Most things are slightly more complicated. Some things are significantly more. Frankly, life would be so much easier if we just didn’t do hard things. But, here we are…
Going to the grocery store, choosing the restaurant we’ll eat at, where we will vacation, getting dressed for school or deciding what to eat for an afternoon snack – mundane tasks that require a deep amount of respect for the power they hold over us – to either go well or to leave you wishing things could just be easier. A simple outing you hoped would be quick and painless results in an episode of trauma that derails the entire day and leaves you feeling emotionally spent and utterly exhausted with this life you’ve chosen (or better yet, been chosen by). Why can’t simple things just be simple? Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we didn’t do hard things? Of course. But here we are. Grieving the loss of a life we thought we would have in exchange for a more beautifully complicated version.
The questions arise: Is the amount of time and energy this trauma requires of us taking away from the kind of childhood our other kids deserve? Is it embedding itself deeply into our marriage in ways we’re unaware are in the end driving us apart? Is it isolating us from friendships and real, deep community? Is it traumatizing us in ways our body and soul will likely never fully recover from? Will we ever get out of this “stage” into an easier, more “normal” version, or is our future destined for a lifetime of difficulty and struggle with these seemingly unshakeable demons of trauma? Do we have the energy for that? Can we really handle it? Certainly at some point our arms are going to give out and we’re going to drown, right? We can’t keep fighting these currents forever, can we?
And then we look around at others and start comparing the complexities of our lives up against what appears to be the simplicity of there’s. But let’s not go there right now. Too much, right?
Life would be much easier if we didn’t do hard things. But here we are…grieving the loss of a life we thought we would have for the more beautifully complicated one we’ve now found. Clinging to the tension of “this is what we signed up for” but “this isn’t at all what we signed up for.” Sometimes we just want our old life back, or at least a more sanitized version of the one we thought we might have. It’s then that our only hope is to hope – that following Jesus into hard places is worth it, it is not without meaning or purpose and that the renewal of all things is coming in Him. For now, we are both eager spectators and hopeful participants on that journey. But a day is coming when we will be full partakers. This is our hope. Through the grief and struggle we see but a glimpse of its worth, but one day we will see it in its fullness. And it will be good.
Jesus says, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) We know and feel this all too keenly now. The narrative has been rewritten. The script has been flipped. True, full, abundant and good life is no longer found in what we can gain, accumulate or accomplish but instead is found in what we’re willing to lay down, lose and let go of. To truly find life we must first be willing to lose our own ideas of what life is. It’s counterintuitive and seemingly counterproductive. But it’s in that place of vulnerability, grief and loss that Jesus offers another way, a harder way, a confusing way, but in the end – a significantly better way. It’s there that we “find” what life truly really is. It’s there that Jesus says come, follow me, and I’ll show you things you would have never been able to see on your own. Trust me.
This is hard, full of confusion and questions and often punctuated by seasons of deep grief over the loss of a life we thought we would have. An easier one, where simple things are simple – going to the grocery store is easy, getting dressed in the morning is easy, social gatherings are easy, there’s no special meetings to be had with teachers or appointments to attend with doctors, no medicine to figure out, books to read or support groups to attend. There’s peace in the home and calm at the dinner table. Things are just easier, please.
Not only a life easier for us, but a life easier for them as well. We watch them struggle and wish it didn’t have to be like this for them. We break and grieve over the fact that any of this is even happening to them in the first place. We would give anything to “fix” them, to free them from the trauma that now effects every part of their being. So that just for a moment they could know what it feels like to be fully whole and fully healthy. We grieve the loss they’ve had to endure – that they now carry with them in their minds, their bodies and their hearts. That together we now carry the weight of – and together we are often crushed by.
We grieve the loss of that idea of life for the one we now have…together. But we do not grieve without hope.
Scripture validates our grief; it doesn’t dismiss it. Instead, it reframes it so we can have a healthy relationship with it. In a separate context Paul writes to believers about those around them who have died, and reminds them that death is not the end of their story: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death [have already died], so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-24) He validates their grief then points them to the hope we have in the resurrection – that one day Jesus will return and make all things right. It’s hard now, yes, but it’s not hard without hope. We will see the goodness of the Lord in all things. All will be made right.
So, in scripture grieving is real, losses are real, pain is real, struggle is real – but there is a real hope that changes it profoundly. It doesn’t dismiss it; it simply gives us the perspective and strength we need to live through it with the confidence that in the end, hard and broken things will not be final things.
We do not grieve without hope. All of this is worth it. These kids are worth it.
Jesus says follow me, lose your life and I promise you’ll find a better one – not necessarily an easier one – but one that is infused with a purpose and meaning and hope unlike anything you would have ever been able to find on your own. We grieve the loss of that idea of life we thought we might have for the one we’ve now found. And in that tension between “this is what we signed up for” and “and this isn’t at all what we signed up for” there is fullness of hope – that following Him into hard places is worth it…the renewal of all things is coming, and we simply can’t imagine living life any other way.
It’s worth it.
Jason is a writer and speaker who encourages families and equips churches in their foster care and adoption journeys.
Jason currently serves as the Director of Church Ministry Initiatives with Christian Alliance for Orphans. In his work he speaks and teaches at churches, conferences, forums and workshops on church-based ministry strategies and best practices as well as encouraging families that are in the trenches and those that are considering getting involved.
Jason and his wife, Emily live in Texas with their daughters. He has authored 3 books: Reframing Foster Care, Everyone Can do Something, and ALL IN Orphan Care and he blogs regularly at www.jasonjohnsonblog.com.