The other night, some of us gals met with Carl Nelson to process our grief together. Even though I was the one who initiated this and asked Carl if he could spend time with us, I was not prepared for what I encountered.
I’m not sure what I expected—maybe some tears, Kara stories, ways we see her legacy continuing. But instead, after listening to our hearts, Carl gently encouraged us to think about how to meet each other in our grief, how to pursue grieving friends in ways that will encourage and make sense to their hearts.
I texted Jill the next morning: I didn’t want to walk away challenged.
I wanted to walk away comforted with a more-mended heart. I wanted to experience joy more than sadness. I wanted that group time to be all about me and my pain and hurt and grief. I wanted to be given permission to make Kara’s death all about me, even if just for 90 minutes. Carl didn’t do that. My friends didn’t do that. Jesus didn’t do that.
I keep hearing Carl’s voice in my head: What does it look like to love each other in your grief?
Why is this so difficult? Why was that question so surprising? Maybe because it takes all my energy each day to choose joy for myself that it hadn’t occurred to me to ask my friends if they were able to choose joy, too. And because I have convinced myself that praying for my friends is the same thing as moving toward them. And while prayer is so, so important, it doesn’t replace the value of just showing up.
What a selfish friend I am.
I think about Kara and the kind of friend she was. She loved big. If you know one thing about her, it’s that. She was gracious and encouraged us all to live in our freedom in Christ. She never had expectations of me that made me feel suffocated; she set me up for success in our friendship, not failure. She loved me where I was, even if that was in ugly places. She didn’t judge or criticize, but she spoke gentle truth. She invited people in to her heart and asked to be invited into others’ hearts.
And yet, after being loved deeply by her and seeing her example of how to love well, I sit here in my isolated grief wanting to shield myself. As I type that, I wonder, Shield myself from what? What am I afraid of? I don’t have an answer. For one thing I know—wherever the Lord leads, Grace will meet me there. If He asks me to reach out to others when I’m hurting and don’t think I have the emotional energy, Grace will meet me there. If I say the wrong thing or am clumsy with my words to my hurting friends, Grace will meet me there, too.
This is choosing joy. This is choosing Grace. This is not ignoring my own pain, but it is asking God to prevent me from being swallowed up by it, and asking Him to protect my friends as well. It is asking God to show me how to comfort others through the comfort He has given me.
How are you being tempted to despair today? How can you choose joy? How has God loved you in your pain? How can you love others in the midst of your hurt?