Loss is arguably humanity’s most universal experience. Every person on the planet will inevitably face loss in many forms: death, heartbreak, tragedy, trial, transition, surrender. When facing loss of any kind, it is appropriate and healthy to mourn. Mourning can be a part of any life transition—it helps us to let go of one thing in order to embrace something else.
Before college, I avoided my losses as much as possible because of their vulnerable and emotional nature. I ran away from things that were painful or difficult. I blamed others for the wounds in my life and became bitter and resentful toward those who were closest to me. I hardened my heart, put up my defenses, withdrew, and protected myself. In the face of loss, I would feel nothing. I hated the way loss affected me, so I would ignore it, shove it down deep, distract myself, and hide in counterfeit realities where everything was still okay.
It was in college that I finally surrendered all of this to Jesus. I gave him everything, knowing that it meant complete submission; it meant actually feeling the pain and weight of loss in my life. I was fortunate to have learned the practice of mourning through the not-so-tragic trials of a young college student. I mourned with Jesus over my perpetual sin habits, the idols I clung to, the attention I needed from men, the approval I needed from friends and family, my first heartbreak, my transition to a different major, my plans for a future I thought I wanted, my resentment toward people who had hurt me.
I ran to Jesus in my brokenness and allowed myself to sit with him there, in the emotion of it all. I let grief wash over me, and in that grief God taught me to feel, and to cry, and to tell him honestly why it was so hard for me to let go. He heard me, he comforted me, he spoke to me, and I slowly began to let go, to forgive, to hold my hands open to his plans, and to recover from those losses—trusting him more and more through the healing process.
When I was preparing to move from Florida back to New England for the last time, I was infuriated that God had not given me the opportunity to stay. Doors were opening back home and there was so much uncertainty for me in Florida. God was supplying for me but not in the way I wanted him to. All I saw at the time was loss: Loss of my church community, where I had just been baptized; loss of my dear college friends and roommates who had become a second family to me; loss of a place that was so beautiful and engaging; loss of whatever might have been had I the option to stay.
With fists clenched tight around this good thing in my life, I fought and kicked and screamed to keep it. I was worse than a toddler.
I pleaded with God and prayed for something, anything, to keep me in Florida. I wanted God to come through for me in the way I thought best and not in the way he knew would be best for me. Instead of trusting in his plan and his purposes, I wanted him to accept and approve of mine.
Finally, I entered into the pain, allowed the grief to momentarily overwhelm me, engaged with the reasons why this transition was so hard for me. It was then that I saw the face of my Savior waiting for me there, to show me the way, to guide me through the process of mourning toward his soon-to-be-revealed purposes. What I did not know at the time was that trusting him in this one thing would lead me to so much blessing—meeting my husband, being with my family, and serving in ministry at the camp where I first met Jesus many years before.
In everyday surrender and in devastating tragedy, it is important to identify God’s purpose in loss. If we cannot identify the good God is doing, or trust in the good he will do, we can tend toward bearing down, holding on tight, and fighting for something we think we need in order to survive. When tragedy strikes we may end up blaming our circumstances, other people, or even God for the loss that ails us. It’s easy to turn from mourning to anger, bitterness, depression, or apathy. It’s easy to turn from the brokenness and vulnerability of mourning to hardened, defensive, and withdrawn habits. It is easy because in that space we find that we do not need to process or heal.
And believe me, this is exactly where the enemy wants us to go. Because it is there that we do not hear reason and we most definitely don’t hear our Savior’s voice. It is there that deeper wounds are created, intense pain boils underneath the surface, broken relationships are formed or further injured, and we learn to cope in whatever ways we can. If you ever find yourself in that place I hope you recognize it. Seek God, seek counsel, and seek prayer. Do not be afraid to tell people where you are at. Give God the chance to lead you out of that dark place and to the light and freedom of his healing love.
Mourning is what allows us to let go, break free from the heaviness and bondage, and open our lives to God’s sovereign purpose and the transforming work that he will do in our lives through our losses.
We must step with him into those places of loss. We must learn to accept in order to mourn. We can do this by believing in his sovereignty, trusting in his graciousness, and leaning into his goodness.
In all things great and small, you have permission to mourn your losses.
In fact, it healthy and beneficial to mourn, even in the little things, because it enables us to eventually let go, heal, and move forward in God’s grace, goodness, and love. Allow God to overwhelm you in the midst of your grief. Meet with him there. Allow yourself to surrender to his divine and sovereign purposes and know that he will use your losses to bring you closer to himself.
Sometimes those moments of intense vulnerability and heartache can become your most cherished times with Jesus because it is there that he is able to speak directly to your exposed heart, and you more naturally listen for his voice above the chatter and distractions that so often keep his voice in the background. Within mourning is room for immense blessing, so mourn and see the good that God will bring out of the ashes.
Photo Credit: Noukka Signe