We Grieve and Then We Hope

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By Gina Butz | twitter: @gina_butz

“I don’t know if I’ll ever find what I have right now again. There’s just so much that’s unknown.”

That was our son’s deep cry as we talked one night. He’s slogging through the final weeks of his senior year of high school, staring down freshman year at one of the country’s largest universities. It’s a big transition.

His days are consumed with studying for AP tests, shifts at the local grocery store, graduation parties, and college prep. This chapter is closing in a flurry of activity, so much so that finding the emotional space to prepare for the next chapter is difficult. He despairs in the loss, and fears for the future.

I know this ache. My husband and I have spent our adult lives in full time ministry, serving short stints in places from Minnesota to Asia to Florida. Just when we came to love a place and a people, we uprooted and started all over again.

I commented more than once, “It’s not that I don’t want to go. It’s that I don’t want to leave.”

Because when we look at those next chapters, we don’t know if we’ll ever have what we have right now again. There’s so much that’s unknown.

I reminded our son that five years ago, when we told him we were leaving Asia to move to the U.S. he melted into a puddle of tears on the floor. He could see no good here. What we were leaving was, in his words, “perfect.” But through these five years, new life has appeared. He’s found good friends, rich experiences, and meaningful work here. He has discovered his gifts and his purpose in this unknown place.

This I know: if there’s any good to come (and I believe there is), God will bring it. He goes ahead and writes that next chapter for us. This ache that we have now is because we found that good in this season. The same friendships and experiences that break our hearts now at the thought of moving on were hidden in the unknown we feared.

The same God who carved out this life in the US my son thought he did not want but now can’t imagine leaving, is the same God who goes ahead of him into the next chapter. God was faithful before; God will be faithful now.

It’s tempting to live in despair and fear. But when we live grounded in the truth that God goes with us, we can live differently. Instead of despair and fear, we grieve, and then we hope.

We weep for that which we have that is so good. We don’t diminish how desperately we will miss it. We let ourselves feel the ache because grief is good and necessary. And mixed in with the grief is gratitude for the undeserved goodness to have the gift of this life, this place.

But we do not grieve as people without hope. We hope in the One who sees in the darkness ahead of us, the path that isn’t clear. Our hope is not unfounded. We only need look back to see that God has been our provider, the giver of good things. God has worked before and God will do it again.

It would be easier not to grieve. If we pretended our hearts were not so in love, if we minimized the good things, then it wouldn’t hurt so much. We could guard our hearts from loving the next season too much. We could refuse to hope, and without hope, escape disappointment. But if we avoid grieving and keep ourselves from hope, we flat line. We live a faithless, joyless existence.

So instead we remember that we do not traverse these chapters alone. With God, our despair can dissolve in necessary grief, and our fear can transform into hope. God goes ahead. God prepares the way for us. We will find good.

____________________

Gina ButzGina Butz has served in ministry for over 20 years. She planned to spend three or four of them overseas, but ended up staying 13 years. She and her husband are currently raising two third culture kids and an imported dog in the exotic land of Orlando, Florida, where they serve in global leadership for Cru. She blogs about being wholehearted at Awakened and loves to connect on Twitter and Facebook.

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Comments

  1. Yup, this is the road to hope. Louis Markos is a C.S. Lewis scholar who comments about hope as found in the writings of Tolkien and Lewis: “Sorrow and pain are not to be naively dismissed, but fully embraced and endured. What is not to be embraced is that despair that would have us believe all is lost”

  2. Ross McCall says:

    Great piece Gina and very much where the McCalls find themselves. “It’s not that I don’t want go, it’s that I don’t want to leave.” Exactly.

  3. I desperately needed this today, Gina. We are looking to a new season, new time, new place and while we’ve been through many changes in our life this feels enormous with unknowns. The grief has come with the challenge to search each day for hope. I’ve found todays portion in your words. Also, thank you for your ministry with Cru. It was a big part of our daughter’s college life and where she met her husband. 🙂

  4. Resonating!

  5. Thank you, Gina. I need these reminders often that grieving is normal and that we don’t grieve as one without hope. I thought our grieving was over after leaving the states and settling. But it seems each day brings fresh grief of another piece of our lives we realize are lost. And it can feel really hopeless in these moments. I needed these words today (and will probably need them tomorrow too;)

    • It comes in waves, doesn’t it? I found that holidays and changing seasons (or lack thereof) were always especially hard overseas.

  6. Gina,

    Your words are balm for our in-transition souls as we move back to the US with teens after ten years in Asia.

  7. Somewhere along the way, your son has learned some pretty impressive tools for putting words around his feelings, and, clearly, some of this has come about via DNA and some from your own great modeling!
    I have a two year break before I go through this particular transition for the last time, so I’m enjoying the interim, and I will pray for you and your boy.

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