Through Grief and Loss
by Debbie Edge
God has a purpose for each of us, but what is it? Especially after a loss of any kind there is a new chapter to begin, and at times you will feel like you are 18 again. As you navigate through your loss and go through the cycles of grief, you will discover that many of your roles have changed. Make a list of your past and present roles; ask yourself, what am I good at; what do I need to improve; what are my dreams, passions, or goals; what is stopping me from reaching those?
As you begin answering those questions, it will be helpful for you to take some inventories to give you direction. Your journey is different now, and these will give you some new perspective. There are many websites that offer free assessments, such as: personality assessments, spiritual health assessments, spiritual gifts assessments, and strengths tests. (There are a few listed under the Resources section.) These inventories gave me direction and encouragement to try new things and to see what was most fulfilling.
Katie Brazelton, in her book, Pathways to Purpose for Women, explains in great detail the need for balancing God’s five purposes in life: “Worship, to magnify Him with your life; Discipleship, to know Christ and become like Him; Fellowship, to connect with others; Ministry, to serve others; and Evangelism, to complete His mission for your life by pointing others to Him.” Our life group has been studying these along with the fruits of the spirit, which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, ERV)”. These are the characteristics that God wants for us as Christians, so we work cooperatively with Him to increase, improve, and model these, within each of the five purposes in life.
Might it be that our purpose is really to worship and serve God? Within that purpose we can review where we are now, where we want to be, and discover some steps that will help us get there. Look at the five purposes to see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Study your inventories to see what your personality, gifts, and strengths are at this stage of your life. Analyze what fruits of the spirit you need to work on, and which ones are your God-given gifts. These are not just to see where we want to improve but to see where we have gifts and make sure we are using them!
Here are some ideas that Ms. Brazelton or I encourage as you embark on this new journey to find purpose through your grief and loss.
Write about your pain.
Write your testimony and share it with others.
Surround yourself with people of hope.
Prioritize your roles.
Share your dreams from God with someone else.
Choose joy, no matter what the circumstances.
Write your short-term goals and check them off weekly.
Plan to use your strengths or passions each month.
Get involved in a church ministry.
Find a few friends/support group who will encourage, pray, and keep you accountable to moving forward.
Brazelton, Katie (2005). Pathways to Purpose for Women. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
By Debbie Edge
I recently attended the Celebration of Life for a longtime friend, Bob, who was an example of what being a Christian should look like. His young widow asked me, “Does it ever get better? I can’t imagine living with this pain the rest of my life.” As a widow for 13 years, I answered her truthfully; that yes, it does get better. I realized what a short and simple answer that was for a devastated wife. Having experienced that kind of loss, I could totally relate to her feelings. What I couldn’t explain, and what she wasn’t ready to hear, is that getting better is a daily choice.
As I began studying Kay Warren’s book, Choose Joy Because Happiness is Not Enough, I was challenged to share some steps to discovering the daily choices needed to live to the fullest. She describes life as “like a set of parallel train tracks with joy running inseparably through our days,” (Warren 2012, p. 27). The things we love, that bring joy to our lives are on one track, and on the other track includes the losses, difficulties, pain, and sorrow that are also part of life. “One of the toughest challenges in life is to learn how to live on both of those tracks at the same time,” (2012, p. 28).
When my mom broke her hip a year ago and my sister and I became the primary caregivers for dad, we had to “set our lives on hold,” to help them both through a very difficult time. We have had many blessings, but also grief and loss, as our lives have changed. As I stumbled through decisions with fears, anger, and uncertainty, I realized that the “fog,” I was experiencing was a result of the grief I was dealing with; however, my grief was nothing compared to the struggles of my mom.
This is an example of “the other train track—the sorrow track,” that took days, weeks, and months to get through. As we experience any kind of loss, we don’t get through loss in a matter of days; it is a process, a process that takes positive steps to get back on the other track or balance between the two tracks!
My Life Group is a great bunch of single Christian women who love life, love their families, are committed to their careers, and have dedicated their lives to serving Christ. They have also struggled with loss, loneliness, health, and choosing joy. They motivate and inspire, but also mentor and challenge each other. That’s important! As we walk this journey together, we travel along those train tracks and keep discovering new ways to make joy our daily goal.
Through our study as a Life Group a few months ago, we determined to read the book Choose Joy Because Happiness is Not Enough, and discovered steps toward real joy in our lives. Kay Warren explains that joy is not based on our circumstances or feelings. It is “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things,” (2012, p. 31). My joy is really based on understanding who I am, understanding who Christ is, believing in Christ, choosing joy in my mind, and doing those things that bring joy in my life every day.
We look for joy in all the wrong places when it really begins with us and our RELATIONSHIP with Him.
This is the first of several articles as we explore ways to travel both tracks & choose joy, especially in the context of loss. So, if we want to live the life that God wants for us, what are some things that are beneficial in understanding how to choose joy, every day? Here is a list of ideas for you to think about and, hopefully, find at least one that is useful to you right now:
Step by Step!
1. It’s all about your relationship with God. It’s not about religion.
2. Start small by reading a Bible verse each day. When a particular verse jumps out at
you and encourages you, write it down.
3. Read books that are meaningful to you and fit your needs at that time. See the list of
4. Find a daily devotional book on joy.
5. Read articles on this website or others who are written by people, who through their
struggles with loss, can give you hope.
6. Find a friend who has been through a similar loss and is a good listener.
7. Find a friend, pastor, counselor, or small group who will offer you encouragement
and accountability in the process.
8. Keep praying to God and learn to listen to Him.
9. Look for the blessings, even the smallest ones.
10. Make a daily decision to “choose joy!”
Warren, K. (2012). Choose Joy Because Happiness Is Not Enough. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Revell
By Debbie Edge
Part II: Finding Joy through God’s Promise
Did you know that there are 5,467 promises that God makes to us in the Bible? Joyce Meyer talked about that recently in one of her podcasts. Look at her first example from Hebrews 13:5 (CSB),
“I will never leave you or abandon you.”
Be still and let that sink in!
Remember that personal losses affect each of us differently. How we handle the loss, the fog, anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and depression are based on our individual personality, health, and relationships.
To get better, it takes a self-conscience choice AND it is a step-by-step process. Sometimes it can take weeks, months, or even years to begin making those choices toward a healthy life and finding joy in that new life.
One of the steps you can make is explained in Number two of the previous article, which encourages you to read a verse in the Bible each day and write down the ones that jump out at you. Read them daily and put them to memory.
Here are some of my favorite Bible verses that include promises of the fact that He won’t leave us. If you are in that place where you think you are alone, just keep holding on to these promises!
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9, NIV
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV
“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is the God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
1 Corinthians 10:13, MSG
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
See, you CAN choose joy based on those scriptures. With the new-found knowledge that He won’t leave you, believe and trust that God will be with you everywhere you go. He will be there to help you get through anything and everything you will face in this life.
He has a plan for your future!
I challenge you to take one step toward balancing the two trails and begin to find joy through God’s promises.
Meyer, J. (2018). Retrieved from joycemeyer.org podcast.