Loss-child

Heal & Grow

Today I realize that I will be in a spiritual battle the rest of my life. If this seems like a negative thought, another way to think of it, is that I will be running a race of perseverance. That was always the case, the moment I believed in Christ, it’s just that since the loss of my son, I realize it even more. I am more dependent on God now for my daily thoughts. I must constantly seek truth and His Word to keep myself healthy.

Paul said this too: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

GOOD NEWS: HEALING AND CHANGE ARE POSSIBLE

In the midst of suffering or grief, a person is vulnerable to attack. The person is weak. In our loss, we bring thoughts about God, ourselves, and others to the table. We also bring our desires and our motivations. These are not always aligned with truth. We fight to know the truth and believe it.

There are many theories that the world uses to try to help us in our suffering. Many tell us to change our thoughts and possibly our environment in order to see change in our lives. This is a good beginning, some of it works in the moment, but there can be many missing components: 

First, the Lord and need of a Savior. For the Christian, God is at work through the Holy Spirit in our lives. He can change us. His Presence can change us. 

Second, ourselves. Many theories treat us as the “victim”-that we are grieved, anxious, depressed and there is nothing we can do about it. But, Scripture says, we CAN grow and we CAN change and we CAN heal. Practically, we can get medication, counseling, learn to breathe, get exercise, manage our time. All those things are good. But, most importantly, we can seek God for long-term change. We are not victims. There is hope. This is a gradual and lifetime process, it takes time and effort and IS worth it. 

Lastly, God’s Word. God’s Word is truth and it can challenge the lies, the desires, the motivations. God has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him” (2 Peter 1:3)

HEART CHANGE

Another missing piece-changing our thoughts is not enough. Our hearts need change. What does that mean? That means our desires, motivations-what we long for, yearn for, crave and how we satisfy these. 

In our hearts, we may know what is right, but desire what is wrong. Eve knew what was right. Abraham knew what was right. David knew what was right. Yet, they chose to do wrong. James 4 explains that we can know what is right, yet do wrong. James 1 talks about how yearnings (even good desires for acceptance, security, identification, satisfaction, happiness, approval, comfort, escape, strength, pleasure, success) can turn into sin. James 4 asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions [my lust, my pride, my selfishness and more] are at war within you?” Am I willing to sin to get my desire? Am I willing to sin if I don’t get my desire?

The battle is in this. First, in the heart. To put off and confess old patterns and choices (identifying the desires/passions) and to put on the “new man”-renewed thinking, having a new pattern of truth. This is where change happens. Then, actions follow the change in thinking and motivations. Then, peace. Sounds nice and linear. It’s much more messy.

I will be trusting God with some really hard truths and some really hopeful promises the rest of my life. This is the major and most important part of my coping with my loss. The good news: healing and change are possible.

Contributor-L. Vincent

loss-abandonment · Loss-abuse · Loss-addictions · Loss-divorce · loss-suicide

LOVE

Today is Valentine’s Day. This makes us think about love. One genuine act of love is FORGIVENESS, a free gift that God gives us every day. Forgiveness is love and counteracts anger, a feeling that a normal part of grief.

In the 1990s, a book called The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent, taught people to forgive others through writing.

When my kids were little, I taught them the four promises of forgiveness (within the context of learning to overlook, talk it out, and get help with conflicts) from Ken Sande’s book The Peacemaker:

I promise I will think good thoughts about you and do good to you (good thought).

I promise I will not bring up this situation and use it against you (hurt you not).

I promise I will not talk to others about what you did (gossip never).

I promise I will be friends with you again (friends forever).

If we read these as an adult, we quickly see that this is not easy to do with severe hurt, but the possibilities of freedom for all involved are huge.

If I forgive someone, I usually focus on the offense and then work to forgive that hurt. Then, if that event/offense comes to mind again, I forgive again (Jesus said 77 x 7), and so on (Matthew 18:21–22).

I thought I knew quite a bit about forgiveness based on these things, but I learned something HUGE this year in the book, Forgive What You Can’t Forget by Lisa Terkeurst. The author has insight into forgiveness: she suggests writing down not only the sin that occurred against you, but all of the EFFECTS that the person’s actions had on you. A friend told me that this is a part of TRAUMA recovery.

The EFFECTS can create so much anger and bitterness, in some ways, without our awareness! The effects are what people are typically dealing with after the offense has occurred. So, yes, forgive the act, but also any effects that came about due to the act. This is powerful.

