Do those words strike fear in your heart? Are you tempted to send someone to my house to check up on me? Have I lost my grip on reality? I hope not!
I had the opportunity this past weekend to speak to a group of church volunteers whose ministry is walking alongside those who are hurting. Very similar to Stephen Ministers for those of you familiar with that organization. I am always in awe of those who deliberately choose to step into another person’s pain. So, hats off to them and any of you who do that!
I asked the attendees to fill out a comment card after my presentation and one of the questions is, “What most surprised you?” MY surprise this time is the number of people who wrote down “forever grief” as their answer.
I DO talk about this concept, so let me give you the cliff notes version here and end, as I always strive to, on a hopeful note.
I don’t believe EVERYthing or person we grieve results in “forever grief.” I’m not grieving all the pets I’ve lost through the years. Nor am I still grieving most/all of my relatives or friends. In fact, while I do certainly miss my parents, I wouldn’t even claim that I have a forever grief associated with their losses.
Almost without exception, my memories of these past losses make me smile and feel warm on the inside, despite how deeply I grieved the deaths at the time.
So just what does constitute a “forever grief?” Guess what? YOU get to decide! Yep, no one can tell you what or whom you grieve forever, and what you “should” eventually move on from. Just like grieving in general, forever grief is an incredibly personal thing. No definition. No judgment. Just compassion.
But I’d still like to use a couple of examples to dive into this a little more deeply. Virtually every parent I’ve talked with who has lost a child experiences forever grief, even if they don’t label it as such. In fact, I chatted with a 91-year-old woman this week who lost a daughter decades ago, and yet, she still teared up telling me about it.
Friends of mine who have been widows for decades also tell me that it doesn’t really get better. While, my own widow experience is just under two years old, I can see how the deep love I had for Dale, resulting in the deep grief I feel over his death, could certainly become MY forever grief.
So based on many conversations I’ve had and on my own experience, here’s the radical statement I want to throw out there. I think sometimes, it’s OK to grieve for the rest of your life!
I’m not saying that’s ALL you do, but I think we should stop trying so hard just to get past the pain. And stop trying so hard to move others through their pain. That should NOT be our ultimate goal. Because what happens then is we stuff the pain down only to have it pop up somewhere down the road in an unhealthy manner.
And achieving a state of no pain and only happiness isn’t even biblical. In John 16:33, it says, “In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
We know what happened when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Sin entered the world and has tainted everything from that point on. Pain and sorrow and death are some of the consequences we suffer because of that.
And as long as we live in this fallen world, we will always have loss and heartache and grieving. And yes, I believe some of it will last forever. So, what do we do with THAT?
First of all, we acknowledge that God does His best and most permanent work through our trials, so we look to see how He wants to deepen our faith and cause us to trust Him more. And we see THAT for the blessing that it is.
We learn how to live our life in spite of this trial. We find a new normal. We don’t necessarily move on. We don’t forget. Perhaps we don’t stop grieving. We are now different people because of this loss. On one hand, perhaps forever grieving. But on the other hand, molded by God for His purposes through this pain.
And finally, we look forward to the day when God makes everything right again. Maybe it’s when He calls you home. Maybe it’s when Jesus returns. But make no mistake, God WILL make it all right. Because, through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, He HAS overcome the world. Therein lies our hope. And our joy!
Let that hope and that joy add balance to YOUR life that is likely struggling with SOMETHING. Maybe it’s minor irritations, maybe it’s crises of various types. Perhaps you’re in the midst of grieving even now. And maybe you’re still suffering through YOUR forever grief.
Allow yourself to feel the loss. But always be reminded of God’s love for you and for His perfect plan, and let that bring you much joy!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.