I have been strong through many difficult circumstances over the course of my life. I think I learned to be strong from my mother, who raised me by herself after my dad died. I appreciate that she didn’t let circumstances get her down, but raised me with consistency and love. We didn’t always have as much as “everyone else,” but we always had enough, and she made my life fun and educational.
So what about being strong today? What does it mean to be strong? Does it mean to keep going on–business as usual? Does it mean not to cry, at least not in front of anyone? Does it mean not to question God? Does it mean not to get angry? Does it mean not to talk about my grief on social media?
No, it doesn’t mean any of those things. Jesus wept, and there was not a stronger man in history. Jesus changed his plans to accommodate special circumstances. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked God to spare his life. Jesus got angry with the Pharisees. OK, so Jesus didn’t have social media, but His life was documented in the Bible, which is the number one bestselling book in history.
After Job lost everything, he grieved in front of his friends and he questioned God. Though God reminded Job that He knows what He is doing, and that Job wasn’t there when He formed the world and Job didn’t know nearly as much as he thought he did, God understood Job’s suffering. In fact, He didn’t punish him for being “weak.” He rewarded Job for keeping the faith. The Lord restored everything to Job two-fold.
We can be strong and shed tears, ask questions, get angry, and share our burdens with others. We can let go of some of our responsibilities for a bit, in order to grieve, in order to honor something precious that has been lost. We can do this even if others tell us that we shouldn’t, or that they’re counting on us for whatever reason. Not only can we do this, but we should do this. It brings healing to our souls.
It takes a strong person to grieve properly–to not fall apart completely, but to pause and recognize the need to take care of ourselves, to say no to less important things, to say no to urgent things, in order to take care of what truly matters. To cry. To weep. To question. To rest. To journal. To hike. To do whatever we need to do in order to process the loss completely. Because if we don’t process it completely, we will become bitter, angry, depressed, or ineffective.
It takes a strong person to admit his weakness and his need for God to be his strength. As another strong man, the Apostle Paul, said, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV)
According to Solomon, the wisest man in history (besides Jesus),
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance …” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NIV)
For my husband and me, this is a time to heal, to weep, and to mourn. I pray that, if it is a time like that for you, you will give yourself permission to grieve, that you may be strengthened by our Lord.