Surviving Grief

Devotional

Will Sadness End?

Many times in our periods of profound sadness or grief, we feel as though we will be in mourning forever. In times of overwhelming loss, we may have trouble believing that we will ever smile again. In the beginning of this booklet, you read about Sara, who believed she was to experience only sadness in life. Perhaps you can relate to the sorrows of Sara.

Twisting the torn tissue around her fingers, Sara cried, “I think that God has marked my life with a dark cloud.”

“May I ask what the dark cloud of your life feels like for you?”

“Heavy, burdensome, painful, hurtful, hopeless.”

“You feel all of those deep feelings of sorrow?”

“Yes.”

“I’m so sorry. Have you felt those feelings for a long time?”

With tears in her eyes, Sara nodded and began to share her painful life story. “My father was an angry alcoholic. After my mother died when I was five, my father was extremely physically abusive to my brother and me. I joined the Army after high school to get away from my dad. In fact, I never wanted to see him again. I thought I’d begin a wonderful new life in the Army.”

“Did you find the hope you were looking for in the Army?”

“Hmm. Yes and no. At first, things were great. While everyone else would complain about basic training and the challenges of Army life, I was thriving because I was free from an abusive father.”

“I gather that something happened while you were in the Army which changed your positive outlook on your military experience?”

Sara shifted somewhat nervously and looked out the window as she spoke of her military sexual trauma. She shared that her longing for care of a loving father resulted in her being taken advantage of while in the Army. As a result of that trauma, Sara stated, “I felt forever damaged. I was even more convinced that I was a cursed and forsaken object that deserved nothing better than pain and sorrow.”

“Sara, my heart aches to hear of your pain. I believe that God also is heart-broken over the pain you have experienced in your life.”

With an indignant voice, Sara replied, “If God really is heart-broken over the horrific things I’ve experienced in my life, why would God now end the happiness which I have found with a wonderful man by giving me a diagnosis of terminal cancer?”

“So, you are angry with God for allowing a terminal cancer diagnosis when you now have joy in your life?”

“Yes. It is so unfair. I deserve some bright moments in my life. Childhood abuse, military sexual trauma, an abusive first husband. Peter is the first and only good thing that has ever happened to me in my life. We’ve been married only three months. So do you see why I believe that God has cursed me with a dark cloud?”

With tears in my eyes, I held Sara’s hand and replied, “Oh, yes, Sara, I do see why you see a dark cloud over your life. I am so sad, so very sad with you. I too would like to question and ask God why. Why all the sadness and dark moments, God? Why? This is all so very unfair!”

We sat in silence and cried for some time. Sara then began to talk of Peter and his sorrow over her terminal diagnosis. Sara spoke of how Peter’s love and understanding patience had captured her heart and won her fervent trust. Sara also noted that Peter had experienced his own deep sorrows in life, yet that he had a resilient spirit that was an inspiration to her and others.

Several weeks later, I spoke with both Sara and Peter. They talked of how they had been extremely angry with God, and were justified in asking why Sara’s cancer should drastically cut short their anticipated years of happiness. Yet, they also spoke of how intense prayer and grief counseling brought them to a point of recognizing the value of choosing joy for whatever time they would have together. They spoke of their decision to live a day at a time… not die a day at a time. Both Sara and Peter stated, “Together, we fervently committed to make a happy memory each day, and thank God for the beautiful moment.” Sara and Peter talked of how they were building a memory bank of beautiful moments which they would entrust to God for all eternity. Despite the very sad circumstances of their lives, Sara and her husband learned that qualities like hope, love, and joy can transcend temporal life circumstances and lead us to rejoice in everlasting hope, life, and joy.

Readings from the Old Testament / Hebrew Scriptures

God wants us to experience joy. Hannah prayed:

1 Samuel 2.1

God will not neglect those in need.

Psalm 9.18

God will refresh us and be with us through our darkest times.

Psalm 23

God will protect us and watch over us.

Psalm 91.1-6, 14-16

God will wipe away our tears and bring us joy. The prophet Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 25.6-9

God will restore our strength and renew us.

Isaiah 40.28-31

Readings from the New Testament

Jesus reminded His followers that God comforts us when we mourn.

Matthew 5.4

God desires us to have great joy. Jesus said:

John 15.11

The apostle Paul believed that God is with us in the midst of our suffering and works to give us hope.

Romans 8.28

Our faith in God is what encourages us to believe and to have hope.

Hebrews 11.1-3

God promises us a new home where there will be no more grief, nor crying.

Revelation 21.1-7

Thoughts for Reflection

  1. When you find yourself in the midst of unsettling and upsetting circumstances, what do you believe is a way to find joy, to find hope? Write or share your thoughts with a trusted friend.
  2. Make a list of specific thoughts or actions that bring a sense of joy to your life.
  3. Draw or paint a picture of what joy would look like for you. As you are able, share your picture.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I want to believe that You will bring me through this time of sadness and loss. I want to have confidence in the fact that I will smile and even laugh again.

I understand that hope may be grasped in different ways as we proceed on our life’s journey. I believe that You want me to be filled with abiding peace, unconditional love, and eternal joy.

I am currently in a deep valley of sadness. Help me to hold on to Your promises of everlasting joy and peace as I walk holding Your hand through this dark valley. I know that You will never leave me, nor forsake me.

In Your loving name. Amen.

A Blessing for You

May the LORD bless you and take care of you;

May the LORD be kind and gracious to you;

May the LORD look on you with favor and give you peace.
Numbers 6.24-26

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