The path from grief to joy
There is a massive sense of loss at the passing of a beloved friend or family whether 2 or 4-legged. Grieving is necessary and therapeutic. Jesus was not immune from the pangs of sorrow and loss. Even as He approached Bethany to raise Lazarus He was grieved in His spirit. The shortest verse in the Bible follows, “Jesus wept.” If the story ended there history would have been radically different. But the story did not end there which is the message of this piece.
One of my Facebook friends shared a message of sadness at the passing of a beloved friend whose cheerful and infectious spirit enlivened one of her riding groups. I can understand the unmitigated sorrow people who do not know Christ experience when a loved one dies because there truly is no comfort to be offered or found. But for those in the family of faith a change of perspective lightens the load and reveals a brilliant ray of hope and joy.
Radical Difference between New Creations in Christ and Everyone Else
There is a radical difference between the hearts of New Creations in Christ and those who are not. People without Jesus who lose a cherished relationship are left with a gaping hole in their life and heart that produces despair and real pain. There is no remedy to heal the damage that for many leads to the use of masking agents – alcohol, drugs, cults, or other available opiates to dull the pain.
Jesus is the Master Physician. He not only heals broken hearts but is faithful to fill every new hole with a greater measure of His own Spirit. There is no loss than He will not change to abundance. Sometimes a change of perspective is helpful to those in the middle of the grieving process.
Worldly people only admit two conditions, alive and in the world or dead and gone. There are many philosophies and religions that offer other possibilities but none truly heal the pain of loss. Christians admit two conditions as well, but they are dramatically different.
Christians in this World and Beyond
The Apostle Paul was clear about the two conditions possible for believers (1) being in the world or (2) being present with the Lord. Jesus further refined them to (1) being in the world but not of the world and (2) being “with Me today in paradise.”
How might a change of perspective affect the grieving process? As I read the Facebook entry my imagination automatically changed the scenario from the Christian riding club to a herd of wild horses living in a containment facility. The horses were well kept with an abundance of quality food, clear cool water, and sturdy shelter. There was trees for shade, room to watch the young ones play, and each wild horse had the security of herdship it was born to. But they were not free.
The Grief of Loss – Wild Horses
The wild horses lived in family groups but also associated with other families. Friends were made, mares napped in the sun as foals frolicked in their midst. But there were terrible days. Days of sadness, grief, and loss in the herd. Today was such a day.
A particularly curious and kind two year old buckskin filly was a popular playmate, babysitter, and beloved family member. The whole herd loved her. This would be the day she was taken from them. After the filly was removed and the gate closed the herd was silent in loss and grief. Foals stood beside their dams and the herd mourned.
Gone. She is no longer with us.
The world of the containment pasture was changed – and so was the world outside of the pen.
Passing from Life to Life
When the pasture gate closed the filly passed from the restrictions of the containment corral to a new life with the family who came to bring her home. The beautiful buckskin was no longer a wild horse being warehoused for a time – she was now in her forever home.
The place in the herd left open when the curious filly was taken away will eventually be filled with new friendships, new foals, and life in the herd will continue. The filly will be remembered from time to time, and her loss may always be a small shadow over the life of a particular buddy – but the filly is now home! One day the herd will be reunited. And on that day there will be no containment corral. No herd member will ever disappear through the gate again.
Grief and loss is the result of man’s choice to reject God’s plan in favor of his own. We are the only part of God’s creation to be so foolish. Horses still know their Maker. Horses still live under His plan.
When a loved one disappears through the gate separating mortality from immortality it is necessary to mourn the loss. It is also right to rejoice that the beloved is now in his or her forever home. And one day we will be reunited in a perfect paradise of freedom.