We are living in times of significant loss. Loss of life and loss of livelihood stare many of us down daily. Harsh, brutal, inescapable realities. Realities that are not easily grieved, given the innumerable restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
Even for those of us not directly touched by death or financial devastation, reasons to grieve are ubiquitous. In a world so polarized, so awash in anxiety and frustration, my thesis is that we’re circumnavigating that grapple with loss which is so essential for mental and emotional health, and which then releases us into our faith-filled futures. We’re simply not creating opportunities for nor giving ourselves permission to grieve as we ought.
The Bible teaches us that believers don’t mourn as those without hope. This is glorious Gospel truth. The tomb that once held the broken body of Jesus is empty; the grave has been defeated; the promise of resurrection is ours; our eternal futures are secure. But none of that implies that we don’t experience loss, or that we should not process it; feel it; come to terms with it; make the mental and emotional adjustments foisted upon us in healthy ways; in short – grieve.
I woke the other morning with this thought ringing out from my spirit: “Give yourself permission to grieve!” As I allowed the notion to linger, so the many losses of the last year surfaced in heart and mind. Mine are nothing compared to the losses so many others have incurred, but they are losses nonetheless. Painful, personal, wounding, important and depriving losses. And they’re asking to be grieved. There are feelings to feel, goodbyes to formulate, tears to be shed, and things to be let go of.
Examples abound. I’m not aiming at melodrama here. I’m just trying to illustrate the point. There is the loss of time with family and friends. People I care about deeply who have has big-0 birthdays and milestone anniversaries, or who have lost loved ones or livelihoods this last year, and I have had no way of laughing or weeping with them as a good friend should. In the same category of loss, but a different dimension, is the fact that I’ve not seen my son-in-law in nigh on eighteen months, and have no prospect of seeing him any time soon either. On a completely different note, there’s been the death of vision. My auctioneering business was just about to launch when lockdown hit us the first time around. The pandemic has redefined that industry, and so that business so many months in the planning and preparation, was metaphorically stillborn, and to drive the point home, metaphorically left unburied also.
One of the most difficult areas for me to grapple through has been the loss of inertia. None of us are getting any younger, and by inertia I mean that tangible sense of gathering forward momentum that stems from overall health and wellness. It certainly permeated our wider family end-2019. It was there in our businesses and financial lives, but perhaps most strikingly, it also permeated every aspect of our local church. The worship team was flying, children’s ministry was thriving, the finances were looking healthy, the congregation was growing, and I’d just launched a major leadership initiative, which gathered for the first time on the evening that our President announced the first hard lockdown. All of that seemed to fragment as the careening chaos of the pandemic crashed into us. The Lord has been faithful and gracious through it all, make no mistake, but the recalibration has been so severe that some wonderful things are but distant memories, replaced by a very abnormal new normal.
It feels like – and I use the word advisedly, because feeling is a pivotal idea in this article – it feels like my life was a well nurtured tree on the verge of prolific fruiting, which was then hit by tempest, pestilence and landslide all at once. To make matters worse, the extended forecast is for punishing drought with perhaps the possibility of intermittent flash flooding. I suspect that more than a few folk will identify. The crop is lost. To mix metaphors – them chickens of 2020 ain’t never gonna be counted, ‘cos they ain’t never gonna hatch. In fact, the whole farm is in disarray, and that’s a global thing.
But here’s the thing: We grieve, but not without hope! We are those to whom resurrection life has been given, and we know that the end of the story is new heavens and a new earth, and our God is the One who is making all things new. The massive birthing process of what the Scriptures call “the restoration of things” is likely to have a number of epic contractions, but the purposes of God remain salvific because that is Who He Is. So let’s shed our tears and grieve our losses, and then let the wounds heal. Even if there is scarring, let’s remind ourselves that Jesus has scars, and that these are best understood as trophies of grace. Medals in their own right. And let’s look to the Lord for a fruitful future. Yesterday’s crop might be lost, but that does not necessarily mean that all is lost. That tree, so ready to fruit, might never get back to the point of harvest in the same way again. That was then; this is now. But that tree might just have released its bountiful seeds even as it dropped it’s fruit, and as Jesus taught us, seeds only abide alone until they fall to the ground and die.
Grieving is the opening of our hearts and hands and letting the seeds of yesterday fall to the ground. But it’s then that the real magic happens. Out of death, life. Resurrection. A God thing! Investments into yesterday being harnessed for tomorrow. Which is why, as the Bible teaches, those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy!