Choosing Joy in the Midst of Loss

I.                 Stages of Grief –

(www.perfectjoyministries.com, “Online Studies”)

There is no rhyme or reason to grieving:

Ø  The Explosion – emotions go off like a bomb

Ø  The Skip – self-explanatory

Ø  The U-turn – A particular stage can be reached, and then, because we are not quite ready to process the pain, we can recede back into the previous stage. Or perhaps the fear of losing the comfortable blanket of grief will cause a reversal right back into one of the beginning stages.

Ø  The Vacillation (Indecisiveness) – Two stages of the grief cycle may go back and forth repeatedly for days, for weeks, or perhaps even for months. Just when it may seem that final stages have been reached, something new present itself, and once again, old familiar emotions will need to be worked through. Sometimes, there are layers that need to be peeled away, and only as we move to a new stage of grief, is that underlying layer revealed. So then, we need to go back to a former stage, in order to work through the newly discovered layer, before once again, moving back to a later stage of healing.

Ø  The Ricochet – Just when we were confident that the one stage had been reconciled, we find ourselves thrown back into it, unexpectedly. This occurrence can often cause devastation or depression, as we find that a stage we were relieved to have left behind, has us immersed once again.

 

 

A.     Shock and Denial – There is no sin or shame in being in an initial place of shock or denial. In fact, this is often the body’s normal response to emotions, which are too great to take in all at once. It becomes sin when we remain here, when we consciously choose to remain in this place, refusing to face the pain.  The line between the two is what each person must determine for themselves.

 

B.     Pain and Guilt – Even when you do not have reason for physical pain, it seems that mental pain often causes physical pain. Guilt is not from God. Conviction is from God, the purpose of which is repentance and restoration from the bondage of sin. But guilt that tears at us with blame and condemnation is not.

 

C.     Anger and Bargaining – Sometimes, anger feels more manageable than pain. Anger often masks the feeling of pain in our hearts. For this cause, some continue on in anger so they don’t have to feel pain. Over time this anger will become debilitating, not only personally but for the people surrounding the one harboring it.   Also, in our anger, we often lash out at those around us, in the hopes that we might hurt the person responsible for our pain. Sometimes, we believe that God has “punished” us because of something that we did or didn’t do.  Because of this, we think that if we promise to do something differently, God will change His mind.

 

D.    Depression and Loneliness – Loneliness sets in, because no one else understands the pain we are experiencing. People have short attention spans for other people’s issues. Discouragement slows you down for a little while. Depression stops everything for a long time. We sin when we allow self-pity to consume us, when our depression causes us to remain in such bondage that we no longer enter life or live in the role God has called us to live in.

 

E.     The Upward Turn – The time comes when we realize life is going to go on and we can either be a part of it, or we can stay in the endless cycle of anger, guilt, depression, and loneliness. In some ways, reaching this place often brings a new guilt. “How dare we be happy again?”  A laugh erupts, a good day happens, and a fear may creep in that we’re forgetting.  We may even be able to tell our story with a few less tears and a few more smiles. These prior stages have become our new normal, and they feel almost like an emotional shrine for the circumstances that brought them about in the first place. To leave them is to enter new, unfamiliar territory – a different life than we had before the tragedy and a different life than we’ve had while grieving.  It is the unknown of a new normal – the new normal for the rest of life, and also a new normal of ourselves.

 

F.     Working Through – In this stage we work through all the emotions surrounding the upward turn – whether fear, guilt or even the sense of losing the “security” that grief, in an odd way, has brought us.  This stage has a lot to do with “re-programming” our belief system. 

 

G.    Acceptance and Hope – “It’s not okay…but God…!” We know we have reached a healed place when our emotions find an even keel and stop bouncing all over the map – when we realize that life is finding a new normal and settling into a routine of purpose yet again.  We feel alive in a new way.  We have peace and joy.

 

II.              A Biblical Response

A.     God’s grace is sufficient for our NEEDS, not always for our wants as well. We need to learn how to prioritize and how to say “no.”

