When most people hear the word “grief,” they think about the loss of a dear family member or friend to death. How awful to think that someone so special will not be a part of your life anymore, this side of eternity. My heart breaks every time someone close to me has to say good-bye in this way, although I am thankful for the hope we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that those in Christ will be reunited with loved ones who also love their Savior. My family and I have faced this type of grief. My wonderful wife lost both parents, as well as a brother and a sister. We lost beloved uncles and aunts and grandparents. Grief hit us hardest as we had to say good-bye to our precious daughter, Christina, and our unnamed baby lost in miscarriage. If you are going through such a loss right now, may God bless you with His presence and peace!
Yet, grief more often visits in the day-to-day losses that sometimes can also take our breath away. This is the grief that I am dealing with right now. After being in pastoral ministry for almost 30 years, I now find myself looking for some other type of work. I am in grief after losing the career that I devoted my life to. More importantly, I am in grief over the loss of a calling from God that has gripped my heart since I was 14 years-old. I am grieving over the loss of being the protector and provider for my family. While the small churches that I served never enabled me to make a lot of money, they were extremely generous in giving us a salary that we could at least survive on. Now we try to survive on a very small, part-time salary with no assistance from the government programs I thought were designed to help people like us. I am grieving the opportunity each day to share the truth and love of Jesus with others. I know some would say that I can still share Jesus, but the truth is I feel ashamed to say to others “come to Jesus” when they may answer, “And be like you?” I am grieving the loss of my health as I age. As I apply for hundreds of jobs in our area, I wonder if my broken body can do the duties required. I am grieving the loss of my confidence. As I am rejected from hundreds of employment opportunities, I wonder if the one voted “most likely to succeed” in high school can do anything anymore. I am grieving the loss of terrific times of prayer and fellowship with pastoral colleagues who are now no longer colleagues.
I am grieving the loss of my daughters as they grow older. I know this is normal, but I miss the times I spent with them before. We did a lot of ministry together. Now, the part-time evening job I have keeps me away from their concerts and events. Most of all, I am grieving the loss of my dear wife. No, Leah has not died. We get to celebrate 30 incredible years of marriage this November. She remains the love of my life. Yet, because of her constant physical pain and tormenting mental anguish, she does not have a fraction of the life she used to have. I know she also grieves the loss of the life she dreamed of. She is as smart and capable and gifted and devoted to Jesus as anyone I ever met, and once had dreams of sharing Jesus in cultures around the world. Her health issues prevented that, but at least we could share Him in our own land in the context of the local church. Now, as her health continually declines, no local church is ever going to give us a chance to do just that. Together, we grieve the loss of our future. What do the days ahead hold?
I say this not to elicit your pity, but to alert you to something. While I say I am grieving the loss of all of these things, I am not really grieving. You see, since I became unemployed, I have been in “survival mode.” Every waking moment is spent trying to find employment and a future. I haven’t had time nor energy to enjoy anything. And I have not had the time nor the energy to grieve. I can’t grieve. I have to survive. I wish I could have a break from survival for a time so I can simply grieve.
Maybe you know someone going through some loss right now. Please gift them with two things: your loving (most-often silent) presence, and the time to grieve. Do whatever you can to help them not just survive, but to have the time to process their loss. They need time to feel loved by you and by their Creator. I still spend time daily searching for God and His voice through prayer and Bible reading, but right now I am so numb, I don’t sense His presence much any more. But I will keep searching and seeking for my gracious Savior! I know that while I have lost much, I will never lose Him. Yet, many feeling that same numbness will give up their search. Will you give them time to find Him again?