Grieving With Hope

     Grief, deep sorrow, is part of life when you experience a loss.  Maybe you lost a long-time job, a child to the living death of drug addiction, or the physical death of a spouse.  Regardless of the loss, embracing and walking through our sorrow is crucial to wholeness.  In the Bible we are told not to grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  What does it look like to grieve with hope?  I want to use the word H.O.P.E. as an acrostic to give us a few keys to grieving well.
      H. is for Heaven.  When a Christian dies, they go to heaven, the very presence of God.  Obviously, this truth does not remove our pain, but it does give us a confidence and encouragement when we face the loss of a loved one to death.  My father’s treatment plan in an Alzheimer’s wing of a nursing home in Indiana was recently changed to Hospice status.  That he is in his final season has brought me many tears, but I cling to the fact that heaven awaits him with all its blessings.  A mind that is perfectly clear awaits.  Joints in his new resurrection body will not scream with pain as his current joints do.  He will be able to stand without assistance, walk, run and even do cartwheels if he wishes.  Even through the sadness, the certainty of heaven for dad offers moments of surprising peace.
       O. is for Others.  Lean into your community.  Counselors can be helpful. Support groups can help sustain your equilibrium.  Church family can pray and come along side you.  Isolation is not your friend.  Let people into your pain.  Those who have had a similar loss can be the most helpful.  For example, my wife and I have five healthy children; when someone loses a child I am sympathetic, but probably am not the best one to walk with them through that excruciating grief journey.  Another parent who has lost a child is a better fit.   They “get it” in a way most of us do not.  I will never forget talking to a parent who tragically lost his child.  He told me that one of the most helpful exercises for him personally was to thank God for the time he did have with his child and look at those days as precious gifts that he got to enjoy.  I think that perspective is profound.
     P.  is for the Presence of God.  When grieving, prayer is your friend.  Prayer opens us up to experiencing the presence of God.  This presence is hard to describe, but incredibly healing when experienced.  Sometimes I visualize God the Father with arms outstretched in welcome. 
      E. is Express Emotion.  God gave us emotions, and they are valuable.  Tearing up when your loved one can not remember some of your favorite family stories is understandable.  You may want to journal for a time.  There is something about writing what you are feeling that helps you heal in a healthy way.  Feel free to express even the powerful, negative emotions that you feel towards God.  The book of Psalms has many psalms of lament that may give your broken heart some words when you have none.    
     This life is painful, but God is good and loves us deeply.  Invite Him into your loss. Grieve with HOPE.  
Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church      

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