Biblical perspective of grief and loss
GOD’S PROMISE IN GRIEF AND LOSS
An Interview with Mike Woody
By Debbie Edge
Mike Woody lives in Ozark, MO. He is a marketing director
at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, and has been a
Grief Share facilitator through James River Church for 22 years.
DE: Mike, would you like to share some of your story?
Photo by Susie Wilson
Of the losses that have affected me deeply and personally, the first one was in 1984. My first wife, Elizabeth, the mother of our four children, died after a surgical procedure in Springfield, MO, on December 16 of 1984. She was brain-stem dead, and I made the decision, along with the family, to remove her from life support and to make an organ donation; then we buried her on the 19th of December in 1984.
Then my most recent loss, sudden in the sense that it was not an illness, was the loss of my son, Gregory, at the age of 40. It was just a combination of unfortunate choices in alcohol and prescription drugs. He was found unresponsive, after a night of binging on both, in September 2015. Due to that, he was declared neurologically dead on the 26th of September in 2015, in Loveland, CO.
My Life has been marked with loss within my family, and of course like everyone else, other types of losses in terms of friends, family, and dreams. Those are the two that have been most deeply personal to me.
DE: Of those situations and losses, what helped you the most to get through them?
You’re right, that is exactly what this is all about. It is about choosing the pathway to recovery. And trust me when I tell you this, I made a lot of very poor choices with the death of my wife, Elizabeth, in the sense of rushing through it. I give myself a little bit of a break there because I was a single father with four children. My mother moved in to help me with the day to day because I was actively employed and still am. It would have been impossible to work and parent at the same time. On weekends I was Mr. Mom, so I had a lot of time with four kids and made a lot of mistakes in terms of over disciplining, under disciplining, and that bedtime thing. But again, that’s just part of learning to perform differently in a very unique role.
My real issue was that I was not grounded in faith. I had been raised in a mainstream denomination that simply was not able to help me formulate a confidence in my personal relationship with Jesus. And because of that, I just continued to kind of drift. After a season, I was able to find James River Church in Ozark as a church home, was remarried at that time, and was able to find my own deep and personal relationship with the Lord.
Therein lies the answer. There are other ways to console and contribute to our recovery, and those are appropriate as long as they are appropriate actions, healthy ways. Yet, there is just one way of recovery and that is through God’s grace and our compliance to that.
With Gregory it has been the same. It is different, different, different, different losing a child than it is losing a spouse or a loved one. I never knew that. I’ve heard and knew it intellectually, if you will, but I didn’t know it personally. This has been a significant challenge for me to realize that my son, through his actions, is no longer here on earth. That has caused me to have another deep journey of recovery, yet, I was at least grounded in my faith and I knew that; although God did not perpetrate this, God knew it was coming. God saw my tears of sorrow and was there to comfort me all the way through it and through the remainder of my life.
DE: You just touched on the point I want to make: how God is good and He doesn’t cause those tragedies.
I think it’s the standard question, not unique to me, but I think to everyone. We frame it this way:
We have a God all powerful, all knowing, all loving. He’s the creator. He’s the creator of Heaven and earth and all things good, but where is he? He can intercede at any moment, at any time, in any situation. There is abundance of grace every day, and there are miracles -- the same miracles today as all those years ago. This is a personal, living God, but where are you? Where were you when this happened?
So, is this because you are angry with me? Is this because you were angry with Greg? Is this because you have some other design for me? I am not a theologian, and I want whoever reads this to understand that. So this is my own journey, however, having listened to some anointed ministers of the Word, and Pastor John Lindell is at the top of that list, over time I have realized the following:
First, God is omnipotent. He knows all, He sees all, He understands all. So nothing surprises Him. There is no surprise to him. God is all caring. God is love and because He is love, it is against His nature to do anything that is harmful or hurtful to His children. God has told us, “We live in a broken world.” This is not Heaven. This is earth, and because of that, bad stuff is going to happen.
He says, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. Have faith. Be still. Be at peace. I will be with you till the end of time.” It took a while to get there, but now I joyfully accept the fact that life does happen, life does affect us, and sometimes we are just confounded by that.
I love in Isaiah when the author says, (God speaking) “My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” Let me paraphrase. He’s simply saying, “Loved one, you are not going to get this. It is OK to ask me. I want you to ask me because when you are asking me I know you are relying on me. I know you are believing in me, but some things you’re just not going to understand.”
By the way, Debbie, I don’t think that passage was written to inspire us to say, “Oh wow, when I get to Heaven I’ll then know.” I don’t believe that at all. The Book of Revelation says clearly, “He will wipe away every tear. All the former has passed away.” So that is telling us that we are not going to be trying to recreate all the sorrow we experienced here on earth. We’re not! It’s over. It’s done. So to me that’s the real story, and it starts at the cross and, frankly, it finishes at the cross. It’s finished.
If you try to make sense of this in the natural, you will never ever succeed. I can say that with confidence. We must make sense of it through the confidence that God is good!
DE: Do you want to make any suggestions for people to help them move forward?
Let me start with Priority 1, and the rest of it will fall out based on the first suggestion.
Priority 1: Either become grounded in the faith or reassess your faith walk. Whatever you do, lean on God, directly and through the company of other believers.
Priority 2: Join a grief recovery program, as long as it is Biblically-based. I’m not saying that programs that are not Biblically-based don’t have benefit, they do, yet I’ve learned they become more about socialization than they do about faithful recovery, and that’s the only thing that will last. Faithful recovery is the only thing that will last!
Priority 3: Talk about it, talk about how you are feeling. Find a friend that will listen. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel like laughing, laugh.
Priority 4: Just keep moving forward.
I think lastly, and this is one of the more difficult things to do, is to be good to yourself!
Please feel free to e-mail Mike at www.grieflosshope.com