Resilience

On a recent Sunday morning, the senior pastor at the church I attend mentioned a new book he has been reading titled, Resilient (2022), by John Eldredge, a New York Times bestselling author, counselor, and President of Wild at Heart,” which is “a ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God and recover their own hearts in God’s love” (quote source inside back cover flap for Resilient”). 

Two days ago I was shopping in a Hobby Lobby store, and among the Christian books being sold (at up to 50% discount) near the front checkout counter area, I noticed a copy of Resilient and I decided to buy it. I have previously read books by John Eldredge and his wife, Stasi, who is also an author, and my interest was piqued by the very positive comments regarding this latest book by John Eldredge as stated by the senior pastor.

preview of Chapters 1 & 2 (in PDF–52 pages) is available online at “Wild at Heart at this link. Amazon.com provides the following information on Resilient:

The human soul has a built-in yearning for joy and beauty and all good things. But that craving for life has taken a real beating in the last few years. Join New York Times bestselling author John Eldredge as he gives you the tools you need to follow Jesus’ path of supernatural resilience so you can reclaim your joy, strengthen your heart, and thrive through the storm.

Between false promises of ease and comfort on one side and the sheer trauma of global disease and disasters on the other, people today are facing a shortage of peace, happiness, and strength. In “Resilient,” Eldredge reveals a path toward genuine recovery and resilience through Jesus himself.

Drawing on wisdom from Scripture and Christian tradition, and illustrated throughout with powerful, true stories of grit and survival, “Resilient” will help you:

    • Recover from the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Tap into the river of life that God promises his people
    • Learn to be patient with yourself–genuine recovery from spiritual and emotional trauma takes time and intentionality
    • Create a plan to foster resilience in your day-to-day life
    • Discover deep wells of freedom and strength through Christ who lives within us

Thriving requires a resilient soul. This book will help you find the resilience you long for when the world has gone mad–and discover in Jesus himself the strength that prevails. (Quote source here.)

I’m looking forward to reading the entire book over the next several days, and to pique your interest in this book, as I mentioned above, the first two chapters in the book are available to read online at this link.

So let’s take a closer look at what it means to be resilient. EveryDayHealth.com defines resilience as follows:

Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Being resilient does not mean a person doesn’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Resilience involves the ability to work through emotional pain and suffering.

Resilience is important because it’s needed to process and overcome hardship. Those lacking resilience get easily overwhelmed, and may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Resilient people tap into their strengths and support systems to overcome challenges and work through problems. (Quote source here.)

From a biblical perspective, what does the Bible have to say about the subject of resilience? GotQuestions.org provides the following information:

Resilience is the quality of being able to adapt to stressful life changes and “bouncing back” from hardship. Resilience is a response to tragedy, crisis, or other life-altering changes that allows us to move on despite the loss. Showing resilience does not mean that a person is unaffected or uncaring about the life change. Resilience is the human heart’s ability to suffer greatly and grow from it. We see examples of national resilience, such as the United States showed after the events of September 11, 2001. We observe personal resilience every day in people who suffer handicaps, deaths of loved ones, and other losses. When people refuse to give up on themselves and the world, even after misfortune, they are being resilient.

Resilience is the biblical norm for Christians. The Bible contains many admonitions to press on (Philippians 3:13–15), overcome hardship and temptation (Romans 12:21), and persevere in the face of trials (James 1:12). It also gives us numerous examples of people who suffered greatly but continued to follow God’s plan for their lives. Proverbs 24:16 could be seen as the theme verse for the resilient:

Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

Paul showed great resilience after his life-altering encounter with Jesus (Acts 9). When he was transformed from religious Pharisee to radical Christian, many were not happy with his message. He was beaten, stoned, criticized, jailed, and nearly killed many times (2 Corinthians 11:24–27). One incident especially shows Paul’s exceptional resilience. In Lystra in Asia Minor, he was stoned, dragged out of town, and left for dead, but, when his enemies left, Paul simply got up and went back into the city (Acts 14:19–20). His missionary endeavors continued unabated. Godly resilience enables us to be undeterred from our mission, regardless of the opposition.

In the Old Testament, Job demonstrated great resilience, and God honored him for it. After losing everything, Job was in great agony of soul and body, yet he refused to curse the Lord or give up: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). Later, when the suffering intensified, Job’s wife counseled him to “curse God and die!” (Job 2:9), but Job would not even consider such a thing. Despite his suffering, Job knew that God was in control, and that knowledge helped him maintain resilience instead of giving in to defeat. His faith resulted in resiliency.

The believer in Jesus Christ is upheld by God’s power and so is naturally resilient. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). Christians keep bouncing back. The key to resiliency is faith in the Lord:

The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37:23–24).

One enemy of resilience is the incorrect assumption that we know how things will end. When a situation seems out of control or does not appear to be headed in the right direction, we tend to write “The End” over the story. We think we know the final result, so, instead of exercising resilience, we give up or take matters into our own hands. Proverbs 3:5–6 is a good passage to cling to whenever we can see only disaster ahead:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not to your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he shall direct your paths.

Choosing to trust in the Lord rather than rely on what we understand is the best way to stay resilient. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on February 5, 2021, titled, Resilient Faith,” by Sharon Hazel, who blogs at limitless-horizon,” she writes:

In our Western society faith, so often, is an easy choice. We have the freedom to go to church, to read our Bibles, and to talk about our faith without fear of recrimination. But what happens if our comfortable world is shaken in some way? What happens when our choices are restricted or reduced? Will our faith remain steadfast?

Faith is not just about what we know, but in trusting in what we don’t know. Unless we acknowledge that tension, we will never stand firm when second choices threaten to unsettle us.Jeff Lucas, in his book, “Singing in Babylon

Resilient faith is based on the knowledge and experience of a steadfast, true and unchanging God. When we live out our lives depending, not on the strength of our faith but on His faithfulness.

Three Ways to Build Resilient Faith

1. Acceptance of God’s Sovereignty

Resilient faith flourishes not because of the circumstances that we are in, but despite the circumstances. The acceptance which changes the “if God blesses, I will worship Him” to “though I do not understand, yet will I worship.”

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.Habakkuk 3:17-18

This is a beautifully poetic passage from Habakkuk. And reflects one of the greatest declarations of faith in Scripture. The decision to worship God for who He is, our Lord and Savior and to accept His Sovereignty. When we are willing to submit our will to the Lord and trust in Him through our trials we can find peace of mind in daily life. A strength that develops through focusing, on the eternal rather than the temporal, and trusting in the love of the Lord.

2. Choose our attitude

We build spiritual resilience when we cultivate gratitude. When we are thankful for what we have, rather than focusing on what we have left behind or on what we feel we are missing.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus1 Thessalonians 5:18

We are resilient when we choose to live in the presentWhen we are willing to adapt and learn from the situation we are in, even when it is not to our choosing. Last year brought challenges with the restrictions that were placed on corporate worship. We then had a choice in how we responded. Were we willing to actively find other ways to connect and worship together. Or would we cling to what we had before, and miss out on a new experience in the present.

3. Walk humbly with God

We accept God’s Sovereignty and give thanks in all circumstances when we maintain the integrity of our faith. To walk humbly with God, reflects our dependence on Him and prayer is the key. Engaging constantly in conversation with God, for “pray continually” comes before “give thanks in all circumstances.” We bring our prayers and petitions to God, we talk with Him and listen for His direction and guidance and receive the strength that we need. God’s grace is sufficient and as we are inspired by His grace we are not intimidated by our circumstances!

Habakkuk completes his prayer, his declaration of faith with the confidence, that with the Lord we can rise above our circumstances:

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.Habakkuk 3:19

Resilient Faith demonstrated in the Bible

Scripture is full of examples of those who demonstrated resilient faith in their lives, such as Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Peter, Paul, and John…. Those who through immense trials and difficulties showed that we can, not only survive but, thrive where we are planted. For we are all, to a certain extent, “exiles” on earth when our citizenship is in heaven.

In his book,Singing in Babylon–Finding purpose in Life’s Second Choices,” Jeff Lucas [author, speaker, and senior executive pastor at Timberline Church] explores and develops the theme of second choice lives.

Life is never perfect. As Christians we need to move on from the myth that following Jesus will always give us what we want, our first choice. And that second choices are those situations, very real and painful, that we find ourselves in which we never would have chosen.

