You know how, when you buy a red car, suddenly you notice every red car on the road? Or if you’re a pregnant mama, suddenly everywhere you look, you see pregnant women??
Once we become aware of something in the forefront of our minds, we tend to notice it in other places. After being immersed in grief for so many years, I cannot help but see it everywhere! The sob of loss* is peppered throughout so many conversations… Am I imagining it?
Contextually speaking, I live in an area of the world where there are long winters, a low economy, and a declining population. (Though it is the most beautiful place in the world! Come visit!!). Loss plays a role in all three of these factors. It seems to flow as a steady undercurrent in a culture that has grown accustomed to defeat and disappointment.
When I recognize the presence of loss in a person’s life experience, as they share a story or tell of a loved one’s circumstance, I wonder, Do they know it is loss that has them feeling so low? Can they hear the sob subtly present in their tone? And do they know how important grief and loss are on the Christ follower’s spiritual journey of transformation??
My instinct is always to grab that person’s hand and say, “Beloved, here, let me lead you through this dark night to a place of rich blessing beyond your wildest dreams!!” However… as you can imagine, this is not always a welcome or appropriate response!
I do not aspire to an ongoing life of grief, nor do I want the job of becoming a spokesperson on behalf of grief…! Still, I do want to reflect the voice of our Good Shepherd, and encourage people to move forward on their journey of spiritual transformation, the renewing of their mind, being set free and becoming like Christ…
And I can’t help but notice that so many people are stuck in grief. They don’t seem to recognize it, and they don’t seem to have the tools to move through it to the other side!
(Note: Here I am talking about the loss that is reflected in all areas of life, not necessarily a traumatic death of a loved one… Loss is present in growing up and losing our youth, experiencing that gap between our dreams and reality, the disappointment in our relationships when expectations are not met. The process of saying goodbye to our grown, independent kids and facing the empty nest, or the failures of life that lead us down hard and painful roads we didn’t intend to travel.)
The Dark Night.
Have you ever found yourself in a dark night of the soul*? Have you ever faced a season where the road ahead seemed dark and long? Our natural tendency is to avoid pain at all costs, and yet, sometimes God Himself seems to plant our feet in a situation or circumstance that causes more pain that we ever could have imagined… What do we do?
Saint John of the Cross talks about the journey through the dark night. Jerry Sittser talks about Plunging East, into the darkest part of the night knowing that’s where the sun will rise. Peter Scazzero reminds us that, “great men and women such as Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Evelyn Underhill, and John Wesley have all written about the phases of this journey…”
Part of living is dying. Part of gaining is losing. Part of life is death.
What if we in the North American church of the 21st Century could stop being surprised by death, loss, dark nights of the soul, and rather face them head on with wisdom, discernment, the Living Word as our Guide, the love of God as the faithful anchor of our souls?? What if we could adopt Jesus words as true, that if you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it (Matthew 10:39, NLT) …and learn to embrace loss as the way of the cross, leading to everlasting life??
When I see and recognize loss or grief in the undercurrent of someone’s life, the hint of a sob in their tone as they speak, I rejoice! I see opportunity and potential!! Because I have come to know that this is the path toward everlasting life. And only Jesus Himself can lead us through it.
Let’s wise up! And get prepared!! Because glorious riches are in store for those who are willing to face the dark night, take up their cross, and lose their life for Christ.
And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. (Isaiah 45:3, NLT)
*1995. Winter Grief, Summer Grace: Returning to Life After a Loved One Dies,by James E. Miller.
*1953. Dark night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross