Today is All Saints Day, and it is one of my favorite days in the Liturgical Church Calendar. Not sure if its my Methodist roots showing or my love for tradition but I enjoy liturgical church services. I learned about All Saints Day growing up in the Methodist church. It is “a time to remember Christians of every time and place, honoring those who lived faithfully and shared their faith with us.” (umc.org)
We have been apart of several churches who observed this day. Most of these churches read the names of their members who died in the past year. Our home church of First Baptist Church, Arkadelphia rings a bell as each name is read. This morning we attended Wake Forest Baptist Church and a candle was lit by someone who had a special relationship with the dearly departed one. It is always a very moving and memorable service. It even provides important closure for the entire church family.
Today I found myself weeping through the service and I did not know a single person who was honored, nor did I know a single loved one of those honored. As I observed and pondered the loss of others I was overcome with my own grief, albeit atypical grief. I found myself wondering about the others sitting around me. Are there others in the pews trying hard to keep their hurt below the surface?
What do we do with atypical grief? There are many ways we experience loss and therefore grief. Numerous people have reached out to us after I published our story of failed adoption. People all around us are hurting, have experienced loss and are walking through grief in many forms. Just because that grief is not typical does not mean it is any less valid.
Loss certainly comes from death, but it also comes through other ways such as adoption, divorce, sickness, abortion, abandonment and even loss of a dream or a career. As the pastor pointed out during the service today, in some ways atypical grief can be harder because it often comes without the closure or acknowledgment of a funeral or even All Saints Day. It is easy to think we are left to navigate the grieving process alone and often even hidden by shame and feelings failure.
Joey had a seminary student approach him this week and confess he is struggling with his faith and belief in God. He explained the more he studies the Bible and the more he observes the state of the world around him the less he believes in God. He felt comfortable sharing this with Joey after reading what we have been going through. He thought Joey must certainly be struggling with the same thing right now. He could not have been further from the truth. While we have certainly struggled and asked ‘why’ more times than we can count, God has proven himself to us everywhere we look. He has sent us people, blessings and confirmations from some of the most unlikely of sources. He has been truly amazing.
While I would never pretend to know every form of grief or the depth of every loss, I do know the thing that is helping me the most right now is found in Psalm 46.
“Be still, and know that I am God”
If you are struggling like me today I encourage you to be still and know God is in control. Take a moment, step back, get out of your own head and look around. Ask God to show you himself. The first verse of Psalm 46 says…
“God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble.”
I don’t know about you but that is exactly what I need. I need refuge, a safe place, where I can find an abundance of strength. In order to get that I have to let go of myself and be still.
It’s ok to grieve. Allow yourself in your own time and in your own way. It’s part of the healing process. Then allow yourself not to. Allow yourself to trust God. Look for God everywhere–in His word and in His creation. Enjoy Him. Give yourself permission to be happy. God will restore your joy even when you are not happy with your circumstances. When you don’t know how to move forward or what to do be still and trust. God will come to you in unexpected ways. Share your story. Trust me it helps.