THIS is not an article for the pessimist as much as it’s for the realist. Life is one long series of losses, and until we come to grips with that truth we’ll never make sense of the true Christian life, which is itself a caricature of loss — where loss of self is gain in Christ.
True loss is finally gain,
Because through loss we know,
Though there is incredible pain,
Through it we may inevitably grow.
As we bring our children up in this world — a world promising so much yet delivering so comparatively little — we do really well if we can morph their pessimism or their optimism into a rational realism. This life will not deliver on the promises it tends to make, through the media and popular life. A rational realism will tend to help our young not expect too much of this world.
Most twenty-somethings these days are landing on a dustily barren airstrip far from the promised JFK’s and Heathrow’s that exist on the cusp of a dizzy grandeur of cosmopolitan fantasy.
They’ve arrived to an adulthood that is starkly real, perhaps worse than their darker memories of how they experienced adulthood through their parents. For some, maybe many, though probably not most, adulthood is something that is to be actively avoided. This world is all too real, thank you very much!
Twenty or thirty years ago, or maybe even just ten, it was probably when we entered our 30s that we began to think these things: life is just one long series of losses. Gains come too, but it’s in life’s losses that our attention is grabbed.
The truth is life has always been full of losses. It just seems as though these losses gut us these days, and there’s probably a number of factors at play. We live in an unreal social media world where reality is distorted. Whatever is the flavour of the day goes ‘viral’ and all our attention is absorbed by whatever direction the world is satisfied to direct us.
We have come to think unrealistically. Of course sense would tell us that life is replete with loss; that grieving losses well is as important a competency in the suite of life skills as any is.
But our very post Christendom postmodern lives have lost sight of the fact that life hasn’t changed. Our expectations of life have. Little wonder the world craves the prosperity gospel which doesn’t reflect the real gospel at all. The only ‘gospel’ we can believe in, or convince people of, is the gospel that makes sense to our sense for ‘do good and good will be done to you’. We cannot seem to reconcile that the ‘good’ we do isn’t necessarily returned to us.
We cannot stand to think that a life full of losses is what life’s about.
We don’t deserve that! I’m sorry, really very sorry, (and I speak to myself just as much as anyone) but that’s life.
Where the real gospel comes in is it’s the only way to ‘succeed’ in life — to accept it with the grace only God can give — and to grow to accept grief honestly and courageously; that’s healing.
Life is crammed with experiences to be had of impending loss. This world is as it is. It cannot protect us from losses. But with God we can learn to grieve our losses well. And, I’d suggest, only with God is that possible.
Loss is a nightmare of human proportions,
Reality meeting the state of denial…
“Won’t ever happen to me!”
Well, my friend,
That’s how life is,
And, unfortunately, loss will make us
Loss is real, it’s categorically all too real.
Only when we’ve lost can we appreciate what, from the beginning, we’ve gained. God has granted us life! And though life seems to promise so much yet deliver so little we ought to be grateful; God has the final word.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.