B.     We need to remember to keep looking UP, and avoid looking AROUND

C.     Anger is not always a sin. However, we can sin in our anger.  There is the righteous indignation of God, and then, there is the unrighteous wrath of man.  One is due to an injustice or a sin against the sovereign God of all, and the other is due to what we perceive as an injustice against us. The more we grow to be like Christ, the more we will learn how to respond instead of just simply reacting to circumstances in our lives, and, in time, those responses will be Godlier.

D.    We must avoid self-pity. Pride can keep us from getting the help that we need.  We do not want others to think badly of us or, sometimes, we just want the attention that depression can bring us.

E.     Instead of asking, “Why me?” you should ask, “Why NOT me?”

F.     What we believe determines how we will respond to our circumstances.

G.    We are not able to generate joy from within ourselves. We simply reflect the joy that God gives us. God redeems all pain. The pain you are experiencing right now, WILL benefit you later.

III.         Common Traps

A.     Jealousy –  

Two of the lies that we tell ourselves:

Lie #1: “I deserve…” – You believe that you deserve more or better than what you have.

Lie #2: “It’s not fair…” – God isn’t fair or doesn’t love you enough to give you what you want, or you feel that someone less deserving has what you want.

 

Truth: You deserve nothing. Life isn’t fair. However, because of his mercy, He blesses us.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16

It’s not about you. It’s all about Him.

B.     Guilt – The guilt of what we may have done or may have not done in order to create this situation. Guilt is not from God. Conviction is from God, the purpose of which is repentance and restoration from the bondage of sin. But guilt that tears at us with blame and condemnation is not. We must remember that God has the power to “over-ride” anything that we might do consciously or unconsciously. God’s is not limited by our thoughts of Him.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. Ecclesiastes 3:14

We can only do the next right thing. After that, we must trust that all things will work out for our good and His glory in the end.

C.     Anger – So often we choose to repress our grief or pain. This often finds its way out of us in the form of anger. Anger is the emotion that we choose in order to avoid less comfortable feelings such as confusion, fear, and sadness.

·         “The difference between righteous and unrighteous indignation is illustrated by asking, ‘Whose honor is being preserved?’  If I am angry because God has been dishonored and that vexes me, I am probably experiencing righteous anger.  If my anger is in the garden variety, ‘I can’t believe you are doing this to me…,’ it is probably unrighteous anger.” – Tedd Tripp in Shepherding a Child’s Heart

 

For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20

 

·         If we would be angry and not sin, we must be angry at nothing but sin; and we should be more jealous for the glory of God than for any interest or reputation of our own. – Matthew Henry’s Commentary

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18

(Just as a side-note: Rage is uncontrollable anger. If you feel that you are suffering from this, you should talk to your doctor asap. There is likely a chemical imbalance that needs to be corrected.)

IV.            The Anger Solution:

A.    Acknowledge that you must change your belief in order to change your behavior. Anger is simply the difference between what we expect to happen and what really happens. If we can shrink that gap, we will reduce the anger as well.

“You can’t cease to be angry about things simply by trying hard not to be. You need to change your mind about how important some things really are: get your priorities in order. Then, when something is withheld or damaged, or you are criticized or slighted, anger will not be your first response.”

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all hatred. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:26-27, 30-32

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

B.     Contentment. If you are not content right now, you never will be. There will always be something bigger, better, and more desirable. The truth is that it would also come with its own set of trials and difficulties. Don’t live in a “what-if” world.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

C.     Avoid the temptation to question God’s motives. This is something that we often try to justify in the Christian community; however, scripture is pretty clear that God’s ways are not our ways and because He created us, He has the right to do whatever He wants.

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory. Romans 9:20-23

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2

D.    God’s sovereignty is either your bondage or your freedom. It’s your choice. We have to remember and believe that because He is a good and perfect Father, He wants the very best for our lives. He is just and compassionate. He will only do what is right all the time. He works in dimensions that we cannot even fathom.

“God gives us what we would ask for if we knew what He knows.”

 

Face your anger head-on. Time does not heal anger, so don’t bury it. Learn to control your reactions vs. your responses, and don’t let your emotions steal your reflection of joy!

“When life knocks you over, whatever you are filled with will spill out.”

Original material by Holly M Besser.  Perfect Joy Ministries ©2017. May not be used or re-printed without permission.  Bsbp52p01-15-2017

 

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