I am dealing with an accusation of being overly optimistic about grief and depression and my view of healing. First, I am enough of a realist to know that when you put your opinions into writing and share them with others, of course everyone is not required to agree or to react in any kind of a positive way. Controversy and varied opinions are not only guaranteed but also a sign of a healthy society which values free speech and thought.
Second, if you have read my book, you know that I included a chapter which dealt with the extreme depression I went through after my son’s death. When I described the feeling of not only dropping into a black hole but also reaching a point where there was little to no desire to continue the struggle to climb out, I definitely was not being overly optimistic. In fact, I understand despair and desperation as well as inertia really well.
However, I have spent many, many hours studying the Bible and in particular the New Testament life and words of Jesus. I have found Him always to be both realistic about the human condition and offering better life, future hope and optimism to everyone around Him. Only when people like the Pharisees and the rich young man cling to wrong thinking and wrong ways does He rebuke them. Otherwise, He offers compassion.
I also have to say that one of the most consistently positive things I have seen in use in education, all the way from tiny tots in library Story Hour to seniors in advanced classes is a good story. Jesus is the master of the good story! He uses parables to make clear His teachings and to convey His optimistic expectations for all mankind.
The story of the Prodigal Son is an excellent example of what I am talking about. Jesus tells a very common, realistic story of what can happen with natural rebellion, succumbing to sinful nature, greed and lawlessness. But He offers the solution of a father’s forgiveness and benevolence, and offers His audience the opportunity of a welcoming future.
Bottom line, I sincerely believe that Jesus’ way offers optimism to everyone, no matter how dark their present. May He bless you richly. Amen.
The news today in Montana included a memorial to a group of firefighters who died in 1949 at the Mann Gulch Fire near our capital of Helena. People all over our state mourned when this tragedy happened, and the history of grief returns with the 50-year tribute to the men and their deaths.
Elsewhere today, people are grieving in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, where mass shootings have left many dead and many worried about public safety in our country where mental problems and use of mind-altering drugs are out of control. We hurt whenever these tragedies happen, both for those who die and for those who are directly dealing with loss of friends and family members.
So often when we think about grief, we consider it a solitary, personal thing. But today’s events remind us that grief is also a group emotion, sometimes a nationwide emotion. When we deal with personal grief, we approach it from our own understanding of our faith. Grief shared across boundaries, however, often includes people of many faiths, many levels of belief, and many concepts about eternity.
Where does Jesus enter into this shared grief? Is he there just for those who gather in a Christian church or those who say the right words? The answer is a resounding “No”. He is the Lord who died for us all, who loves us all. We Christians need to see God’s hand in every part of history, despite the fact that we know that He is not the author of our tragedies.
Through all times, He has offered compassion and comfort to all people, if they will only accept it and cling to Him when they are in need. He cannot force their belief but instead offer the rewards for that belief. What that means is that every tragedy deserves our response of grief, empathy and prayers for all suffering people. When we know that all is in His hands, we can depend on our faith for all situations and all times.
Walking with the Light of the World gives us belief in Perpetual Light, in God’s hand in all times, and in the power of belief and prayer in the face of all tragedy. Amen.
When I began this blog, I knew that writing once a week would have to work in with my schedule and my life in general, something that entails ups and downs. I also knew that I would often revive my grief experiences, just as I do when I present programs. All of these things provide opportunity for coming closer to Jesus through pain, exploration of Scripture, and deeper understanding.
What I did not expect was to be writing a blog entry at a time when fresh grief surrounds me. Today I learned that a favorite cousin is suffering from cancer which has spread and is now in hospice care. He is someone I have known and treasured my whole life, and even though I know that his Christian faith is strong and his place in Heaven is assured, I am hurting.
One horrible side effect of grief for some people is guilt, and I really feel for them. In my case, there is no guilt but there is some regret, something that I think most grieving people face at least to some extent. When my cousin’s older brother died, we had some very special time to talk, and I learned more of his belief in Jesus as well as his life in Maine.
I promised to visit him and his wonderful wife and hopefully meet more of their grown family. They had a favorite camping spot in the forest in Maine, and my love of such places drew me even more to the idea of spending time with them there. Unfortunately, my promise to him seemed to have no timeline, and it was easy to think I would make that visit someday, a someday that always seemed possible.
Instead, I must treasure that talk of some time ago and all of the contact we have had by mail, by Facebook, and by other means. Despite my regrets, I know that my cousin knows that I love him and pray for him. I can turn to Jesus’ words and be reassured that He blesses such relationships and comforts us when we grieve. Thank God for faith!
I want to share some new thoughts I have had about grief and depression recently. I think about these things often, searching for truths for myself and for others with similar experiences. Often, these thoughts on grief incorporate encouraging others to stay busy, to reach out to others, to call on the resilience which allows us to continue with life no matter how difficult our experiences.
The focus has been on the dangers of staying in the black hole which feeds inactivity, lack of ambition and coping skills. There is no question that grief and depression can suck us in and rob us of normal life. Often, people dealing with those conditions find themselves unable to do anything or even to want to do anything.
However, I am going through a period right now of the opposite, of over-activity, of frenetic dashing from one thing to another, including lots of travel. Everything I am doing is good, everyone involved is very worth my time, and the activities are worthwhile and fun. Unfortunately, all of that does not change the fact that all of this is too much.
My overly busy life made me aware that encouraging people to stay busy may be appropriate in some cases but is not the whole answer to dealing with grief or with life in general. We need to find a balance. The biggest problem with erring on the excessively busy side is that we too often don’t make time for both talking to and listening to Jesus. Then we can lose our way in all our activities and get out of step with God’s will.
Grief and depression will not be healed by avoidance, by running away in all directions instead of following Jesus’ way. Just as we can be damaged by inactivity and wallowing in grief, we can also be damaged by a lack of real answers and direction by the Savior who loves us so much.
Please join me as I pray for guidance to find that balance that allows each one of us to live a good life with God’s blessings but also to honor the grief and the loved one or loved ones whose loss has an effect on our lives.
Photography is a popular hobby, particularly during June and July when weddings and holidays and family gatherings bring people together. Photography becomes even more popular during Fair time, when displays and judging classes bring it to the forefront. Lying on my table today are a number of photographs that need to be matted for Fair competition.
Photography can also play a major role in dealing with grief, for the very reason that we take pictures when families are together or when significant events such as births, weddings and baptisms are happening. Our use of photography in that way began when our children lost a favorite pet and could go back and see him in happy times with each one of them, playing and working as a ranch dog. A picture lends itself to a story and to emotions.
Recently we attended an event with dear friends where pictures were taken. As I was adjusting the camera for a picture of their family, I became acutely aware that one person was significantly missing, a person whose sad and untimely death changed family numbers and dynamics forever. They will always be a close family, but never the same family again.
At that moment, I was in two different time frames with two different groups of people. Family and friends like us can always combine the memories with the present. Then in a moment of clarity, I saw all of us through the lens of God’s camera, He who knew us before we were in our mother’s womb and knows us throughout all of our existence for eternity.
Just as the slide show captured all the stages of our son Josh’s life at his funeral, so God holds in His hands all the stages of our lives. The scenes include many who die before us, many whom we mourn and then miss at every family occasion, many whom we would like to fit back into the picture at least for the moment, if we only had the means.
Photographs can be so celebratory and healing if we only see them through God’s eyes, as capturing a moment of life which for one reason or another we will never get back yet which is part of the whole and reason for thankfulness and praise.
I just want to continue to share ideas about grief and life with people who long as I do for comfort and understanding.