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


Heather said...

Pastor Ed- You always remind me how to be thankful and grateful for what we have. Life certainly can change in an instant, but God is going before us to ensure we will be sustained.......covered up with His grace.

I love you for your heart, a pure, genuine heart that loves people. Thank you, Thank you, you will never know how much you have changed my heart!!!!

Love you Pastor!!

Tori said...

Pastor Ed, you were my pastor while I attended the University of South Alabama. That was many years ago, but I'm still encouraged by God's words through you today. We recently lost my precious mother-in-law, like your sweet Tammy, much too soon (for us). Your picture perfect words so encouraged me today, as we are still very early and deep in the grieving process. Thank you for letting God speak through you.

Ken said...

I lost Donna 14 years ago. I will go months and then it will hit me again. This week was high school graduation for my daughter. leigh Anne was 5 and had not even had her kindergarden graduation. The feelings on Sunday overwhelmed me. Seeing her being recognized, but her Mom never seeing it, was very difficult. We both cried...and again on Monday, during graduation. I truly am carried thru these by "The Footprints in the Sand".

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adam said...

Pastor Ed

Thank You for being so Blessed...

Brian said...

Hey Ed- This is your old friend Brian Wilcox- Quite timely blog as my mom passed away Sept. 29- You were always one of her favorites-
Send me an email-

Gene Brooks said...

Dear Pastor Litton,
I am thrilled that NAMB is going to have a ministry to pastors wives. We sure need it. Please ask Kathy to make it for the ordinary women who find themselves who get married and then find themselves as pastor's wives with all the expectations put upon them that they never asked for. They just wanted to raise a family and have a good marriage and all this junk came with their husband's job. Thanks and let us know how we can connect with Kathy's ministry.