Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Enlarging your soul through grief and loss

Merelyme has opened a topic on her blog about suffering. This is a topic I also like to talk about, because I've suffered a lot of pain due to my bipolar disorder, and yet I know I've grown much through this pain as well. I don't like the suffering and do everything I can to not go through it, and yet I know that each time I do I come out richer at the end.

Yes, I did want to talk about this growth I've experienced through my suffering. And yet, I think I'm going to do an about face here and talk instead about the pain I've been feeling as a result of the loss of my mother-in-law and knowing that I'll be without my friend for two months. This is probably a different kind of pain than the pain we experience from illness. Yet grief can lead to depression, even more so for people who suffer from mood disorders already. It can be a trigger for a mood swing.

I, along with others in my church, have been studying a book by Peter Scazzero, called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This book teaches how it's impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature. Part of being emotionally mature is that when we go through the pain of grief and loss (as we all do) we should not try to cover it up. We need to feel it; we need to go through the process of dealing with it. Many try to numb the pain by denial, minimizing, blaming others or themselves, rationalizing, addictions and avoidance. (I don't want to go into the details of each of these. You'll need to read the book.) The thing is, we need to embrace the pain when it comes.

Scazzero says, "Loss marks the place where self-knowledge and powerful transformation happen - if we have the courage to participate fully in the process." He illustrates this, using the story of Job.

I think the loss of my friend for two months has actually hit me harder than the loss of my mother-in-law. I'm much too attached to this friend. I tell her everything; she is a soul-mate. So having her far away for so long will be painful. She has done this before and it put me into a deep depression. The difference that time, though, was that I felt shame for feeling so badly about her leaving; I felt guilty for missing her so much. I felt there was something wrong with me. This time, I've told her that I'm not going to feel ashamed of my feelings. I have every right to feel badly when someone I love so much is gone for so long. This time I faced the pain; I embraced the pain. And I was on the edge of depression once more.

But, as Scazzero's book and my pastor Don have pointed out, feeling broken does not mean I'm emotionally immature. Wholeness can be found, not by eradicating the brokenness but by finding wholeness in the middle of brokenness. As I've shown in a previous post, I've actually come to understand God's love more as a result of the pain of the past two weeks. I've come to understand the great pain he feels over us. To love much means to hurt much. And God loves us more than we could ever understand. Over the past couple of weeks I've come to feel more secure within the love of God. My soul has been enlarged. On Sunday Pastor Don said, "We are transformed by surrendering to God's love." And I did; and I was. And I am pretty sure I've now escaped the threat of depression.

I am now drawing most of my comfort from being there for friends who are in trouble. Eugene Peterson's version of 2 Corintians 1:4 in the Message says, " He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us." Coming alongside others is healing. It leads to wholeness.


Jim said...

There are several books I have enjoyed reading about suffering including Yancey, Lloyd-Jones, C.S. Lewis and others.

I take my Bible seriously and I acknowledge that God hates to see us suffering. It took me years to have a solid and sound theological understanding regarding God's sovereignty over suffering.

God uses suffering to reveal our spiritual condition.

My Life with Bipolar Disorder said...

It has been my experience too that I grow a little through every suffering, trials or afflictions God allows me to go through.

Thank God for enabling you to support others who are in need while going through your own struggles. I found it most helpful and therapeutic too, whenever our Lord enables me, to reach out to others who are hurting while going through my own afflictions.

I am very much inspired by the story of CH Spurgeons's wife, Susannah Thompson, on how she reached out to help others and served our Lord despite her own afflictions for many years. I have posted this encouraging story on my "Believers Encouragement" blog under "Mrs Spurgeon". Check out the following link if you have not read it before and I am sure you will be encouraged and inspired by her example. Take care!