When Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, contracted breast cancer and subsequently recovered after more than a year of treatment, and, then having lost one of her children tragically to suicide, her faith was tested. Anybody would have forgiven her for having given up on Jesus at that point. But that is the very point; throughout such a period of enormous pain and heartrending grief, she attests to a peace that transcended her own understanding, because of her faith in Jesus.
She experienced the full pain of grief without so much of the confused sense of turmoil we would normally associate with recovery from loss.
What was her secret? What can we learn from her experience?
There are many things any of us could say. But the resounding power in Carly’s message, for me, is that this peace that transcends understanding can be experienced, such that the enormity in something like grief could occur without turmoil, so that these transcendent capacities might speak all the more for the glory of God. Indeed, this is my personal experience, having recovered from divorce and the associated losses of family. The realities of God, as we can learn, surpass all other realities.
Believe This to Be the Case: Grief and Peace Can Coexist
This, for some people, will be a controversial matter to discuss. Never making light of the experience of loss, we must respect the struggle the individual has in mastering their new reality. It takes longer, and requires more of us, than most of us think.
For a few, this task of recovery—let alone peace—is too much. They die physically or spiritually. For some others, the experience of peace in grief is unconscionable, though they do go on to recover. For many, it is possible to believe that grief and peace could coexist, maybe sufficiently that God might be sought with the fullness of surrender in order that that peace might be their personal reality.
For a few, furthermore, there is the distinct possibility that the shackles of burden might be thrown over the cliff of the old self. As the new self is welcomed, and we thank God for the old self as we let it go, this new self we carry, along with peace, into a future without burden—a future that honours the past in such integrity of honesty that the only way forward is through a strength that only God can provide. This is a new life beyond any manner of previous conception. It is the true glorious life.
Going Onward With the Lord of Glory
Still not making light of such heavy issues—the calamitous falling of personal worlds (the structures of our entire selves)—we honour what we are leaving behind.
We can go back there in an instant. We are neither held back by the past nor are we scared for the future, because our new selves, our Christ-selves, are hidden with Christ in God.
This all-consuming sense of ourselves in God honours the past, is at peace about the present, and is quietly and patiently hopeful about the future. Life is explorative in this state, even from within the grip of grief, but some days this peace that transcends our understanding allows us just simply to rest, for the bombardment of sorrow and fatigue are occasionally too much. Still abiding, however, is peace.
Peace can coexist through grief, but only through a personal relationship with God, who gifts us this peace through the Spirit of Christ. No matter the pain of sorrow or fatigue, peace is found abiding, such that grief may be experienced without turmoil.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.