Grieve. Kind of a dark word. For some reason, it has found its way into more than a few things I’ve read recently. When something like that happens, I feel like I need to stop and think about it.
When I hear that word, I usually picture funerals and empty places at dinner tables and tears shed over the loss of someone who will never come home again.
But there are other kinds of grief, too.
Yesterday someone sent me an email that told me about a single, never-married friend who had to undergo a hysterectomy. Having a child had been her lifelong dream. She said that she was grieving.
Just today I was reading an article on “Chaste Christian Singleness“. It said, “Sexually chaste singles genuinely miss out on good experiences in this life, and we do so precisely because we believe God locates those particular good experiences in marriage. It’s good for us to recognise these losses, and, if and when they deeply strike our emotions, to grieve them.”
Several weeks ago there was a quote by John Piper going around social media. “Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”
So good. And so very true.
Sometimes we do need to grieve the life we hoped would be. And I think God is okay with that. Just read the Psalms and other passages of lament. We all have dreams and ideas about what our lives will look like. When they don’t turn out that way, it’s not always possible to keep smiling and box up the disappointment and act like we aren’t crushed. We can’t wallow in it, but sometimes we need to mourn the loss of the dream so that we can make room for new ones.
There’s grieving over things other than singleness or childlessness. Those are just the things I’m most familiar with. Most of us will wake up one day and realize this isn’t the life we thought we signed up for. Or at least the life we would have signed up for if there was such a thing as choosing all aspects of the life we live. We celebrate the dreams come true, the goals achieved, and the blessings that come our way. But maybe we need to give ourselves permission to grieve the unfulfilled ones as well.
God always has a plan. A perfect one. One that deep inside, we know we want above all else. But it’s okay to mourn the plans we thought were the best. Especially if they were plans we had held onto for a long time. Then, just as John Piper said, we need to get back up, wash our faces, trust God and embrace the life He has right in front of us. It doesn’t mean He still won’t provide and answer and bless, but it might look a whole lot different than what we had always imagined and longed for.
God can handle our honesty and our disappointment. He can take our tears and our questions.He knows our weaknesses and our frailty and our limited human understanding of our circumstances. And when we’re spent, He’s always right there to help us get back up and begin trusting again. I sometimes think a good cry or a good rant clears the way for God to step in and be the Comforter He’s promised to be.
So there is a grief that can happen without rainy graveside services, without obituaries and memorials and empty seats at dinner tables. Sometimes grieving is a silent, honest interaction between us and God. Sometimes it’s something we just need to do.
And then when we’re done, we need to look for that washcloth. Because there’s a whole life to embrace ahead of us. There are new dreams to pursue.
For there is hope for a tree,
If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And that its tender shoots will not cease. Job 14:7
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:18-19
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:3