Grieving Well when “here” is not good.

3 09 2017

This past Sunday I opened up the topic of “good grief” in our church with the goal of equipping our congregation to grieve well (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13). Grief is the natural human response to loss. It’s important to understand that:

  1. Everybody grieves – no one is exempt because everyone experiences loss in some form or fashion throughout their life.
  2. You are not alone in your grief – oftentimes we will isolate ourselves in our grief believing we’re all alone. But you are not alone in your grief. Others have walked on your same path and many are now.
  3. Your do not have weak faith if you experience grief – in fact, just the opposite! Learning to express grief is an indicator of strong and healthy faith. If you don’t believe me, consider that David, described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), wrote the majority of the Psalms expressing at times, deep anguish and grief.
  4. Part of being made in God’s image is our capacity for grief – sin distorts our desires, so oftentimes we will grieve things God doesn’t grieve, and we won’t grieve things that deeply grieve God, but that’s not the point. God grieves loss, and we were created in God’s image.

Okay, with the foundation set, one of the overlooked causes of grief is transition. Transition occurs when you move from HERE to THERE: you get a new job, you have a child, you get your first gray hair, you are diagnosed with cancer. You are no longer HERE –> you’re now THERE. It’s a new reality. Things have changed, and whenever there is change, there is loss. And grief is the natural human response to loss. But how can you grieve well in the midst of transition and the subsequent losses you experience?

Two scenarios. 1) When HERE is not so good. That is the topic of this blog. Check out part two next week when I look at how to grieve well, 2) When HERE has been wonderful.

You might think that a situation where HERE isn’t so good would be absent of grief – let’s just get THERE. Anything is better than HERE. But just because THERE is better than HERE doesn’t mean that the transition doesn’t involve grief.

Let’s look to the time of Moses about 3500 years ago. Moses delivered God’s people from bondage and slavery which they experienced at the hands of the Egyptians for 4 centuries. God worked through Moses to bring his people out of Egypt and take them to the land promised to their ancestor Abraham – a beautiful land with all the resources necessary for survival. In their case, HERE was horrible – it was slavery! And THERE? THERE was something beautiful. But going from HERE to THERE wasn’t going to be easy. In fact, along the way, these thousands of people (biblical historians have estimated anywhere from 200,000 people to 2 million people) became difficult to feed. As they journeyed from present day Egypt to present day Israel via the Sinai peninsula, they ran out of food. So they cried out to God and God provided a bread-like substance for the people called manna. Amazing – God was providing in their difficult transition.

But the people came to a point where they started to remember what they had lost by moving from HERE to THERE. The Bible records, Soon the people began to complain about their hardship… “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” (Numbers 11:1, 5)

When you’re moving into the unknown, learning to depend on God – when you know that God has something better for you THERE because HERE is just not acceptable, you can still expect to experience grief along the way because you’ve experienced a loss – even if the loss is something unhealthy or came with strings attached or was something that enslaved you! You’ve left what you know behind and you can still expect to grieve.

Consider this example: Maybe HERE you’re addicted to pornography. THERE is so appealing! It’s the future God has for you; freedom from pornography; healing for the brokenness of isolation and shame and loneliness and anxiety that accompanies such an addiction; freedom to experience wholeness in your marriage or in the sexual purity God created you for; freedom to see people, not as objects to meet your needs, but as people created in God’s image. Even though THERE is so appealing, you will likely grieve along the way because you’ve become attached unhealthily to the things that enslave you – to the rush of excitement and the short-lived satisfaction that your habits provide.

Or maybe you’re in an abusive relationship. God has a better future in mind for you (THERE) if you’ll just speak up and either get out or find good counseling. But it won’t be easy. And you’ll grieve – maybe even want to go back to the abuse because it’s what’s familiar. Even though HERE is horrible, it’s what you’re used to.

So how do you grieve well when HERE is not so good. Your first step is to See the truth of HERE. See the truth! Allow the reality of how bad HERE is to soak in. What will happen if you stay HERE? What will happen if you don’t get a job where you feel fulfilled? What will happen if you don’t answer God’s call on your life? What will happen if you don’t change your eating or exercise habits? What will happen if you don’t quit ____________? What will happen if you stay HERE? Acknowledge that truth and allow it to drive you into discontentedness. You have to come to a point of saying, “Staying HERE is not an option.”

Secondly, it’s important to actually grieve. Grieve the losses sustained by staying HERE so long. Maybe you’ve been an overly domineering parent and its driving your kids away. Grieve the loss of you staying HERE so long. Grieve what it’s done. Maybe your parents got divorced and it hurt. It hurt bad, and you’ve been living in a HERE reality of unforgiveness and it’s poisoned all your other relationships. Grieve the consequences of that divorce and of your response. Grieve! What might that look like?

  • Cry about it! Cry out to God! Agree with God that “this is not how it should be” and allow it to break your heart as it breaks God’s heart.
  • Talk to others about your pain – get it out.
  • Pray to God for help and wisdom.
  • Ask God for forgiveness for your role in the pain.
  • Ask God for healing for the things that happened to you that were out of your control and for the bad effects of your own decisions.
  • Don’t wear a mask. It’s okay to say to people when they ask “how are you?” “You know what, I’m struggling right now through the pains of grief.”

But then the third part. Well, the third part of grieving well when HERE is not so good is the same as the third part of grieving well when HERE has been wonderful. So I’m going to have you wait until next week for Good Grief part 2.

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