“…the sweetness of grace and freedom comes hand in hand with the uncomfortable, bitter-rawness of honest emotions and grief.” ― Natalie Brenner
Grief often comes like a waterfall.
It can bury us in torrents of emotions, so powerful, so outside ourselves and beyond our control, that those torrents threaten to wash us out into a sea of black despair.
Sorrow’s power is so unexpected when it comes.
And at times, our grief will so overwhelm us, that all we can do is ride out each wave of pain until it finally subsides—and then gasp and grasp for some emotional air before the next wave arrives.
The grieving heart can flounder and flail like a drowning man.
I remember how hard grief hit.
No one can truly understand until they are there themselves—until grief becomes real for them.
C. S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
Lewis also said, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
He was right about that.
Until you are there—you cannot know.
And this I believe, the depths and dark caverns of sorrow and loss must be personally experienced at some time in our lives, or our “comfort” remains underdeveloped, shallow, and at times, even coldly callous.
Folks don’t mean it to be. It is simply out of an ignorance and the unknowing.
Natalie Brenner has been there…
And she has obviously been taught at the feet of Jesus.
As I read her words about her own journey through grief all I could do was weep and nod.
“Something significant in me snapped when I miscarried; that something hadn’t unsnapped yet. It hadn’t been put back together and I was afraid it never would. I knew Jesus was with me, but my insides twirled threatening to take me down from the inside out. I knew He was with me, giving me permission to be in the broken parts of my story…”
We do need to give folks permission to be in the broken parts of their story—no matter how uncomfortable someone’s grief might make us feel.
For the one navigating suffering, it is often like being thrown onto a flimsy raft on some wild river. At one moment your life might be peaceful and ordinary, or even exciting and exhilarating, but the next?
You are thrown into emotions that are akin to the heaving, rushing whitewater of that untamed river. Those turbulent emotions are propelling you headlong, emotionally tumbling, arms flailing, reaching, grasping for any feeling of solid earth.
And it’s terrifying when you cannot find it!
Those wild emotions, and all of the out-of-control feelings are all the natural part of grieving, but those feelings don’t feel natural. Far from it!
The experts on grief may make that clear to the mind—but the heart?
Well, that is another territory entirely. Those things that were once supposed to be understood and under control are now pitching wildly under foot.
Nothing feels right. All is perceived to be alien and foreign, and so we attempt to squash, or bury those renegade emotions, because they are threatening to bury us! In our desperate grasping for normalcy, and some semblance of control, it seems that killing off grief is far preferable to the chaos of feeling the enormity of our pain.
In her book Brenner writes,
“Loss of any sort should stir up emotion; if it doesn’t, it’s because we’ve trained ourselves to be numb. We’ve bought into the great societal lie that emotional and sensitive is bad, is shameful, is weak, and worse yet is unlike Him.”
We should think back—remember Gethsemane—Jesus suffering and on His face in the mud and the blood!
If God Himself agonized, and we are made in His image, is it any wonder that we do, too?
“…when I decided to be fully honest about whatever my heart undergoes, I found immense peace among the chaos of uncertainties. In my honesty and by acknowledging our big, big God, I found peace.”
Grief is a difficult part of any journey but I believe it is also essential.
Essential, because it makes us more like Jesus.
No one in their right mind wants “the gifts of understanding” that grief bestows. Not really. But now, looking back over my own shoulder? It was that rocky road grief forced me to walk down, the things grief taught me—and now I know for certain, I could not have learned them any other way.
That is a very hard thing to admit. But, it was Natalie who reminded me,
“Time and time again, I find I cannot skip the night to arrive to the morning. Joy comes in the morning, but the morning comes after the dark night. Sometimes the night lasts longer than we want it to.”
It is important to be where we are, but it is also important that we not turn our sorrow into something that it was never meant to be.
Sorrow and loss are only a temporary place in our lives.
Remember, our ultimate goal is to follow in Jesus steps.
The cross was not His final destination. No, it was for “the joy set before Him” that He endured the cross.
So it is with us—our grief is for our transformation and for taking us to new levels of compassion and understanding.
It’s ultimate purpose is to transform us into messengers with a greater hope to share.
Brenner also speaks of this transformation,
“…hope is never wasted. Even if what I hoped for did not come to fruition as I had imagined, as I had hoped. Hope is placing the beautifully vulnerable parts of ourselves, our raw selves, into His hands. I believe hope moves His heart; but hope also moves our hearts into His hands… Hope builds trust.”
“Brokenness permeates our world. Sure, beauty is born from ashes, but the ashes don’t just magically disappear. Suffering and all that is wrong in this world still exists. This side of heaven, tragedy remains… Wholeness is birthed through vulnerability and sensitivity, which is often conceived in brokenness. Jesus taught me this.”
“…the sweetness of grace and freedom comes hand in hand with the uncomfortable, bitter-rawness of honest emotions and grief.”
“Jesus came emotional and raw, scandalously gracious. I want to be like Him.”
(Please note: Jesse & Natalie are already two years into their grief process.)