“The mug is cracked,” my husband announced, “We can’t use it any more.” The end of my favorite coffee vessel.
“Due to the extent of the visible and anticipated repair cost to your vehicle, it has been deemed a total loss” the email read. My faithful wheels stolen by a fender-bender.
“Mark’s uncle passed this morning,” my husband’s mother texted. A life cut short due to a deadly virus.
“She’s with Jesus now,” my Bible study leader reported. A merciful end to pain and suffering.
Dozens killed in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. Senseless death at the hands of evil in a nation far away.
Losses never end. Some are small and sentimental. Others leave an impact yet are manageable. Some are life altering. And others are signs of mercy and goodness.
Jesus experienced loss. He left heaven to become like us (Philippians 2:6–8). His earthy father died, his cousin brutally beheaded (Matthew 14:9–10). He possessed no home (Matthew 9:58), no paying job (Luke 8:1–3). And his friend betrayed him (Luke 22:4–6).
Jesus grieved his losses. He spent time in solitude following his cousin’s murder (Matthew 14:10–13), wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35), and expressed his own deep sorrow (Luke 22:41–44) before his death. While Jesus gives us permission to mourn and we know that we have hope in eternity (1 Thessalonians 4:13), it still hurts. Author Carolyn Custis James writes:
[Paul’s] words have come to also mean that, in some sense, we sorrow less than others. I think instead … that we sorrow more, not less, and in our sorrowing we are entering in some mysterious way into God’s sorrow.1
I wrote about loss several times last year. After all it was 2020 and worldwide we were experiencing grief in unique ways. A year later I’m on this topic again proving we need a better way to handle its frequency.
I propose that we find a way to mourn losses as a normal rhythm of life so that they do not accumulate and become too heavy to bear, leading to more serious issues such as burnout and depression. I propose the “spiritual discipline of mourning”:
- List your losses (include secondary ones) daily, weekly, or at the very least, monthly. Name them, no matter how big or small, out loud, in writing, to a friend, or simply in prayer.
- Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up and express it appropriately—cry, lament, journal, chop wood.
- Cast your burdens on the Lord (Psalm 55:22) and receive comfort from him (Psalm 34:18). Turn to Scripture for help, insight, and strength.
- Choose a way to let it go—cross items off as you work through your grief, burn the list, tear it up, and create a piece of artwork with the shreds.
Practicing this discipline doesn’t mean you will never feel sadness again. It just means you can move forward. As psychologist Connie Befus explains:
Mourning our losses allows us to let go. Only then do we have the emotional space to open ourselves to new people, new experiences.2
So I took a photo of my mug, then chucked it in the trash and sat down to write about it. I mentally released my car as I completed the paperwork for the insurance company. I wrote a sympathy card to my aunt pledging to pray for her. I wrote a lament for those suffering overseas. I mourned privately for my Bible study buddy so that I can receive new friendships.
I’ll probably write another list next week.
What recent losses (big and small) have you experienced?
How can you mourn your losses as part of your regular rhythm of disciplines?
Lord Jesus, it comforts me to know that you understand loss and you showed your sadness by weeping. I am tempted to make light of my small losses because there are many in the world whose sorrow is much greater. However, this is my life, my lot, and I am responsible for doing business with the grief in my soul. I cast my cares on you, Lord, and receive your comfort and grace.
1Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 142.
2Connie Befus, Sojourner’s Workbook: A Guide to Thriving Cross-Culturally (Orlando, FL: Bottomline Media, 2018), 33.