Monday, March 14, 2016

The Life You Hoped Would Be

“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

This quote came across my Face Book news feed recently, and it impacted me deeply. I rarely allow myself to think about the life I’d hoped would be. Since my life has forever been changed, I have thought it quite futile, and perhaps even harmful to think about what might have been. What-if’s and regrets often try to enter my thinking, but I’ve trained myself to resist those things for the most part, and move on.

But, every now and then, the thoughts and feelings come on really strong, and I find that I cannot resist them. So I struggle in my heart and head with how to deal with them. For example, I often see grandparents with their grandkids in the park and at community events, and I see the joy they get from playing with them, showing them the beauties of nature, and just running around together. I wonder sometimes what it will be like when my own children begin to have babies. Will I be able to play with my grandchildren when they get to that park and playground age? Unless something changes dramatically, no. How will this affect my relationship with them? Will they love their other, more capable grandma more than me? Will they want to spend time with me if all I can do is watch them from the park bench? These are the “already-not-yet” kinds of thoughts that can bring me down.

What about you, friend? How are you doing with the loss of the life you’d hoped would be? I wanted to share this quote with you, just in case you are struggling with whether you will ever get over your loss. I love the way John Piper has worded this permission to grieve. I have never believed that we can get completely over any loss, and a life lived in chronic pain or disability is certainly a loss. It is a loss of what could have been, what we’d hoped would be. And it is a loss that is renewed each day. You can’t “move on” from chronic pain and disability when you must face it 24/7/365.

And so, as John Piper so graciously says, we must occasionally “weep deeply over the life we hoped would be.” It’s OK to think about the fun you would have had, the functional body you would have enjoyed, and the simple pleasure of just being comfortable—pleasures that now, without a miracle, will never be yours this side of heaven.  And when you think about it, it is OK to cry, and to cry hard. You absolutely must grieve when grief comes too fast to outrun. And so, as you cry over your loss, God collects your tears in His bottle. He does not forget your pain, your loss, or your sadness.

Why does Piper say, “Wash your face?” I had to think about that a little bit. After crying hard, it does feel good just to soak a washcloth in hot water and lay it over your face. This does two things—it brings comfort, because it feels really good; and it gives you a moment between crying over the loss of what you wanted, and returning to what you have. A moment to pray; a moment to thank God for His comfort; a moment to grow in your faith as you learn to trust Him.

And then what? “Embrace the life you have.” Notice he doesn’t just say, “Accept the life you have.” There is a big difference between embracing and accepting. Accepting says, “Oh well, it is what it is. I’ll have to make the best of it.” Accepting means I will do my best to keep doing as much as I can, but some things will have to go. Accepting implies defeat.

Embracing, on the other hand, says, “This was not in my plans, but it obviously was in God’s, so I will trust Him for the outcome.” Embracing a loss requires a decision on my part. I must decide in my heart that I believe God when He says He knows what’s best for me (Jeremiah 29:11), and that He will see me through it (Proverbs 3:5-6).  I must decide to follow and obey Him no matter what is going on with my body.  Embracing implies welcoming God’s provision; his plan for making me more like His precious son. I have seen many good things come from my own loss, as I’ve shared with you here a few times. Christ is a redeemer, and He redeems not just our souls, but our lives. There is no loss you have suffered that Christ cannot replace and then some, if you are willing to embrace His plan and look for His purpose in it.

My dear sister, whatever loss you are facing today, I hope you will join me (and John Piper) in grieving it honestly, trusting God fully, and embracing the good things you are sure to gain. He is faithful, and He loves you. Watch and see the glory He will bring from your loss. And when you see it, praise Him! Hallelujah! What a Redeemer! What a Savior!