Face to Face With Grief

I’ve discovered that I tend to want to find an escape when faced with uncomfortable emotions like grief or frustration. Or maybe it goes so far as to be any time I feel completely out of control of what is going on around me. My means of escape are harmless in and of themselves: shopping (well, that may not be completely harmless….); going out with a friend; going out to do something – anything; meeting with my pastor; or even just our normal scheduled activities; and I even escape with comfort foods.

Why do I do that? I know it’s probably a pretty normal response to difficult situations and emotions, but I “know better”. I’m supposed to know that escaping won’t solve anything, and that the answer to my grief cannot be found in any person or thing or activity. I know Jesus is the only Person who completely understands, and He is the only One who is truly “acquainted with (my) sorrows”.

Perhaps I’m not so much escaping as I am simply looking for something to soften the harsh reality of my grief – a pillow on which to lay my broken heart until it feels better. My routines – especially the ones that involve church – can be a pseudo-comfort. I’ve been expecting my friends to assuage my sorrow to some extent, and part of me has been terrified that they would forget. I’ve been fighting to keep Rusty’s memory alive in everyone’s hearts – or was it just my heartache I wanted them to remember?

Last week, the anniversary of Rusty’s death, made me realize all this, because I didn’t have a way to escape. It was Spring Break, every midweek activity was cancelled at both of the churches I am involved with (I’ll explain how I came to be involved with 2 churches in a different post.) My worship pastor, who has been my grief counselor in many ways this past year, was out of town with his family. My pastor was out of commission due to an injury requiring surgery. My friends were busy enjoying their own Spring Break activities. Every means I would normally use to escape was unavailable to me last week.

So it was just me and God. I wish I could tell you what a wonderful week of sweet, comforting, healing communion I enjoyed with the Lord. But I can’t. For some reason, I was holding Him at arms’ length. I knew He was there, and I was even talking to Him some, but I did not throw myself into His arms like I could have. I didn’t spend my evenings, after everyone was in bed, pouring my heart out to Him. Why? Why do I do that? Am I afraid? If so, of what?? Am I angry? Yes, that’s very possible.

But the Lord is good. He is faithful and long-suffering. He still upheld me because of the prayers of my friends. He has been there in this whole, long, excruciating season of my soul. He met me at church on Sunday. First, while I was working in the nursery, He had a nice lady who only knew the gist of what had happened, asked me for all the details. I could  have politely declined to answer, but I didn’t. I think the Lord wanted my heart to be exposed, because every single song during the service met me right where I was. It was as if the whole service had been planned for me. I know it wasn’t, except for in God’s plan. It was hard, and I cried a lot, but it was healing.

So I learned that I need to put my arms down, and stop trying to find something or someone else to “fix me”. I need to not be afraid to come face to face with my grief. For when I do, I’ll probably find myself face to face with God, who alone can comfort and heal.

Categories: brothers, choices, church, grief, lessons, Uncategorized, worship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The End of a Journal

A few days ago, I finished up my most recent journal. It lasted me less than a year, which may be the quickest I’ve ever gone through one. It’s also the most challenging journal I’ve ever kept, with more varying degrees of emotion. I started it about a month before Rusty died, and ended it about a month before the first anniversary of his death.

In the past, my journal entries were usually about my trust in the Lord and all the great things He was doing in my life. But this last journal was different. It records my wrestling matches with God, as I struggled to trust Him and His plan. I was SO angry. I felt betrayed. I struggled to believe in the power of prayer, since I had prayed so much and so hard for Rusty. The journal records my questions (if Rusty had to die, couldn’t it have been any other way?), my confusion, my anger, my pain. Through it, God exposed my pride, my selfishness, my desire to be in control, and how shallow my faith – that I once considered so strong – really was.

However, the journal also records a lot of my breakthroughs from those wrestling matches. I gained a deeper understanding of aspects of God’s character. I saw new aspects of His love. I learned just how amazing His grace really is. I realized how deep His mercy was for Rusty – and for us left behind. It also records the moments when I didn’t have a revelatory breakthrough, but instead I just chose to stop wrestling and to trust God – even to submit to His plan of letting Rusty die, of letting him take his own life.

