Being a man who likes things to make sense, I am fascinated with what happens when any of us suffers a loss. It may be the loss of a loved one, the loss of productive employment, the loss of a dream or the loss of health. Anytime we have a significant loss in our life, reactions get birthed inside us that are unpredictable, unexpected and, at times, unexplainable.
We go through this because we were not originally designed with the ability to suffer loss. When God created Adam and Eve, they were going to live forever. They were not going to encounter death, personal destruction or painful disasters. Then sin became part of their life experience and loss became a consistent companion! Since we are not designed for it, emotions rise up inside us until they reach a pressure point and must be released. This is what grief does. We cry in response to almost any stimulus. We laugh louder than we ought to at certain stories or comments. We get momentarily angry. We feel a black sadness in our souls that makes us worry about ourselves. We are confused because all these states are temporary. About the time we think we are falling apart, the episode is over and we seem to feel better for a little while. There is nothing wrong with us, we are simply grieving.
A fascinating example of grieving takes place in 2 Samuel 1. King Saul has just died in battle and David grieves. It would have been easy for David to rejoice because Saul spent many years trying to kill David. David had faithfully served his king and the king wanted to take his life. None of us would have blamed David if he had sighed heavily in relief then rejoiced at the new opportunities that now lie ahead of him. Instead, we see David grieving and giving honor to “the Lord’s anointed.” In the process, however, David not only lost his king but he lost his best friend on earth. Jonathan, Saul’s son, was the closest confidant and comrade in David’s life. In response, David tore his clothes, wept over his loss and wrote a song about the event.
23 Saul and Jonathan—
in life they were loved and admired,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions . . .
25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
Many of us will find comfort in this because we all have painful relationships. On the surface, it seems it would be easier if these people were just not around. This was the case with my friend, Peter (not his real name). Pete struggled with a number of addictions and was plagued by a habit of making poor decisions that almost always led to decay in his life. He was not a man to make excuses, however, and at the age of 40, he met Jesus as his Savior. I know we can never see into the heart of another person but from all indications, his trust in Christ was sincere and real. He, however, could not seem to pull his life together and at the age of 42, we found him passed away on his living room floor. A young man with lots of potential was gone in the prime of his life.
He had caused much pain for his family but his family honored him by grieving. They held a memorial service and then invited friends and family to a lunch at his parents’ home to tell the stories of his life. For the next year, I had many conversations with his parents and siblings as they released the emotions that go along with the loss of someone you love.
The good news is that grief is temporary. It will take a while because every cycle of grief proclaims that the person, opportunity or provision that was lost had meaning. It was important to your life and deserves a response. One day, however, you wake up and the grieving subsides. Your focus returns, your sense of purpose comes back to life and you get into motion. We don’t know how long it took but 2 Samuel 2 opens up with these words, “In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD. ‘Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?’” If you have suffered a loss in the past year, be assured that “in the course of time,” you will regain your perspective and find the next steps to take. Give yourself time to grieve when it is appropriate. Then give yourself freedom to kick back into gear when the time is right.