Even in chaos, God has a plan and purpose. He works with the found and seeks the lost.Jeff Lucas

The book focuses on Daniel and his friends and their lifelong exile in Babylon. The author skillfully interweaves their experiences with relevant application for our lives today. The godly principles that Daniel and his friends displayed while living out their lives in exile, brings a challenging message. When all apparent choices had been forcibly taken from them, they resolved to live their lives in worship to God, even when in a strange land.

We too can build resilience into our faith, when we trust in God through the unfamiliar and unknown. And we may find, just like Daniel, that the place of suffering can be a place of refinement and growth, where we develop a resilient faith. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words of Paul found in Romans 8:38-39For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God…

That is in . . .

Christ Jesus . . .

Our Lord . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stand in Faith” by Danny Gokey:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Power of Persistence

I don’t need to tell you that 2020 has been a challenging year so far here in America, and to top off everything else that has already occurred and is still ongoing, a very heated and divisive Presidential Election is only 62 days away.

Three words keep coming to mind when I think about all that has already transpired this year. Those three words have very similar meanings, and they are: (1) resilience (the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back and grow despite life’s downturns); (2) perseverance (continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition); and (3) persistence (the act or fact of stubbornly continuing to do something; the act or fact of continuing to exist longer than usual).

In a word search on Google using these three words, one of the first links I came across was this short devotion published on December 28, 2017 titled, Faith Produces Persistence,” by Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention that is the sixth-largest megachurch in the United States (source here). Here is that devotion (note: all three of those words stated above show up in this devotion):

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT).

Faith unlocks the promises of God, it shows us the power of God, it turns dreams into reality, and it gives us the power to hold on in tough times.

God doesn’t always take you out of the problem. He stretches your faith by taking you through the problem. He doesn’t always take away the pain. He gives you faith-filled ability to handle the pain. And God doesn’t always take you out of the storm because he wants you to trust him in the midst of the storm.

I remember reading the stories of Corrie ten Boom, a young Dutch Christian who helped many Jews escape the Holocaust before being sent to Nazi concentration camps. After World War II ended, she said that the people who lived through those camps were those who had the deepest faith. Why? Because faith gives you the power to hold on in tough times. It produces persistence.

Study after study has shown that probably the most important characteristic you could teach a child (and that you need in your own life) is resilience. It’s the ability to bounce back. It’s the ability to keep going. Nobody goes through life with an unbroken chain of successes. Everybody has failures and mistakes. We all embarrass ourselves. We all have pain. We all have problems. We all have pressures. The people who make it in life have resilience.

Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to resign as pastor at Saddleback Church? Just about every Monday morning! I say, “God, it’s too big. It’s too many people, too much responsibility. I’m not smart enough. What am I supposed to say to that many people? Get somebody else who can do a better job than this.”

Yet God says, “Keep going.”

Where do you get the resilience to keep going? Faith. It’s believing God could do something at any moment that could change the direction of your life, and you don’t want to miss it, so you keep moving forward. It’s believing that God will give you exactly what you need when you need it as you learn to rely on him to accomplish his purpose in you.

This is the testimony of Paul, a great man of faith: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT).

What is God’s purpose of adversity in your life?

How has faith helped you persevere through a difficult time in your life?

Faith doesn’t always take you out of the problem. Faith often takes you through the problem. How will this truth shape the way you respond to the problems you face right now? (Quote source here.)

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should “always pray and never give up” in the form of a parable titled, The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” Here is that parable from the NLT:

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

GotQuestion.org states the following regarding this parable:

The parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1–8) is part of a series of illustrative lessons Jesus Christ used to teach His disciples about prayer. Luke introduces this lesson as a parable meant to show the disciples “that they should always pray and never give up” (verse 1, NLT).

The parable of the widow and the judge is set in an unnamed town. Over that town presides an unjust judge who has no fear of God and no compassion for the people under his jurisdiction. In the Jewish community, a judge was expected to be impartial, to judge righteously, and to recognize that judgment ultimately belongs to God (Deuteronomy 1:16–17). Thus, the judge in this story is incompetent and unqualified for the job. Justice was not being served.

A needy widow repeatedly comes before the judge to plead her case. According to Jewish law, widows deserve special protection under the justice system (Deuteronomy 10:1824:17–21James 1:27). But this unjust judge ignores her. Nevertheless, she refuses to give up.

