Thursday, January 31, 2013

grieving appropriately

Today's post was the one I had originally intended to write on Tuesday.  But I felt the Lord leading me to precede with that post lest ye think I had it all figured out.  That is certainly not the case, not at all.

Grief is a strange monster and it attacks each one of us differently.  It attacks an individual differently on different days, at different times, when they least expect it.  And I think it's especially hard for Christians.  To be completely honest, grief somehow feels inappropriate and inconvenient for Christians.  We are supposed to be a light to the world - how then can we shine when our light feels as if it has been snuffed out?  It is a difficult fact to reconcile.  

Let me reiterate, I do not have this grief thing figured out.  But, I have identified a few key elements that make all the difference in the world when it comes to my sadness.  They are the difference between me being curled up in the fetal position on my bathroom floor sobbing and shaking uncontrollably, and being brave enough to swing my legs out of bed each morning and plant my feet firmly on the floor, tears and all.  Here is the list:

1. The hope I have in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, "But I do not want you to be ignorant  brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as those who have no hope."

Because of Christ's work on the cross my Evie is in Heaven.  If I completely focus on Evie and what is best for her, what could be better for a little girl than to be raised in Glory?  She has no tears, no hurts, no struggles, no fear.  Her life, quite literally, is perfect.  And, I will join her one day.  Those two facts bring so much joy and hope to my hurting heart!  

Certainly though, it is difficult to focus on that hope when I miss her so terribly and want nothing more than to see my sweet girl again and kiss her chubby cheeks and perfectly bowed lips.  But the overwhelming sense of loss and heartache is tempered by the truth of my hope in Christ.  What a wretched creature I would be without it!  

2. Thankfulness

1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to give thanks in all things.  Finding things to thank the Lord for (and there are many!) always combats my sadness.  

I could be way off base here, but I don't think we have to be thankful for the bad things.  Example: Lord, thank you that my friend was raped, thank you that my baby is dead, thank you that the serial killer went on a rampage again.  Those things just sound ridiculous.  I don't think think the Lord wants us to be thankful for evil (and death is a consequence of sin and evil).  

But, I can be thankful for the good things that have resulted from Evie's death - for the changes in me and others, for the opportunity to minister to hurting hearts.  I can thank the Lord for the time we had with Evie and what a sweetheart she was.  And I can be thankful for other things in my life - my husband's success in school, the blessing of my son, my dad who can fix anything that breaks in our home.  There is so much to be thankful for even while immersed in the storm.  



3.  Acceptance

Accepting Evie's diagnosis and death as the Lord's plan and as part of His good plan completely changes my perspective.  I don't claim to understand why this had to happen, why my infant daughter's death has been worked into God's good plan for the world, but it has.  I think that is true faith - simply believing that God has a plan even if I can't see it and it looks a lot like He doesn't.  This thought is perfectly captured in the first few lines of one of my most favorite hymns:

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at His word
Just to rest upon His promise, 
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.

There have been two distinct times I remember fighting God on accepting Evie's death (probably more, but I distinctly remember those two).  Once was shortly after we heard of her diagnosis and the other was a few days after her memorial service.  The thoughts running through my head went something like this: God, you can't do this to me!  I can't do this!  What are you doing!  God, you cannot make me do this!  The physical elements that accompanied these thoughts can only be likened to those of a panic attack - shortness of breath, feelings of anxiety, etc.  I realized that I had to accept God's plan or else I would literally be transformed into a non-functioning basket-case.  And clinging to verses like the ones below are the only thing keeping me from crossing over that line:

Isaiah 55:8-9 - For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts. 
Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Romans 11:33 - Oh the depths and riches of both the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out!

Job 2:10 - Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?  

Romans 8:28 - For we know all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.


Let me also say, tapping into these thoughts is a choice.  Like so many other aspects of the Christian life we must choose to focus on our hope, thankfulness, and acceptance.  I personally rarely feel thankful, etc. but I make that conscious choice and it makes all the difference   

Grief is weird but God is good.  I am thankful that He gives us these tools and a way to escape the darkness of our minds and embrace His enlightening spirit.  

To all of you hurting hearts reading this, please know that I love you today and I pray for you all the time.  If I can do anything for you, please let me know <3  

14 comments:

  1. thank you so much for posting this. Fear works very similarly.

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    1. It does! And it can be so tiring to constantly bring your mind back on track, but it is certainly worth the effort <3

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  2. sarah, thank you for another wonderful post sharing your thoughts on grief. I changed my name from "emma the fair" to just "emma s" and changed my profile picture. just wanted to be sure you could recognized me. I made my very first blog post ever yesterday. I have been sharing a lot of my thoughts over facebook the past two months, but what I was feeling in the midst of writing this post seemed a little too intense for facebook. so I invite you to read it if you would like. It should take you there if you just click on my name.
    Also, I wanted to share a verse my husband and I have clinged to during our grief. it is revelation 7:15-17 and a beautiful picture of heaven. It has been so comforting to us.
    Therefore,


    “they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
    and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
    16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
    The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
    nor any scorching heat.
    17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
    ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[

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    1. Thank you so much Emma. Those verses are so unbelievably comforting - what a great picture of Heaven, the Heaven being experienced right now by Evie and Ezra <3

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  3. Thank you Sarah, loved this and have had similar convictions/thought process while dealing with grief. :)

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    1. It's amazing how similar we all feel when grieving. It is comforting in a strange way <3

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  4. ‘There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.’
    - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    I read that last night and thought how beautiful it was. Today, when I saw your post, I had to share it with you. <3

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    1. Thank you - what beautiful, comforting thoughts!

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  5. you have had some wonderful posts on here but this has got to be one of your best and I appreciate it,thank you

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  6. So nicely said, Sarah. Many years ago a father asked his little daughter to put her toy necklace in the fireplace where a fire was burning brightly. She loved her toy necklace dearly and didn't want to lose it, but the tender look in her father's eyes reminded her that she could truly trust him. After she returned from her dreaded task at the fireplace, her father presented her with her first real pearl necklace.

    We are sure that everything we (you, Josh, and Evie)gave up this past November will be more than repaid very soon.

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    1. I'm looking forward to it eagerly ...

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  7. I am thankful to have found your blog. I find so much comfort in reading posts from other Christians that are walking a similar path I am on. When I read your posts, it is like you are writing what is in my head that I have not gotten down on paper yet.

    Praying for you and remembering Evie with you.

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    1. Thank you Lynette. I'm glad you are comforted. <3
      Saying a prayer for you right now for special grace and understanding today.

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