Loss is a universal experience. No one escapes this life unscathed by its cruelty and the pain and devastation it causes. Though loss is universal in nature, each individual will experience loss differently. For some it might be through the death of a child or spouse. Others will face a divorce and the break-up of a family or a chronic illness or cancer or losing a job that provided for their family. Loss might come by way of a ruined reputation, betrayal by a good friend or rejection by a loved one. Regardless of how loss comes, when something is taken from us that we cherish and hold dear, the pain and heartache that accompanies that is inevitable and very often, life-changing.
Having gone through several significant losses in my own life, I know how debilitating loss can be. Yet, as I’ve grown and matured, not so much in age and experience but in the ways of God, I am beginning to see and understand how the pain and heartache of loss, any loss, can be healed and used by God to expand my soul and grow and strengthen me as person. Not so I can take great pride in myself for having overcome so much, for how sad would that be, if that were all I had to show for the losses in my life. No, when God expands our soul, grows, and strengthen us, in the midst of our losses, it’s so He can open our eyes to a world that is bigger than us; demonstrating that even in this fallen world of sin, death and loss, He is still able to accomplish His perfect plan and will for us and in us.
Romans 8:28 of the Amplified Bible says;
“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
Many times when people are in the depth of their pain because of their loss, they reject, to the point of anger, someone sharing the truth of God‘s Word with them, thinking it callous, insensitive or “too preachy”. While timing of such things is important, withholding the hope that comes from the promises of God shows a great lack of love and compassion, for ultimately nothing apart from His love and power will set a person free to move on and thrive following a devastating loss.
It is that inability to move on that is the subject of this article. We wouldn’t need to talk about moving on from loss if it didn’t have such incredible power to keep us “stuck”, almost frozen in time or worse, living life only in the past, as if today or tomorrow doesn’t matter.
There is, of course, a time and a season to grieve. Not facing your loss and allowing yourself to feel the pain and sorrow of it, can bring on all kinds of additional emotional and physical problems down the road. Loss requires healthy grief for healing, and healing from grief takes time. However, that time is not meant to last forever. Cherishing memories and special feelings for a lost loved one is by all means important. Remembering special or joyful times in your life are good and healthy. Even sadness from time to time as you feel the emptiness or face the changes loss has left you with, is good and acceptable but a lifetime of grieving is not!
Lamentations 3, talks about there being a season and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven, including mourning;
“A time to week and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (verse 4)
If we choose to stay in an unending place of grief and sorrow, we will miss all the good things God still has planned for us in this life, and that is a loss of unspeakable proportions. Our loving God delights in healing and restoration for all who call upon Him. He does not intend for us to go through this life wounded and crippled in body and spirit as a result of losses we experience. He wants to heal us for our sake and for His glory and purposes. He is a God of new beginnings, always on the move, demonstrating His power and His love to a dying world.
Isaiah 43: 18-19 (NASB)
“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?”
He wants us to join Him in the new things He is doing but we can’t if we’ve shut our self off from what He offers, determined to spend the rest of our lives in self-pity and despair.
One of the most detrimental decisions a person can make after the loss of a loved one especially that of a spouse of child – or even after a divorce – is that they will never love again. In their mind to do so, would be to open themselves up to that same devastating pain again and who in their right mind, would do that? But to make a decision like that is to ensure that one is very likely to miss more of the good things God still has planned for them.
In his book, “A Grace Disguised”, author Gerald Sittser, who lost his mother, his wife and a young daughter in a car accident talks about this very issue. “The risk of further loss, therefore, poses a dilemma. The problem of choosing to love again is that the choice to love means living under the constant threat of further loss. But the problem of choosing not to love is that the choice to turn from love means imperiling the soul, for the soul thrives in an environment of love. Soul-full people love; soul-less people do not. If people want their soul to grow through loss, whatever the loss is, they must eventually decide to love even more deeply than they did before. They must respond to the loss by embracing love with renewed energy and commitment.”
Expanding our heart to love again after loss is a mysterious part of the healing God gives us. We can refuse His healing if we choose and withdraw to protect ourselves, leading to a diminished soul and an empty, lonely life. That withdrawal could easily be justified by saying another loss is too certain to risk it. Yes, most likely another loss is certain but so is God‘s love and power to heal. It takes courage to live and it takes courage to love – again and again. It also takes wisdom and grace to know and understand that loss does not mean the end of life. With God, it means a new beginning and a reason to move on!