Eventually, the judge says to himself, “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” (Luke 18:4–5, NLT). The widow gets the justice she was seeking. Then Jesus explains His point: if an uncaring, unfit, ungodly judge answers with justice in the end, how much more will a loving and holy Father give what is right to His children?

We do not always get immediate results when we pray. Our definition of swift justice is not the same as the Lord’s definition. The parable of the persistent widow demonstrates that effective prayer requires tenacity and faithfulness. A genuine disciple must learn that prayer never gives up and is based on absolute trust and faith in God. We can fully count on the Lord to answer when, where, and how He chooses. God expects us to keep on asking, seeking, knocking, and praying until the answers come (Matthew 7:7–8). Disciples of Jesus are people of persistent faith.

The parable of the persistent widow and unjust judge is similar to the parable of the persistent neighbor (Luke 11:5–10), another lesson in Jesus’ teachings on prayer. While both parables teach the importance of persistence in prayer, the story of the widow and the judge adds the message of continued faithfulness in prayer.

Jesus presents a final quiz on the matter at the end of the parable of the persistent widow and unjust judge. He asks, “But when the Son of Man returns, how many will He find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:8, NLT). Just as Paul stresses in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, continual devotion to prayer should be a way of life. The Lord wants to know if He will find any faithful prayer warriors left on the earth when He returns. Will we be among God’s people still praying at Christ’s second coming, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10)?

Faithful, never-ceasing, persistent prayer is the permanent calling of every true disciple of Christ who is dedicated to living for the Kingdom of God. Like the persistent widow, we are needy, dependent sinners who trust in our gracious, loving, and merciful God alone to supply what we need. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on June 26, 2020, titled, The Power of Persistent Prayer,” on apastorsview.org by Dr. Jim Denison, co-founder and the CVO of Denison Forum, he writes:

2020 has been a year like no other in living memory.

It started as 1973, with the impeachment proceedings. Then it became 1918 with the coronavirus pandemic. It added 2008 (and maybe 1929) with the recession. Then it added 1968 with racial issues. None of the last three will end any time soon, and we can add the election this fall.

Psychologists distinguish between acute stress, something we experience in the face of immediate but short-term challenges, and chronic stress, which is ongoing and debilitating. Of the two, chronic stress can especially lead to depression and other physical and psychological challenges.

If you’re like me, the chronic nature of our challenges is becoming discouraging and worse. Your congregation probably feels the same way.

In this context, I wanted to share a reminder that has been encouraging me in recent days, one drawn from what is perhaps Jesus’ most misunderstood parable.

A rude neighbor

You know his story in Luke 11 about the persistent neighbor who knocks at a friend’s door at midnight to ask for bread he can serve a guest. The man’s reluctance is understandable: Common homes in Jesus’ day were one room, with one window and a door. The first two-thirds of the room was a dirt floor where the animals slept for the night. The back one-third was a raised wooden platform with a charcoal stove around which the entire family slept. For this man to get up at midnight he must awaken his family and then his animals just to get to the door.

In Jesus’ story, the neighbor gets up despite all this—the rudeness, the inconvenience, the breach of social custom—because of the man’s “impudence.” The Greek word means “shameless refusal to quit.” He simply will not go away until the man gives him what he wants. And so he does.

So Jesus concludes: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (v. 9). The Greek could be translated literally, “ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.” Practice persistence with God.

A loving father

Now, what does Jesus’ parable mean for us? First, let’s dismiss what it doesn’t mean.

Jesus is not teaching that we can wear God out if we ask for something enough. That God is the man inside the house asleep, but if we come and bang on his door loud enough and long enough, he will give us what we want. Even if he doesn’t want to, if we keep asking, eventually we’ll receive what we want.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard that very theology preached: if you have enough faith, God will give you whatever you ask for. Whether you want to be healed, or be wealthy, or anything at all, just ask in enough faith and it’s yours.

That is absolutely not the point here. Jesus is using a very common rabbinic teaching technique known in the Hebrew as theqal wahomer.” Literally, “from the light to the heavy.” Applied here, the point is this: if a neighbor at midnight would give you what you ask if you ask him, how much more will God answer our requests when we bring them to him.

