“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.”
Jesus was a man of many sorrows; He was acquainted with the deepest of grief (Is. 53:3). Then it should be of no surprise that my journey has in many ways been acquainted with grief as well. If we are to become like Jesus, then the potter will use many of the same things to mold and shape us. It is not a journey I would have chosen for myself, but it is the one the Lord has used.
I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death many times, but the deaths that have been the most profound were the losses of most of my family of origin. It all began on a crisp New York day in February, when I was escorted to my home by a neighbor. As I entered the house, I heard the most painful cry I have ever heard then or since it was the wailing of my mother at the loss of her son. It was my brother Bobbie, he died in a car accident, and they said he was dead on arrival, no chance at life at the tender age of 13. He was my best friend. It was at this time that I realized that God was real, I felt His presence in tangible ways, even though I didn’t know Jesus, Jesus knew me (Psalm 139:13-16). Then I lost my father he was 50, a heart attack due to a drug overdose. Five years later my mother died she was only 50 also; she died the slow death of lung cancer. Anyone who ever has lost a mother knows how painful this is. I have a picture etched in my mind of the last time I saw her. I knew I would never see her again. I wanted every last moment with her, so I watched as her car drove away, and then I collapsed into my husband arms. I wish I could say it was over, but it was not. It was many years later around a week before Christmas when I received a phone call in the middle of the night. My brother Bernie then age 43 died of a sudden heart attack. And the most recent loss is my sweet sister Vinnie. We had been on this life journey together from childhood, through weddings and babies; through life and death, we were two peas in a pod. I held her as she lay dying and told her it was okay to leave and be with Jesus, but in my heart, I did not want her to go. I go through my history to let you know I am surely acquainted with grief.
Two ways that we can navigate this path in victory is to “Put your hope in God” and only to be “acquainted” with grief. I love that Jesus was acquainted with grief; in other words, He did not live there. Therefore, you and I must PASS through because God never intended us to live there. One way in which we can become trapped in “the valley of grief” is through regret. It’s the, could of, should of, would of’s, that dance around our heads that can cause persistent pain. The Word tells us that we are to forget what lies behind and we are to strain forward to what lies ahead (Phil. 3:13). While we will never forget the people, we love. We can leave behind the intense sorrow. We can honor them by pressing forward and living our lives to the fullest. We can do the things that they would have done and make the most of every moment, and as Scripture states, we can “redeem the time” (Eph. 5:16-18). One practical way we can redeem our sorrow is by caring for those important to our departed loved one. We can redeem our sorrows by giving to causes they supported. There are many creative things we can do.
The regrets are painful and can haunt us. I want you to:
- Be gentle with yourself
- “Put your hope in God.” Go to the Lord and pour out your heart. Tell the Lord all the things you wish you had said or done, leave it with the Lord
- Ask the Lord to remove the regret so you can be free. The truth is that we will have an opportunity to say and do all of these things in the future because you will see your believing loved one again
- Ask God to fill you with the fruit of His Spirit. Ask for the fruit of JOY because this is where your strength lies! (Neh. 8:10)
Sometimes regrets come in the form of estrangement, or being separated by the miles. Maybe because of this separation you did not do what you feel you ought to have done. There are some things we just have to let go of because we are not perfect, we have all fallen short and belonging to Jesus means He has this covered. Turn to Him and ask Him to remove this burden from you. He does not want you to live in guilt and shame.
Of most importance is the renewing of your mind in the area of grief. Do not allow the lies of the enemy to capture you. Instead, trust in God’s truth. The truth is that God will redeem all things, which mean that He will redeem all the mistakes we have made along the way. In Psalm 84:6 we are told that we are responsible in the process of grief to dig wells as we pass through the “Valley of Baca.” The Valley of Baca is a real location that had balsam-trees that would weep white drops from its branches. Baca means weeping, so as we weep we are living through an experience that God can use to love others who are passing through the “Valley of Baca” in their own time (2 Cor. 1:3-5).