Knowing what you need to know and keeping things in perspective (discussed in the previous two articles) is a great start down the road to overcoming grief, but it’s not enough. In order for what you know to change your circumstances, there has to be a response to the truth you’ve learned. You have to put action to your knowledge. To do that, you need to know what to do. That’s what we’ll begin discussing in today’s article.
The following short passage is your road map, your foundation, to overcoming grief. It defines what you need to do and is your guide for putting what you know into action.
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
Let It Go
The instruction begins in verse 1 when it says to “lay aside every weight,” which means to cast away whatever is a burden or a hindrance to you. Grief is a hindrance. It’s a burden. It weighs you down. Notice it says “let us” cast away our burdens. That means that it’s your job to cast off the grief. No matter how strong it is, you can cast it off. (Do not despair, you’ll learn how to do that as we go along.) It is your choice to keep it or let it go. Knowing that truth is half the battle.
God can’t take the grief until you’ve decided you’ve had enough and are willing to let it go. Have you ever had to take something harmful from a toddler’s hand that they didn’t want to let go of? You literally have to pry their little fingers open while they’re kicking and screaming. God won’t do that with you. You have to be willing to open up your hand and let that harmful enemy of grief go.
Dust Off the Bucket
God isn’t going to snap His fingers and change how you feel, which would be the equivalent of Him prying open your fingers and taking it from you. I think that is one reason why so many people get stuck in grief. They’re praying and waiting for Him to do something about how they feel, to change their emotions for them, to supernaturally take away their grief and replace it with joy.
But joy is something you already have. He’s already given you all the joy He has to give. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that He placed in you the moment you were born again (Galatians 5:22). You have a well of joy on the inside of you. Joy is a deep, deep well of cool, refreshing water that will quench the fire of grief, but it is up to you to draw it out.
I don’t know if any of you have ever drawn water from a well with a bucket, but it takes effort. If you use a little effort, you’ll only get a little water. But if you put your weight into it, put your foot up on the ledge and lean into it, you can pull up a full, overflowing bucket of water. Drawing out the joy of the Lord when you are in the midst of grief requires effort on your part. He’s not going to draw it out for you, but if you’ll put in the effort, He’ll supply the strength.
Not Only Human
You might be thinking, Well, this is how I feel and I can’t change how I feel. I could agree with you, but if I did, we would both be wrong. That is not Biblical. He has given you the power to rule over your emotions.
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
The word “spirit” in the Hebrew is defined as air (words), anger, and mind. You are meant to rule your mind, will, and emotions. The phrase “you’re only human” diminished this power and authority that is in you as a believer to change how you feel. You don’t have to be ruled by your emotions. You don’t have to be ruled by grief. You can choose to change.
I’ll give you a perfect example to demonstrate that you can change how you feel in an instant. Who is someone that you would love to meet? You know it will never happen, but you would love to meet them. Imagine that one day, you are in a mood – grumpy, snappy, crabby, all of the negative adjectives that end with “y.” If anything can go wrong, it does. On top of it all, you’re having a bad hair day.
Now imagine that very person knocks on your door. You would burst into a smile and say, “Wow! I can’t believe you’re standing in my doorway! Come on in!” There would be an immediate change in your emotions because you control them. That is how God created you. Not only did He create you with emotions, but He gave you the ability to control them.
Despite what you see and feel, you are not only human. Yes, you are human, but you are also wall-to-wall Holy Ghost. Through the power of the Holy Spirit that lives on the inside of you, God has equipped you with the ability to be on an even keel at all times … regardless of your circumstances.
Pack It Up
Why is it so important to lay down the weight of grief? Hebrews 12:1 goes on to say, “let us run with patience the race before us.” You are running a race. To run that race well and complete it, you need to be as light as possible. As a runner, over the years I have been 10 pounds heavier and 10 pounds lighter. From experience, I can attest to the fact that lighter running is much easier. The lighter I am, the faster and longer I can run. Even a very strong person will find it difficult to run and will tire out quickly if they are packing on the weight. Carrying extra weight, the likelihood of not finishing the race increases exponentially.
When you get this, that it is your responsibility to lay the weight down so you can run your race unencumbered, see yourself packing all that grief into a suitcase and setting it down at the feet of Jesus. After you’ve set it down, be aware that the enemy will give you countless opportunities to pick it back up again through recurring memories.
Setting down the suitcase is not the same thing as forgetting. Memories will come to mind, and that is completely normal. It’s what you do with those memories that’s important. When that memory comes and the first twinge of sorrow or pain begins to surface, you need to imagine the suitcase. See it setting at the feet of Jesus. See your hands beginning to wrap around the handle again. Feel the tremendous weight of it as you begin to pick it up. You don’t want to carry that suitcase again, so choose to let go and leave it at His feet.
How Do I Do That?
In Hebrews 12, verses 2 and 3, you are told to look to Jesus and consider Him. As always, He is your example for the “how-to.” In the midst of His darkest hour, His deepest grief, Jesus was able to pack it all up and set it at the feet of the Father. On the night He was betrayed and delivered up to be crucified, the Word says this about the grief he was experiencing: “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death’” (Matthew 26:38). It also says in Luke 22:44, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Jesus was in such grief, such agony, that He sweat drops of blood. But despite His grieving, He was able to endure the cross. He moved through it and beyond it. He persevered through the grief and the pain and the torment. Despite the severity of the grief you feel, using Jesus as your example, you can move through it and beyond it.
How He Did It
We’re going to close out this article by looking at the first of two things that Jesus did to overcome the grief and move forward to victory. That night, He poured his anguish out to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, then He packed up the grief and let it go. He put aside what He was feeling so He could complete the task He had been sent for.
Here is His first secret to packing it up, setting it down, and leaving it there: He didn’t look at His circumstances again. He changed His focus. Jesus chose to not focus on the mental grief and the physical agony, but instead on “the joy that was set before him.” By doing that – by redirecting His focus – He was able to leave His suitcase at the feet of the Father.
Eyes Off Self
What was the joy that was set before Jesus? What was He looking forward to and thinking about? It was the joy that would come to you and me as the result of His sacrifice. The joy of seeing you have a relationship with the Father. The joy of seeing you walk in victory in this life.
You were the joy that was set before Him. He overcame the grief because of you. He stopped looking at Himself and His circumstances and turned His view outward. Eyes off self; eyes on others. Eyes off self; eyes on the Word. Eyes off the past; eyes to the future.
Stephen followed Jesus’ example when he was being stoned in Acts 7:58-60. As the stones were pummeling him, as the life was leaving his body, he could have chosen to grieve, but instead he was literally focused on Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. His present situation meant nothing to him as he looked forward to the joy of eternity that was set before him.
There is Joy Before You
Ask yourself what the joy is that is set before you. Is it the ministry you’ve been given and knowing that there are people waiting for you to bring them the Good News? Is it positively impacting the lives of your children and grandchildren? Is it simply to be a light in the darkness of the marketplace and community?
Stop looking at what was lost. Stop looking back. There will come a time where you’ll be able to look back and reminisce, but not now, not in the beginning, because even good memories can turn into a source of grief again. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying it is possible to replace those memories with something that brings you joy.
There is a joy that is set before you, whether you can perceive it right now or not. You have to choose to see it. Taking your eyes off of yourself and getting control of your feelings will remove the blinder of grief so that you can see past the present and forward to the joy that is in front of you.