Life is painful. With every increase of joy and happiness comes a greater and greater likelihood of experiencing loss. The more important something becomes to you, the more it hurts when it’s taken away. And so if you allow your heart to be open to anything good at all, you also are opening your heart to a very real possibility of being wounded deeply.
So what should we do? It feels like life is one big unwinnable catch-22. We want to experience happiness in this life, and yet to open ourselves up to the possibility of happiness is to make ourselves vulnerable to pain. And yet if we stay closed off to the possibility of pleasure in relationships, careers, churches, and in all the other areas which culminate to make a full, rich life, we may go unscathed but we also will go on living a boring, safe life where our need for safety is also steeling our need for joy.
Since Happiness and Grief Often Come Together, Healing Is Essential
The only real solution I see to all this is healing. Since happiness and being hurt seemed to be forever linked on this earthly side of eternity, it seems we have no choice. If we want happiness, we will need to be vulnerable and open to people and situations which are outside of our control. And with this vulnerability comes a massive potential for being hurt. Without healing in this equation, we have no hope. But if we trust God for healing, than we can also trust God during the vulnerability needed as we seek happiness with an open heart, an open heart which is willing to risk loving recklessly, knowing full-well it won’t always turn out good in the end.
There’s a lot that could be said about finding healing. Ultimately healing comes through Jesus Christ alone (Matthew 11:28, Luke 5:31-32, Psalm 23:3, Psalm 103:1-5). But one area that I feel often goes neglected, but which is extremely essential for healing, is taking the time to grieve all the good that you’ve lost.
Grieving the Bad Things that Happened Is the First Step in Healing
You’ve probably heard that the first step to healing is grieving, which I believe is true. But so often when someone thinks about grieving in the process of healing, they think about the hurt that their ex-spouse caused during the divorce, the painful way their loved one died, the scheming that took place when they lost the business to their partner, or the painful comments their ex-boyfriend put on social media after the breakup. And this is right. You have to take time to grieve these wounds if you want to be healed. If you never allow yourself to admit that someone hurt you, you will never have the opportunity to be healed of those wounds.
But grieving has to go deeper if you want it to blossom into growth. During the initial healing process, our minds focus on what was most violent, aggressive, and wrong. And so we naturally grieve the bad things that occurred to us. We must go there in our hearts. But after we grieve the bad, I believe it is perhaps even more important to grieve all the good that we lost.
To Be Healed, We Must Also Grieve the Good We’ve Lost
When we say we are experiencing “loss,” this means something good was taken away from us. The deepest hurts in life are not the blows people strike us with. The deepest hurts in life stem from losing the love, joy, and happiness that we once had. When there was nothing good about a relationship, a role in a ministry, or some situation in life that is now gone, it’s not hurtful when it ends. It’s a relief.
Certainly it hurts when people wound us. But what hurts more is when we lose something good in our lives. Therefore we must learn to grieve the good. We must drop our defenses if we hope to be healed and we must remember the good parts of the marriage that is no more, the good parts of the relationship which is now fractured by mistrust, or the good parts of that ministry which went up in flames.
For the grieving to be complete in the healing process, we must not only grieve the bad that happened to us, we must also grieve the good that was taken from us.
Grieving and Healing
Recently someone asked me about a painful loss that took place in my past. But rather than focus on all the bad that led to that loss, all the juicy details that people seem to want to know when something goes up in smoke, this person asked me all kinds of questions about the good that happened during that season of life: “What did you love about your time in that season? What gifts of yours were you able to use then? What brought you the most joy during that time? When you look back at your time there, what are you most proud about?”
I couldn’t figure out why the tears started to come, but upon further reflection, I believe those questions touched something inside of me because that’s the first time someone asked me about the good that happened in that season of life rather than the bad. Everyone asks about the drama that takes place, the corruption that was discovered, or the gossip that always seems to follow when things end. But rather than ask about all that, this person asked about all the good that I was a part of. God showed me then that if you want to truly be healed after a hurtful season in life, we have to take time to not only grieve the bad that happened, but we also have to take time to grieve the good that we lost.
So here are two big takeaways when it comes to grieving and healing:
- If you are in need of healing, grieve the bad that happened to you, but don’t forget to grieve the good that you lost too.
- If you want to help others heal, don’t forget to ask them about the good that they experienced.
We all want to be happy. Therefore we all need to be vulnerable, open to love, and willing to love others even though we know it won’t always turn out well in the end. With every increase of good that occurs in our lives, there also becomes another degree of danger. The more joy and love we receive from something or someone, the more hurt and pain will occur if that certain something or someone is taken away or harms us, intentionally or unintentionally.
The only solution is healing. If you want to experience true love, you have to accept the possibility for hurt. God made humans knowing full well we would turn on him and sin. But he made us anyways. He loved anyway. He knew his healing could override the hurt humans would cause. Now, we too must trust God’s healing if we hope to find happiness in the midst of a world that has so much potential for hurt.