Sunday, May 15, 2016
With God, Grief is Never the End of the Story
PART TWO: LOSS CAN HURT, BUT…THE FLIP SIDE IS
There is an interesting statement of Jesus related to loss found in John 12:24, which the New American Standard renders this way:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
He is primarily speaking prophetically about his own death, then resurrection resulting in the opportunity for salvation for so many, but it is such an apt presentation of the experience of loss, grief and moving on.
I like marigolds. But I know the little orange blossoms wither away, but turn into seeds that then produce far more blossoms than the one from which the seeds came.
Loss and mourning are like that, too.
The process of divorce, and many other aspects of life, does confront us with the realities of loss, as I mentioned in the last blog. But the story does not end there. In case you haven’t seen them, the two volumes of Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce are divided by seasons, with the first volume represented by Fall and Winter, and the second volume represented by Spring and Summer. The cover of the first volume is stark, barren and cold looking, representing the difficult days of divorce and the losses entailed in it. But to only read that volume is to only focus on loss as in the first half of Jesus’ statement, that something has died. But volume two is bright green, verdant and bursting with new life. That, too is part of the process of divorce, the aftermath in which life starts afresh, and new opportunities and beauty arise that could not have done so without first experiencing loss, which is the second half of Jesus’ saying.
The other day my wife and I were talking, and in the course of the conversation, she referred to some of the things we have experienced in this marriage that was simply not part of her first marriage. That got me to thinking with amazement at all the things that have blossomed in my life after the loss of the first marriage. Don’t get me wrong, the loss was real, and the grief was real, and there are some things that have been dramatically impacted negatively in that experience. HOWEVER, just like the two volumes of the book set, that isn’t the whole story.
There have been opportunities come my way that are part of a drastically different new chapter in life. There have been joys and amazements that resound that hope outlives loss, as new blossoms have come into my life. My wife and I have had incredible opportunities to travel that we did not know before. I have developed some long distance ministry relationships with people I have never met through this little blog. I had the privilege of several special years of close fellowship with my parents at the end of their lives. I have gotten to see the rebirth of some aspects of my personality that lay dormant during my first marriage. With my new wife, I have known a new kind of love in our marriage relationship. None of this is as a slam against the first marriage, but all of these things came into being in the aftermath of the loss of that marriage.
Rebirth is possible. New horizons come into view. Pathways previously unseen emerge and beckon. Life can be fresh and new.
It may or may not entail a new marriage, God may have a completely different way of bringing renewal into your sorrow, but it will always mean new life and hope.
It is important to mourn and grieve when loss impact us deeply. But as Paul says in Thessalonians, we don’t grieve as do those who have no hope. Hope transcends our grief. Today and tomorrow are not bound by yesterday’s loss, but are full of eternity’s promise. As a friend of mine told me many years ago: there IS life after divorce! The same is true for any of life’s losses. Because with God, grief is NEVER the end of the story! The scriptures promise that weeping is but for a night and joy comes in the morning, that mourning will be turned into dancing as the oil of gladness is poured out, and that the day will come when every tear shall be wiped away from our eyes. In the story of the raising of Lazarus, Martha hears Jesus speak of this kind of hope, and assumed he means only for the end of time. But Jesus surprises her by bringing new life to her brother right then and there!
If you are struggling with the experience of loss (even if it is the loss of a baseball card collection!), look around for the new growth that God has planted in your life. Watch for and celebrate the blossoms that follow the loss of the seeds. Recognize, in fact, that so many of the loss experiences in our lives are exactly that: seeds for something beautiful in the next part of the journey! Don’t mourn the withered blossom so long that you cannot see the beauty of the flowers that arise in its place. God promises the desert shall one day blossom!