I don’t like loss and grief. They are problems that can’t be solved, but must be endured somehow. I’d rather solve problems. Address the issue, pull it apart, consider options, and then take actions necessary for resolution.
But loss doesn’t get resolved – at least not now. Something is gone.
Sometimes loss entails losing something good or someone special. We lost our dachshund Wiggles a year and a half ago. I find that I don’t want another dog… in part because there is no replacement for “little Wigs”. I can try to replace her, but the most meaningful people, pets and things are irreplaceable. Relationships, special moments of connection or pleasure, meaningful moments of accomplishment – all bring joy. And then they are over… In its simplest form, I don’t want to go on vacation because I have to come back. And it is over. The better it was, the more it hurts.
But some loss entails facing what is longed for or seems unreachable or unobtainable. Finding a spouse, reconciliation with a child or parent or spouse, finding a fulfilling career, joining a social group that seems closed – all of these expose the deepest desires of one’s heart. All of them seem beyond my control. All hurt like crazy when not fulfilled!
So I tend to look for ways to minimize the loss or grief. Distraction, busyness, TV, food or drink – anything in excess can mitigate my experience of the grief and loss. But they simply cover grief over. They don’t make it go away.
So lately I am trying to do something radical and counter intuitive. I am trying to believe that God meant it when He said that we should count it as joy when trials come our way (James 1:2-4). That Paul meant it in Romans (8:20-23) and in 2 Corinthians (5:1-2) when he talked about groaning while in this earthly tent. I am trying to believe that God might have something good for me in my sadness.
I have discovered some surprising things. People tell me I am more approachable and more real… when I am sad. I find myself more “present” to others when I am willing to sit in my own grief, and not fight so hard to get out of it. And God Himself has actually felt more present with me when I have let myself groan. I find myself actually hoping for heaven, believing more that He is going to make things right one day.
But sadly, I often go on auto-pilot, get back on my hamster wheel and run from/cover over/try to deny or minimize my grief and loss. The fact is that I just don’t like the sense of dependence on Him that I experience. Or some part of me doesn’t. And yet, I like who I am when I go there. So what does it take for me to go there and then to stay – more often? I wish I could simply resolve to live that way. But 63 years of life convinces me of my own limitations in that part of life. Rather, I believe I need more of His Spirit to nudge me in those vulnerable moments. Sometimes through Lynne; sometimes through my friends; sometimes when I am simply sitting alone with God. I need Someone bigger than me to push, even if it is just a little.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.