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I’ve discovered that grieving is a way to become unstuck. It’s a process of coming to accept what seems unacceptable. It changes you for the good, but it leaves you different.
Can you remember a time when you felt stuck? Perhaps you wanted to change but weren’t sure who or what would help. Maybe you had already tried many solutions. I have been there many times.
You can only experience something for the first time once in your life. Once you experience it, you are changed. Those second and following experiences aren’t the same. Consider—the first bite of that heavenly dessert or that first sip of refreshingly cold water on a scorching hot day. Though you may finish the rest, it won’t be the same as the first.
Life is like a series of gates you go through. The gates are one-way doors. After you go through them, you can’t go back. All you can do is view the past from a distance. Here are three reasons why you should become better at grieving.
Grieving Helps You Let Go of Regrets
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV
It’s better to realize too late that you could have handled a situation better than to never realize it at all. How many times have you wished for a do-over?
Sometimes life can feel like a rushing river is escorting you through the gates faster than you want to go. As you careen downstream, you hit some rocks; there isn’t time to catch your breath. You can feel trapped because rivers don’t flow backward.
Is there no way to go back so you can erase your mistakes? If you can’t make it so it never happened, is there any point in dwelling on it?
Godly grief allows you to move forward into a new way of living that embraces God’s ability to make all things work for good (Romans 8:28). But to move forward, you must revisit the past. You can’t change the past, but you can change yourself. Grieving allows you to see your mistakes and sit with them for a time. This is important because it gives the past proper significance. It is natural and understandable for us to want to quickly forget about the pain, but when we do, we miss the depth of recovery.
Grieving gives you time to receive God’s words of forgiveness and healing. Worldly grief keeps you stubborn and unwilling to accept God’s help—you are sorry to be stuck, but don’t want to do the hard work to heal. People stuck in worldly grief, even if their pain goes away, have nothing to show for their time. They don’t care about learning a lesson.
Grieving Helps You Wait For God
Sometimes life can feel like a riverbed that dried up so long ago you can’t remember when. The gate in front of you seems to be permanently blocked. You think you are ready to move on, but God has other plans and says “wait.” He wants you to linger where you are for a while. You feel trapped because you can’t move forward into the future, the past seems irrelevant, and the present is boring or painful.
But during this time, you make the effort to learn that God is sufficient for all your needs.
Deep in my heart I say, “The Lord is all I need; I can depend on him!
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good to wait patiently for the Lord to save us.Lamentations 3:24 (CEV) 25 (ESV) 26 (CEV)
The way forward won’t be closed forever. If you find that it is currently closed, then there’s more to do in this chapter of your life before you move on to the next.
While you are waiting, you can seek God by asking Him to accomplish His plans in your life so you can eventually open the door. Tell Him how you feel a deep sense of frustration because you can’t reach the future you desire. Ask God to reveal what important task remains to be accomplished.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Matthew 7:7-8 NIV
Allow God to meet you here. This might be a time to be fully in the present moment and to cultivate contentedness. Slow down and enjoy the time you have now. After you move forward, you’ll only be able to return through your memories.
Grieving Helps You Step Through the Open Door
Sometimes life can feel like you are on a calm lake but you are approaching a waterfall. You fear for your survival. The way forward is dreadful. You’d rather enjoy the serenity of the lake.
Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV
Most people think of grieving as coming to accept a loss, but longing for the so-called “good ol’ days” is also a form of grieving. With each passing gate, a melancholy nostalgia can build. The older you are, the more there is that will never be again.
The older I get, the more I realize that I won’t be able to accomplish everything on my to-do list. Prioritization matters at every age, but its value becomes abundantly clear later in life.
Grieving is a process that can transform you as you sort through memories and bring closure to them. If the past seems to be the happiest you will ever be, think again! Prepare your heart for what else God has in store for you. Passing by the old things also means God is doing something new right now and He will do even more tomorrow.
For I am about to do something new.Isaiah 43:19 NLT
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
What body of water best describes your current season of life? Remember that God is a masterful gatekeeper. Allow Him to guide you through the wilderness with all He provides. Seek wisdom from God (see Ecclesiastes 7:8-14 for more insight into grieving).
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.