I think about the people I love who have died since 2016, and I start to understand all the intricate ways pain changes you. It’s stunning, breathtaking how insidious and small the incisions are. You barely realize what they are or where they come from til something rubs them—and that searing heat flashes so brightly that it numbs you before bringing tears to your eyes. To reach for someone who should be there and come away empty, alone with the thing you wanted to share still lodged your throat…it is, I must say, a different kind of hurt. To expect an experience that will never come to pass is a new kind of loss. In these last couple of years or so I am so desperately reminded of how fleeting life is, how short and easily lost it can be. How quickly stuff slips from what I think is a strong grasp. I am a small child again and again lost in the futile repetition of watching sand slip between fingers clenched within determined fists, astonished at how sneaky it all is as it snakes one grain at at time from hands desperate to hold on. Grandparents, great aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, classmates, colleagues—all loved from a place untouchable by human hand but somehow managing to squeeze passed the perimeter of my guard, my care…into the quiet arms of a place I’ve never seen yet for myself.
Indeed, we all lose things that are important to us—valuable things, things that we hold onto for dear life. Not because of their value but the value of the people and experiences attached to them. Even this vapor that we call life only carries meaning in that as we grow and change and be and do, we become attached to our experiences—but more so the people with whom we have lived, whom we have deeply loved, and with whom we have faced the vicissitudes of our brief time here in the earth. Those connections made of emotional encounters and moments of overcoming and situations of shared joy and sorrow make the blink of life feel longer than it is, and we forget the ever present promise of eternity, wrapped in our raging flesh. We grieve, bereavement ever constant around us pinging like a phone that cannot be located—we can hear it but can never quite find its true source so that we can disable the alarming reminder of that which is lost.
Loss is loss is loss, believer or otherwise, so the pain doesn’t go away. In fact if not careful, even those who are of the faith can find themselves consumed, suffocated in its python-like coils of choking comfort. And why lie to ourselves? It is comfortable and comforting, the warm touch of misery enveloping as we dive down into what used to be, the sweet relief of tears. The blanket of grayness is designed to snuff out the strength of a believer. How? The word calls it the “spirit of heaviness”, and it is designed to rest on you and immobilize your praise. When this happens, you rehearse sorrows, painful thoughts, and falsely glorified, amplified memories rather than God’s greatness in the earth and life in your life. You literally meditate on sadness, creating a false altar to your feelings upon which to send up sacrifices of emotion to the god of your flesh rather than offering up a sacrifice of praise to the God who has blessed you.
I know it sounds like much. Offensive even. Altars? The god of your flesh? But. It happens more often than you think. See: Grieving outside of the Spirit of God leads to a level of offense that blocks your ability to pursue peace. That’s right, I said pursue it.
“Keep pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Messianic Jews (Heb) 12:14 CJB
“Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace, and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14 KJV
See, when we grieve outside of God’s leading, we cast ourselves out into stormy seas. More erroneously, we position ourselves as being owed a debt, as lacking something that we need. The scales of our lives have become imbalanced because of loss and we fixate on the imbalance. Rather than pursue peace, we languish in the loss rather than live with what has been left.
The pursuit of peace is important kingdom principle. To pursue peace—is not just to loom for quiet or acceptance or even the letting go of a matter. It is the pure balancing of the scale, total redemption. It is the essence of holiness: NOTHING missing; NOTHING broken. God is called JEHOVAH SHALOM, or The LORD is PEACE. Shalom means more than what we understand peace to be, the epitome of “all things well” in the center of God where we live, move, and have our being. The fullness, completeness, the leveling of all skewed things… the calming of the storm inside of you that brings the outward show of prosperity.
The devastation can be far reaching.
The word tells us to stop looking behind us, to instead press toward the mark. Where is the “press” when we stand still demanding justice where none is to be had? Where is the forward when we stand still demanding an answer to “why” where none exists? Where is “toward the mark” when we believe that we are owed where Jesus has paid it all—even in the transition of the loved ones we so desperately desire to see once more?
As we walk through this hour full of grief, let us make the Spirit of the Lord our guide through the pursuit of peace so that we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death (cuz it is but a shadow) cloaked in the garment of praise, knowing that the present suffering cannot compare to the glory that is set before us. Even in what we experience as loss.