Sunday, January 6, 2008

Two Kinds of Grief

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life~ Deut. 30:19-20

I have found that there are two kinds of grief - a grief that leads to hope and life, and a grief that leads to death. 13 years ago, I pursued the latter. Faced with much grief and sorry in that year, I did not choose to seek God. I did not choose to believe his promise that all things he works for the good of those who love him. I did not choose to hold fast to God. Instead I chose to be angry. As a result, I found death - I faced a year of depression that deepened with each additional sorrow that came into my life. I thought I was allowing myself to grieve. I tried sleeping - hoping that in my sleep somehow my sorrows would find respite. I tried beating my body through exercise and diet - attempting to control the one thing I felt I had power over. Both of these endeavors were vain self-centered attempts to appease my flesh. Oversleeping led to skipping class, missing work, avoiding friends and loved ones. I would hide for days at a time in my dark dorm room waiting for the the latest storm of grief and depression to pass. Exercising and dieting led to self-obsession and binge eating. Food became my solice and my enemy. All of my grieving and the attempts to satisfy it were choices of death.

When we lost Lia, I knew that I did not want to grieve in the manner I had before - a year of pain and depression that drew me away from God and into sin. I knew there had to be another way. My first inclination was to not grieve at all. To dismiss my pain, pack everything away and move on. Obviously this was not God's way either. Even Jesus, knowing he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead took time to grieve - so clearly denying pain is not the answer.

God was faithful to show me another way - grief that leads to life. Our grief is real. Our disappointment and sorrow in losing something that was never meant to be lost is real. But our God is the great Redeemer. He is capable of redeeming anything and anyone. I have learned that God-honoring grief is a process of crying out to Him, telling Him what it is that we have lost, what it is that has been marred, and then allowing Him to redeem it (restore it). God truly is able to restore what has been lost or destroyed by the sin of this world. Death of any person, whether natural or through catastrophy is a result of sin because death entered our world with the first sin. And as with all other effects of sin, the pain and anguish of death can be redeemed. The sting of death has been eliminated through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Not just the sting of death for the one who died, but also the sting of death for those who remain.

I could spend the rest of my life listing all the things I will never be able to experience with my daughter. All the joys I will never see. I am sorrowful for the things I will miss, but rather than being angry at God, I am challenged to cry out to Him, telling Him my pain and demanding - yes, demanding - that he redeem it. Then God, in His infinite wisdom will work all of my pain for my good. He will turn my mourning into gladness and my dispair into praise (Isaiah 61).

Grief that leads to death is any form of grieving that takes my eyes off of the Lord, that seeks to satisfy grief through the ways of this world. Grief that leads to life looks to the Lord for healing and restoration, surrendering to His ways acknowledging that He alone has the power over death and its sting.

When we choose to grieve in hope and life, a great battle is awakened. Because Satan is defeated and death has no sting his plan of attack now is to deceive and ensnare us with lies. I have battled many times these past weeks to cling to the hope and joy of the Lord in the midst of Satan's attack. I can hear the barrage of lies saying that my joy is really just denial and that my hope is really just delusion. Satan's mission is to disable me from living for God, disabling me in my grief to the point that my life is essentially dead. Satan's strongest attack is in convincing me that life was in my daughter and now that she is gone, my life is gone. But this too is a lie. The Lord is my life. By listening to His voice and holding fast to Him, my grief though great, will not destroy me. Instead, by choosing life, by choosing the Lord, I am able to conquer the death that grief desires to bring.

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life~ Deut. 30:19-20

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