Devotional 6: Confessions of a Grieving Christian
(Excerpted from Confessions of a Grieving Christian by Zig Ziglar, pp. 137-143, 240-244)
WE GRIEVE IN DIFFERENT WAYS
If there are no set patterns to grief, and if grief is so highly unpredictable and illogical, what can we say about how to grieve?
First, I encourage you to acknowledge that you are grieving. Do not attempt to deny, avoid, or put off feelings of sadness. I have admitted that I am a grieving Christian. My heart is broken. Yet, because I have given all the broken pieces to Christ, as Mary Crowley advised everyone to do, He is healing my heart and assuring me daily that Suzan is with Him and she is well.
Second, allow the grief process to run its full course in your life. Phychologists have written that the major portion of grief usually runs about a two-year course and that one never fully gets over feelings of grief. To deny or attempt to shorten the grieving process is to find yourself in even greater pain for longer periods of time. It also permits the entrance of bitterness and despair.
"We must get on with life" is an empty comment, yet it is one that is nearly always stated. While it is true that we must get on with our lives, any implication that we will forget that loved one is absurd. There is no magic moment when you move from sadness and sorrow to a total lack of sadness and sorrow. There is no magic formula that will instantly make all of the pain go away.
Grieving is a process that takes time; there are no shortcuts. It also takes the love and encouragement of family members and friends. There is no proper mourning period, as many people have proclaimed through the years. Grieving is a highly individualized process. The timetable you experience may not be the same as that of others, including close family family members.
I have found that time becomes a bit warped in grief. At times throughout the first holiday season after Suzan's death, I reflected on several occasions when it seemed to have been an eternity since Suzan went home to be with the Lord, and yet at other moments during that same holiday season, it seemed only yesterday that we were making funeral arrangements.
How long does grief last? I have no idea. Every person's situation is different. Some people tell me that twenty-five years after the death of a loved one, they are still grieving. I feel certain that the intensity of grief lessens over time and that for most people with whom I've talked, intense grief seems to be limited to the first year or two after the person's death. There is a dramatic difference in the intensity and duration of the grief I've felt over the passing of my parents or even my siblings, compared to the deep grief I have felt over the loss of my daughter.
Those who may say to you, with all good intentions, "It's time to put this behind you," or "You need to straighten up now," or "Get hold of yourself," may be well meaning, but they don't have a clue about what it means to go through the process of grieving that is essential for healing to take place in God's timing.
The simple but sure truth is that each of us deals with grief in a different way and on a different timetable.
To a great extent, you will walk this journey on your own. Although this may not be a comforting thought to you, I trust that you will find comfort in knowing that the process is one that the Lord is guiding and directing your life, and the Lord is walking every step of this journey with you. He made you to be a totally unique creation, including a unique creation in your grief. He completely understands the grieving process you are experiencing, and He will be with you through the entire process - regardless of its length and intensity.
CAN A PERSON PREPARE IN ADVANCE FOR GRIEF?
Is there a way a person can prepare for grief, an experience virtually everyone will go through at some time in his life?
No, I don't believe you can deliberately prepare in advance for grief. And yet, there is a preparation. It lies in the way you attempt to live your life from the moment you make a commitment to Christ.
I am convinced that all grief, not just that of losing a child, can be more effectively dealt with if you in your mind and heart truly know Christ as Lord. This knowledge gives you the assurance that you will spend eternity with Him, and with that assurance you've just removed a major cause of worry from your mind.
The psalmist proclaimed, "Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who want above all else to follow your steps. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains! They will grow constantly in strength and each of them is invited to meet with the Lord in Zion" (Ps. 84:5-7 TLB).
The psalmist added, "A single day spent in your Temple is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a doorman of the Temple of my God than live in the palaces of wickedness. For Jehovah God is our Light and our Protector. He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will he withhold from those who walk along his paths" (Ps. 84:10-11 TLB).
Yes, our preparation for grief lies in the way we choose to live our lives in Christ. It also lies in our answers to some very basic questions:
- What kind of person am I, and what kind of person do I want to be?
- What do I believe?
- What kind of relationships do I have with my family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers?
- What would be the impact on my life of the sudden loss of a person whom I have wronged?
The next step is one that I took and that, by now, is probably obvious: tell people who are dear to you about Christ, His love for them, and His sacrifice for them. Use verses from this very book and examples from this confession, and share your faith with that person. Then, if a loved one goes home to meet the Lord unexpectedly, you will have made the best possible preparation for handling your grief. . .
The question each of you can ask is this: How will I want to feel, and what will I want to know with certainty after a loved one dies? The answer for me is fourfold:
1. I will want to know that my loved one is with Christ and that we will be together again one day.
2. I will want to know that I have done my very best to express my love, and I have no regrets and no unforgiveness in the relationship with my loved one.
3. I will want to be confident in my faith that God has acted out of love in fulfilling His purposes and His plan in my loved one's life.
4. I will want to harbor no anger, frustration, or resentment in my heart.
To live in a way that wins others to Christ, that expresses Christ's love and my love to others - and to do my best to live in a state of forgiveness and strong faith - is excellent preparation for the grief that may come in my life. To live this way is not only the best way to face and to prepare for the inevitability of grief; it is the best way to live!