They must be in his will, for his purposes and glory. This is no guarantee that enough faith will ever obligate God. It is a promise that if this man would hear his neighbor, how much more does God wish to do the same.

Why persistent prayer is so powerful

How does Jesus’ story relate to our need for persistent prayer in these challenging days?

Let’s admit that persistence in prayer is difficult for our fallen culture. Many in our secularized society are convinced that the spiritual is superstitious fiction. To them, praying to God is like praying to Zeus. If it makes you feel better, go ahead. But don’t persist in your prayers as though they make any real difference.

Our materialistic culture is also convinced that the material is what matters. Seeing is believing. You cannot see beyond the immediate, so why would you persist in doing something that doesn’t bring immediate results? If God doesn’t answer your prayer now, why keep praying it?

In the face of such skepticism, why do what Jesus taught us to do? Because persistent prayer positions us to experience God’s best.

Praying to God does not inform him of our need or change his character. Rather, it positions us to receive what his grace intends to give.

Persistent prayer does something else as well: it keeps us connected to God so his Spirit can mold us into the image of Christ. When we pray, the Holy Spirit is able to work in our lives in ways he cannot otherwise. The more we pray, continuing to trust our problems and needs to the Lord, the more he makes us the people he intends us to be and empowers us for the challenges we face.

An invitation from God

Jesus’ story invites us to define our greatest challenge as a pastor in these days. Name it before your Father. Continue to pray about it, knowing that persistent prayer connects you with his power and wisdom. Know that as you knock, the door will be opened, by the grace of God.

I walk in our Dallas neighborhood early each morning. This week, I came across a yard sign that impressed me greatly. It proclaimed: “Hope is alive. Jesus is alive!” The first is true because the second is true.

There is hope for our past because Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8) and then rose from our grave. There is hope for our present because the living Christ is praying for us right now (Romans 8:34). There is hope for our future because Jesus will come for us one day and is building our home in paradise right now (John 14:1–3).

Hope is alive because Jesus is alive. Why do you need to practice persistent prayer to him today?

It is always too soon to give up on God. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples (and that includes his followers today) in Luke 18:1

Always pray . . .

And . . .

Never give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Good Fight” by Unspoken:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

And Life Goes On

This past week I read an interesting article on longevity in a bi-monthly email publication titled, Nehemiah Notes,” by Blaine Smith, an ordained Presbyterian minister who retired a decade ago as Director of Nehemiah Ministries, Inc., which ceased operation shortly after he retired. He is also the author of several books as well as his bi-monthly online publication mentioned above. [Update Note–November 19, 2022: M. Blaine Smith passed away on June 24, 2021 and, apparently, his “Nehemiah Ministries” website which included his “Nehemiah Notes,” is no longer accessible online at the links noted above and for the article quote directly below.]

The article I read is titled, Moving Ahead After the Letdown: Finding the Heart to Make New Beginnings, and here is an excerpt from that article:

One of the most helpful insights we gain from studies of longevity is the importance of resilience. Centenarians, and others with exceptional life spans, are often those who are best able to accept loss and make new beginnings. Not that they don’t feel the pain of major disappointments and grieve them profoundly. Still, the point comes when they are able to put the past behind them and move on. And they are remarkably adept at making fresh starts, even at unlikely points in life.

Jeanne Calment was a stunning example of this resilience. By the time she died in 1997 at 122, this Frenchwoman held the title of being the world’s oldest living person with a documented birth date–a record still unbroken. Yet Calment suffered many misfortunes during her extraordinary lifetime. Pleurisy claimed her only child at 36, her husband died from eating tainted cherries at 72, and her only grandchild perished in a car accident at 36. After each crisis, though, she was able to regain her hope and “turn the page.”

At 110 she gave up independent living and moved to a nursing home, where she continued to make new friends and adjust well to her new lifestyle. She never lost her positive outlook, even in her final years–or her sense of humor. On her 120th birthday a reporter asked what sort of future she envisioned. “A very brief one,” Calment replied.

Genetics and lifestyle obviously played a role in Calment’s unusual longevity. Yet her outlook on life was a critical factor as well.

