Good Grief: How to Embrace Life’s Most Painful Moments to Find True Healing
I woke up on my honeymoon and had never imagined a love so great. After growing up in a difficult home and being abandoned by all of my biological family, I never saw myself as getting married. I figured if my own God-given family didn’t want to keep me around, why would a significant other choose to keep me around? I lived my first 32 years of life feeling extremely unloved and undesirable.
When I quit faking fine, a long six years of lament (maybe even 10) occurred. Lament is a passionate expression of grief. The dictionary defines it as such, but you will be hard pressed to find a person who grieves in Scripture and God does not meet with them. Be it Sarah, or Jeremiah, or Mary, Joseph or Jesus. God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit (Psalm 34:18).
It just so happened that God was saving me over and over and over again. As I faced the heartache of my past, I had to feel the abandonment for the first time ever. I had to actually face the reality of what happened to me, and go to God with the hurt, instead of praying away the pain. Eventually God did bring me to the other side of lament, and I was experiencing happiness again. I was thrilled to make it on the other side of a lament with my faith in tact. I never in a million years imagined that God would bless me with a husband.
As God brought me again to a season of happiness, it had been so long since I had been happy that I almost forgot what it looked and felt like. I struggled believing it was real and lasting. Lamenting seasons can take us out if we let them. But while grief may last through the night (or even several nights), joy will come in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
As I awoke this morning to a cool breeze in Mexico, I wasn’t prepared for what the day would bring. Just days into being married, we had snorkeling planned, along with laying out, sitting poolside and maybe even a fancy dinner. Don’t we all wish vacation days would come around more frequently?
I checked my phone before we went out for the day and had received a message from a former family member. Someone I hadn’t spoken to in years – someone from my biological family. I felt a pit deep down in my stomach. It was the kind of feeling you want to push aside and bury, all the while knowing this urgent matter requires attention.
We used WIFI to place a phone call, and I received the news that my biological father had passed away. His death was a tragic one – tragic in the sense that he died alone. My birth father chose to live an isolated life, and he managed to burn nearly every bridge in his life. Yet even though it had been decades since we had spoken to him, my brother and I still grieved.
Even when an absent parent passes, there is grief. Even when death sometimes means relief, there is grief. Even when we are happy as a clam, there will be hard things that are thrown our way.
I cried and lamented for what never was, but this time my laments were not only heard by God, but by another, tangibly, here on earth. Not all of us have a spouse to share in our grief, but it is not good to lament alone. Lamenting in community is where healing is found. Lamenting with others gives us reassurance that we are not facing this difficult life alone.
Thankfully my laments were not met with “suck it up” or “pray it away.” My husband allowed me to grieve. He didn’t let me grieve without hope. He sat with me, prayed for me, and allowed us to have a slow and unproductive day – exactly what people in heart pain need.
When we quit faking fine to those around us, we aren’t afraid of being in need. When we end the pretend, we realize we can have a bad day even when we are genuinely happy in other areas of our life. My husband didn’t want my fake happiness, and neither did God. My husband wanted to sit with me in grief, in the same way God wants to meet us in ours. God does not silence emotion throughout Scripture. God wants to hear from all of us directly, even the un-pretty parts inside of us and even the parts that don’t get applause on a Sunday morning.
When we are in a honeymoon season of life, we can still lament.
If our homes are filled with Christmas love and laughter, we can still be missing somebody’s presence.
When life doesn’t go our way, and when we have a longing unfulfilled, we can take our cries to God as we don’t have everything figured out just yet.
We can be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Author Randy Alcorn says, “As Christians, we’ll be delivered from eternal suffering. Even now, God will give us happy foretastes of living His presence.”
The presence of my husband reminded me that God had not abandoned me, even in the midst of sorrow and loss. God desires to give us community to walk through the hard seasons we face. There is a mystery of intimacy when we take our hearts before God. This vulnerability gives birth to community. It’s hard to have community when everyone is faking.
May this New Year bring you an incredible amount of happiness, and when the sad comes, may you have a trustworthy community and know the grief is not meant to take you out. Our grief can become good if it leads us to God.
What an all-knowing Savior to meet us right where we are, and not where we pretend to be.
Esther Fleece is the author of the new book No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending (Zondervan), an international speaker and writer on millennials and faith, leadership and family. Fleece was recognized as one of Christianity Today’s “Top 50 Women Shaping the Church and Culture” and CNN’s “Five Women in Religion to Watch.” As founder and CEO of L&L Consulting, she works to connect influential individuals and organizations to their mutual benefit. Keep up with Esther’s global adventures on twitter and at EstherFleece.com.
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Publication date: January 11, 2017