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Grief and Grace — Sorrow in the midst of God's work
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By Wanda Pratt

Grief is awful. There is no other way to describe it. Your whole life has just been shattered by the loss of a loved one. No matter if it is family or friend, your life has been permanently changed. Your life will never be the same again. A hole has been ripped in the fabric of your life. It might have happened suddenly like when you fell off your bike as a kid and ripped your pants. It might have happened slowly like the gardener whose pants just wore out from use. Nevertheless, the fabric of your life is forever altered.

Just like your ripped pants, there are a few ways to deal with your loss. It seems to me that you can either try to fix it yourself or let God do the mending. As usual, when we try to fix things ourselves, sometimes we make things worse. When we let God lead us in the mending, often something beautiful results.

Two of the ways we often use to 'fix' it ourselves are to either pick at it or patch it. When we pick at it and pick at it and pick at it, it becomes a huge gaping hole and your life becomes consumed with your sorrow. The hole just gets bigger, more ugly and noticeable and our pants, or our lives, become unusable. It is the total focus of our lives. When this happens, we are not focusing on God at all, only on ourselves and our sorrow. For some people it becomes constant self pity and a way to manipulate everyone around them into getting their own way in every situation. Not the sort of person God wants as a representative on this earth.

When we put a huge patch over it that often just calls attention to our grief and the cause of the patch, becoming the focus of everyone we have interaction with. Some patches sort of blend in, others are very bright and obvious patches over the holes in our lives. Again, it becomes the focus of our whole lives. It is impossible to ignore the fact that we have lost someone important to us. In every decision we make, every situation we encounter we face with the idea that everyone needs to know how terrible we feel. Others can't get close to us because all we project is this patch over our pain. Our patch has become a huge wall that no one can overcome.

The good news is, if we trust God to lead us through this terrible time, He can make something beautiful and useful out of the tragedies of our lives. Sometimes God helps people carefully weave their life back together again, sort of like people used to darn socks. The spot where the hole was is very carefully and lovingly woven back together and the area made stronger. Threads of habit, customs and everyday living are woven anew and make the fabric of your life stronger. Then you can be a blessing to others too, as you continue to be useful in their lives.

Sometimes he chooses to embroider around it, and weave the loss into the fabric of our lives. Then it becomes part of a beautiful pattern that enriches the world around us sort of like Cutwork Lace. This is not in any way easy but it is a choice. Every time you think of your loved one, you chose to think positively and lovingly instead of hatefully and resentfully. You decide to thank God that you had opportunity to have that person as part of your life for a while.

Every time that loved one isn't at the other end of the phone or is missing from your dinner table, you make a choice of how you honour their memory. Will it be by sorrow or by gladness that you had them for a while and enjoyed the gift of them?

We might look to Jesus to see how He handled the grief in his life. The first example of it is when his friend Lazarus died. We see that Jesus wept . That is also our first reaction. We weep too and are sad. Then he went on to do what only He can do — he raised his friend from the dead. As Christians we believe Jesus can also raise our loved one from the dead, but he raises them to a heavenly existence, not an earthly one. This is hard for us. We want to see them in the flesh, eat with them, play games with them, and visit with them. Maybe it is some comfort to us that instead they are doing that with others who have gone to heaven before them and with Jesus and His angels.

As Christians, we also know that some who wanted nothing to do with Jesus on earth won't be spending eternity with Him either. It is hard for us to comprehend this, but we must remember that Jesus is ever the gentleman and won't force himself into anyone's life if they don't want Him. He gave them free will, the choice of allowing Him into their lives. As loved ones, we hate this and wish it were different, but can't deny that it was God who gave them the choice and God who honours it. He is the one being rejected.

When this happens or when we aren't sure of our loved one's response to Jesus, we are left with a dilemma. Now what do we think of the grace of God? If our loved one isn't with Him, where is our loved one? Will we see them again? What about our own eternity? All we can know is that God promised to wipe away the tears of those who love Him and follow Him. We can trust the grace of God in our own life and our own hereafter. We can trust that God will do what is right for our loved one and for us. We trust God's Heart, not our own feelings.

It is hard to turn the page on the calendar and leave your loved one in the previous month or year. Here we are at the beginning of another year — turning the calendar. We are leaving our loved one in last year. We are moving on. It is hard to do, but we must. It is the beginning of healing. It is the beginning of allowing God to weave our lives back together or embroider something beautiful in the fabric of our lives. And with that we light this candle to mark the occasion.