Scrolling through Facebook produces a mixed bag of content – the everyday reports from your family and friends, the funny stuff that’s shared and reshared, the stuff that’s supposed to be funny but isn’t, the occasional offensive post, and the ones I like best – the inspirational words that speak truth deep into your soul.
Two days ago John Piper posted one of the latter. It has resonated with over 40,000 people according to the number of “likes,” shares, and comments it has garnered so far. The reason I saw it at all was because several of my Facebook friends from various different walks of life either liked or shared it. Piper’s post gave this admonition:
“Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” – John Piper
Every person living on this imperfect planet has hoped for something that will never be. We often think of losses as those things we once had but no longer possess. But sometimes losses are intangible, as in dreams or hopes we once had that have either grown dim or died.
Grief is part of life for everyone in this fallen world. The difference is the losses we grieve aren’t exactly the same from person to person. Whether it is never having a child, losing a child, or raising a child who doesn’t make “right” choices, there is grief involved. Whether it is not having a spouse, having a spouse who doesn’t understand you, or worse yet one who betrays or abandons you, there is grief involved. There is grief over the loss of freedom just as there is grief over the loss of companionship. There is grief when a job is lost, a vacation doesn’t live up to expectations, a friend does something hurtful, or a ministry dies a long slow death. Each and every person has hopes and expectations that go unfulfilled.
Piper makes an important point: before being able to grasp hold of the life and good things we do have, we need to let go of the old, even if the old is a dream that never came true.
For years I’ve been well aware of the need for singles, especially those who grew up assuming they would marry and have a family, to grieve the loss of what never came to pass. But it was while visiting a ninety-something year old single friend that it hit me that the grieving never ends.
This amazing friend of mine had lived a full and purposeful life and was loved by many. But as she settled into an apartment in a retirement community she observed her friends and neighbors entertaining grandchildren and great-grandchildren and felt deeply the loss of not having her own. This was a woman who had many friends and family who visited her, but still she felt that loss – the loss of a specific lifestyle never lived.
This was both disconcerting and encouraging to me – disconcerting because I realized the grieving in this life never completely ends, but at the same time tremendously encouraging because I also realized that, despite the need to grieve, one could live a full and meaningful life. My friend was living proof!
Piper’s quote reminds me of one of my favorite Bible passages where God says in Isaiah 43:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Here God was telling Israel how he was going to redeem what they had lost while in captivity in Babylon. They had many losses to mourn, both tangible and intangible. And yet God was saying, “Forget all that and see this new thing I am doing for you, and this new life I am giving you!”
I believe He is saying the same to us: “No, that dream you had for your life isn’t the plan I had for you. Yes, it is a good thing, and I do give that gift to some of my children. But for you I have something different – something good and meaningful, a purpose in my Kingdom that I appointed you for specifically. A purpose that will give you more fulfillment than anything else ever could. After all, I have promised each and every one of my children an abundant life!”
Can we trust Him for that? Can we reach out our hands and receive it from Him who loves us more deeply than our earthly minds and hearts can comprehend?
Yes, grieving is essential to all God has for us. It’s important we weep over that which we hoped for but never was. It’s crucial because it’s how we let go of the old, how we stop dwelling on the past, and how we are then able to open our arms wide to all that our Heavenly Father has for us!