Grief is Not Sin

Grief is not sin.  

It wasn’t until another grieving mom asked the question that I realized there are some (many?) in the community of believers that think grief is sin.

Not at first, mind you-everyone is “allowed” a certain amount of time to get over the loss of a dream, the loss of a job, the loss of health or the loss of a loved one.

But carry that sadness and wounded heart too publicly for too long and you better be ready for someone to question your faith.

And (heaven forbid!) you drag your limping soul to church on Sunday and sit silent during worship, tears streaming, as the rest of the congregation heartily affirms all the things you now wrestle with every day.

Is God good?  ALL the time?  Does God protect the ones He loves?  ALL the time?

“We bring the sacrifice of praise….” What sacrifice have you made lately?  Have you buried a child?

I think anything has the potential to be sin.  If I allow my heart, mind and soul to focus exclusively on what I’ve lost instead of what I’m promised through Jesus Christ, that is sin.  

But grief itself is not sin.

Paul said, “We do not grieve as those who have no hope”  NOT  “we do not grieve”. (I Thessalonians 4:13)

Sadness is not sin.  Sorrow and missing my son is not sin.

For a time, especially at the beginning, grief occupied most of my field of vision.  It’s that huge.  

We are made of dust and it cannot be otherwise.

Death is awful and the redemption of what was lost in the Fall cost God His only son. “The whole creation groans” (mourns, grieves) “to be set free from bondage to decay”. (Romans 8:21-22)

death matters lewis

Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” as He bore the full weight of sin and sorrow of the world.

I believe that grief becomes sin when I choose to turn my face away from God and only toward my sorrow.

If I am holding it and dragging it with me toward the foot of the cross, that’s not sin.

If I turn my heart and face toward the One Who made me and trust that even in this painful place He is carrying me and will care for me, that’s not sin.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of bringing the “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).  It is no sacrifice to praise God for the beautiful blessings.

It is quite the sacrifice to praise God for what Joni Eareckson Tada calls a “bruising of a blessing”.

If I continue to wrestle, like Jacob-clinging and begging for the blessing-I am not sinning when I walk away with the limp the wound leaves behind.

Jesus has opened the way to the throne of grace by His own blood.

I don’t have to hide and I don’t have to be afraid. 

He knows my pain.  He knows my name.

I keep bringing my broken heart to the altar and lift it up in broken praise.

That’s not sin.

It’s the widow’s mite-it’s everything I’ve got.  

 

worship-that-means-something-costs-something

 

Desperate for Peace: His Name is Peace

Jehovah shalom

Are you as desperate as I am for peace?

Do you long for even ten minutes where you don’t feel anxious, or out of control, or incompetent or “less-than”?

There was a time in my life when I thought that I could handle anything tossed my way.  

I had no reason to suspect my energy, my strength or my mental capacity to handle change would be exhausted.  So far, I’d managed to do all that was required of me, had managed to cope with every challenging situation, had overcome the hurdles, continued the race and not given up.

That’s not me anymore.

I’m not defeatedyet-but I recognize defeat is a possibility.

I cannot bring peace to my own heart in my own strength. 

But I know Who can:  His Name is Peace

 

 

 

 

Trying To Navigate at 90 Miles an Hour

washington-with-traffic

I will never forget it.

Our family was driving through Washington, D.C. at rush hour (poor planning, I know!) and got lost.

Not utterly, hopelessly lost-but definitely turned around.

Multiple lanes of traffic, unfamiliar signs, lots and lots of cars traveling way. too. fast.

My husband was driving and I was trying to read the map-trying to make sense of where we were and where we needed to be but I couldn’t do it fast enough to make a difference.

As soon as I determined which lane we should be in, which exit we should take, we had passed it.

In frustration, my husband finally just stoppedin the middle of the road on a small patch of no-man’s-land between two diverging lanes.  I was scared to death.

police-car-lego

And then a police car pulled up behind us.

The officer got out and asked what was going on.  We explained our dilemma and he led us out of the maze of confusing options to the right road and we were on our way.

So many days I feel just like I did those years ago-confused, frightened, trying desperately to figure out which way to go but never able to slow down enough to really get a good look at the map.

road maps.jpg

I feel like I’m trying to navigate strange streets going 90 MPH.

Hurry up!

Should I turn right or left?

Did I just miss my exit?

I have no idea.

The destination is sure:  I will leave this place and join my son in Heaven.  But the path is winding and challenging and hard to figure out.

I can’t get out of the car called “Life” and wait until I have a clear route marked before me.

Sometimes I manage to get where I want to go.  Sometimes I don’t.

Some days and some events turn out resembling how I thought they should. Many don’t.

So I keep on keeping on.  

I’m navigating with the tools at hand and hoping for the best.

world-doesnt-stop-for-your-grief

 

 

Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

I no longer have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in the life of a mother-I know exactly how it feels. 

And if I allow my heart to ponder that too often or too long, it consumes me.

So I am learning to take those anxious thoughts captive, learning to make them live in only a small corner of my mind instead of taking it over completely.

It takes effort and discipline, but it’s possible.  

I don’t have to live the rest of my days a quivering mess- afraid of every sunrise, every phone call, every mile my family travels:

  • I confront my fear with facts:  The absolute truth is that it is no more likely I will lose a child today than it was the day I lost Dominic.  I’m not good at determining odds-if I toss a coin ten times and it lands on “heads”-I’m convinced that next time it HAS to be “tails”.  But that’s just not true.  EVERY time the coin is tossed, it has exactly a 50/50 chance of landing on “heads” or “tails” regardless of what happened last time.  That’s not how it FEELS, but that’s how it IS.

coin_toss_11

  • I refuse to feed my fear:  I don’t linger over news stories that play up danger or magnify the possibility of catching rare diseases.  Do these things happen?  ABSOLUTELY!  But are they likely to happen to me or someone I love, probably not.  I will not fuel the fire of fear that threatens to rage through my mind.
  • I take reasonable precautions:  My family wears seatbelts.  We take our vitamins and go to the doctor when we need to.  We eat right and exercise.  We don’t walk across streets without looking both ways.  These were all things we did before Dominic’s accident and we continue to do them now.  Not one of them would have made a diference that night but they help me feel better.

 

crosswalk

  • I limit my exposure to uncertainty:  If I’m concerned about someone, I call or text.  It’s that simple.  I don’t have to live for hours wondering if they are OK.  I’m careful not to infringe on my adult children’s lives by a never-ending series of contacts, but they understand my heart.  We try to be mindful of letting each other know we arrive safely to our destination.
  • I exercise control in other areas of my life:  Anxiety is a beast that grows stronger the more out of control I feel.  I cannot keep my family absolutely safe-it’s not in my power to do so. BUT, I can control some aspects of life.  So I do.  Even cleaning out a messy junk drawer helps bolster my sense of control.  Small, easy to complete projects feed the part of my brain that says, “You can do this!”

take-control-of-your-life

  • I limit caffeine and other stimulants:  Increased heart rate, rapid breathing and sweaty palms are signs of anxiety.  Caffeine can produce these effects even when I’m not anxious. If my body is feeling this way, my mind is quick to jump on board.  

angry

  • I practice distraction:  There are times when I find myself feeling anxious despite my best efforts.  When that happens, I am learning to distract myself.  I find something to touch, smell, hear or taste that can help me regain composure.  I count backwards from ten or twenty.  I hum a song or recite a Bible verse.  I add numbers in my head or do multiplication tables.
  • I live in the present:  I have no idea what tomorrow holds.  If I allow my heart to dwell on what might happen, I will be useless for today.  So while I make marks on the calendar for appointments, I wake each morning determined to live right now.

now

Because, really, that’s all any of us has.