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through a season of griefdevotions for your journey from mourning to joy
By bill dunn kathy leonard
Nelson BooksCopyright © 2007 Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard
All right reserved.
Chapter Onewhen your dreams fall apart
Understanding Your Grief
Grief is not an enemy or a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being human. Grief is the cost of loving someone.
Since grief comes to everyone, why do some people seem to work through it better than others?
"Some people think that going through the losses or crises of life are the exceptional times," says Dr. H. Norman Wright.
"I see it differently. I see the times of calm as the exceptions. Life really is going through one loss after another, one crisis after another.
"Instead of avoiding talking about these times, let's do our homework. When you know what to expect, you're not thrown by them as much, and you're going to be better able to recover."
Join us each day for the next year as we walk with you on your journey through grief, strengthened and enabled through the Lord Jesus Christ.
"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
Lord God, teach me to embrace my grief and not fight it, so that I may experience the true healing that comes from You. Amen.
Grief Is a Unique Experience
You may feel it is useless to talk about your grief because no one truly understands what you are going through.
"You sometimes feel after an experience like this that you're talking a foreign language," says Dora, whose daughter died. "You feel like there's no way anybody can know what you're feeling. There is absolutely no way anyone can know the depth of your pain. So you feel like it's futile to talk about it because words can't express the pain."
Although countless people have experienced grief before you, each person's response to grief is different. Your path of grief will be uniquely your own.
Be encouraged that regardless of how your grief appears to you or others, it has a precious uniqueness to the One who created you. God, who knows intimately your personality, your relationships, and the experiences of your life, knows your grief and isn't shocked or surprised by your responses.
"O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me.... Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex.... You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed" (Psalm 139:1, 14, 16 NLT).
Father, thank You that my way of grieving is distinctly my own, reflective of all You have sovereignly created me to be and experience. Amen.
Grief Runs Deep: Where Is the Hope?
Dr. Joseph Stowell says, "Even though your heart is breaking and tears are clouding your eyes and staining your cheeks, God does give us something worth trusting in tough times. And that's Him, and Him alone."
When your heart is breaking, you can place your hope and trust in the Lord.
"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord" (Psalm 31:24).
Anne Graham Lotz defines hope: "Biblical hope is absolute confidence in something you haven't seen or received yet, but you're absolutely confident that whatever God has said is going to come to pass."
She also declares that "Jesus is your hope for the future. One day Jesus Christ will come back, and He will set all of the wrong right. Good will triumph over the bad. Love will triumph over hate. Righteousness will triumph over evil. He's going to make it all right, and you can have absolute confidence that that's going to take place. That's your hope."
Sovereign God, I choose hope. I choose faith. I choose life. Give me an unshakable faith in You. Amen. Grief Lasts Longer Than Expected
Grief's unexpected turns will throw you again and again. You may feel that for every step forward, you take at least one step back. The grieving process generally takes longer than you ever imagined.
Please don't rush this process. Remember, what you are feeling is not only normal, it is necessary.
"It's been seven years, and I'm still going through it," says Dr. Larry Crabb, whose brother died in a plane crash. "I don't know if it's a very holy thing to admit, but when someone says, 'Well, it's been a week, a month, a year-Larry, for you it's been seven years. Get a grip. Where's your faith in Christ, for goodness' sake?' I get really angry.
"Knowing the Lord and His comfort does not take away the ache; instead, it supports you in the middle of the ache. Until I get home to heaven, there's going to be an ache that won't quit. The grieving process for me is not so much a matter of getting rid of the pain, but not being controlled by the pain."
We read in the Psalms that David grew weary with the process of grief and cried out to the Lord. Then he left the timing in God's hands.
"Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love" (Psalm 6:2-4).
"I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief" (Psalm 6:6-7 NASB).
Heavenly God, I cannot even begin to put my grief in a time frame. Thank you that I don't have to. Comfort me and support me as I lean on You. Amen. He Will Carry You
The Lord will carry you if you ask Him. When you are feeling so weak you cannot take another step, ask Him to lift you high into His loving arms. Then rest in Him with an open and listening heart. This does not mean your problems will disappear, but it does mean you will have Someone to share them with.
"If you are someone who does not know Jesus Christ as your Savior and you have just been widowed or bereaved, you have a tremendous burden," says Elisabeth Elliot. "You are tired, and it is too big a burden to carry. The Lord says, 'Come to me, you who are tired and overburdened, and I will give you rest.'"
To receive peace and rest in Christ, the instructions are clear. Jesus says, "Come to me." You must first approach Him and then talk to Him and quietly listen.
"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe" (Psalm 61:1-3).
Lord, I come to You. My heart is worn out, and I need You. Take my heavy burden today. Amen. Unpredictable Emotions
The unpredictable timing and odd combinations of emotions that hit you during grief can leave you confused and despairing.
"My life was totally flipped upside down emotionally, in every way you could think of," says Sue, whose husband died.
Your emotions not only hit hard, but they can also occur at unexpected moments, which makes the impact seem even worse. Being aware of the unpredictable nature of your emotions will help you stand firm during each new barrage. God's promises in the Bible will also help you to persevere.
In Matthew 5:4 Jesus promises comfort and a blessing for those who go through the process of grief and mourning: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
Lord, when my emotions come and go with no semblance of order, remind me that this is to be expected during grief, and help me to stand firm. Amen. Random Emotions
"My emotions occurred spontaneously, and sometimes two or three at the same time," says Cindy, whose daughter passed away.
Although there are stages that are common to the process of grief, they do not occur in a predictable order. Your emotions will be random, sometimes overwhelming, and completely unique.
