A few years ago we hit hard times and had to cut down expenses. I cut back our TV service which meant we lost all but about 5 channels. My roommate Jane said, “Carolyn, I gotta tell you, I’m really having a problem with getting less channels. I miss not having baseball.” At that moment I realized that the loss of anything is like the death of it and as long as we live on this earth, grief and loss are realities. So how can we deal with them in the most positive way?
Trying to ignore the loss of something or someone is just as devastating as letting ourselves get overwhelmed by it. It’s better to face the loss head on and admit to it. We especially need to acknowledge our emotional reactions, speaking them out loud, even writing them down; to answer the question, “How do I really feel about all this?” Most people know we have to give the grieving process time before we can move on.
Sorrow is universal. There’s plenty of studies on it, but still much to be learned about how it works, how long it takes, and the effects it has on a person. The one thing we do know is that it’s a process and it varies with situations and people.
We can see from the Bible different examples of grieving. Signs included tearing one’s robe, weeping, having disheveled hair, putting dust and ashes into one’s hair or shaving the hair or beard. Other indications of sorrow included wearing black or sad-colored clothing, removal of ornaments or neglect of person, fasting or abstinence in meat or drink, and wearing sackcloth. Sackcloth was made of goat or camel hair and was course and uncomfortable.
All of these reactions are manifestations on the outer man, of what is being felt on the inside. One Bible dictionary said that men were generally more silent in grief and women more vocal and demonstrative.
The grieving process hasn’t really changed much over the years. Just one example I can think of is female friends who’ve done something to change the style or color of their hair after a divorce. I don’t know if it’s even a conscious decision or an extension of the inward, inherent grief reaction.
In the Bible, the days of mourning also varied. In the case of Jacob, it was 70 days (Gen 50:3). In Saul’s case, only 7 days (1 Sam 31:13). In Moses’ time the official period of grief was 30 days.
For everyone there comes a time when the grieving must stop; not the memory but the extended deep sorrow and negative effects on everyday life.
When Moses died and the allowable 30 days was over, God told Joshua it was time for him to get up and get going. I think that a lot of times we need someone with insight to help us get going too, to wake us up out of our grief and get us to move on before the sorrow destroys us or makes us someone nobody wants to be around.
I know I needed a push when my dog Spike passed away. I was so sad I couldn’t see getting a new dog and had convinced myself that I couldn’t get one because of our old cat. My friend Miki kept pestering me with pictures of rescue dogs that needed homes and I kept pushing the idea away. Then my roommate Jane rescued an abandoned starving chihuahua from an alley by our house. We made two failed attempts at giving him away and finally got the message: “Keep the dog!” My time of grief was supposed to be over and God was working through insightful people, forcing me to move on.
When God pushed Joshua, it was a new thing for him. Moses was gone and now he had the responsibility to lead God’s people. I’m sure it was a little intimidating. Any time we have to embrace something new, after losing something we loved, it’s hard. But we don’t have to do it alone. God told Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).
When we lose our loved ones, our homes, our jobs, our 150 channels, it’s normal and it’s right to grieve those things.
The most positive response to loss is to recognize and face the loss head on, acknowledging it for what it is and letting all the corresponding emotions come to the surface and come out. Then lastly wake up to know the loss has opened up an opportunity to seek and trust the Lord to fill the gap.
In Isaiah 48:6 God promises He will show us new things, hidden things that we’ve never known before. “I have shown thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.”
We put our hope in God and the Lord Jesus Christ, that when the grieving process has run its course, there will be something wonderful and new to enjoy. And one day all grief will be gone.
“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Rev 21:4). What an amazing and awesome promise to all who have chosen to believe and accept Jesus Christ as Lord.
***HAPPY NEW YEAR***
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