I forgive you for the act (write it out). I forgive you for the effects (make a list). And keep adding to your list as things occur. Then, if you want to be symbolic and concrete about it, take something red and place it over the list, symbolizing that Jesus died for ALL of this. This is one piece of how to forgive a traumatic event. This sounds simplistic but is a process and may take time. Be gentle with yourself as you try to even think about forgiving a large hurt. Ultimately, it will free YOU. Love yourself and others with the gift of forgiveness.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

Contributor- L. Vincent

Photo-B. Kerckx

Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-flood · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

Suffering

There is a core question that most grievers ask at some point: Why does suffering exist? Why do some suffer greatly and others do not?

In the past I would have answered: to help you grow (John 15), to grow your character (Heb. 12), to show you where you misplaced your hope (1 Peter 1:13-14), to make you stronger, more persevering (James 1). And, this can absolutely be true. But, now I realize that there is MORE to this answer–that there are some kinds of suffering that will never have answers. 

Sometimes suffering comes from our own sin or others’ choices to sin. Other times, we do not know why we are suffering. Sometimes it is a combination of the two.

John 9: 1-3-As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” So, when Jesus was asked if the blind man’s suffering was caused by sin, he answered that there was a greater purpose. 

Sometimes things happen in heaven that humans know nothing about and that can’t be explained. Sometimes very difficult things happen to faithful people. It is simplistic to think that sin is always the cause of suffering. 

In the book of Job, one day in heaven, the angels and Satan gathered. Satan accused Job of following God because of the protection and blessings. Job was described as blameless, upright, one who feared God. His family was close-knit. God, then, allowed Satan to test Job within certain limitations. The Lord allowed Satan to remove his blessings, but protected Job’s life.  God could have prevented the suffering, but He did not.

There were two tests: In the first test, Job lost his 10 children, servants, all possessions. 10 children.

In the second, he lost his health.

In the first test, he answered, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In the second test, he answered, “Shall  we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job’s answer was both humble and even grateful. He had been completely broken, yet he maintained faith. He understood that a faith-filled life did not guarantee a life free of pain and sorrow. If faith only mattered in good times, it did not matter at all.

Job also grieved: he fell to the ground, his heart was heavy (6:1), he felt punished and mocked (6:4-6, 23), he lost his appetite (6:7), he was in massive pain, with little hope (6:8), he had nights of misery and tossed in the night (7:4), he thought he would never see good again (7:7), he asked hard questions like why even try (6:29-30) and wondered if God was fair (6:22), yet, he appealed to God for mercy (6:15) and saw Him as holy, wise, strong (9:4-10). All of these are very normal in severe grief. Reading Job can be a relief to a griever–seeing a faithful person experience the same emotions, questions, and yet still have faith.

John Stuart Mill and others claim that God cannot be omnipotent AND good at the same time. However, in Job, it is seen that God is in control and is good. He also allows suffering for a purpose and has a relationship with Job through it. What is the good-this is not fully answered, but partly that Job would continue in his faith regardless of the most severe circumstances. But, Job knew nothing of the events and conversations in heaven. This is the humbling of man-he does not know everything or the reasons for everything.

Martin Luther King, Jr. explains that God’s goodness is a high and fixed purpose aiming at the supreme good of man, and that accomplishing His purpose reveals His true power. And, His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8).

Job never knew about the scene in heaven. He never had answers for the reason for his losses. And, for some kinds of losses this is the case. The believer will have to learn how to keep living and have faith WITHOUT answers.

Job, also, could not make the connection of his own sin and the atrocities that happened. Yes, he was a sinner, and he confessed this, but the severity of the losses did not match the sins he committed. He understood that any bit of mercy from God was a gift, but this degree of suffering did not make sense.

In the case of suicide, it is true that the victim sinned (in great pain and darkness); but for the survivor, the question is-why did God allow this? The survivor will have to learn to live without the full answer and this is super hard, but doable.

God allows the suffering of His children. God is sovereign over all that we experience: our grief, our physical ailments, our humiliation. Our suffering does not take God by surprise (Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 Peter 1:6; John 15:2). God gives us grace in our suffering (2 Peter 1:3). In the middle of suffering, it is important for the believer to remember that God is at His core, good. In the end, what did Job cling to? He had his faith in God’s goodness and the hope of his salvation. 

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent