Friday, June 3, 2011

The Providence of this Grief

Let me “quickly” share an observation on the wonderful intentionality of God's plan. While I would rather not speculate, I believe this is a valid observation. As some of you may or may not know, this past fall I was briefly dating a very nice guy. Most of the details are not very important at the moment, except what I’m about to share. God is sovereign, He knows all things, and He knows what is good and helpful for us. Close to the time we started dating, he had recently lost someone very close to him and was going through an intense season of grieving, praying, hoping, and trusting in God.

The topic of death had never quite arose in my life, and therefore I was pretty clueless. Well, being the supportive friend that I try to be, I spent a lot of time researching grief, death, mourning, how we cope, and how we glorify God through the process. Literally pouring over books, blogs, articles, the Bible, all so that I could care well and be a godly encouragement to him.  Many of our conversations were a process of honestly talking through what it meant to trust in God despite this heart breaking situation. I really respected his openness with me and I truly was blown away at how he desired even more so to remain faithful to Christ. We talked, thought, cried, (and sometimes laughed) through some of the crazy responses from the people around him who were also dealing with the situation, how people approached him or avoided him, the ridiculous claims people made about the afterlife, and the painful exasperation of hurting people. We also talked about what he was thinking, feeling, and wondering. As much as I was trying to just be helpful and supportive- I was learning even more- theologically, personally, and relationally.
During this brief relationship (we have long since parted ways due to some significant theological and life differences), my heart was broken (not by him) in a good way. If you know me, I might have been considered slightly "icey" in the past, and I'm sure that those tendencies remain, but God used this situation and this relationship to soften my heart, teach me a lot about compassion, and help me see that grieving is ok.

I have probably cried more in the past year than in the past 20 years of my life. 

Not that crying is some sort of pedestal landmark, but for me it is a real advancement to show emotion in such a visible way. It is a healthy and biblical thing in fact. The Bible, in Romans 12:15, literally says "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." When we are able to share the emotions of others, we offer a means of comfort and showing that we care. 
Last fall, I was also in a psychology course where we discussed the stages of grief and how people handle it. We learned that everyone deals with things differently, but that there are also common themes. These are called the Kubler-Ross model and include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Kubler-Ross made it important to note that not everyone will work through these stages in a linear fashion, and that in fact, some might skip some of them totally. I've skipped a few of them totally and spent more time in some as opposed to others.

Isn't all of this so ironic? No.... Isn't it intentional? It's providential! Little did I know that less than 3 months later (exactly six months ago), my dad would unexpectedly die, surrounded by unfulfilled hope, pain, hurt, confusion, and unforgiveness.

Had I been newly confronted with the idea of grief and suffering at that point, I would have been practically incapable of wading through the mire, but God spent all fall preparing me for what was to come. I am sure that without this “training,” there would have been some sort of horrible faith and life crisis happening with me. But I was literally schooled on death so that when it ripped it’s way into my life, I would know how to handle it and how to biblically think through it.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no breezing through this situation. It continues to be difficult. It was heart breaking to lose my father. I didn’t think I was prepared. Guess what though, my dad dying is not some sort of "plan B" situation that caught God off guard. I know that God cares for me. I know that I must trust in Him, and that He does what is best. Through this situation, I have also learned so much more about how God is my perfect father.

 People told me that I should be cheerful that my dad is gone, that I should not be sad, he is in a better place perhaps! They said the same kinds of things to my friend, and we had conversations discussing that that isn’t necessarily the truth. Yes, for some there is peace in knowing that there is an after life. But death is not natural. It is a result of the fall of man into sin, it is a perversion of life and creation.

It is okay to mourn this unnatural situation, and realize that this is not how things are supposed to be.

We must realize that while we were all trapped in this unnatural sinful rebellion- God sent his son on a rescue mission to save us. He took the punishment that we deserve for this rebellion, and conquered sin and death so that we might live in freedom, freely relating to God as our father. Death is not the end.

We can make two choices in our life that will direct where we go after we die on earth. We can turn from our sin and place our faith in God, and we spend eternity with Him and his goodness. Or if someone rejects God, they spend eternity in a place that equals out to everything "not good," in fact, horrific pain and evil. This is justice. A crime against an infinite God demands infinite punishment. In his love he provided his son to take our place in the court room, and if we reject this love- we get the just punishment. Friends, accept God’s lavish love. I wish I knew if my dad had.

 I can ask "why did God let my father die," until the cows come home.  But the answer is really: God, why have you allowed rebellious human beings who are born despising you, to live so long? Because of our sin, we deserve death. God is gracious. He gives us the chance for life. He knows what is good for us, and what will cause us to grow. He knows what will bring Himself glory. In His sovereignty, God was gracious to order my life in a way that persevered me in glorifying Himself. 

Next time you go through a situation and you think "what was the point of that (relationship, situation, hurt, class, etc)?" Just think, a short relationship that taught me about grief, it was God's wonderful gracious providence. I am thankful.


Jake said...

I'm encouraged by this. Thanks for posting.

Alissa:Adventurer said...

Jake, Thank you for reading it and sharing!

Caleb Wilde said...

Well said ... beautiful thoughts!

Alissa:Adventurer said...

Thanks for reading and commenting Caleb!

Art By ASM said...

I just want to say this was an amazing read for me. I lost my father 3 years ago with cancer only after 3 months of when my son was born. I can understand some of your feelings. I feel to this day an emptiness that I don't think will ever be filled. My husband lost his father about 8 years ago and his reaction was completely different. So when my father died I don't think my husband could relate to my grief. I leave it to being raised differently. Your post really was felt and made me think a lot. Although my dad was dying, his death was unexpectedly. So everyday I feel undone. Thank you though because your post did provide some comfort that I am not alone in certain feelings.