Hi there, friends! I am so happy you’re here today! My name is Sarah, and I have the privilege of sharing a post with you that is near and dear to my heart. In life, often the things that are going to help us grow the most, are the things that are the most difficult to go through, or to talk about. In this post I wanted to tell you about the most difficult time in my life, the enduring peace and hope that Jesus provides, and how there is renewal even in the middle of grief and loss. It is my hope that the lessons and verses you read here will bring you comfort and insight into what God wants for you even during trials.
My Experience with Loss
In June of 2018 my mom passed away after dealing with lung cancer for about seven years. Those seven years had struggles of their own, obviously, and during that period of time, my biggest fear was losing my mom. Each time she would have a form of treatment and the cancer would be taken care of for awhile, there was such great relief, and each time it came back, there was such devastation. My mom had lobes of her lungs removed, did chemo, radiation, and took various medications at different points during this journey, and through it all I can say without a doubt that my mom was the strongest person I have ever known. Not once did she complain. She showed her deep faith in her Lord and His plans for her by placing her life in His hands, AND continued to live her life to the fullest by enjoying each moment until the end. She always had an answer for those who asked how she could be so strong in the midst of such a trial; that the peace of God was hers.
When my mom died it was the deepest sadness, loss, grief, I have ever felt in my life. If I had to try to describe it, I would say it felt like it filled my whole body and that a piece of my heart was missing. I lost my best friend. Someone who not only gave birth to and raised me, but shared the things she loved with me, sang with me, encouraged me, and prayed for me.
What People Don't Tell You
When you lose someone, people tell you a lot about the first year and how hard it is. They talk about all of the 'firsts.' The first Christmas, holiday season, birthday... and those things are all hard. But what was surprising to me - because when would I have thought about this before - were the everyday, little tiny moments that made me miss my mom.
At the beginning especially, there were a hundred moments a day where I would think, 'I should tell mom about that' or 'Mom would think this is so funny.' Ads for shows would come on tv and because we watched those shows together, that would make me sad and I couldn't bring myself to watch them. Listening to Billy Joel and James Taylor made me cry because of how much we both loved to listen to them. I saw people out and about who looked like her. The list goes on and on.
People also failed to say what you do after that first year. Entering year two I honestly felt a little lost. As weird as it sounds, there was a tiny bit of comfort in knowing what 'everyone feels' in the first year, but once things become slightly easier, and the hard days get fewer and farther between, the guidance goes away and you have to go with the flow and understand that as long as you know the truth and cling to that, your feelings will follow suit.
Lessons I’ve Learned
1. There is nothing you can say or do to take away someone's grief. The best thing, I think, that you can do for someone who is grieving is to be there in whatever capacity they want you to be. Do what they want to do, listen if they want to talk, cry if they want to cry. It is our calling as Christians to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice, and it is an extremely valuable gift to offer. (Rom. 12:15) You don't always have to be ready with a word to say - often it is better to follow their lead.
2. The experience of grief is ever-changing and evolving. Yes, it lessens over time, but it can feel just as fresh at any given point as it did at the very beginning.
3. Everyone experiences grief differently, and the way they handle it or express it might be different as well. Give grace to yourself and others.
4. You don't have to take a bad day as a setback. It's just the nature of becoming accustomed to a new normal, and there will be days that seem completely random that will be, for whatever reason, difficult. And that's okay, because tomorrow is a new day.
5. People mean so well, and whenever they wanted to give me kind words, memories, etc. I listened even when I wanted to do anything but because of my sadness. I knew that later I would cherish people telling me how my mom had an impact on them, and I wouldn't have wanted to stop them from sharing that with me. Now I'm grateful.
6. Emotions are part of life, but our emotions should be subject to our thoughts, and our thoughts are under our control. I strive to learn what the truth is (aka God's truth about death, life, sorrow, and hope) and then let my emotions fall under the influence of the thoughts I now have since I know the truth. "...in Christ, I am no longer obligated to earthly thoughts and emotions, nor should I let them rule me: instead, I can be controlled and therefore contented by the truth of God." - Albert Martin
Tips for when You’re Grieving
1. Learn more and more about who God is all the time. This is everything. Reading God's word to learn about his heart and desires for me is the most encouraging thing in this world. It is what sustains me and gives me the strength to carry on day by day.
2. Pray. Ask that God will use your experience for His glory and trust that He will. God will absolutely answer this prayer; I know from personal experience. God has already grown my faith more than I can quantify, allowed me to trust him more, and drawn me to himself, just to name a few examples. He has been so good to me, and I see more evidence every day of ways that He is using this thing in my life for good.
3. Equip yourself so that you can grieve in a way that glorifies God. This was a desire I had on my mind a lot right at the beginning, and my sister-in-law recommended a resource that helped me so much in this endeavor. It's a book called Grieving, Hope, and Solace by Albert Martin. It truly gave me the right perspective on loss, described in great detail and with great love, what happens when a loved one dies in Christ, and directed my thoughts to heaven.
4. Spend time with other believers. This can be such a sweet time of rest for your soul. It can be quiet, even fun, honestly whatever you want. But always, pick the people who will make you feel safe and loved and happy. Open up to them if you want, or revel in the feeling of 'normal.'
5. Give yourself grace when you have a difficult day, but always refocus your mind and heart on God's truth.
6. Press on.
God's Encouragement for You
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace...But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Rom. 8:6, 10-11
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed... Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:12-13, 19
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Rom. 8:38-39
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. Eccl. 7:3 - aka, "...more is learned from adversity than from pleasure. True wisdom is developed in the crucible of life's trials" - John MacArthur
In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which shall I choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. Phil. 1:21-23
There is HOPE.
Finally, friends, I want to say that I know exactly where my mom is, and I knew the moment she died. In the midst of my grief, I had to remember the truth and the hope that God has given us in Him. This, truly, was the shining light in the midst of the hardest experience of my life, because I knew that what I was going through would be, ultimately, for God's glory. So, while "tears are permitted...they must glimmer with the light of faith and hope." (Charles Spurgeon)
There will be hard things in all of our lives, that is a guarantee (James 1:2) BUT the promise that comes hand-in-hand with that, is that through the testing of our faith, God will make us steadfast (James 1:3). By clinging to the promises of God in scripture, we can be assured of the hope He has given us, not only to be sanctified, but to be glorified when we meet Him face to face one day (Rom. 8:30). And I cannot think of anything more beautiful. So hang on, friend. Hold fast to the Lord and His sweet promises for you.
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ...to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Rom. 16:25, 27)
"But grief is not a force and has no power to hold. You only bear it. Love is what carries you." - Hannah Coulter
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