How To Grow Through A Season Of Loss
Today I am mourning the loss of a wonderful friend and mentor, Floyd “Mac” McElveen. He died just a few days ago at age 88.
My brother Brian receiving the Navy flag after the loss of his son Beau
Remarkably, he lived over 20 years after a heart transplant.
Mac was a pastor, church planter, missionary, National Evangelist and author. Over 2 million of his books are in print!
The hardest death I have experienced was the abrupt death of my mother in 1995. Suddenly the one who birthed and raised me was gone. She was just 69 years old.
We held a memorial service and wept. Then we shed more tears as mom’s casket was placed in the frozen ground in Ohio.
The reality of death hit me like it never had before. It took many months to heal from the terrible loss.
We will all suffer devastating losses: loved ones, friendships, jobs, dreams, health, finances.
How do we survive and thrive after seasons of loss? How can we get better instead of bitter?
1. Practice Biblical Mourning.
Scripture tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit’s peace and joy. But the Bible also says there is: “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
Shock, sadness and grief are appropriate emotions and they don’t make us defective Christians.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Weeping is Christ-like. After Lazarus died, the shortest verse in the Bible (with a gigantic message) tells us that “Jesus wept.” See John 11:33-36.
Weeping facilitates healing, while suppressing grief only postpones recovery.
“Hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help!” (Psalm 88:2)
2. Invest Time and Energy.
King David wrote: “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.” (Psalm 6:6-7)
Mourning takes time and energy. These are an investment in healing.
Expect a “pain drain” after losses.
This can be challenging when, as often happens, the loss is unexpected and sudden. But no matter how inconvenient, it is worthwhile to invest the time and energy it takes to heal from the emotional wounds.
3. Expect Grief to be Individualized.
Each person has their own pace for grief and recovery. Don’t expect cookie-cutter responses.
Know yourself and your loved ones.
Introverts reflect quietly and need space; extroverts crave social interaction to process grief.
Some take longer, some take less time.
The Disciple Peter’s personal response varied based on conditions and mood. During Jesus’ arrest and trial, he boldly and defensively cut off a servant’s ear. But later in fear he denied knowing Jesus 3 times.
Here are some potential factors affecting intensity of grief:
Understanding God’s perspective
Number of losses
Expectation of loss
4. Guide Your Attitudes.
Attitudes can heal or prolong our grief.
We are not at the mercy of our attitudes; we can control them to some extent.
During the illness of his child, King David “fasted and went into his house and spent the night lying on the ground.” (2 Samuel 12:16)
But when his child died, King David responded by bathing, putting on clean clothes and worshipping the Lord.
Allow loss to delay but not devastate you.
Dr. Archibald Hart, author and professor of psychology, advises that you set a realistic time frame to mourn losses and then determine to move on.
In the midst of sorrow, always find reasons to “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)
5. Anticipate Full Recovery.
Progress is usually made by taking two steps forward and one step back.
When you take a backwards step, don’t give up.
Thank God that your pain can become gain. You can have a new empathy to help others. You learn many things through loss. You grow stronger.
Finally, remember that no loss can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ, and that as our roots grow deeper, our relationship with Christ can also deepen:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
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