During our own lifetime, we each experience a multitude of disappointments and setbacks. They range from minor aggravations (a friend forgets a lunch date, your favorite restaurant closes) to major unwelcome turns of fate (the breakup of a cherished relationship, the death of a loved one). The experience of loss is universal–none of us escapes it. Yet the way we respond to it varies greatly among us, and radically affects our quality of life.

Some people never fully recuperate from a major loss. They feel its pain for years or decades, and carry continual sorrow over the relationship that didn’t work, the loved one who died unexpectedly, the dream that never succeeded. They had banked their hopes so strongly on this one area that life no longer has meaning without it. Grief for them becomes chronic.

At the other extreme are those with an uncanny ability to bounce back from disappointment. They may feel the pain of a loss acutely at first. But in time they always conclude that life still has important new horizons for them. They aren’t afraid to chance a new relationship or risk a new dream, and often succeed in forming deeply meaningful new attachments to people and goals. Over time their life even becomes richer because of their loss, for it deepens them in important ways.

The example of such people is so encouraging, for it helps us see that it’s possible to start over when life has knocked us flat, and inspires us to try. We should reflect on the experience of these people often, for their optimism is contagious….

Some people are natural optimists. Their ability to see the bright side of a dark situation and reset their sights after disappointment is mystifying to the rest of us, who are flattened by the same misfortune. Most of us have to work at being optimistic. We have to take decisive steps to break the spell of moods that can hold us captive for long periods. The challenge is greatest when we experience a serious loss. It can cast a dark shadow over our life from that point on, and forever color our perception of God’s possibilities for us.

In reality, we are much more capable of rebounding from major setbacks than we normally imagine. And we have much greater control over the healing process than we typically think. (Quote source here.)

In an article on the subject of grief published on January 6, 2016, titled, The Stages of Grief and How to Cope,” by Amy Jacobs, a freelance writer, on LifeWay.com, she writes:

Daddy died on Dec. 4th, and I haven’t been home since.

I’ve been hiding out three hours from his house, hoping that I could gain the courage to eventually drive home. It’s been four months. I don’t stare blankly at the wall as much as I did in the beginning.

I can now focus on assignments as I write. But every once in awhile, when I think I’m doing alright, grief sneaks up and reminds me that I’m not where I think I am—that loss isn’t OK, and neither am I.

What Is This Feeling? What Is Grief?

Even though I was there when he died, my dad’s death isn’t entirely real to me. I was with him for two weeks prior to his passing and helped care for him on weekends during the 10 months he battled cancer. But today, sitting in my cozy Nashville, Tenn., living room, the only pieces of evidence I have of his death are the legal documents I received in the mail and the nagging urge I have to call home.

Every now and then reality bounces through my head, and I’m stunned by the truth that my father died. It’s not just that I haven’t seen him in a while—it’s that he’s gone. When these moments come, I have to pick myself up and grieve again.

You may have never experienced the death of a parent, but that doesn’t mean you’ve never felt this kind of grief. Grief isn’t just related to death. Grief is an emotional and physical reaction to any traumatic or stressful loss: divorce of parents, loss of friendships, break ups, academic failures, injuries and illnesses, to name a few.

Regardless of the trauma, reactions to jarring circumstances are similar.

The 5 Stages of Grief

Psychiatrist and author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross defined five stages of grief in her groundbreaking book, “On Death and Dying.” But just like me, Kübler-Ross must have known that grief is tricky because these stages have no set order.

In fact, one may or may not experience all the stages, but everyone who grieves will most likely experience at least two. Here‘s a brief description of the five stages:

    1. Denial: This is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept the situation at hand. It’s a defense mechanism and is perfectly natural.
    2. Anger: People dealing with emotional upset can be angry with themselves and/or with others, especially those close to them.
    3. Bargaining: When you face a loss you can’t imagine bearing, you might become more willing to do anything to negotiate another way. But bargaining isn’t just for matters of life and death. Right before a break up, somebody usually says, “Can we still be friends?”
    4. Depression: When reality sets in, depression is soon to follow. Routine tasks become drudgery and emotions are exaggerated. Apathy, lethargy and sorrow are common feelings associated with depression.
    5. Acceptance: This has everything to do with learning to deal with the situation at hand. It’s most evidenced as individuals move forward and embrace life on it’s new terms. Although the grief stages may occur in any order, acceptance usually marks the end of the grieving process.

