Finally

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:8, 9.

 

Last night (this is Thursday when I started typing) at my cell group (a new name for a Bible study/spiritual meeting thingy) we discussed grief.  The pastor of Bridge City has been speaking on validating our emotional life by discussing such topics and anger, fear and now grief in order to help people deal with their whole lives rather than stuffing their emotions away where they tend to get out of hand in the subconscious.  Whew!  That was a long sentence, sorry.

My point is that as I read the text above last night and then again this morning, I wondered how we should deal with our grief in light of its positive spin.  For most of us emotions lead the way whether we admit it or not.  Oh, we might not “allow” ourselves to feel sadness or grief, because that would be weak and faithless, but we sure can display anger, resentment, frustration, happiness, etc, when we think such emotions are appropriate.  Today I am going to discuss the text in this context to understand how to navigate our emotional life in a healthy way without invalidating ones like grief.

In the eastern cultures grief is given a time to express itself.  In fact, I believe most third world countries deal with grief in a more wholesome way than Americans do.  We tend to be given to the “stiff upper lip” mentality as if this will actually work.  Unrealized grief only shapes the pain in the background and evidences itself in the subconscious where it proceeds to affect all sorts of things in our conscious world without us recognizing it.

The Sunday after my wife left me for the last time, a pastor friend warned me to allow myself time to grieve.  He didn’t necessarily recommend a specific limit but just warned me to be aware that my body and mind needed the space.  I decided on 2 years, since I tend to process things slowly over lots of chewing on the data.  It takes a while for me to come to closure on some things when I haven’t dealt with them before.  Two years to the day when she moved out (November 29 to be exact) I woke up breathing again and aware of light in the room.  I can’t describe what it was like exactly but the closest I can say is that I felt I had been in a twilight zone and the edges of my vision was dark.

So how does this impact the message Paul wants to convey?

Simply this:  we cannot escape grief or sadness for they are the natural outcomes of a world with sin.  We should never deny ourselves the space to grieve, be angry or whatever emotion we know is an honest response to the situation.  Though self-control dictates that these not rule how we respond, we still go through the emotions anyway.  In our awareness of grief we turn our minds to the light of hope when it seems overwhelming, without it, grief would be unbearable and suffocating.  Yet to deny grief its expression sets us up for dishonesty and hypocrisy.

Our only recourse, then, is to choose a mindset that doesn’t deny our need to actually experience the emotions or own them while at the same time turning our thoughts to those things which produce hope in seemingly hopeless situations.  Paul went on to encourage the church in Thessalonica:  Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.  1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14.  He says more on the subject, which you can read at your leisure, but the important part is that we don’t have to grieve like the rest of the world.  Our hope of restoration in Christ saves us from the despair death and loss bring.  And herein lies the secret to the Christian’s ability to deal with grief.  We don’t have to grieve in hopeless loss because we have Someone who knows our sorrows, has experienced our pain and come through alive.

Still, knowing eternity awaits doesn’t mean we don’t grieve at all.

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6 Responses to “Finally”

  1. Michael Cartwright Says:

    I give my grief to the Lord to the best of my ability…and He has lifted my sorrow.

    Link:
    http://spiritualwalkwithgod.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/sorrows-blessings/

    God bless,
    Michael

    • jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

      I agree with you, Michael. Yet though we give our grief to the Lord, this doesn’t mean we are supposed stop feeling it. What He does for us is take the edge off. Paul and Jesus both tell us to “mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.” This command gives us permission to experience our emotions with the fast food answers of modern Christianity getting in the way.

      In Paul’s day there was a sect of Greeks who called themselves “Stoics” and believed that perfection (or wholeness) was attained by controlling the emotions. The more control one gained over their emotional reactions, the closer to God they were. Paul condemns these people in almost every letter he writes, and the reason is they were dishonest and unreal.

      David didn’t say, “Yay, though You deliver me from the Valley of the Shadow of Death so I will fear no evil” but “yay, though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me.”

      That’s an important distinction, my friend. We might give our griefs and hurts to God, but that doesn’t mean we don’t experience these things or that we should believe we can escape the truth the emotions speak to. If we hide from our feelings or deny them expression, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist in the subconscious. If we are honest, our losses hurt us terribly. I lost both my parents, and though I know I will see them again in the resurrection, I miss them a lot and grieve over their loss. I wish my son could have known them because he’s growing up without their influence directly except through my interpretation—which is merely an imitation of their real.

      Do you see what I mean by this? I’m not disagreeing with your statement but I am pointing out that giving our emotions to God doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with them. We just have Him there with us giving us a sense of equilibrium through the maze.

  2. Michael Cartwright Says:

    Yes, there is no doubt we have to go through the emotion of our grief. It is the Lord that helps us on that journey. As with the loss of my Angel Girl, (now just one year removed) I continue to experience the waves of sorrow that come without warning, and it is God that lifts that from me as I experience it…Amen for that.

    God bless,
    Michael

  3. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Each of us grieve in a different way, my friend. What I wish for the church is that we would stop forcing ourselves to deny grief its place in our lives. It is not a lack of faith to feel grief nor is it unfaithfulness which makes us know sorrow. Jesus was grieved in His spirit at the unbelief of the Jews and sorrowful for Jerusalem.

    I’m glad you have the assurance of eternity. But I also pray that when you need to you will allow yourself to weep, mourn and realize your loss, for only when we recognize the wound in our bodies or hearts can we know what to ask God to heal in us. A wise man recently told me, “Those who grieve well, live well.” I believe our hope subtracts the hopelessness of the world’s POV, but it doesn’t lessen the pain of the loss. The hope changes our loss into one of expectation and joy for the reunion on that Day.

    Peace, my friend

  4. tlc4women Says:

    In our original human design grief was not a factor as we were built to live in the presence of God forever. I believe since it’s not in our design then it becomes so hard to process this emotion. There isn’t a set time limit for grief and yet you don’t want to get stuck there either. It’s a tough one to navigate. Thank God for the assurance of eternal life!

  5. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Yeah.

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