3G stands for “God’s Grief does Good” (there are three G’s in that saying). I’ll be doing a short series of blog posts regarding grief and the hang-ups and ruts, as well as the Godly way to grieve through our losses.
Now that we’re past the formalities, we can move on. Everyone dies at some point in time. And because everyone dies at some point and time, grief will be experienced by every person on earth at some point or another; many will experience it numerous times in their lifetime. Grief never feels good. We can gather that from the very definition of grief. According to Webster grief is a deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement; a cause of such suffering. I’ve never met anyone just itching to run toward an experience like this. Why? Because it doesn’t feel good, it’s no fun and it’s deeply painful. It’s in the situations that cause us grief that we adopt feelings of helplessness, out of control, hopelessness, confusion, chaos, anger, denial and shock. Again, these aren’t feelings we’re comfortable sitting in for any amount of time. But the loss of a job, divorce, runaway teens, serious health issues, miscarriages, lost friendships and death all cause us to experience grief. Everyone has and/or will experience grief in his/her lifetime. It’s not a matter of “if,” but it’s a matter of “when?”
There is one grief, not a bunch of different kinds of grief. Just one grief. As grief is defined above, that’s exactly what it is and what it brings to your table. So, one grief. And the Bible makes clear that there are basically two ways a person can respond to grief. Now there may be many subcategories, but in it’s simplist form, there are only two ways to deal with your grief. First you have the bad way. The bad way causes bad results, unhealthy results such as deep depression, hopelessness, inappropriate expressions of anger, isolation and the like. Then you have the good way. The good way causes good results, healthy results such as acceptance, forgiveness, healing, strength, community and hope. Neither process is fun or painless. Although this seems quite simple, many people choose the road of dealing with grief in a bad way, or shall I say an ungodly way.
This post won’t address the good and biblical method of dealing with grief (that’s for another time), but will address the two key mistakes people tend to make as they move through the process of grieving. So how do grieving people get off-track? How do they naturally meet grief and get into a cycle of grief, where they’re continually going through the stages of grief, but never completing the steps? They just go from one stage to the next in what seems like an endless cycle. Their grief becomes their life long after healing should’ve moved them forward. Sure, grief takes time, but we must make sure grieving is done in a healthy manner. Although there’s no time limit on grief, per se, there are clear signs when grieving becomes unhealthy. One of those signs is the person’s grief process becomes a cycle. These cycles are caused by avoidance of feelings. In other words, people avoid feeling the pain of loss. They begin to feel pain and they run to another activity or another relationship or another drink. They refuse to feel the full extent of their grief. They are afraid to move on. They are afraid they’ll feel guilty if they were to begin moving on, as if the person’s value (the person they lost) will decrease if they stop mourning. Remaining in these cycles will render one as helpless as a leaf in a river. You’ll go where grief takes you when what you really need is for God to take you and your grief to a place of closure and healing.
The other mistake is when people begin attempting to prolong their lives in unhealthy ways. They begin going to extremes when it comes to eating healthy, exercise, germs, avoiding social activities, rejecting new relationships/friendships, hoarding items and living poorly when they have the money to live comfortably. They are responding to their hurt with the perception that “No one is going to hurt me like this again. I can’t trust anyone or anything. I must protect myself from others and the world.” What people in essence are doing is they are living life as if this is all there is. They are so focused on preventing future pain and suffering (understandably so, but still unhealthy) that they exert all of their emotional, mental and spiritual energy in their attempt to preserve themselves. I’ve dealt with Christians who without question believe there is more than this world. They know there is an eternity and, in their case, an eternity spent with God. They know eternity is enormous compared to our time on earth. They know all of these things and adamantly deny living as though this is all there is. In fact, they get offended at the notion they perhaps are living this way. Although they know differently, their lifestyle and their actions scream, “this is all there is and I’ve got to preserve it!!!” This person is being controlled by their fear and thus is focusing on the here and now, as opposed to the now and later (eternal). Focusing strictly on the now and the later of earthly things requires a person to live for all he/she can find and receive in the world. Their methods cease being spiritual, but natural and with human logic. Trusting God becomes a faint memory. Trusting yourself becomes the new. Without an eternal perspective, a person can not find healing, comfort, peace, healing and closure in their grief. They will only find more grief, and more grief, and more grief. What this person needs is a trusting relationship with God and an eternal perspective. These produce trust and a peace and comfort only God can give. It also produces an attitude of victory, especially over life’s trials, even death.
If you have found yourself or someone you love in one of these two ruts, please find help from your local church or a Christian counselor. God intends you to heal, not to forget, but to heal, to be strengthened and to be at peace.