When You Feel Alone in a Crowd

In “The Little Prince,” Antoine de Sainte Exupéry wrote, “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”

He nailed it—grief is personal and private.

After my father’s death, I found myself in a room full of people I love, yet I was thinking, I’ve got to get out of here. I can’t be here anymore. I don’t want to be near these people. I need to be alone.

The people you love most in this world will want to help you grieve, but they might not know how. The best thing you can do is communicate what you need—this is appropriate and helpful. Don’t hesitate to say something like, “I need you to be here with me, but I don’t need advice or clichés. Just be here.”

Such a statement might actually relieve some of the tension and awkwardness that often accompanies condolences.

The Physical Toll of Grief

When you’re grieving, your emotions are jacked up—that’s obvious and expected. But are you dizzy, fatigued or short of breath?

Grief is such a big deal that it impacts you behaviorally, physically and psychologically. When it comes to behavior, you may find that you care a bit less about hygiene and organization, but you may care much more about waiting in lines or finding a parking spot—it’s common for irritability to be at an all-time high.

Physically, you may experience aches and pains, headaches, nausea or even hives. Psychologically, the expressions of grief may vary from feeling sad to feeling guilty. Your dreams might change, your concept of time might be loose and it’s quite common for everything to seem surreal.

For a season, you may not be able to absorb much of anything. I felt as if I swallowed the sea. I had so many emotions to work through—lots of feelings clanging around in my heart and mind‚ and I couldn’t put anything on top of it.

I had no emotional room to process. I couldn’t watch movies or TV. I couldn’t focus to read and I didn’t have the energy to think. Instead, I stared at the wall. In fact, I felt good about staring at the wall.

What the Bible Says About Grief

Today, the world says hard things are to be passed over as quickly as possible and should be avoided at all cost. But the Bible encourages us otherwise. The promises are these: Grief brings wisdom (Ecclesiastes 7:4); God is near (Psalm 46:1; 147:3); and comfort can be found (Matthew 5:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Here’s what I know for sure: Grief will show you what you’re made of, and it will show you what God’s made of—stuff that doesn’t change, leave or die. Grief has the potential to transform your life for the better. In her book “Blessings,” Mary Craig writes:

“The value of suffering does not lie in the pain of it, …but in what the sufferer makes of it…. It is in sorrow that we discover the things which really matter; in sorrow that we discover ourselves.”

Today, I’m beginning to see the gifts that grief has given me. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’m now more transparent. I’ve come to like myself more when I’m broken than when I’m put together—turns out I’m truer and kinder this way.

I’ve learned to live with contradictions. I’m both terribly sorry and grateful about the same experience. Awful has become awfully good. Living my faith in the midst of layers of grief and a season of heartbreak has been the most challenging experience of my life with God and I can say that grief is good and is a gift, continually driving me to God who brings peace and binds up my broken heart. That makes grief and all of his friends easier to live with.

How to Help a Friend Who’s Grieving

    1. Acknowledge the situation and express concern.
    2. Offer practical help—run errands, buy groceries, do the laundry.
    3. Practice the ministry of presence. Just be there. That’s all you can do.
    4. Understand that grieving is a long process. Just because your friend looks fine, doesn’t mean he or she is fine. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on June 6, 2018, titled, Bible Verses for Overcoming Grief,” compiled and edited by the BibleStudyTools.com staff, they write:

Nothing in life can prepare us for the death of a loved one. Whether death results from a sudden accident or a sustained illness, it always catches us off-guard. Death is so deeply personal and stunningly final, nothing can emotionally prepare us for its arrival. With every death, there is a loss. And with every loss, there will be grief.

Grief doesn’t come and go in an orderly, confined time frame. Just when we think the pangs of anguish have stolen their last breath, another wave sweeps in and we are forced to revisit the memories, the pain, the fear. Sometimes we try to resist the demands of grieving. We long to avoid this fierce, yet holy pilgrimage. We fight against the currents, terrified of being overwhelmed, of being discovered, of becoming lost in our brokenness.

Culture tells us to move past this process quickly. Take a few days, weeks perhaps, to grieve, but don’t stay there too long. Grieving can make those around us uncomfortable. Friends sometimes don’t know what to do with our pain. Loved ones struggle to find adequate words to comfort our aching wounds.

