It felt like one of the most difficult times of our lives. A new season of grief entered on an unsuspecting Sunday in autumn. Our beloved French Bulldog, who was not yet two years old, left this life in a way that was both tragic and traumatic, leaving our hearts utterly broken.
I was no stranger to grief by this point in my life. Profound loss has littered my past, and I had learned to wade through those waters with my eyes on Jesus. To focus until I began to feel like I would no longer drown.
Yet this time felt different. Broken beyond repair, I felt the heaviness begin to manifest in physical ways that was beyond my control. I felt anxious and on edge all the time.
At forty-one years old, I found myself sitting in the office of a cardiologist for the first time in my life. My heart seemed to beat erratically within my chest, like it had forgotten it’s rhythm. Forgotten how to function.
The doctor’s prognosis was so simple, it almost felt embarrassing at the time. You see, you don’t have to be a cardiologist to know that grief, combined with lack of sleep, poor hydration and excess caffeine to compensate for all of the above, results in a poor physical outcome.
My body was trying to tell me what my soul couldn’t find words for: that I was hurting and desperately needed help.
In the first chapter of the Book of Ruth, we are invited into a desperately dark time in Naomi’s life. Naomi and her husband have left their home land in Judah because of a famine, but upon settling in the foreign land of Moab, Naomi’s husband passes away. Some ten years later, after her son’s had married Moabite women, both of her son’s passed away, too.
As if being a widow wasn’t hard enough, Naomi finds herself alone in a foreign land. She is without sons or extended family to help provide for her, and without property or possessions. Without modern day advantages of technology, access to a telephone, or help from social service agencies, Naomi hits rock bottom.
So out of desperation, she returns with her daughter-in-law, Ruth, to the land of Judah. And here’s the part in the story that has resonated deeply with me at different points in my life.
“The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the
whole town was excited about their arrival, and the local women exclaimed, ‘Can this be
Naomi?’ 'Don’t call me Naomi (Hebrew- “sweetness, the pleasant one”). Call me Mara
(Hebrew-which means “bitter”), she answered, 'For the Almighty has made me very bitter. I
went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since
the Lord has pronounced judgement on me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?' ”
(Ruth 1:19-21 CET)
In Naomi’s story that it was not only her loss that had brought her great sorrow, but also the faulty belief that God was against her, somehow. This belief added sorrow upon sorrow in her life, turning her grief into deep bitterness.
I can relate through my own recent grief experience. It wasn’t just the loss that was causing a great sadness in my life. I had allowed the unexpected death to move my heart from a position of rest and trust in God, to one of fear over what might blindside me next.
Questioning the situation, I wondered why God would allow something so senseless to happen to us and to our dog. I doubted His ability to bring good from the situation, even though I knew of the promise in Romans 8:28 NIV, “All things work together for the good of those who love God…”
Lacking perfection, I am still walking through this season of my life. It seems grief and healing are not linear. They are messy and complicated. I am taking control of the areas within my control: adequate hydration, exercise, proper rest and limiting caffeine consumption.
In addition, by pressing into Jesus, I am seeking the light wherever I can find it. Most helpful are listening to faith-filled podcasts, studying scripture and surrounding myself with supportive community. As I work to reframe my thoughts, I am still tempted to believe that God’s plans for me are anything other than good. I am learning to carry the pain rather than be consumed by it.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
By the end of the book of Ruth, it is evident that the restoration of Naomi and Ruth are the providence of God in the midst of tragedy.
So too, in the most heart wrenching seasons of my life, I can look back and see the hand of God all throughout those moments, even though it was hard to trace at the time. I continue to remind myself, in this season of grief, that this is not the end of my story. The pain is not where it ends.
There is still so much goodness ahead. God knew this moment would happen in my life and because He stands outside of time, He saw it and and already had my redemption in mind. What an amazing gift!
Father, I praise you for loving me enough to already have my redemption in mind. Thank you for the gift of my beloved one, and for the time I had with him. When my heart is overwhelmed, help me to see your providence, and the evidence of your goodness in my life. “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2 NIV
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