Well Acquainted With Grief

In a culture overly emphasizing an, “I’m good” attitude, I have a hard time lamenting. Growing up, there wasn’t a space where I could express sadness. Instead of bearing patiently and listening to my cries, people would tell me to focus on the positive. To some extent, this is wise. However, through consistent positive reinforcement, I began avoiding that which grieved me:

a mother and father nowhere to be found…

repeated sexual abuse for three long years…

seperated from siblings whose father took them to get ice cream and never came back…

coming home to find a lover sitting in a bathtub full of blood…

breaking covenant marriage vows…

lying, manipulating, and deceiving…

With the type of sorrow grieving an innocent childhood lost to negligence, I found no value in sadness. Besides, it seemed people liked me best when I was upbeat and happy. Though my general disposition is cheerful, It is unhealthy to assume anyone can stay that way forever. 20 years passed before I allowed myself to grieve. In that time, I developed an exaggerated character of myself. Like a caricature, my positive emotional features became larger than life. If some people’s presence changes the temperature of rooms - as I’ve been told - I am a thermostat.

With charisma, I was not only the life of the party - I was the party.

But as many of us know, parties don’t last forever this side of heaven. When it was time to grieve, I didn’t know how to. Before sobriety, my natural inclination was to use. Anytime sadness crept in, I’d throw myself into food, pornograhpy, drugs, alcohol, online spending sprees...anything to escape being a downer. If by chance, I wasn’t high as a kite - and was expressing sorrow - I would get a barrage of questions from people, “What’s wrong? What’s going on? You seem way off?” Because I wasn’t necessarily ready to put form to the dark chasm of my feelings, I hated the questions. In moments where I mustered up the courage to share, it was met with positive self-help wisdom or biblical platitudes. Rarely, did anyone sit with me in my suffering. I am thankful for their intentions, but at the time, their words felt hollow.

As a kid, it seemed like no one cared about my feelings. The decisions of those around me helped reinforce my perspective. A mother who disappeared for unknown periods of time - only to reappear out of the blue. Then, without warning, do it all over again - again and again. Violated by a predator who did not heed my cries to stop. Little to no supervision, in and outside of our home. Understandably so, I allowed past hurts to frame my future.

As an adult, I also had a hard time believing anyone genuinely cared about my feelings. However, because of past trauma, I allowed experiences to shape my worldview. Essentially, I carried the “baggage” of my youth right into adulthood. Stunted by abuse, I held the emotional intelligence of a nine year old. But instead of crying before mommy and daddy, I found comfort in feeling good; cue the sex, drugs, rock’ n’ roll.

Because I was uncomfortable with grief, I covered up my feelings as I presented a false version of myself to those around me. Looking back, I can see the Lord’s faithfulness of His people. Many tried to provide comfort and words of encouragement during periods of my brokeness. However, because I denied my feelings, I pushed them away and chased after what I believed would bring my sorrow to a close. I didn’t stop running until I fell before the feet of the Suffering Servant. Well acquainted with grief, Jesus is still showing me how to express my feelings in healthy ways; through lamenting to the Lord and inviting His people into my brokeness. Because Jesus knows the type of grief that cost God a child, He is able to speak to the darkest places of agony:

He was despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief;
And like One from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him.

But [in fact] He has borne our griefs,
And He has carried our sorrows and pains;
Yet we [ignorantly] assumed that He was stricken,
Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated [by Him].

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing];
The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him,
And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.

(Isaiah 53:3-5 AMP)

I’d be lying if I said I like grieving - I still don’t. However, with practice I am learning the value of Godly grief. God’s heart is to restore innocence, become a Father to the fatherless, serve justice to those who’ve wronged us, redeem that which has been lost, and reconcile us all back to Him! He cares about our feelings, even when others do not! Only in the past few months, have I been able to see the value of being broken. Because when we admit our brokenness to God, He comforts us! Acknowledging our need for Him paves the way for establishing a healthy dependence on Him - He meets us where we are at, not where we want to be. He meets our every need!

In my experience, God works with what I give Him. When I am honest with my feelings, towards Him and others, I invite Him into the present. It is here, I learned He does some of His best restoration work. I encourage you to make a list of the things grieving your heart. Then, take that list and begin going through each item with God. He is big enough to address your concerns. Ask Him, “Where were you when _____.” You may not get an answer right away, but with persistence, He’ll show you. He’ll remind you. He’ll bear with you and sit patiently with you while you lament before Him because God is for you! He is not against you. He desires open and honest communication with us, so much so - that He gave His son and His word (the bible) to know Him better. He loves us immensely so.

In Your Corner,