Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing devotions pulled from my book Living in the Shadow of Death: Learning to Thrive through Tragedy and Uncertainty. If you want to learn more about this book, scroll down or click here. If you want to read this series from the beginning, click here.
Questions about grief and all of its effects show up in our life in many ways. Tears may be common for a while, and emotions may flux between anger and depression, but dealing with a loss may also affect your physical and mental health, your levels of grace and patience, your empathy and sympathy, and how you see the world.
We need to embrace the fact that no matter what kind of loss you face, you cannot ignore it. Our hearts will not magically mend or our thoughts supernaturally forget what could have been. When suffering interrupts your life, you cannot go around it. You must go through it.
Grief Takes a Toll
Keeping grief inside increases your pain. ~
When grief is fresh, everything can feel off. Depending upon the type and severity of the loss, you may not think clearly, or your emotions may be hypersensitive. If the loss is less severe or dramatic, you may have trouble remaining focused. In more intense situations, a normally patient person may be short-tempered, or an organized person may become forgetful or messy.
“There is no good way around grief, although you may be tempted to avoid it” (Military Widow, page 80). When I’m overwhelmed with emotion, I get busy with menial tasks. Putting my hands to work straightening out a closet or cleaning the kitchen gives my mind the time it needs to process what’s happening. While it can be a good way to disperse nervous energy, it’s easy for us to overdo it, to get lost in working to the point that our hearts and minds are busy with tasks other than the one they most need to work through.
Other ways to escape.
Some people like retail therapy—shopping to ignore, or at least quiet, the pain. Others find comfort in overeating, drinking to excess, using illicit drugs, or online gambling. Jumping from one relationship to another without time to heal can be a sign of avoiding the pain just as assuredly as depression and anger are signals that something is not right within us.
When we’re in the midst of these traumatic moments, it feels like we’re all alone, like no one else in the world has ever felt as overwhelmed or that no one else has ever faced such tremendous odds. Can I tell you something? Those thoughts are not truth. Oh, they feel like truth, but they are lies that will keep you stuck where you are rather than reaching for the very help that can make all the difference in the world, even when your circumstances do not change.
Some battles are universal.
We all battle uncertainty. Everyone experiences insecurity, self-defeating thoughts, and fear. I’ve wondered if God heard my prayer or has lost track of me altogether. I’ve reacted badly, isolated myself out of paranoia, and been frustrated by the perceived judgmental looks of others.
Heard of Mother Teresa? A spiritual giant in the eyes of many, she was a humble nun born in Macedonia who served most of her life with the poorest people in Calcutta. Many praised her for her tender work among those who were dying of AIDS and leprosy. She even won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was canonized (recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint) in 2016. Yet she experienced great spiritual insecurities.
“Mother Teresa once wrote to a spiritual confidant, ‘Jesus has a very special love for you, [but] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,—Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak’” (God Loves Broken People, 86). Can you imagine a woman who the world saw doing mighty things for God feeling like God wasn’t even listening to her? Wasn’t nearby? Wasn’t talking to her, guiding her? Loving her?
Uncomfortable Questions about Grief
Looking at the story of Job, we must acknowledge that God allowed all the turmoil and strife in the time of his life depicted in the Bible. God permitted Satan to steal his wealth, kill his servants and children, and bring great physical discomfort to the man himself. That’s difficult enough to consider, particularly if you are in a hard place right now. Has God allowed your enemy access to your life like he did for Job?
Or think back to the story of Joseph. When he revealed himself to his brothers as a thirty-year-old man, he said, “God sent me ahead of you” (Genesis 45:4–7). Was he implying that God sent him into slavery and into prison? That’s certainly where he ended up for a little over a decade of his life.
And what about Leviticus 14:34 where God says, “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession, and I put a spreading mold in a house in that land …” God told Moses that the Israelites would deal with mold in their homes at least sometimes because God put it there. What!?
But does it matter?
While many of us aren’t sure we want to wrestle with these issues, we must take one step farther than the questions about grief that may not have an answer we are comfortable with. We must ask ourselves this: Does it matter? Pause for a moment and consider that. If God is absolutely good, then does it truly matter whether He allows it, does it, or leads us to it? As Sheila Walsh asks, “Would we relate to God any differently depending on His answer?” (God Loves Broken People, page 8).
When trouble comes, focus on God’s ability to care for you. ~
These are tough questions about grief that plunge into the deepest concerns plaguing us. But I ask you to consider them because how you answer is critically important. If we can rest in the knowledge that God is good, then we can also confidently say that no matter what our life looks like in this moment or the next, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
In all things. Even pain. Even suffering. Even loss.
More on all of this next week . . . .
This is an excerpt from my book Living in the Shadow of Death. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks ahead, or you can purchase the book on Amazon (other retailers coming soon!).
Does God have a purpose for the turmoil or tragedy you are experiencing? Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
If you want to dig deeper into this book, you can also buy the journal featuring quotes from the book (links of the Book Page). Also, on the Freebies Page you’ll find a small group study guide and a leader’s guide!