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Our Lives of Loss

I’ve been feeling a deep sense of loss lately, over Greg yes, but also over other changes in my life. Even though the changes are necessary and good, they still cause my heart to squeeze with sorrow.

Harder still is the sorrow they bring to my child who I desperately want to protect from more loss. And yet, I know that loss is inevitable. We all live lives of loss. Those of us who've been blindsided by the death of a loved one may feel it more keenly than others, but it's a reality none can escape.

I often think of my dear grandmother who lived into her 90s and was blessed to know her great grandchildren. Hers was the length of life people long for. Yet living so long meant that she outlived her parents, brother, friends, extended family, neighbors and even my husband. I remember her saying often that she couldn’t understand why she was still alive. Her life had a lot of joy but it also held much loss and sorrow.

How do we live when so much loss is guaranteed? How do we hold our joys and sorrows at the same time without ignoring either?

I’m tempted to run away from my sorrow and escape into busyness. I hate endings so I avoid goodbyes. At times I stuff down my pain or numb it with noise and entertainment. I also try to protect my son from loss. I don’t want his pets to die or friends to move. I drag my feet on making positive changes that necessitate loss. Deep down I know that my job as his mom is to prepare him to face loss in this life, but I don't like it. I want to protect his heart from saying goodbye to friends and pets and people he loves. But I can't. He lives in a world of loss and if he lives long enough, he will inevitably experience the death of a friend… or spouse… or even, God forbid, a child. His life, like mine and yours, will be full of goodbyes.

We say so many goodbyes. Goodbye to the carefree days of childhood. Goodbye to our school years as we graduate and move on. We age and say goodbye to fast metabolisms and effortlessly strong bodies. We say goodbye to our parents slowly as we watch them age, or quickly when illness and disaster strike. We say goodbye to coworkers, neighbors and friends. Goodbye to homes, jobs, ideas, and presidents. Goodbye to the way it was no matter how we feel about the way it is. We say goodbye to each stage our children grow out of and one day- if we are fortunate- we say goodbye when they graduate, get married or move out. Those of us less fortunate say a much more terrible goodbye by a grave.

It’s a painful thing to live in mortal bodies in a temporary world full of temporary things. It hurts so much because our hearts long for more. The Bible tells us that “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) God created our hearts to long for eternity. We were made to crave continuity, not to endure endings. Our longing for permanence and desire that the people we love will live forever is from God. It’s in our very nature to long for no more endings.

But we live in a world of endings. Isaiah 40:6-8 says,

“All flesh is grass,

and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades

when the breath of the LORD blows on it;

surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

but the word of our God will stand forever.”

We fade. Our lives feel long but in the span of history they are as brief as the grass and flowers which only last for a season. We long for eternity but we live in fading bodies among fading people.

It's a heart-breaking reality that most of us want to ignore with distraction and numbing. I sure do. But there’s another way. We can look at our losses and grieve. We can lament the small and big endings in life. We can cry out for Jesus to come.

It feels scary to face loss head on but it's only when we fully grieve that our hearts can truly hope in something greater. By facing the hard realities of life in this world, we begin to place our hope in the life to come where God, "will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4) No more loss. No more goodbyes.

So let's face our losses and lean into the pain instead. Let’s admit that we long for more than this life offers. Let’s let those longings do what God created them to do: turn our hearts and hopes to Him. After all, were made for eternity, not for endings.

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