Grief, Loss, Redemption, and Glory

Over the past few months, I’ve been writing about grief a lot. I wanted to share an excerpt with you on this final day of 2018. This year has been painful for many people I know. I’ll throw my hat into that ring as well. Yes, there has been good this year. I can also say I experienced some of the sweetest moments of my life this year, and some of the richest experiences with God I have yet. This has also been a year in which I have been connected to more loss, grief, death, and sadness than other years. A few years ago when my Mom died, that was as close as I had been to one significant loss. This year seemed like a continual loss of close friends, mentors, and close friends family. This past Friday, I sat at a funeral once again and wept as we grieved my friend’s father.

I think there’s an idea that when you get to a new year, that the new you happens. I love new goals, resolutions, and aspirations more than almost anyone I know. What I’ve learned is that closing a chapter of a calendar year doesn’t close a chapter on grief, pain, or loss. Grief stays with us, and it evolves as we go along. You may be unsure how to enter a new year when everyone else may be celebrating, but your heart doesn’t feel like celebrating. 

If you grieve hard, it is because you love hard.

If you grieve hard, it is because you love hard. As we journey into a new year, I believe good will come again, and the sun will rise again. On the other side of grief and loss, waiting on the other side of it are redemption and glory. These are not aspects of life defined by frill and ease. The word for glory in the Hebrew Bible could also be translated “weight”. There is a certain heaviness in every bit of glory we will experience. This heavy glory is an anchor grounding a person back into reality, and our sufferings are redeemed not in a moment but in the fullness of this life and the life to come. And so I hope this is helpful to you, and provides a bit of comfort in the chaos if you are grieving a loss right now. 

Here is something I’ve learned. One grief befriends another. People who have lost someone almost find each other. Maybe it’s the look in their eyes that death has ravaged the life they knew, and when they look into someone else’s eyes and see all of the pain and loss, they don’t feel so alone anymore. I’m not really a grief expert. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I’ve learned there isn’t necessarily “a right way” to grieve, but there certainly are wrong ways. What do you do though with all of the pain you carry inside when you lose someone?

Grief is a grizzly bear that will hunt you down if you don’t face it while it’s a young in your life. Grief might bite at your heels in its early phases like a little grizzly cub, but eventually that grizzly grows up. If you don’t go looking for your grief, one day your grief will come looking for you. I don’t know this from reading books about grief, but from the people I talked to who have lost someone. I know this from my own journey. A lot of them tried to escape the pain, but the thing they turned to they hoped would give them freedom from their pain sank its claws into them even deeper than the original pain. There wasn’t a place to go, and they felt trapped in a prison of pain realizing there was no easy way forward.

If you don’t go looking for your grief, one day your grief will come looking for you.

When the pain becomes stronger, you might begin to forget that the steps you take in life do count. You might focus so much on avoiding the pain, that your life becomes defined more by what you want to avoid rather than what you want to become. Your life does matter. What you do with your life does count. This is where things can become a problem. Any thing might give you an idea that it could be an escape from your prison of pain, but proceed with caution because that thing might just become a new cell. The thing you turn to in order to avoid the pain might just take control of you. This is how you can escape one prison only to find yourself in another room behind bars.

Your life does matter. I think we all want our lives to count for love and the people we love. It’s hard to love when you go numb though. The only way forward is to face that old grizzly called grief, and walk right into the real pain. One of my favorite passages that I have found great comfort in during grief is this written by the Apostle Paul.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

This is why I believe that grief isn’t just about loss, but also about redemption and glory. That in all things God is working for our good. When everyone else seems to abandon you, when it seems like your story is done, this gives hope for going forward. This doesn’t take the lump out of my throat when I miss my mom. Many times, I wished this verse or another one took every sense of pain away from me. Sometimes it just makes me feel the pain of loss even more, because it keeps me rooted in the reality of “all things.” The truth is, I don’t want to walk through life without the pain of loss. The pain of loss is accompanied by the love I had, and with that every good thing we had shared together. What this does do is remind me the story isn’t over, and that God is working in the worst of situations for my good. This staggers my mind to think that God would even consider me in this vast universe. That He is working for our good is overwhelming.

Where do we go from here? There isn’t a way to go back and undo what has been done. There is a way forward. What if the way forward is letting the threads of love, grief, loss, hope, redemption, and glory to weave through every bit of the fabric of your life? Some of these threads may be more painful to have sown into our story than others. They are part of us though, and as long as we avoid them, we will be missing a great part of who we are and what we have to give going forward. What if the threads you are avoiding are sewing together a quilt of comfort? What if you could share that comfort with someone else who is going to be experiencing that same pain as you? Grief comes for us all. 

You are not alone in your suffering.

You are not alone in your suffering. This is one of the things that makes us human. We share in suffering and loss together. And so I will conclude with these words from the Apostle Paul once again,

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5.

The way forward into authentic hope begins in the very reality of your pain. There is a certain glory found in suffering that can be found no where else, and this glory leads to redemption of our grieving and loss. There is no going back. May we carry our sufferings with courage and love into the future.