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The Secret Life of Grief
*Please remember that articles at Quivering Daughters are written primarily to adult women struggling with a fundamentalist or patriocentric upbringing. Bear in mind that some content might be triggering for parents or siblings to read. As a writer in keeping with my audience, it is not to “paint with a broad brush” or “condemn” those who believe differently but to address the concerns of those to whom I write. Thank you for understanding.*
by Hillary McFarland
t’s cold here, this January. Even the sun chills earth and bone. A squash bakes in the oven and I stare at my screen wanting desperately to tell you that grief ends someday ~ in this life, I mean.
But I can’t.
The truth is, grief ends some days.
Other days, it tears through heart-skin kept tender and transparent by hope and faith and love. And then we lash out at faith and hope and love, because ultimately, these are the faces that keep pain alive.
Pain indicates that something is not as it should be. We flinch at the sight of blood. We learn to bandage soul-wounds so tightly that bleeding stops, and we think the tougher the skin, the stronger we are. Sometimes we must be strong to survive those midnight moments when relief seems light-years away. But what if, in a frantic quest to end our grieving, we miss the secret treasures which can only be learned through grief?
A new book by author Kierstyn King illustrates the surprising life of grief experienced by those who become unwelcome in their families because they aren’t good enough, godly enough, or ideal enough. For asking too many questions or the wrong kinds of questions; for understanding and believing differently. There aren’t many things more agonizing than feeling unwanted, or wanted only-on-condition.
Rejection hurts. It’s an action that says, I don’t want you in my life if you [behave, believe, think] like that. Instead of rejecting the belief, there isa rejection of the person behind the belief.This subtle distinction spells death, and with death comes a type of weeping and gnashing of teeth that many I know experience every day.
What do you do with that kind of pain?
Especially when it’s administered in the name of God?
Or the Bible? Or righteousness? Or godly, biblical living?
This kind of pain is difficult and complex. Some suggest that abortion would have felt more merciful, for at least the rejection would be before birth and not after. Others mutilate their flesh, desperate to find release from unrelenting anguish. A dear young friend, tormented day after day through rampant twisting of Scripture and manipulation in the name of God, shared how she would cut her arms over the open pages of her Bible so that her own blood seeped into the verses used against her. Dare we ask: what kind of internal aching is so deep that self-mutilation is welcomed relief?
What kind of internal aching is so deep that self-mutilation is welcomed relief?
A Quiverfull of Grief
There is a special place in my heart for quivering daughters who come from quiverfull families. To bear the weight of rejection, disappointment, and anger from not only one or two family members, but up to ten or twelve is a staggering burden indeed. To be held as the example of ‘what happens when you rebel’ to younger eyes who might not understand is a heavy cross to bear. Loss is a holy calling and aligns us with the Man of Sorrows whose grief was so great He described it as sorrow ‘even unto death’. But loss is still loss, and when one’s obedience to the heavenly Father requires us to lose our lives for Him, we begin to truly live the difficult part of the narrow way.
It is the willingness to embrace this sorrow-unto-death that the paradox emerges, and we find life …
Treasures of Darkness
I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, am the God of Israel. Isaiah 45:3
Truth is, I still grieve sometimes. I’ve grieved a lot lately. And it takes me by surprise, like peeling an onion only to find an unexpected layer. I used to think that someone truly healed wouldn’t feel such heartache but … I was wrong. I’m heart-healed but there are days when I hide under blankets and shake with grief so palpable that I wonder if it will ever end. In His mercy, the Lord has given me courage to not run away but to stand and embrace whatever comes. Over time I’ve come to understand what this courage is. Scripture says that the joy of the Lord is your strength. Perhaps we can understand this another way: your strength is the joy of the Lord. The only way out of the aching is through it. Like precious oil, something priceless comes from the pressing of grief: a deep, sorrow-shaped joy that cannot be taught except by the living of it.
You have to let yourself grieve what you have lost. Otherwise it melts into your bones and becomes you, and it’s really hard to see clearly when grief shrouds your eyes. Let the Lord lead you through the valley of the shadow for He is the only Light you need. And as you go, don’t waste your pain. Allow the Lord to sculpt it for His glory. Our Redeemer will redeem it!
The womb of sorrow and suffering brings forth many things … what a responsibility it is to parent, as it were, what is birthed from this holy darkness. I want to tell you that the grief will end some day in this life. I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you that God is faithful. That He promises there will be a day when He wipes every tear from our eyes and puts an end to sorrow, grief, and pain. I can tell you that embracing His holy calling, His calling to lose your life and take up the cross, brings sweetness I can’t begin to describe. That the hope, faith and love keeping your pain alive are also keeping your heart alive. These are what abide when everything else falls away.
I used to stand over the sink washing dishes, singing along to this oldie by Margaret Becker, clinging to her words with longing. No matter how much grief you face, don’t stop loving. Don’t become hard. Be tender in the Father’s hand. He who walked the road before you walks with you still.
Are you grieving something right now? What have you learned about your pain? How have you found comfort? What does don’t waste your pain mean to you?
*Please note that I am not a mental health professional. Many times we need help to cope with the depths of sorrow and grief. Please consider seeing a trusted counselor, pastor, or other professional as you seek comfort and healing.*