Yet grief, as painful a season as it is, is a necessary part of our healing. To run from grief is to run from the very thing that can quell the pain of our loss. English poet and hymnodist, William Cowper, described grief itself as medicine. Grief cleanses the anguish from our souls and sets us back up on the path of life so we can dance. Grieving is the process God uses to bring us to a place of wholeness. Grieving is His great gift to us. It is a necessary part of our journey and healing.

Grieving can be the most difficult time trying to balance the feelings of pain and loss while going forward with your everyday life. Give yourself space and time, be honest with your emotions, don’t grieve alone, and don’t lose hope. With this collection of Bible verses, we can turn to God’s word for ease and comfort as we look to overcoming grief: Revelation 21:4; Psalm 34:18; Psalm 147:3; Matthew 5:1-3; Psalm 73:26. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on June 23, 2015,  titled, 4 Things You Need to Know About ‘Moving On’ from Grief,” by Emily Long, LPC, on GoodTherapy.com, she writes:

The phrase “moving on” is common in the grief and loss world, but it isn’t very well understood or, frankly, all that helpful.

What does it mean? What does moving on look like? How does one actually do it?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer to those questions.

However, there are things it can be helpful to know about “moving on” after the death of a loved one, divorce, or other painful life event.

1. You are not responsible for how others feel about your grief process

Typically, it feels like what those around us mean by “moving on” is for us to stop hurting, stop talking about it, stop remembering, stop crying, and just stop grieving. They talk about wishing we would stop dwelling on the hurt and encourage us to just let go and accept what happened.

The truth is, what they actually want is for us to stop making them uncomfortable about our pain. Let’s face it—being with someone who is in pain and grieving isn’t the easiest of experiences. It’s difficult to watch someone we love hurting so deeply.

But other people’s discomfort with your grief is their business, not yours. You are not responsible for making them feel more comfortable.

2. Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting

I suspect that the primary difficulty many of us have with the phrase “moving on” is that it often feels as if we’re being told to forget our loved one or the relationship we once had.

That’s not what moving on means. Moving on is more about learning to live what I call a both/and life rather than an either/or life. It’s not about grieving or forgetting, happy or sad, black or white. It’s shades of gray.

It’s about learning to live a full and happy life even as you miss and long for what you have lost. It’s about remembering and honoring the one you loved while also embracing the beauty and fullness of the life you still get to live. It’s about the brilliance of your love and the shadow of your loss coexisting in this complex and expansive experience we call living.

3. Moving on doesn’t mean the end of grief, either

Moving on from grief doesn’t mean a static end. It doesn’t mean suddenly we’re done grieving and will never hurt again. Moving on is more about moving forward than being done.

Grief and loss are complex, multifaceted, and multilayered. Loss and our experience of grief are integrated into our lives, not things we get rid of. Grief changes and morphs over time. We get stronger as we carry it, the edges of it round and dull, and with time it begins to take up less space in our lives. It doesn’t simply disappear. Grief can (and will) continue to remind us of our loss throughout our lifetimes, in different ways and at different times.

We move forward with life, embracing the fullness of it, even as our loss becomes part of who we now are.

4. Ultimately, you get to define “Moving On” for yourself

People will have all kinds of advice and well-meaning intentions about how you should move on, when you should do it, and what it should look like. They, however, cannot determine that for you.

There are no timelines or rules to the grieving process. You will move through it at your unique pace and not one minute faster. The process of grieving is unique to each of us. No amount of pressure from others can make us move through our process any faster, not in any kind of healthy way.

Only you can know when you are ready to move forward after your loss. Only you can decide what it means to let go or accept the loss you experienced. Only you can truly decide what it means to move on and move forward.

Whatever that looks like for you, it is perfect and right. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with a verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount taken from The Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:4

Blessed . . .

Are those who mourn . . .

For they will be comforted . . . .

NOTE: I had a reason for writing this blog post, and you can read it on a blog post I published three days later on my other blog titled, A Eulogy for Dad.”

YouTube Video: “Talladega” by Eric Church (“Talladega” video makes a visual out of a song that is about a lot more than racing. The clip spans one man’s entire lifetime while he lays in a hospital bed, reminiscing before his death–longer explanation available at this link):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here