"Whatever your emotions lead you to feel, it's okay to feel how you're feeling," says Randy, whose sister died. "I think there are several emotions people are going to go through that are beyond their control."
Although you may feel overwhelmed and out of control, you can still have the deep inner peace that comes from God alone. Some people clearly sense the peace of God during times of adversity, but others wonder why they cannot feel it. Be assured that His peace is always available to you. Peace comes through a sincere belief in God's presence and in His promises; it is not dependent on our feelings or sensations. Believe in His promises and rest in His peace today.
"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you" (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Lord of peace, when my emotions surprise and confuse me, may I rest in the peace of Your constant presence. Amen. Grief Is Harder Than You Think
The hardest time to learn about the process of grief is while you are in the midst of it. You may feel that you are taking a crash course in grief and that the learning curve is formidable. But those who seek to understand grief and loss will be better able to recover, so we commend you for your determination and effort to see this process through.
Dr. H. Norman Wright says, "Many of the right things to do in life are the most difficult things to do."
Dear friend, even though you may be in the depths of despair and feel that God is far away, now is the time to cling to whatever knowledge of Him you have. Today is the day to open your mind and heart for deeper understanding.
"If you hang on with whatever it is you know in your heart to be true about Him, then He will come through," says Janet Paschal. "That's a promise."
"I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber" (Psalm 121:1-3).
Lord God, this is so hard. Please keep me from falling. Amen.
Grief Is Disruptive
Grief affects everything you do. It can disrupt every aspect of your life in ways you might not expect.
"I don't think I had time to think because psychologically I wasn't with it," says Nancy, whose husband passed away. "I would do stupid things. I would be coming home thinking I was on X Street, and then I'd realize, Well, I'm on the wrong street. It was dumb things like that."
When life seems chaotic and your world has lost its predictable order, remember that God does not change. Like Nancy, you may find yourself driving down the wrong road, but God is with you, and He is able to get you to your destination.
"What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every God-direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward him makes it" (Psalm 18:30 MSG).
Creator God, You are a steadfast presence in my forever-changed world. Amen.
Identify Your Losses
One reason grief disrupts so many aspects of your life is because your loss is not one isolated loss. You will miss so many qualities and facets of the person you lost that each will become an opportunity to experience grief.
The range of things you need to grieve for may surprise you. Identify your losses and be prepared to grieve for each one.
Use the list below as a starting point.
your companion your encourager your source of delight your breadwinner your housekeeper your cook your mechanic your friend your lover your "entertainer" the one who shares your private jokes the one who knows you so well the shoulder on which you cry the arms that embrace and comfort you the one who always cheers you your pride and joy
Your list will go on and on. Say your losses out loud to God; speak until you run out of words to say. He knows your deepest needs, and He alone can provide. Do not skip this step.
"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
O God, I have lost so much. Who will fill these gaping holes within me? You, Lord-yes, You. Amen.
Losing a Part of Yourself
The loss of a close family member creates extra depth and complexity to your grief. You shared a special and intimate connection with your loved one, and this relationship helped you define who you were. Losing this person has literally ripped you apart on the inside, leaving you unsure of your own identity.
Dr. Jim Conway, speaking of the death of his wife, says, "When Sally died, it was as if someone took a giant samurai sword and just cut me right down the middle. I kept asking myself and God, 'How am I supposed to go on with one leg, with one arm, with half a brain? How am I supposed to do all of this?'"
There is hope for you. Your identity can be found again when you abide in the Lord Jesus Christ and place your faith in Him. This will not happen overnight, and the process may be very painful. But Jesus will certainly help you as you depend on Him.
"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:15-16).
Lord Jesus, piece me back together again with Your unfailing love. Amen.
Doubting Your Faith
"I was mad. I felt like the Lord was not there. I had prayed to hear from Him, and I didn't. It seemed as if He wasn't answering my prayers," says Phyllis, who lost her sister. "Emotionally and spiritually I expected something different. I knew that He was there, but I wasn't feeling emotionally like I wanted to feel."
You are not alone, and you are not wrong to have doubts.
David said in the Psalms, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?" (22:1).
Job had similar feelings: "Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again" (7:7). Job thought he would "never see happiness again," but when we read the end of the book of Job, we find that God had something very good in store for him.
God is faithful to do what He says He will do regardless of how you feel or what you believe.
Lord, I'm going to walk this journey by faith because what I feel and see sure isn't helping. Amen.
Your weaknesses and inadequacies make themselves known to you again and again. You can't always count on other people, and you can't count on yourself. No human being can meet all your needs, especially your deepest needs.
"We are living in a broken world," states Barbara Johnson. "We see broken marriages, broken people, broken lives. There's never going to come a time when we've got it all together."
She continues, "As you go through grief, as you center your focus on what is ahead of you as a Christian, that helps you to know that what you're going through isn't going to last. You have to take a day at a time. Tomorrow may be different. Yesterday is a canceled check, tomorrow is a promissory note, but today is cash. You've got today to serve the Lord."
You are at a point where you need to decide whom you will lean on, trust, and put your hope in. Now is the time to search God's Word and hold on to this lifeline. God will meet you where you are, at your point of pain. Seek Him, talk to Him, and learn about Him. He is the only way out of despair.
Listen to God's promise to you and claim it:
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart'" (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
Lord God, I realize that I need to search the Bible and seek Your way with all the strength I've got left. Amen.
Excerpted from through a season of grief by bill dunn kathy leonard Copyright © 2007 by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard. Excerpted by permission.
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