Grief crowds the heart, eats up all your energy and chronically imposes upon your peace. But grief isn’t some evil force that’s only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need.
Katherine Schafler, The One Thing No One Ever Says About Grieving
Recently, I started to read the book Recovering from the Losses in Life by H. Norman Wright. It’s a book my counselor suggested I read over a year ago, but at the time I just wasn’t ready to process at the time. I could not see any benefit of feeling more pain. It seemed to take all I could do to function with what I was dealing with at the time. But lately, I’ve been seeing the need of continuing to work through the losses in my life, not because I look forward to feeling the pain, but rather because I know pain is a necessary part of healing.
I mentioned the show Rectify in my last blog. It’s a beautiful, redemptive show that I highly recommend. The main character, Daniel, has recently been released from being on death row. Daniel suffers from PTSD after spending almost twenty years in a prison where horrible things happened to him. The adjustment to life outside the prison walls is overwhelming to him, but the memories of the pain he suffered behind the prison walls is by far his biggest obstacle. Daniel is out of prison, but inside his mind he is still locked up. When someone recommends to him that he seek treatment for his PTSD, Daniel has the same reaction that I did to the thought of more pain; resistance.
When pain is all one can feel, the last thing we want to do is add more pain.
Eventually, Daniel realizes the only way to heal is to go back to it’s source and grieve what was lost.
I initially started to grieve the losses in my childhood with my former pastor. I believed that opening up to him about my pain was what I needed to do to be able to move forward in my life. I had no idea at the time how deep my pain really went, how crippling it would be to just remember some of the traumas that I had suppressed. I was not at all prepared. Because my former pastor did not keep appropriate boundaries and what resulted was an abusive relationship and even more trauma, I am sure that you can understand when my counselor suggested facing my past again that it would be the last thing I’d want to do.
I think the most difficult thing about grieving is how weak it makes me feel. Ever since being abused as a child, control is the only thing I could rely on to keep me safe. But as I’ve gotten older I’m beginning to understand that control has not really kept me safe, rather it has caused life to become an even more frightening place.
Scripture says that God’s perfect love casts out all fear. That God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind. The only thing that can truly make us feel safe is knowing that God loves us and wants what’s best for us. Our own fear and control keep us from experiencing this, and therefore keep us feeling unsafe.
The painful process of dealing with our losses can result in hope when it reveals to us a loving Father who grieves with us and promises restoration.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
As children of God, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Because of Jesus, we have hope. Because of His resurrection, we can be assured that one day we will not ever have to grieve again. He has conquered death, sin, and the grave. And this hope has been the only thing that has kept keep me moving forward at times.
But not only is the hope we have in the afterlife, but grief offers us clarity into what it is we really desire and need in life. Katherine Schafler states,
But grief isn’t some evil force that’s only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need.
More than anything else, grief has shown me what I really need and want. Growing up in fear, taught me to live a life of control. I didn’t know that children needed fathers and mothers to keep them safe. I believed I could do it all on my own. But the pain of grief revealed to me what a tremendous loss this really was in my life.
I was never meant to live life alone. I was created to be loved not abused.
Ultimately, the pain of these losses has let me know that I am alive. It’s been the breath of God into a soul that thought that it was dead.
“But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!’ And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel. Your breasts became full, and your body hair grew, but you were still naked. And when I passed by again, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I wrapped my cloak around you to cover your nakedness and declared my marriage vows. I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign Lord , and you became mine.
Jesus, the Man of sorrows acquainted with our griefs, has not abandoned us in our pain. He grieves with us in all that we have lost. Grief reminds us that we were not created to live in the broken world, but that we were created to have wholeness and life through Him.
Even though I’ve been able to find hope in my grief, I still have to move forward through the process of experiencing the pain that grief causes and also the fears that more loss will occur, and it is difficult. I recognize that my default mode is to do everything I can to control. Letting go of this need is a day by day, moment by moment process in which I need the Holy Spirit to help me through. I will try and fail, but sometimes I will try and succeed. Reinvesting into life, moving forward towards the things I know that I really want and need are risky from a human perspective. Sometimes I find myself hiding in my room wishing I didn’t ever have to make another choice again. So much in life causes me to fear losing something else. However, my own control numbs me to the place where I feel nothing and that’s an awful place to be, so I recognize I must make one small investment after another towards the life I know God wants me to live. One more step towards relationships. One more step towards change. One more step towards love. One more step towards hope reminding myself that He is a good Father who always keeps His promises.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
*Photo Credit Rectify, Sundance Channel