Monday, April 26, 2010

Doing This Life with Grief

Doing life with grief isn’t as easy or as simple as you might think. When someone you care about goes through a loss, it’s natural to hope they’ll reach a place where it no longer dominates their lives. But in a sense, there is no such place. Grief is here to stay. It may not be as intense as it once was, but you never escape its reality. Don’t misunderstand me: in Christ there is always grace to accompany the grief. You may be curious as to what that looks like. Let me share my journey two and a half years from the beginning point.

I’ve been in a protracted struggle with my grief over losing Tammy. My life is different than I ever imagined. I’m now remarried to Kathy Ferguson, a wonderful caring and understanding woman, yet there are times Tammy's memory overwhelms me. Tears still rise at surprising moments.

Recently, as I traveled with Kayla to California to visit my son Tyler, I was swamped with memories of times Tammy and I traveled these same roads and visited the same places. Harsh pain mixed with the joy of sweet memories. This time, however, I was tempted to escape my grief. I wanted to go back and not forward. I wanted to remain awash in my sorrow. This is not good.

God doesn’t intend for us to grieve in a way that dwells only on the past. The reality of the embrace of God’s grace helps us both endure and move forward. We hurt still, and we certainly weep—but not as those who have no hope. We’re profoundly changed by grief—but for the better. I have grown. I’m more in tune and more sensitive, more aware and more dependent upon the Lord. I want to keep growing.

This morning in God's Word I was reading Luke 20, where Jesus does hand to hand combat with the religious elite of his day. The Pharisees and Sadducees were natural enemies because of deep theological divisions, yet Jesus unified them because he was a threat to both. In one famous debate the Sadducees asked Jesus about marriage following the resurrection, a concept they denied. Following some instruction about what life in heaven is really like, Jesus says:

"The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." (Luke 20:34-38)

Believe it or not, there’s more than great instruction in this passage. There is comfort. I can’t go back because my relationship with Tammy is eternally altered. We will never be husband and wife again. If you’ve suffered a bad marriage these words may be comforting. If you’ve had a delightful marriage they become more difficult to swallow. Yet there’s great comfort in being reminded of the last truth Jesus stresses. Look again at the words in v. 38: "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." Jesus is the God of a living Tammy. She is fully alive. She is joyfully alive. She’ll no longer struggle with the issues of this painful fallen world. She waits for reunion in a world where every day is a reunion.

I’m comforted by these truths. Praise the Lord that one I loved, one with whom I loved doing life together, is alive. More alive than ever. I mustn’t let my ongoing grief rob me of that joy. God's grace is enough, but grace and truth are inseparably linked. The truth in God's Word opens the eyes of my heart, and I see what I’ve never seen before.

I am truly blessed!
Ed Litton

Monday, February 15, 2010

Grief Feels Like Fear

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear."
- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I will admit there are a lot of things no one tells you about grief. They don’t tell you because few really know these truths. Well, we know them but are fearful of embracing them. The human heart just won’t allow us to embrace this depth of pain, fear and even doubt. Grief has a powerful and strange resemblance to fear.

This morning I received news of yet another man who has lost his precious wife in an automobile accident. My heart goes out to this husband and father of four boys in his loss and the fear that accompanies living without her. In grief, the circumstances of our lives can be overwhelming.

Being touched by death transforms your lifestyle, sobers your mind and changes your life forever. I recall having brief flashes of what my life would be like if I ever lost Tammy. The last time this happened was just a week or so before she was killed. I remember that I couldn’t sit in the thought for long because of fear. So I swatted the thought away like a fly and went on my merry way.

Grief feels like fear because it leaves you staggering in uncertainty. If you think about it, though, most of the things that give us a sense of certainty are false. What do I do? Where do I turn next? How do I move forward? Do I even want to move at all? The only lasting source of certainty is Jesus Christ.

Grief feels like fear because fear, in a sense, becomes reality. You’re in it and don't quite know what to do with it. It’s your worst nightmare come true. At that moment, you cling to God's Truth, and you by faith accept that the Lord is near. Psalm 34:18 says, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." He comforts those who walk through this valley with the comfort of His nearness. We give Him our fear, trusting that He is good.

Grief feels so much like homesickness, deep pain, longing that will never be satisfied…and yes, it feels like fear. Psalm 23:4 promises “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Throughout Scripture God's answer for our grief and fear is nearness. He comes to us in our hour of sorrow. The invisible God draws near. His answer to our fear is to draw near.

Ed Litton