Here I sit now over six months since my dad passed away, still having periods of intense grief and all that goes with that grief. Moments of feeling ‘when will this ever end’ and moments of feeling ‘I know the truth but I am not feeling so free right now’. What I am finding is that, just as I have preached to others for years, grief and mourning are a process and not a one-time easy fix. It is a journey that one must go through. That journey is wrought with feelings of loss and anger and denial and fear and deep, intense pain. On the other side of that journey? Healing.
One of the things a wounded soul needs to recognize and to deal with is the simple fact that it is wounded! Sounds crazy but I thought I could skip parts of the process. I have found I cannot. What I have discovered along the way is that some phases of my pain are more easily passed through than others. It is easy for me to believe I will see my dad again. Not so easy to admit my anxious thoughts and the way they are affecting my physical body. My body keeps telling me to slow down and live in the moment. My emotions and my physical weakness tell me that if I just keep pressing on and filling up my time with projects, I will eventually break through.
The only problem with that way of thinking is that it leads to mental exhaustion, physical stress, and emotional breakdown. What I have found is that if I keep worrying about when will this ever end, my eyes focus on everything but the hope I have in knowing Jesus. Grief and its subsequent pain can also lead one down roads paved with stinkin' thinkin' like focusing on the fact that I have no public opportunities for ministry and the love offerings that come with them leads me directly to fear of the future and thoughts of ‘how can I call myself a man if I cannot provide for my family?’. God’s perspective? “Just Who is the Provider here? Just Who is giving you time off to heal? Why do you insist on trying to be Provider when I’ve got that covered? I am giving you time to heal. Take advantage of it, son!”
It is with that realization that many other facets of my anxiety have begun to surface and I will not bore you with anymore. Suffice it to say, I am changing my thought process even as I write these words and trying to see my grief and my anxious thoughts from God’s point of view…and in that process, I am seeing practical application that is Word-based.
Matthew 6:33-34 NASB says, ”But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Practical insight: live in the moment you find yourself. Do not try to fix tomorrow’s needs with the grace you have for today and its needs.
Practical insight: seek first the kingdom by seeking first the King. Worship as often as necessary…and reach out to people to share your burdens with. The people of God are extensions of the King and kingdom. Take advantage of the resources and put pride aside. Humble yourself and allow to be done for you what you do for others.
Practical insight: Trace stinkin’ thinkin’ back to the thoughts that produce them…even if you cannot pinpoint the specific lie, revert to the most common denominator. God has gotten you through in the past, Jernigan. Do you really think He won’t get you through this?
Practical insight: Spend time with children and grandchildren and family and friends. Nothing fills my soul like time with the little ones. Do things you enjoy. Walking through the woods. Sitting in my hot tub. Going to movies. I’ve see The Black Panther twice already.
Practical insight: get through the next minute…and just keep breathing.
Let’s apply the practical insights from Philllipians 4:6-8.
Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Practical insight: God has thought of everything. Trust Him to pick you up when you fall apart. Empty your soul to Him and to kingdom representatives. Keep the flow going even through the pain.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Philippians 4:6-8 NASB
Practical insight: What is true? God and His Word. Anything else is not worth investing another thought in. I ask my wife to speak truth to me when anxious thoughts come…and they are vanquished almost immediately.
Practical insight: What is honest? Share your story. Confession brings healing.
Practical insight: What is just? God is in absolute control even when my eyes and pain says otherwise. See through to that and let that be reality.
Practical insight: What is lovely? My wife and children and grandchildren. Dream for them. Dream of them. Cast vision before them. Remind them of who and Whose they are.
Practical insight: Whatsoever things are of a good report? Do not watch the news for a season. Do not take part in gossip. Believe the best about others. Recognize no one according to the flesh.
Practical insight: What is virtue? Think of and encourage goodness and do not reward evil. What you put in your mind is what comes out.
Practical insight: What is praise? Regarding the needs and virtues of others and living with a grateful, thankful heart.
Practical insight: What’s the worst thing that could happen? I could die. Reality is I would be with Jesus.