It’s that time of year when our graduating high school seniors are preparing for college or the next giant step in their young lives. And although there is excitement about those next steps, some mamas are struggling. Their worlds are about to shift in monumental ways: their babies are untethering the apron strings and these women are wondering how they will fill the gap that remains. An impending sense of loss is creeping into their very uncertain hearts.
Loss Leads to Change
Loss can visit us through so many different paths. It collides with the woman whose little one passes before they experience the brightness of noonday. It strikes the heart of the wife whose husband leaves, causing her to wonder what she had done wrong. It is seen in the eyes of those whose dreams remain unrecognized, and traced in the conversations of how to redefine one’s purpose and worth.
I can’t help but wonder if the most compelling characteristic of loss is how it forces change. It makes us see our world differently and different is not something we easily accept or adapt to.
I recently met a mama entering one of those seasons of loss. Each day’s certainty was consumed by financial doubt and an imposing sense of losing the one thing that brought her real joy. She shared: “I’m not ready for any of it but I know God will be present through all of it.” I asked her how could she be so certain. Her response was profound: “Because He’s done it before!” She went on to share she had lost so much in life, but regardless of her circumstances, she always felt God’s presence, protection, and love.
Loss forces change and a natural response to an unforeseen shift can be irrepressible fear. And it is this fear that drives you and me to the edge of faithlessness. We start to question God and ourselves and once that line is crossed, Satan launches an all-out assault on our confidence and beliefs.
Yet, we have a choice to make. We can either follow the example of the mother I met and surrender our losses and fears to the Creator of the universe, or we can ball our hands into tight fists, dig our heels into the mire of self-righteousness and justification and become bitter, allowing our fears to drown us.
This is not just a phenomenon of moms. This is a reality of our human condition. We all can fall prey to loss’ grip of fear.
How Do We Stand Firm in Faith When We’re Overwhelmed by Loss?
How do you face the times when life is hard and seemingly unfair? How do you lean on God when you question if He still cares? What do you hold on to when your foundation is shaken and the certainty of the four walls that surround you are cracking and shifting with each movement?
I will be honest, in the midst of loss, fear, and changing circumstances, I often have difficulty standing firmly grounded in my belief that God’s got my circumstance. I know in my head that I can trust God, but I lack the practical application. So, here are a few things I’m trying to do to help me navigate tough times.
Look Back to Move Forward
I’m learning that taking a sobering look back when my life begins to unravel is a good direction to take. A reflection on all the times when I’ve felt hopeless and ask myself if God has ever left or forsaken me. And here is the wonderful, resounding response: God has never left me.
Now, I want to be clear—I’m not trying to minimize the fact that bad stuff happens! Yet I want to encourage you that even in the midst of the bad, God’s comfort can be experienced. I felt his love in the midst of my lowest points and honestly, I look back and would not change a thing.
Each of those hard things did change me, and I often say they saved me from becoming even more self-centered, self-reliant, and controlling. There is something about adversity that purges all the pride. It’s really hard to be proud lying in a hospital bed wearing a gown that scarcely covers your body, attached to enough tubing and wires to plumb and wire a tiny home. Pride is snuffed out and you are left with reverence. A sense of awe for a God that miraculously saves and blesses your life.
When you feel like you are about to drown in the waves of loss, remember to look back it will help you move forward.
“Don’t be afraid, for the Lord will go before you and will be with you; he will not fail nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8 – Living Bible).
Share Your Struggle
As I child I learned to stuff my pain. It seemed to work because it allowed me to bypass any disappointment that would surface from unmet expectations. However, as an adult, this approach had some messy consequences and was especially useless when it came to loss. Friends would ask, “How are you doing?” My pat response was, “Things are going well!” But once alone, I would stare through the unrelenting eyes of truth; I was sad, angry at myself and the circumstance, and disappointed. In my silence, that little voice convinced me that my condition would overcome me. I was destined to drown.
But then the phone would ring, or there would be a knock on the door, and deliverance would appear. The conversation usually went something like this, “I know you say you’re fine, but really, how are you doing?” And with that simple prompting, the floodgates would open. Weeks of pain would flow like white water rapids, bubbling over rocks of doubt, embarrassment, and pride. And as the emotion escaped, my heart and attitude lifted.
Hoarding the ache of loss or the anxiety of fear has an interesting effect on our souls. It can push us under the waterline, but if we can gain the strength to tell someone—like a trusted friend, family member, or professional counselor—we can experience freedom. No longer are we bound by our silence. We are able to recognize the lies and replace them with the truth. In the process of revelation, we gain perspective.
If your situation is causing you to hide your thoughts and feelings from those who care about you, take a single step toward sharing your struggles and watch the shackles of fear lose their power over you. There is freedom waiting on the other side of your vulnerability.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 – New International Version).
Take Your Time
I am a very impatient woman. God created me with solid organizational skills and the ability to form plans quickly. And in a work environment, these skills seemed to pay off. But in my personal life, when pushed to my limits, these gifts invite me to take immediate action. You can imagine the outcomes when you mix fast action with heightened emotion. I’m often filled with remorse and regret following a hasty execution.
I’ve lost count of the number of times my swift actions have landed me in some pretty tangled situations. I didn’t have the full context or complete understanding of the impact of my actions. I didn’t think it through. So, after a few really disastrous outcomes, I’ve learned to slow down.
Slowing down is most important when it comes to high-emotion situations. When fear has crept in, it is so easy to want an immediate solution. Yet, there are times when placing a bandage over the wound of fear and loss only results in a growing infection. We need time to assess the situation, seek wise counsel, and pray. We can’t get so far ahead of God that we no longer hear his voice. We need to learn to trust that he has a solution. It may not look anything like what we planned but it will be good.
When facing a life-altering decision, take your time and listen for God’s direction.
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!” (Proverbs 3:5-12 – The Message).
There is one thing I am learning through the tough spots in my life: I can’t avoid them, but I can embrace all that they teach me. Loss and its friend, fear, don’t have to push me over the edge of faithfulness. Regardless of my circumstance, I can choose to remember that Jesus waits to direct my path, heal the hurts, and use the grit and grace in my life to grow and mature me.
Wondering how to cope with a recent change, or one that’s just around the corner? This podcast episode can help you navigate that season: Your World Just Turned Upside Down—What Now? with Marlys Johnson Lawry – 197