COMPARING one grief with another is not always a great comparison, but my earliest most resounding grief taught me several things that have proved invaluable in subsequent griefs.
These learnings include:
1. There is a blessing in being blindsided — we quickly resolve we cannot do life without God. That’s the most important learning to underpin the grief response.
2. When there’s nowhere to hide we learn to run to God, and we should find God is there with us (yes, we take the Bible at its Word — we believe!) in our horror reality. When we have nowhere else to go we learn — as we reflect back later on — we’re in the best place ever; the sweet spot of the will of the Lord, even in the worst of circumstances.
3. We learn that the grief experience is so horrendously abysmal we never previously credited it as possible. Grief opens our eyes bigtime. Compassion is birthed in us for what others are enduring, have endured, and will endure. Mercy of spirit is freed to fly for the fact that life can be so bad.
4. Having endured something harder than we previously imagined possible makes us competent, eventually, at managing horrendous realities. Somehow we’re primed to endure future experiences of dire hopelessness.
5. When life has suddenly become nothing we learn very well what Jesus spoke about when he said we had to lose our lives in order to save them. This is why grief works out to be its own compensation. We become reduced to the only things that can never be taken from us — we are split soul from spirit so the Spirit can rebuild us from the ground up. A soul vanquished of its vain spirit is then open to the Spirit — the Holy Spirit. Grief can be a purging of much darkness. Grief can be a refining fire, burning off ugly bits of our character. And this is only because we came to the end of ourselves. A beautiful concept from a healed perspective.
6. A grief borne that didn’t crush us, as we look back years hence, is the proving ground instilling us with a brimming confidence to face an unknown and potentially dark future. Our expectations for life are right-sized. We learn not to expect much at all. And then just about everything is its own blessing.
7. And all of this is very much underpinned by that faithfulness of weakness in those early days; moments of surrender when we felt utterly skittled of sinew and spirit.
These are just some of the learnings. There would not be enough libraries in the world to contain all of what God does in and through us because of our suffering in his name.
Verily, the greatest compensation God gives us in our sheer reliance on him in our grief is the strength to go on, even in the stark realness.
I cannot say it any better than this:
Grief teaches the capacity to bear what is real, and to be bold with reality etched in pain. It’s God’s compensation for what life has done to us. Whatever life does to us God can turn for our good. And such good is not like-for-like. It’s a superior good.
The very thing that went hard against us proves, through God’s help, to be the very thing that goes ineradicably for us!
For suffering the screaming pain of grief in loss we’re given capacities for compassion, mercy, love, resilience, healing, and ultimately, poise and quietly humble triumph.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.