Grief as a Strengthening of Will

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.” C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

My beloved Dad passed away very unexpectedly and suddenly April 30th and it broke my heart. His death brought with it un-answered prayers, pain, shock and loss. Although my head knew otherwise, I had a feeling of betrayal from the Lord and was simply very wounded and downtrodden. I have journeyed with the Lord long enough that I knew in my head that He was sovereign, Jesus was sufficient, and He would keep my faith in tact. But that didn’t take away from the pain and grueling process of the last 6 months.

It has been evident every day since my Dad’s passing that my Heavenly Father loves me. He has shown His care in unmistakeable, beautiful, and powerful ways. But acknowledging these gifts in my head and thanking Him for them doesn’t always mean the heart is “in it” as well.

I have been going the motions wondering if I was ever going to be filled with the Spirit to overflowing again. Maybe as we go through enough heartache and trials – we never experience the same joy, naivety, childlike trust in the Abba as we used to? Maybe this is what maturing and growing up looks like? Was I wrong about the Lord and who I thought He was?

Through a BSF Lesson in September, I was convicted that I was to stop using my grief as an excuse for sin. As I read about the sins of Ancient Israel, the Lord gave me fresh eyes to see that I had really fallen into habits of complaining, being impatient, irritable, being quick to be angry and slow to listen. It was time to come into agreement with the Lord that even when we are hurting, He has given us the power to overcome sin. I have been so well-loved by the Lord, I truly have no excuse to lower my expectations of what His love can do in me and through me.

When He gently corrects us and opens our eyes to see behaviors that are dishonoring to Him and hurting others, we must come into agreement with Him that these sinful behaviors ARE sin. Sin is sin. No matter the situations or feelings that led us there. And He desires better for us. As I was processing this, a wise elder in my life spoke an encouraging truth that, “heartache and processing grief is not something we can fix in ourselves”. YES! I had not even realized how much I was trying all different solutions and formulas and tricks to make myself *feel* less sad (so that I could stop sinning so much).

Finally a post from Dr. Brown who is one of my favorite teachers caught my attention and I took a screenshot and believed there was something in it for me. I kept coming back to it and reading it every so often.

It was titled, “How can we get out of a spiritual rut?” And the part that stuck out the most was: “all of a sudden we wake up.  We take inventory of our lives and are shocked.  We have been living according to the desires of the flesh. We have hardly denied ourselves at all….. we look at ourselves and grow sad.  We remember how real God was to us….How should we respond?  We must fall on our faces and pray.  We must make a radical change in our schedules.  Put down the phone turn off the TV etc”

Finally one day I was ready and got on my knees and poured my heart out to Abba. Oh Lord I agree with you, that you have loved me so much better than this and I have been acting sinful. I will no longer say to my loved ones, “You all just have to have grace for me. I am sad”. I repent and I trust you to take care of me and help me live well-loved. I know you will help me process WHY I’m sinning. You will let me reason with you and get to the roots of why I’m being tempted to satisfy the flesh or be ungodly. But I won’t use the WHY of my behaviors to try to excuse the behavior. I will agree with you on what sin is. I know that YOU have excused me from punishment and condemnation and shame. I know that You have excused me from the power sin has over me…. you’ve taken on all the excuses – so I don’t need any. Help me not pick any up! I know you can help me Lord. So please do take away my sadness. Help me get my emotions under your reign. Help me live well-loved. Refresh and revive me Father and give me back the JOY of the Lord.

Nothing visibly powerful or supernatural appeared to have happened as I got off the floor. But I had given it over to the Lord. He had given me the strength to WILL myself to desire HIS WILL. I was ready to let go of my excuses. And a little while later on a quiet Monday morning, the Lord allowed me to experience a revival of my spirit and a refreshing in my heart.

From my journal that Monday morning:

Oh Lord. I feel and sense your undeserved love and care. I sense your sweet and gentle spirit like a whisper comforting me and healing me. You ARE HIGH ABOVE and HOLY and INCOMPREHENSIBLE and MIGHTY and worthy of such holy reverence and awe… but you ARE also My Abba. Gentle Shepherd. My Father that tenderly cares for me and has loved me ever since you created me. Through random messages you had me digging into my Bible and directed me right to a deep lesson you had originally given me when I first came to saving faith and understood you as Abba. You brought back memories I hadn’t thought about in so long and had me reflecting on the sweetest thoughts that I had truly forgotten.

I know you were telling me… that I AM your daughter and you ARE exactly who I have experienced you to be – my Abba. You reassured me that all the ways you’ve revealed yourself to me were and are true. You ARE STILL my affectionate gracious and trustworthy Father who has loved me so well, forever and whose character I can trust. Thank you for letting me FEEL what I know to be true. Even when I don’t understand, I trust your character. You are good. You are trustworthy.

For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Isaiah 57:15

Emotions are a gift from the Lord. We should not discount them or try to ignore them. He desires our affections. He desires us to recognize and feel emotions. I am grateful that I didn’t try to ignore my feelings in this grief process through busy-ness or suppression. I am grateful He didn’t allow me to numb the feelings through lesser things. Feelings are a gift and can be used as cues to continually run to Abba and speak with Him and walk out this faith journey well. But they are fickle and they are to be put under His Lordship and they are not to be trusted to reign and rule. He does desire us to use our mind and our will in our walk as well as our emotions. Finally, I understood the lesson once again: I am not to seek feelings. I am to seek the Lord and give up trying to fix myself and feel better. Trust and obey. Will yourself to give up what you’re trying to hold on to or manage…. and just cling to the Lord. Give up the “self care” and surrender the self to the Lord’s care. Matthew 16:25

And this is how grief can be a strengthening of the will. It’s a process. It’s the will to keep on walking no matter what we *feel*. In our heartache and bitterness and depression, we simply give Him our will to desire His will. We give up trying to feel better or fix ourselves. We give Him our negative emotions and ask Him to help us not take hold of them again especially if they have become a (counterfeit) comfort, a crutch, an excuse, or (counterfeit) friend to us.

I am convinced that we are so spiritually bankrupt in ourselves that we can’t even MAKE ourself *desire* His will. But we can will / determine that we are willing for Him to change us and change our desires. We will ourselves to seek Him. We don’t wait until we desire His will. We don’t wait until we feel like seeking Him or obeying Him. We will ourselves to cry out to Him. We will ourselves to hand over our bitterness anger or heartache. And then we wait…. and the feelings and reviving of heart mind and emotions do follow in His time and way.

Grieving is a process and the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and desires to walk us through it. When we surrender our mind emotions and will to Him, He will use this grief process to strengthen us.

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