A Grief That Heals
A few months ago, I sat across from a friend at a local cafe. We held lattes in our hands, and she held tears back in her eyes. She told me of the loss she had suffered months ago—the end of her baby’s tiny life after only a few weeks in her womb. And yet in the same breath, she listed off the many reasons why she should be just fine. After all, others have suffered through worse.
I looked her in the eye and gently reminded her—it’s okay for you to grieve.
So often we seem to think that grieving equals a lack of strength. We’re afraid to allow ourselves space to grieve what we have lost, or perhaps what we will never have. We’re afraid of what others will think of us if they see us in our grief. We equate our grief with a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God. Yet even Jesus allowed himself the time to grieve while here on earth, as we see so clearly in the story of Lazarus’ death (John 11).
The truth is that the process of grieving is a healthy step in our own spiritual growth.
It was through learning to grieve that I found the most freedom in my struggle with singleness. At the age of twenty-three, I was carrying a deep heaviness.
Somehow, I had convinced myself that contentment meant nothing more than pasting a smile on my face. My life was not what I expected it to be, nor was it what I would have chosen. And yet, I often felt that in order to be content I would need to bury my sorrows and simply not dwell on the dreams I had to surrender. I never allowed myself to shed tears over what I might never experience—at least, not without a flood of guilt following close behind.
This conflict came to a head when I found myself once more on the downward spiral of what I had thought was a hopeful situation. I rode the familiar track of that same emotional roller coaster of getting my hopes up for a particular outcome only to have it turn to nothing—in truth, I was sick of the rides.
After this, a change began to take place within me—one that I had seen in other girls countless times. The seeds of bitterness threatened to take root: “Why should I be forgotten? Why am I denied what others so easily have been granted?”
We try to act like contentment is as easy as flipping a switch, but in reality, it is a long and painful process. In my own desperate attempt to learn from someone who had endured that process, I did a deep dive into 1 Samuel and the story of Hannah—a woman well acquainted with the grief of living without.
I felt as if I could easily slip into this woman’s shoes. Hannah longed for something good, something beautiful, and yet something that was never promised to her.
And how did she handle her grief?
“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10)
She described herself in this way, “I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation” (1 Sam. 1:15–16).
It’s as if she opened her heart up wide and poured out the contents before her Lord and King—she held nothing back.
And here I wondered, doesn’t such grief reveal blatant discontentment? Don’t her tears suggest a lack of trust?
Yet what does it mean to be content? It means to be satisfied. It means to determine that what you hold in your possession is enough. Sometimes we don’t have the eyes to see all that we possess in Christ until we’re brought humbly to the feet of Jesus, carrying the depth of our grief.
In Hannah’s case, she was granted her plea—God gave her a child. And yet Hannah’s contentment went much deeper than bearing a child. How else could she so willingly let him go so soon after?
What she won there on her knees was more than just a yes to her earthly desires—she came face to face with the God who hears, the God who sees and knows us in our deepest pain.
It seems that she must have come to a fuller understanding of what she possessed in the Father’s sovereign hand. Pouring out her grief became the turning point of her life—a springing forth of healing in her heart.
And what about me and my sorrow over the lack of a spouse? I learned from Hannah’s story that to pour out my grief before the Father is the beginning of my own healing as well.
I allowed myself to grieve over everything that I had not yet been given—everything that I might never be given. I allowed myself to grieve over the lack of a lifelong friend to travel through these days with. I poured out my sorrow over, as of yet, not being blessed with the title of mother. I laid it all down in the form of tears and sorrow.
As I let my grief spill before the throne of heaven, I too began to understand in a beautiful way that my God is not only holy and sovereign over our circumstances, but he is a God who sees me and hears me. I was no longer simply telling myself that I was not forgotten, but rather experiencing daily that I will never be forgotten from his merciful care.
Marriage was never promised to us. Motherhood was never a guarantee. However, God does promise us that he has goodness stored up for those who fear him and take refuge in him (Ps. 31:19). This leaves us with no choice but to believe that God does not equate a good life with only a married life or any earthly title.
In his great love, I am satisfied. And sometimes the best way to taste his love is to share with him our deepest sorrows. As we taste of his grace and his love in deeper and more personal ways, the natural result is for his joy to spring forth in our lives.