Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lessons in Processing Grief - Part 2

On Monday, I shared a few lessons learned as I've walked this journey of grief. Today is the continuation of those lessons. The reason I'm writing this is so that if/when ever grief comes knocking on my door again, I can run to these lessons learned and have a tangible reminder of those things that bring healing. The reality is, however, that grieving just takes time and you can't rush it. IT IS OKAY TO GRIEVE. For me, these things just help me to grieve in a healthy way. 

5- Keep a gratitude log on your phone.
OK, here comes a real authentic moment... For about 6 weeks after the miscarriage I was in a pit. I could not think run a whole cycle on the washing machine (including soap) but forget to add clothes. It was bad. In the midst of that deep soul ache, I never lost sight of the fact that we are blessed. So blessed. Among the most blessed people in the whole world. But the thing I did lose sight of was where all the blessings came from. 

My mind was playing tricks on me and I began to wonder if maybe this is just the way life happens. When I would hear people thanking God for answered prayers or blessings they’d received, I would find myself wondering, “Did God really intervene there or are we just saying that because we’d like to think that’s the way He works?”

How can I thank God for answering my prayer for a good parking space when my friend is praying about cancer? How can I say God blessed me with a new iPhone when there are believers around the world without their daily bread? 

I couldn’t sort through it theologically. Even now, it’s hard to understand.

But here are two things I do know: 
1- God is totally in control of every detail of the Universe, from parking spaces to cancer. And while we don’t understand a lot of His ways, we can trust that He is aware of our specific situation and giving us exactly what He sees fit in every given moment.

2- Gratitude changes our perspective on life. Even from the darkness I knew I was blessed. I think it would have served me well to get really specific about those blessings and to discipline myself to physically write them down. When I learn to see beauty in hair bows holding back curls and new toothbrushes and a kettle whistling for tea on a cold morning, I am training my mind to focus on that which is good. It doesn’t make the bad go away, but it shrinks in it’s significance to make room for the blooming beauty.

Gratitude, even when we’re not 100% sure where the credit is due, can radically shape our perspective.

6- Receive and respond to people's attempts to love you.
When we experience pain, all of life is viewed through the lens of that pain. It’s extremely difficult to get outside of our circumstances to see life from a more balanced point of view. The reality is, all of us have a threshold of pain that, once crossed, blinds us from anything but our pain. It’s true of physical pain as well as emotional.  

When our eyesight (perspective on life) is bad we need to get other people to guide us. The Bible says, “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when you eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness.” Mt 6:22-23 When I was living in darkness, I needed others to shine light onto my life. 

For many of us, it's hard to receive the love and help that people try to give us. We either feel so deep in a hole that we don't want to talk to people or we'd like to pretend we're strong enough to get through this without help. But the truth is, God created us to need each other. Sometimes we get to bear someone else's burden and sometimes when need them to bear ours. 

I needed my family and my friends...for them to remind me of God’s promises, to give me an outside perspective of my circumstances, to pray for me and share Scripture with me and hold my arms up. In order for them to keep reaching out to me, I needed to keep reaching out to them. To let them know that I needed them, to reciprocate when they text me, to receive their love and advice when it was offered. If I never reciprocated or if I resisted every kind act, they were likely to think I didn't need/want their efforts. But I knew I did. 

Let people love you.

7- Do not equate your current circumstances with God’s love (or lack of love) for you.
I could not fathom ever doing something to hurt one of my children to the depths at which I felt that God had just hurt me. If I had the power to prevent that kind of pain from ever touching my sons, I would do it. Because of this (human and very limited) perspective, I lost sight of God’s personal love for me. I knew that He loved mankind because “God so loved the world that He” sent Jesus. But I thought maybe He wasn’t quite as concerned about my personal circumstances. I knew in my heart that that was a lie that Satan was trying to feed me, but I just could not get my mind wrapped around how God could love me and still do this to me.

Then I listened to this message by Andy Stanley (fill your mind with truth, right?). In it, Andy looks at the story of John the Baptist being in prison (and eventually being beheaded) while Jesus is healing other people and performing all kinds of miracles. John was his cousin! Jesus said that there was no one greater than John. Jesus clearly loved him. So why didn’t he rescue John from his pain? 

Jesus said to John, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.” The way Andy Stanley described that verse was that there are going to be things that Jesus allows (even causes!) in our lives that make absolutely no sense to us. And when they happen we will be tempted to turn away because of the pain, but God blesses us when we don’t...when we receive the trial and trust Him in the unknown. His decision to let John die in prison had NOTHING to do with His ability to rescue him OR His love for the one who longed to be rescued. 

His love for us was proven on the cross, and nothing can separate us from or change that.

If you are walking through grief or painful circumstances right now, I pray you will tell yourself over and over again that you are loved by Jesus. Even when you don't feel it or don't know how it could possibly be true, His love is real. He sees you. He is intimately acquainted with the road of suffering. May you run to Him instead of away from Him in your pain. 

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