Monday, February 4, 2013

Lessons in Processing Grief- Part 1

These next two posts are probably more for me than for you.

I need to have a place to record all these thoughts I've been pondering in my heart. Read along if you like. Pass it along if you have a friend in the same boat. 

In the midst of the pain that I’ve struggled through the last couple of months, I’ve often felt disappointed with myself. Disappointed with the way that I have responded to the grief and loss. There’s no doubt in my mind that I was doing the very best that I could. And I am also fully confident that God’s grace is enough to cover me (be strong in me) in the midst of weakness. I don’t have some mental picture of God being disappointed in me. Just me being disappointed in me.

I know that's kinda a funny thought... "I should be better at this whole grief thing than I am!" But at the same time, I've talked to other people who have felt the same way.

So I’ve thought things over (and over and over again) and I tried to decide what is it exactly that I wish I had done differently. Life is sure to bring grief to my doorstep again at some unwanted moment. What can I learn from this experience to better equip me for the next?

I want to share with you (and record for myself!) seven lessons learned on this journey. I’ll share four today and three tomorrow.

1- Accept that grieving is different than a lack of faith.
I think I had that confused. Not that I thought it was sinful to grieve or be sad. But the intensity of the emotions and the questions that raged made me feel as though my entire foundation had just crumbled. I didn’t realize that what I was thinking and feeling were a natural part of the grief process, not the shattering of my faith. 

Sadness does not equal weakness. And brokenness does not equal hopelessness. 

2- Keep filling your mind with truth.
When something happens that shakes our world, we are desperate to make sense of it. Out minds start to run at Mach speed in a thousand different directions grasping for something (anything!) that is still solid enough to hang on to. Pastor Andy Stanley said, “I am most teachable when I am most vulnerable.”

When the rug got ripped out from under me, I knew how important it was to keep filling my mind with truth instead of letting Satan just have a hey-day in my head. So every day I would read the Bible and books and listen to podcasts and worship music...each pointing me to Jesus. I gotta tell ya, though, it was painful. To be honest, there were many days that reading the Bible brought more pain than comfort...left me with more questions than answers. My “quiet time” each day felt like open heart surgery without anesthesia. 

But that is how healing takes place. Without continually exposing my wound to the Healer, He couldn’t clean it, apply ointment, and bandage it properly. Trying to conceal a wound could, at best, lead to a nasty calloused scar with improper healing or, at worst, lead to infection that could destroy my life.

Prioritize time to read, listen, and reflect on truth.

3- Say truth out loud, even when it feels fake.
I think one of my core values in life is being authentic. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I share the real me with you, not the me with lipstick and wrinkle-free khakis. I think being authentic is INCREDIBLY important. But in the midst of my lowest lows, it didn’t serve me well. 

I wanted to be honest with myself, my husband, my friends, and sometimes even on this blog about how I was doing. There’s value in that. To deny reality is no help to anyone. But I felt that I couldn’t say things that I knew to be true about God because suddenly I didn’t feel like I knew them to be true anymore. I couldn’t claim the promises because, in my crisis of belief, I didn’t feel the promises.

However, there is a lot of power in saying (aloud) the promises of God, regardless of how you feel. I wish that I had mustered up the strength to say to people: 

“I know that God will work this together for my good.” (Even though I can’t see it at all.)
“I know that nothing can separate me from the love of God. His love never changes.” (Even though this seems more cruel than loving.)
“I know that God is near to the brokenhearted and He is holding me in the midst of my pain.” (Even though all I feel is emptiness.)

It felt fake to me, which is why I held back. But even when it feels fake, it’s not fake. It’s the most real thing in this broken world.

4- Write down God’s past faithfulness to you.
God has been faithful all of my life (all of your life too!). Why would I doubt that He will be faithful now? When I am reminded of how He’s provided for us, miracles that He’s performed on our behalf, the specific stories of how He’s divinely guided our lives, it gives me courage. I want to work with Andy to make a list of these stories so that if I ever wonder again, I can run to my list and breathe easier. 
  • the time we didn’t have enough money to pay our utility bill and an unexpected check from an old friend showed up in them mail.
  • miraculous provision to pay off Andy’s student loan in less than a year
  • the story behind getting the domain for South Bay Church’s website
  • and on, and on, and on...
He was faithful then; He will be faithful now. 

Check back tomorrow for Part 2

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