

I recently read this comforting quote.

Comforting you say?

Yes.

We react, resist, and resent pain and suffering. And so we should. No one should like it, as if embracing it makes you more acceptable to God.

We are accepted through His suffering and His ultimate victory over death.

But in that deep and dark abyss of pain, that is where I saw God. He showed me things there. It made me feel pulled away from the normal conversations of the day. The kind that seemed so trivial to me.

People call it grieving and it is. But that entails more than sadness. People will accept you need time. They are not always ready for the translucent wall being mysteriously built between you and them.

Some will talk behind your back. This kind of thing only plunged me deeper into suffering because what I saw they did not see.

And I knew they would not listen.

But it was alright. Because God was in that farthest place from human understanding with me. It was alright they didn’t understand. How could they?

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139

Oh, how I remember teaching  wide-eyed children sitting cross-legged on the floor in Sunday School – God is everywhere! You could fly to outer space and He is there! You could go to the deepest ocean and He is still there! We could never go anywhere without Him being there.

But here? In such pain and suffering?

Yes.

And He who suffers has more to give.

DSC_0962

~~~

Streams in the Desert; p. 384, Zondervan, 1997

Photo credit: Lapatia via Foter.com / CC BY

angry at God.

Anger is a normal reaction to pain.

Betrayal.

Failure.

Loss.

Abuse.

Divorce.

Grieving.

Rejection.

Depression.

Unkindness.

Illness.

Pain affects us mentally, emotionally, and physically.

So why are we angry?

Mostly because we ask why me? Why does God allow pain?

We are not going to fully understand why and to stay angry will only hurt more.

There comes a point when we have to make peace with the fact we live with pain.

Shaking our fist at God should not last forever. Because he knows there will be pain and gives us numerous words of comfort.

Here’s one:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

When no one else gets it, God does. He says he is close to us when we’re hurting.

The only way to stop being angry is to accept and believe.

When you do, watch what happens. Because the same God who has allowed pain in this world, is the same one who is near to us.

You don’t believe in God?

Then who are you angry with?

Let God help you.

believe

jenny downing via Foter.com / CC BY

grieving hearts.

But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve like other people who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus, God will bring those who have died with him.

1 Thessalonians 4:13,14

This scripture is often read at memorial services. It is a wonderful promise for those who have lost a loved one. It transcends our limited understanding of time and helps us to remember there is more to come. Hope keeps us going.

But sometimes, people think that if you’re a Christian, you will not grieve at all, or at the very least, minimally. A time table is established and if you’re not where they think you should be in the grieving process, eyebrows are raised.

No one would expect a person with a broken leg to walk, but some expect a broken heart to beat the same.

heart

I was strong in my faith before my son died and I continued strong in my faith. The above scripture is real to me. But I am not the same person I was. I feel the limitations. They are subtle, but I know they’re there. It doesn’t affect my belief in God’s promise.

I’m human and I am limited. And I’m okay with that.

~~~

Photo credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!] / Foter / CC BY

The Ten Commandments of Not Making Things Worse

One of the purposes of my blog is to be honest. Please do not read further if you tend to be opinionated or offended easily.

christians and grieving.

The American culture is particularly focused on productivity, quick fixes, and formulas.

None of the above applies to someone who is grieving the loss of a child.

Even many church cultures are influenced by the American culture. The Bible is full of pro-active mandates and it fits nicely with the culture’s mantras.

As Christians, we have to reign ourselves in. I know I practice this in my own life. What I do, think, and say must be God’s heart.

Instead, I often see this scenario: people who are “victims” are encouraged to rise above it, press on, and fight the good fight. It’s like telling someone who just got a leg mangled in a car accident to walk.

Grieving people have mangled hearts.

And because we are an impatient culture, there are few who are willing to be patient with grief. What I mean by that is not being there 24/7 for someone who is grieving, but to keep in mind God’s heart: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit … in humility value others above yourselves … (Philippians 2:3)

This means the person who is grieving is not going to be who he or she was before the grief. Just like the person with the mangled leg will have scars or a limp for the rest of his life. If your theology is only to “press on” with faith, you will have expectations for people which are unrealistic.

Personally, I’ve been gossiped about and expected to rise above my loss. I know first hand the push of productivity, quick fixes, and formulas. Forgiveness is not a problem. But being exposed to it is.

Further reading here.

If you are grieving and have felt the angst of an environment of producing, quick fixes, and formulas being applied to you, next Monday’s post is for you. As I’ve listened to the stories of Christians who are grieving, I’ve found many broken-hearts; disillusioned with their experience. My hope is to help rescue you from becoming bitter or turning away from God altogether.

grieving.

There is a group of us.  You may notice us or you may not. You will have expected it to be over by now. But it’s not.

Everyone has their opinion of what is normal and what is not. Not sure if God defined normalcy in specific terms but lots of people have. A few months after losing my son, a church leader said, “I don’t want you to get stuck in grief.”

I didn’t know it then, but my feelings were raw.  I know he was well-meaning. I know that now. But at the time I wanted so badly to lean forward and say, “You’re lucky I get the hell out of bed every morning” (using the expletive to reveal my raw nerves).

But I didn’t.

I stuffed the feelings back down and went for the nicey-nice stuff. Because after all, isn’t that the right thing to do?

The years following that conversation (and other advice over the years) stuck with me. Being the type of person who always asked “How high?” when someone said jump, I couldn’t jump this time. Then I started refusing to jump.

Thus begun a long journey that will continue until the day I die. The journey of grief.

I have resented this journey because of the invisible hand I have felt holding me back. I am a let’s-fix-it-and-be-done-with-it kind of gal. But grieving is a whole other language. You either play nice with it or you don’t play at all. In other words, you have to live and if you don’t follow the rules you will sink down deeply into a bottomless pit of sorrow, wishing you would just die in your sleep.

Now, I am not resentful because I know the invisible hand knows exactly what grief is all about. And this hand does not put any limitations on me.  The truth has a way of clearing away the path of thick, tangled brush of frustration and confusion.  And the truth for grieving people is this: acceptance. Unconditional, patient, loving acceptance.

sunny-trees_l

There is a group of us. We are your neighbors, your family, and the strangers you see on the street. And our hearts have a wound that always hurts. Some days we shy away from something or someone who makes the wound start bleeding again. For many months or even years, we will try to be strong and go into those vulnerable places to convince you (and ourselves) we are okay. But after awhile, we are too exhausted to keep that going.

See, we know you talk about us. We know you don’t mean any harm. But that doesn’t matter because all we feel is the vacuum created. And we just don’t have the energy to fill it.

The following is an excellent article from Today’s Christian Woman that helped me today. It validated and accepted me. It obliterated the catch phrases that I abhor: “a new normal” and “time heals all wounds”. There isn’t and it doesn’t.

http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2013/september/impatient-with-grief.html

~~~

Photo credit: Hindrik S / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA