How Do I Let Go Of Grief?

One of my favorite books is “Unbroken”. It is the life-story of Louie Zamperini, the famous Olympic runner that served in World War II as a bombardier on a B-24 liberator. During the war, he was taken prisoner by the Japanese. He spent most of the war tortured as a POW. After the war, when he was given his freedom, he struggled to forgive his captors. He became an alcoholic tortured by dreams of revenge against everyone that hurt him.

Like Louie, each of us has deep wounds in our life that are hard to let go. For some of us, it was a spouse that betrayed us. Others of us experienced betrayal at work. Some of us were cheated out of money. It is hard to move beyond life’s craters. How can we move into the future? Here are a few words of advice.

  1. Own the part of the tragedy I can own. Don’t blame shift it to others. We live in a culture that blames others for their own problems. Unless we own our part in a tragedy, we can’t confess it, learn from it and make it right. We will never mature if we always see ourselves as a victim. In many relationship breakdowns, all the problems do not come from one side. Take the time to think through our own sin, confess it to Jesus and seek forgiveness from others. Owning our sin and repenting of it is often the key to restore a broken relationship.
  1. Embrace the grief and pain. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 12:15. It tells us to weep with those who weep. It is healthy to grieve when life falls apart. It is good to cry on the shoulders of your spouse or good friend. Good friends should not simply tell us to get over our pain, they should grieve with us. Many times, that does not involve giving an answer or telling a friend what to do. It is simply crying with someone you care about. While it is important to grieve and to grieve with others who care about you, the key is to not stay there. Don’t let yourself be defined by your loss. Be willing to move on and to see what God will do with your hurt for his glory.
  1. Embrace the little blessings. Whenever life falls apart, we can see God’s little blessings in the hard times. Remember, it could always be worse. Recently a friend of mine suffered a heart attack. When I visited him and his wife in the hospital, I was struck by their thankfulness to God in everything. They were thankful for the lady that arrived late for her appointment that afternoon so they hadn’t driven out of town that night for dinner but instead went to Remington's and were next to the ambulance when the heart attack struck. They were thankful that when the heart attack hit, the car was started but my friend had not put the car in gear. If the heart attack hit 30 seconds later, they would have been driving down the road. It is God’s little blessings in the midst of grief that give us tiny emotional islands to stand on when we feel overwhelmed.
  1. Embrace the new normal. At CrossWinds Church, we are studying the life of Joseph. When tragedy struck his life, Joseph embraced the new normal and did the best he could with the situation he faced. When he was sold into slavery, instead of whining, he did the best he could as a slave in Potiphar’s house. When he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife and thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, he set about to serve the other prisoners. It is only when we face the new normal and embrace it that God can help us move forward.
What happened to Louie Zamperini? At the urging of his wife and friends, he attended a Billy Graham crusade and gave his life to Christ. From there, instead of allowing himself to be filled with anger, he stopped asking the question, “Why did this happen to me?” He forgave his captors, like Jesus forgave him. He started asking the question, “What does God want me to do now?” God used the rest of Louie’s life as a story of what it means to forgive others that hurt us through Jesus. Louie even went back to Japan and met with those who tortured him to offer forgiveness. Little did Louie know, his life-story would become a famous book and movie.

When it comes to the pain in our past, what question are we asking? Are we stuck on the question, “Why did this happen to me?” If so, you will be defined by your grief and stuck in it. When tragedy strikes, after mourning move on and begin asking the question, “What does God want me to do now?”

Which question are you asking?

(This article was written for the Dickinson County News.)
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