In my little sphere of the world, the beginning of 2018 has dealt out much loss. I've seen teen's lives impacted by loss and tragedy. I've seen friends saddened by the loss of other friends. I've seen churches impacted by the decisions of their leaders and the loss that it has cost.
I surveyed Jesus, His disciples, Mary & Martha, and their friends in how they dealt with Lazarus' death in John 11:1-45. I found 10 ways to deal with loss in this story. I believe these 10 are things we tend to forget when dealing with loss, but they're so beneficial for our process of grieving and moving forward. I hope this reminder is encouraging.
4 things you have permission to do when dealing with a loss...
- It's okay to cry out to God (v3).
-Cry. Scream. Weep. Vent. It is okay. God is the only one that truly understands our pain and is truly able to do something to comfort and console us. Let it out. He is the most safest place to do so.
- It's okay to not understand (vv8-13).
-You may have many questions about "why?". It is okay to not understand "why?". Sometimes the pressure to know why can cause more grief than the realization that we may never know why. Knowing why does not always lead to closure as so many people often believe. Sometimes knowing why leads to more questions that may be unanswerable, which in turn causes more grief. It is okay to not understand.
- It's okay to not be okay (v16).
-Don't rush to "get back to normal". Don't give in to the pressure to "get over it" quickly. It is okay to not be okay. Loss is crippling. Loss takes time to recover from. God gives you the permission to not be okay. Grieve. Just do so healthily.
- It's okay to be upset with God (vv21,32).
-God can handle your frustration with Him. He can handle you being angry with Him. He can even handle you expressing your frustration and anger toward Him. He already knows that's how you feel on the inside. So why keep it bottled up, giving place to the enemy to use it to turn you against God? It is okay to be upset with God. He can handle it. Guess what? He wants to handle your strong emotions toward Him so they won't control you and be used for your downfall.
6 things you must remember when dealing with a loss...
- Know that God has a plan (even for upsetting situations) (vv4,40).
-This is by far the toughest reality when dealing with a loss, and yet it should produce far more comfort than it normally does. Nothing is outside of God's sovereign plan. We may not understand how, and we may not see it right away. But for His born-again children, His plan always involves His glory and our good. The loss we will experience is temporary. The good we receive according to His plan (even from heartbreaking situations) is eternal. Trust Him.
- Know that God loves you (v5).
-"Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?...No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:35-39, NLT). Your God loves you. The loss may make you feel like He doesn't. But He does.
- Know that losses come to strengthen our faith in God (vv14-15,45).
-This may seem perplexing, because dealing with loss is not simple and we tend to question God more. Yet, oftentimes we feel closer to God when we're at our lowest, most desperate moments. For those who hold on until they make it on the other side of the loss, they discover the loss strengthened their faith in God because He was the only One they could turn to for help and comfort.
- Know that God's plan is according to His timeline, not ours (v17).
-This is crucial to remember. If we put God's plan on our timeline, then when He doesn't respond according to our timeline we begin to distrust Him. God is all-wise. His time frame is perfect. And while we don't know the when or how, and many times we wish something would happen sooner, trusting that He has our best in mind and in His time frees us from additional stress on top of dealing with the loss.
- Know that you are not alone (vv19,31).
-Not only is God always present, but He has surrounded you with a community of faith. Any believers you have in your life, they are there for support. God has them in your life specifically for moments like these. The local Body of Christ is the way God physically embraces you during the difficult days. Lean on them.
- Know that God hurts when you hurt (vv35,38).
-One of the most powerful verses in Scripture is "Jesus wept". God hurts when you hurt. You're His child. No parent who sincerely and deeply loves their child can stand by and see their child hurting and not hurt with them in someway. God's love for His children is far greater than any human parent's love. Your pain during your loss is not ignored by God. He is hurting with you. Come to Him.