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The Courage To Grieve

I am not at all claiming to be an expert on the varied topic of grief. Although there may be familiar elements between individuals’ grief experiences, their paths are distinctly unique.

With that in mind, it’d be ridiculous for me to make any sweeping generalizations regarding how to grieve or what to expect. I do not know what you’re going through, nor can I claim insight into what is to be anticipated. That said, I think a common thread among the different grief journeys is that completing them well requires a special courage.

My own experience with grief started from a horrific car accident that resulted in the loss of my plans, many of my cherished pastimes, and inadvertently, also some of my identity. The latest blow came this past fall, when I was told that I wouldn’t be given a full-time job in speech pathology, which I was hoping for.

As a speech pathologist, you have two years after obtaining your master’s degree to complete your clinical fellowship in order to gain full licensure. I was exactly half way through this supervised internship when the accident occurred. As a result of my severe injuries, my stint was cut short and in the year following the accident, my full-time job was attending doctor appointments and rehab sessions. I used countless pages of paper telling the state licensing board why I probably wouldn’t be meeting the two-year licensing deadline and requesting for an extension.

While completing my own physical therapy, I volunteered over 400 hours at two fabulous medical facilities. At the first one, I completed administrative tasks cheerfully and to the best of my ability, clinging to any verbal encouragements I received about an eventual offer for a clinical fellowship. However, I wasn’t offered one and my time volunteering there eventually ended without an offer of employment. At the second facility, I volunteered many more hours, again hoping to be offered a job as a speech therapist.

I put every effort into making it happen, but eventually realized they had no intention of hiring me full-time. The end of the second volunteer position came as a huge blow, reviving the hopelessness I had felt after the accident. I had thought I’d worked through these feelings, believing that I had been able to put the loss behind me, but now, it all came back.

I have learned that grief is not a linear process. Even after appearing to have resolved a particular loss in a mature way, it is likely to pop up again, sometimes when least expected. Situations may also arise which require the individual to face these emotions a second time—or for the 1,000th time.

It takes courage to embark on a path that, while necessary, will surely be painful. False inner voices or those outside your own head may give you the impression that you’ve already worked through that grief, and that it’s time to move on. But the truth is, it may not always be the case. With the necessary boldness, unapologetically admit that you need to grieve.

Grieving is hard—and often daunting—work. It requires endurance to accept that as an individual, or even in supporting a loved one, you are in it for the long haul. Life is not going to return to what it was before, although you may find joy beyond your imagination. Boldly leave room for the potential of that joy to come.

To grieve well is to acknowledge the feelings of pain while also, in time, to take steps towards healing (such as re-connecting with friends after losing a loved one).

This 19 December will mark the fourth anniversary of my accident. The life I led before the accident seems like a memory from just yesterday, but at the same time, so foreign that it feels like it came from a different lifetime. I have almost no emotional connection to the gregarious, active and capable young woman I see in pictures from before the accident. I’ve come further along in recovery than I could’ve hoped for during the initial months after the accident, while, at the same time, I’m not as far as I would wish.

I’ve learned that it takes courage to acknowledge that even in the midst of grief, there may be moments of happiness. It doesn’t need to make sense or be consistent with an overall emotional experience; there can be happy times even during long journeys of grief. It can be beneficial to put on “blinders”, so that you can only see what’s directly in front of you. What you already have, here and now, in this moment, is everything you need at this point to honor God. Try not to dwell on the possibilities or expectations about how your grief will unfold.

Not following a preconceived script on the way one “should” grieve requires courage that will shape your outlook towards the future.

SOCIAL ISSUES | Themed Contribution

I was listening to one of Pastor Bill Johnson’s latest podcasts from Bethel Church. At one point he addressed the idea of taking courage. Taking courage is not something you have to do on your own. You can’t even do it on your own. The fact that you’re showing courage means that you’re interacting with God. I think it’s cool that even when you feel abandoned by God, the fact that you’re displaying courage shows God is with you.

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Artist Feature | Nanda Broekhuizen

@sunflowersunshine.nl

I grew up in a creative family in the Netherlands, and so art has always been a part of me. While studying Arts & Economics in my university years, I knew that I wanted to make and manage art – that’s how Sunflower Sunshine was born! During my time away in Sweden for six months, I had a lot of time to grow in both my relationship with God and in my art form. I explored illustration and handlettering, and I found them good outlets to meditate on God’s Word.

Through my words and images, I hope to encourage people. My hope is that they will be able to meditate on these wholesome words, just as I do while creating the art.

ODJ: courage under fire

December 29, 2015 

READ: Joshua 1:2-9 

Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (v.9).

We’re in that sweet season of hope and possibilities. No matter how difficult the year may have been, most of us hope for a better and brighter new year. At the end of last year, I knew I would be juggling my job along with the daunting task of handling the responsibilities of a colleague who was going on maternity leave.

With the death of Moses, Joshua was facing a far greater and daunting responsibility—leading the Israelites into the Promised Land (Joshua 1:1-2). God had used Moses to perform awe-inspiring miracles before a stubborn Pharaoh and to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and into a place of provision in the desert for 40 years. The people shared the promised hope of entering a land flowing with milk and honey. The legacy of Moses must have been intimidating to follow. No wonder God repeatedly addressed Joshua’s fear, urging him to “be strong and courageous” (vv.6-7,9).

Joshua’s success as leader of the nation of Israel depended, however, on his obedience to the Lord (v.7). God revealed that it was vital for him to study and meditate on His Word, and to be careful to obey everything in it. Only by depending on God and His great power could Joshua find success (v.8).

Although I’ve grappled with the additional responsibilities of covering a maternity leave this year, I’ve also grown as a person, gaining experience in areas I would never have had the opportunity to develop. God has proved faithful as I’ve strived to study and follow His Word.

This new year, let’s spend time reading Scripture, walking in obedience to Him, and being strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or discouraged; remember the Lord your God is with you wherever you go! (v.9).

—Ruth O’Reilly-Smith

365-day-plan: Revelation 1:1-20

MORE
Read Isaiah 41:10 and be reminded that you don’t need to fear or be dismayed, for God is with you. 
NEXT
As you anticipate the arrival of a new year, is there something you’re fearful of and anxious about? How does courage flow from a clear understanding of who God is and what He’s called us to do? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: hard paths

January 14, 2015 

READ: Acts 16:22-37 

Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God (v.25).

When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.

Paul and Silas consistently chose the hard path for Jesus. Even after being beaten and placed in a dungeon in Philippi (Acts 16:23-24), they praised God in their chains. “Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (v.25). They glorified God when it would have been easier to simply complain and cry.

Choosing the hard path again, Paul and Silas stayed inside the jail when an earthquake presented them with an opportunity to escape. Because of the quake, “all the [prison] doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” (v.26).

When the jailer realised what had happened, he assumed the convicts had fled, so he prepared to commit suicide. Deciding to bless the one who placed the shackles on him, Paul shouted, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” (v.28). The relieved jailer then escorted Paul and Silas out of the prison. Later, he and his entire household committed themselves to Christ (v.34).

Although things went well for Paul and Silas in Philippi, the path that honours God is rarely pleasant. It often requires courage and self-discipline, for the end may be uncertain. But no matter what we face, we know that Jesus will never leave us on the hard path alone (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

365-day plan› Genesis 24:1-27

MORE
Read Hebrews 11:24-26 to see what choosing the hard path meant for Moses. See Daniel 3:19-29 to learn what happened when three men chose a furnace over unfaithfulness to God. 
NEXT
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve done (or avoided doing) for the sake of Jesus? How does His sacrifice inspire you to choose the hard path for Him? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)