Sunday, 28 February 2021

T To Your Health

The Problem with Holidays

for Those Who’ve Lost a Loved One This Year


When we’ve experienced a significant loss, it is only natural to become so preoccupied with what has happened that there is no energy to focus on what is happening or to be thankful for it. This tendency can be intensified during the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and the like. In long-term grief, a perpetual focus on “what was” and even lamenting “what might have been” can prevent us from ever again experiencing the “now” of our lives because the rest of our lives slip by day by day. When this happens, we cannot gain meaning or purpose from the hope that there really is a larger story of which our life is a part. The life of our deceased loved one is also part of this larger story, but in a more finished sense than ours. The story itself is God’s story, not ours, even though we might wish, at times, to suggest a different plot to the Author.

It's not disloyal to laugh again, to enjoy the little things like the garden, wildflowers, birds, or a good meal with good friends who care about you today. It’s fine to take pleasure in the friends and family you still have, entering into their todays - including their holidays and other celebrations - and even sharing their dreams for tomorrow. Simple as this suggestion may sound, it remains one of the most difficult hindrances on the road to wholeness.

I recall how - more than six years after the death of my first son, Jonathan - a dream, coupled with the guidance of a gifted counselor in a group setting, helped me realize I needed to forgive the past and embrace the present. In my dream, a large bird crashed and burned. This was the death of my hopes and dreams for my son (and us, together). Out of the ashes arose a butterfly - his new life with God forever. As we discussed the dream, I began to "see" my son's face, and I thought about what he might say to me, things like: "I love you. I'm sorry you hurt so much. Don't be afraid to live again and love again and be happy again." Many years later, sitting by his grave, I “heard” that same message again, and finally I was ready to follow his advice. If Jesus were here, he might say something similar to you.

But Jesus is here.

He is the Lord of now.

As the great "I am," he was not only here on earth two thousand years ago. He was here at creation, too (see John 1:1-5). He will be present at the future renewal. But the most significant thing in terms of your personal emergence from the wilderness of pain is that in every present moment of every painful day, he is here and he is Lord.

This means Jesus was here (and he was Lord) when the event occurred that brought your sorrow. He felt it with you then, and he feels it with you now. He will share that pain with you every moment of every day that you continue to carry it until (and even after) you wisely decide to cast it upon him (see 1 Pet. 5:7).

When you finally invite Jesus into the now of your pain, emptiness, and loneliness (or, more realistically, every time you "finally" do that), you will hear him gently inviting you into the now of his present peace and joy.

The peace Jesus gives has a transcendent quality, like his ability to transcend as well as enter into our realities. It "tran­scends all understanding, [and] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).

The joy Jesus gives is also transcendent, allowing us to rise above the painful realities of life while at the same time truly experiencing the pain.

The Russian proverb is right: “In life, grief flows continuously in and out of happiness, and happiness in and out of grief.”

The apostle Paul succinctly describes his journey of faith: "... dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2 Cor. 6:9-10). He’s describing a stereoscopic approach: yes, life can really, really hurt; but God is in control, and I trust him.

“Rejoice always, pray continually,” the same apostle wrote, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:16-18). How you feel about your loss is important, but just as important, if you are going to move beyond the pain, is your sense of humble gratitude to God for what he has given, what he has done, and also what he is doing.

With healing of soul - your mind and will as well as your heart - you begin to see more clearly, becoming thankful for his generosity in the past, his sustaining grace in your pain, as well as his commitment to transform that pain into ministry to others for his glory.

While we may never know the reasons why God has allowed specific events to take place in our lives, in the Scriptures we can clearly discern his overarching purpose:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:28-29).

God's purpose for us is that we become like his son - our brother - whatever it takes. And what if learning to be like him requires suffering? It should be no surprise. Jesus himself learned through suffering:

“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (see Heb. 5:8-9).

We begin to understand the sufferings of Christ - to know him more personally, and what it meant for him to hurt - as we share in those sufferings today (see Phil. 3:10) through our own pain and through hurting with others. Somehow, in the process, we are doing our part to continue his work in our world, as Paul said, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church (Col. 1:24).”

The reason you’re still here has something to do with learning obedience and becoming more like Christ. The goal of that transformation is to carry on his work by pointing people to the Father as they struggle for to find meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and joy within this riddle called life. Since there can be nothing lacking in Christ's afflictions in relation to his redemptive work, there must be another meaning, if you are to add anything to his afflictions, “for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

What is missing - now - is Jesus' personal, tangible, physical presence. What he lacks is a substitute, a representative and spokesperson to say for him, "I know that life is sometimes terribly difficult, but God is still on the throne, still working all things for the good of those who love him. So, keep the faith, and you will see that beyond the pain there is hope, and peace, and joy."

This is the purpose for which Christ has laid hold of you. The sometimes intense pain has been the pain of birth pangs - not your own, as if you could give birth to your own destiny, but God's with you, as he has walked with you, and sometimes carried you, through the darkness and toward the light again.

Just for a moment, project yourself to the end of your own life. Looking back to this very moment, what would you need to see between now and then to think of your life as fruitful for God and faithful to his calling? If you can answer that question, perhaps you're ready to move ahead, for there is no time better than the present to echo the apostle's words: "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3: 13-14).

 One way to know you are moving beyond the pain is when you begin to be willing to risk loving again, knowing far better than before the potentialities inherent in that choice. This is truly progress, a key marker on the trail that leads toward joy. Not long after my son Jonathan’s death, I expressed the difficulty of this choice in this poem:

 

Dilemma

My boy, the joy had just begun,

But suddenly your life is done

And, stunned, I, lonely, wander on

Without you, an automaton.

 

I wonder, dare I love again,

Or was our loving all in vain,

A passing pleasure tinged with pain?

Am I to live or just remain?

 

Tormented by the nagging fear

That one, once loved, will disappear,

Should I withdraw or venture near?

Is there an answer that is clear?

 

"Withdraw! Withhold!" my heart replies.

"To love again would be unwise!"

Yet something whispers otherwise,

That only loving satisfies,

Beautifies, or edifies.

 

In terms of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and the like, you have a choice: let the pain control you or use its unique power to thank God that you once had what has been lost and to find something or someone else to love in his name.

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All Scriptures used in this column are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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This column is copyrighted © 2016 by the author. All rights reserved. Its content is adapted from his books, Jonathan, You Left too Soon, and If God is So Good, Why do I Hurt So Bad? both of which are available at www.healthylifepress.com and www.Amazon.com. Wholesale orders can be made from www.springarbor.com.

His most recent book is: Away in a Manger: The Christmas Story from a Nativity Scene Lamb’s Point of View, available at www.healthylifepress.com and www.Amazon.com. Wholesale orders can be made from www.springarbor.com.


Columnist: Dr. David B. Biebel

DBiebel headshot

 

Dr. Biebel has authored or co-authored twenty books, including one bestseller: If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? and the Gold Medallion winner, New Light on Depression. His recent releases include Making God Visible and Away in a Manger: The Christmas Story from a Nativity Scene Lamb's Point of View.


His goal is to help people attain and retain optimal physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health (personal wholeness) so they can love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. He founded Healthy Life Press (www.healthylifepress.com) to help new authors with something to contribute in this arena to get their works into print.

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        To Purchase these or any other of Dr. Biebel's titles click HERE

 

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