A Word From Grace: Monday Edition - Grieving Part 1

It may seem strange to think of grieving as a spiritual discipline; after all, isn’t grieving just something you go through when you lose a loved one? Today, I want to expand on the definition of grieving and show the value of incorporating intentional grieving into your regular rhythms of time with God.
There are a lot of painful losses we experience throughout life aside from loss of a loved one. Let me give you just a few examples of other losses: job, friendship, home, health, ability, community (i.e. relocation), youth, opportunity, safety (threat of violence), innocence (due to abuse or mistakes), and well being.In this season, many of us are experiencing an increase of loss. To the list above you might add, missing the chance to celebrate milestones, loss of freedom, loss of certainty, loss of loved one(s), loss of financial stability, loss of security… the list goes on. Even in the best of times we experience new losses of varying degrees regularly, which is exactly why we should practice intentional grieving on a regular basis.
But what is grieving really anyway? Grieving can be defined as “expressing sorrow, hurt, or pain over loss.” When we grieve well, we experience freedom from the pain of loss. Many of us have been taught another principle, “time heals all wounds.” It sounds nice, but it’s far from true. If we “stuff” our grief, pull ourselves up and “just move on,” our pain doesn’t really go away. Instead it sticks with us and then leaks (or explodes) out of us in other ways. Pain becomes emotional numbness, bitterness, denial, and rationalization. In turn this can lead us to numbing behaviors that help us to avoid the pain that’s eating at us from within. If we’re truly going to receive healing from the pain of loss, we must grieve well.
So how do we do it? I’ll propose a practical exercise below, but in essence, intentional grieving is the practice of allowing ourselves, in the presence of God, to recognize and feel the pain of our loss and then to allow God to minister his healing power to those wounds. According to the prophet Isaiah, Jesus provides for those who grieve: “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair” (Is. 61:3). God brings healing to our wounds when we recognize and expose them before him.
About 5 years ago I sat down to do grief journaling (see below) for the very first time. A year before, a close friend of mine had taken his own life and while I grieved some when it happened, I had no idea how much pain I was still carrying around with me until I stopped to intentionally reflect. It was a messy experience; I cried for about an hour on the floor. While it was painful, it was also one of the moments in my life when I have been most keenly aware of God’s abiding, comforting, and healing presence.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4
Application: Grief Journaling
Grab a notebook or a blank word document and begin with prayer. Ask God to guide you, to help you be open and honest and to bring healing where it’s needed. Then make a bullet list of losses you’ve experienced in life big and small. Don’t filter, write down whatever comes to mind. Start with the most significant losses on your list (you may only get through one of these the first time you do this) and invite God to help you remember. If you’re verbal you may want to talk out loud to God or perhaps it would help to type out your thoughts. Again, don’t filter; just allow whatever is under the surface to come out. Be bluntly honest with God about how you feel. Then allow God to comfort you.
Practice this regularly (even weekly) until you get through all the items on your list. As I stated above, new losses occur regularly, so it helps to continue this practice on a regular basis. You may also benefit from following up to process your grief with a safe person (friend, counselor, etc.)

Sean's Picks

I learned the concepts of grieving as a spiritual discipline from Dr. Ron Walborn during my seminary days. Dr. Walborn is the dean of Alliance Theological Seminary. If this blog is resonating with you, I would highly recommend you watch Ron’s fuller teaching on the subject. You’ll appreciate his humor and compassion in how he teaches. See below:

Missions Spotlight:
Erica Blickens (Africa for Christ)

For a special video update from Erica, please see the  A Word From Grace: Monday Edition email from today (June 8, 2020). Unable to post online due to sensitive content. 
Prayer Points:
  • Personally, I remain safe and healthy in Swellendam, South Africa, in stage 3 lockdown (no interprovincial travel, exercise allowed only between 6am-6pm, no social gatherings, masks required in public, etc).
  • Mozambique has extended its State of Emergency until 30 June, so the SA/Moz international borders remain closed for the foreseeable future.
  • AFC churches still remain closed under Moz government regulations, but small groups of members are legally continuing to meet for church in homes.
  • Because our Mission School students live in community on the base, they have been able to continue with their studies with restrictions on outreach activities.  We pray that travel will be possible by mid-August when their 3-month outreach is scheduled to begin.
  • Attacks in northeast Mozambique continue as jihadist insurgents vie for the establishment of an Islamic State in northern Moz. The news we hear from the area changes, often daily, but one thing of which we are certain is that there is great fear and great suffering among many people there. Please pray for strength and courage, for the peace that passes understanding, and for the salvation of the insurgents.
THANK YOU for continuing to pray with us. We know that God is SOVEREIGN and TRUSTWORTHY and FAITHFUL to His Word. May we PRAISE Him in and through ALL things!!!

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