Overall, I learned how prideful and arrogant I am, assuming I could control things and protect my family through my prayers. I learned that God is Sovereign and that no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job. 42:2), and that submitting to Him means submitting even when I don’t want to or don’t like it. My anchor of faith is deeper now that it’s been tested, and I learned that it will hold, even through the fiercest storm.

I understand God’s amazing grace, the depths of His love, the power of His death and resurrection, the immutability of His faithfulness and His will in more profound ways that I ever would have without this journey/journal. I also learned how hard – and how rewarding – it is to give thanks in everything.

I have no idea where my new journal will take me. God has put some exciting things in my lap this year already. But I do know that God is in control, and I am not. No purpose of His can be thwarted. My role is to CHOOSE to humbly submit.

Categories: choices, death, devotional thought, grief, Jesus, Rusty, storms, suicide, thankful | Tags: | 2 Comments

2 Months Today….

Two months ago today since Rusty died…It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 2 months. They say time heals all wounds. Really, only God can heal those wounds. And He is, and I’m thankful. But the thought I had today is that time only seems to be mocking our loss. Part of me feels guilty for moving on, and leaving that horrible night in the past. I do realize it’s still really early in this journey of grief, and I probably don’t really know what I’m talking about compared with those who have been down a similar path. But there’s just this part of me that keeps thinking, “Wait! Time, please stop or slow down or something. I need to stay here and try to make sense of what has happened. I need to do his memory justice. I’m not ready to move forward.” Yet, time just keeps passing along, refusing to acknowledge my loss, my pain, or my confusion. And just how, exactly, does Time expect to “heal my wounds” when the more time that passes, the more I realize how much I miss my brother?

And there’s already been some of the dreaded “holiday” or special family moments that have come about as a result of Time’s unrelenting persistence to keep marching forward: Easter, Mother’s Day, David’s Kindergarten graduation. That last one was the hardest for me. I kept thinking, “I’m not ready to do this without Rusty! I want Time to just not make me go there yet!” But Time didn’t listen or care. It dragged me through each of those painful events anyway. Oh, and just for kicks, this year Rusty’s birthday will be on Thanksgiving. Double whammy.

On the other hand, though, I’m also ready to be done with this deep grieving process. Everyone says the first year is the hardest, and so I’m ready to be past that. I think this is the selfish side of me. Or the part that wants to escape the reality of Rusty’s death. I keep thinking I want to volunteer and get involved with a couple of ministries that are near and dear to my heart – and ones that I believe God is calling me to be involved in at some point. But a couple of weeks ago when I discussed it with a mentor who happens to be over both ministries, he told me I’m not ready – that I’m too vulnerable right now, and that I need to give myself more time to heal. Part of me is afraid that as I stay here and learn how to heal from this grief, this trauma, those ministry opportunities will pass me by. I know that’s a lie, and that if God really is calling me to those ministries, then His timing will be perfect.

Ah, but I just stumbled on the truth of the matter. God’s timing. Time isn’t Sovereign. God is. Time is merely His tool to accomplish His purposes. I just read this week in Isaiah 38 about God giving Hezekiah more time, and as proof of His promise, He made the sun move backward – completely displaying His power and authority over Time itself. The next day I read the famous passage from Ezekiel 3 about there is a time for everything. I need those reminders. When I’m fighting against Time moving on or not moving quickly enough, I’m really fighting God’s Sovereign plan and control over my life. He could stop time, if that was what would be best for me. He could fast forward us all into next year, but I’m sure I would miss the wonderful things I will learn from Him and about Him in the midst of the hardest moments.

So I have a choice to make: continue to fight against time and all the ways it isn’t working for me, or to recognize that all of this happened and is happening by God’s will, and that there is a plan in all of it for my family and me. For our good and His glory. I can choose to rest in the Lord or I can continue to wrestle. Bottom line: I can choose to release control to Him, or I can hold onto my illusion of control until my knuckles turn white. And so tonight, I choose to “cease striving and know that He is God.” (from Ps. 46:10) I choose to trust that His timing is perfect.

Categories: choices, Rusty, time | Leave a comment

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