It seems that I have had a lot of losses in my life. Perhaps I have had more losses than gains, or perhaps that is just how it feels sometimes. I have often thought about the best way to handle life when something precious is taken away. Understanding how God works in our lives and why losses come will help us to handle them well.
I think the very first time I remember dealing with loss was when I was in high school. I was doing well and was a freshman in high school. I was feeling great and excited about the year and then I started having pain in my right side and vomiting. My parents took me to the emergency room and I was placed in the hospital for observation. The diagnosis came the next morning and it was decided I needed to have my appendix removed. I was not afraid as my cousin had been through this a few years earlier and she had a nice small two-inch incision and had come through her operation well. I just knew that I would come through okay too. Or so I thought. I awoke from surgery with a six-inch incision that started near the bottom of my abdomen and finished just below the naval. I was in pain and my pain would last a long time.
Six weeks later I was allowed to go back to school and I had learned some tough lessons during that time. I learned that friends in high school go on with their lives without you. I learned that wounds don’t always heal properly and in fact I had a huge hole in the lower right quadrant of my abdomen from where a very large abscess had formed and been drained. In other words I was now deformed and felt very self-conscience about such a deformity as it was quite noticeable. I would have to adjust and cope with the deformity. I also learned that day time television was boring especially since we only had three television stations. I learned that family were the only persons to be relied upon in a time of crisis. I also learned that life was tough and prayer was the only relief. I talked to God a lot during my recuperation. I think that perhaps this was the beginning of my education on how God comforts the lonely who are struggling with something of value they have lost.
The next loss I really remember struggling with was when my brother died while suffering with the flu. He was two weeks shy of his twenty-third birthday and he was the first death in our extended family in many years. I watched how my grandparents and parents grieved, how they wondered why God hadn’t called them home rather than such a young person. I tried to bargain with God and asked that I be taken rather than my brother. While this is quite a common feeling when faced with deep grief it is also an impossibility. In time we all accepted his death but it took many years and each of us had to grieve in different ways. My Dad became depressed and we worried about him planning to commit suicide as he started carrying my brother’s pistol with him in his pick-up. My Mom threw herself into books and educated herself on grief and joined a group for grieving parents. My sister threw herself into her work and her family. I got married. Somehow I felt that I could not change the death so perhaps I could bring a new son home. Of course that wasn’t the only reason but getting married certainly helped fill the loneliness I felt in my heart.
In the course of my life I have lost people I love, my grandparents, my father and mother, my sister and brother, my father-in-law, many beloved aunts and uncles. I lost my husband when he exited the marriage and I lost being a part of another family. I also lost some friends. I lost my job when the marriage ended because I lost the business we had created together. I have lost things too, like the last marital home which I designed and had overseen the construction of, the financial security that marriage had provided, and part of my belongings. I have lost dreams too, too many to mention. But from all the things I have lost I never lost the love of my children or my love for Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians centuries ago For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 (New International Version or NIV). I have come to understand what that means. I know that my life is so much more than the house I live in or the car I drive or how much money is in the bank, more than the clothes I wear or the food I eat. What matters are not things, but people. My life is to be a blessing to others, to my children and my family, to my friends and those whom I have yet to meet. I am to give back as those from past generations gave so generously to me. My for-bearers didn’t pass along possessions of great worth and I won’t be leaving possessions either. Rather, I will be passing on teachings and attitudes just as such were passed to me. And when my time on earth is completed then to die will be a gain to me. I will be set free from the burdens of this world and I will enter into God’s kingdom to continue my journey into eternity. If I live for myself only then where will be the gain in leaving this world for eternity? The answer is simply, there will be no gain unless I live for Christ.
I have listened to the warning in Mark 8:38 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul, (NIV). If I live my life here and now for only myself and not for helping others, then I will forfeit (or lose) my soul, and eternity will not be pleasant. After all eternity is a long time especially in comparison to the discomforts in this short earthly lifetime. But if I choose to allow God to discipline me, like I disciplined my children when they were young for their benefit, then I will bend my will toward God’s will through the help of the Holy Spirit as a follower of Christ. Then I will understand who is really in control of my life when life takes away things I treasure. Part of understanding how God works is realizing that God sees all, hears all and knows all. I can put my trust in Christ Jesus because he is my protector and my savior. Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave are proof enough that I can trust Christ in all things, and I do emphasize all!
Until next time……Katherine