Growing through Grief

by Pastor Dan

    Many people have said that a holiday is the hardest time after you have experienced a loss or hurt in your life.  Well, that statement is very true.  Even though I have a strong relationship with my family and a wonderful support system at my church, this statement rings very true.  It makes my heart heavy for those who don’t have that family and community support.
     Over my thirty-plus years as a pastor, counselor, and mentor, I have noticed some challenges that hinder people from dealing with their feelings and embracing their struggle with the holiday blues.  I have written in the past about the wrong things to say to a person that is hurting, so I will not talk about them here except to say that sharing a way that you deal with your grief is not a proper response unless the person asked you for your opinion or belief.  Our personal experiences with grief do not necessarily carryover to someone else.  
     Struggling with your own grief or being a friend to someone who is grieving is not a new issue.  These topics are found in many counseling or self-help books.  While I am not trying to make a counselor out of every person, I am saying that when we learn to deal with our own grief, we can become more compassionate to the grief others are dealing with.  The best way to do that is to find ways to strengthen yourself and then seek to encourage others by meeting them right where they are at.  I encourage you to set some personal goals to improve you.  Classes at church or a nonprofit that helps the community are two good ways to start learning.  
     But let’s get back to the things that I have noticed and learned over the years.  A habit of self-protection or self-preservation has two sides to it.  On one side, it is good for us to be aware of something that will injure our mind, will, and emotions.  On the other hand, there are some things in life’s struggles that are good to learn even though it hurts.  Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to sift him as wheat and then went on to tell Peter that when he went through that sifting, to come and encourage the others (Luke 22:31-32).  Jesus was aware that Peter was going to learn something about himself in this challenge and desired that it would change Peter and those around him.  There is a saying that situations can make you bitter or better.  Allow God to make you better so you will not live a bitter life.
     Herein lies the challenge that prompted me to write this article:  I have found that people lose trust in God when things happen to them.  When you lose trust in a person, it then becomes very hard to listen to them.  A loss of trust leaves a person with questions like:  God, why did you let this happen?  God, why are you doing this to me?  God, what did I do to deserve this?  
     I have seen people who don’t feel like they are forgiven or feel like God is mad at them.  People often lose hope when this happens or turn to perfectionism as a way of trying to control things that they are not even able to control.  One of the most powerful statements that Jesus made in His conversation with Peter was that He (Jesus) had already prayed for him.  Prayer is a powerful tool to bring about change in our lives and to those around us.  
     The second most powerful thing is relationships.  So today, I encourage you to strengthen your relationship with God and others and become that compassionate person who is willing to help someone who is struggling with mistrust and doubt.  Here at New Life of Currituck, we will be digging deeper into the topic of grief as we enter the new year.  Know that we are praying for you.
Pastor Dan