In our last article, “Pack It Up!” we started discussing that not only are there things that you need to know in order to overcome grief, but there are also things you need to do. Action is required in order for what you know to become alive and active in your life, effectively eliminating the grief.
I kickstarted my “to-do” engine by imagining myself packing up all the grief I was burdened with into one giant suitcase. It was so full I had to sit on it to get it shut! Then I dragged it to the feet of Jesus and dropped it there. Letting go of the weight was easy. What I discovered to be the real challenge, was not returning to the suitcase and picking it up again … and again … and again.
I was drawn to it like a magnet, almost as if I was missing something if I wasn’t lugging it around. With every memory that would come, I would find myself wrapping my hands around the suitcase handle and taking possession of it once again. I needed to know how to leave the grief there, once and for all, with Jesus.
A Quick Review
Your Road Map:
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.
These verses tell you that Jesus is the example of how to put the weight down and never pick it up again. They instruct you to look to Him and consider Him (verses 2 and 3) because His actions hold the perfect directions. From the last article, you know that the first thing He did after He set the grief down – and, therefore, the first thing you need to do – was to get His eyes off of Himself and onto what was set before Him. More specifically, He focused on the joy that was in front of Him (verse 2).
In other words, get your eyes off of your feelings, what you lost, what you regret, and onto the future. Look forward, not backward. God has an amazing plan for your life, and no loss you have experienced negates or alters that plan. It is set. Getting your eyes fixed on that, and off the source of the grief, will help you drop the suitcase and walk away. That’s where we left off, and that’s where we’ll pick up in today’s article.
Despise the Grief
When Jesus took His eyes off of Himself, it led to the equally important act of “despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). That is the second thing that Jesus did that enabled Him to leave the grief behind. The word “despised” means to disesteem or de-value. He de-valued the mental grief and the physical agony. He de-valued His circumstances and feelings. It was because of that choice that He was able to move past the grief and forward into God’s plan.
Looking ahead and despising the grief is what will keep you from becoming “wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3). In other words, those two actions will prevent grief from wearing you out and causing you to become exhausted and without hope in your soul (mind, will, and emotions). After all, your mind is where the battle of grief is really being fought.
If you truly want to move past the grief, when you’ve simply had enough, you will need to intentionally follow Jesus’ example. The good news is, you have the same power residing on the inside of you to value or de-value the grief, what you’re feeling, that Jesus did.
What You Think
You value or de-value something through your thoughts. Your mind is like a magnifying glass. Whatever you focus your thoughts on becomes magnified and more dominant in your life. Your focus gives that thought value. In the reverse, whatever you don’t focus your attention on will begin to shrink in importance and influence. That thought becomes de-valued.
You are the one who places value, or lack of value, on everything that you think, feel, and experience. If you continue to give value to the source of grief by thinking on it all the time, you will not only remain in your grief, but it will become stronger, magnified.
How do you de-value a thought? It is impossible to just quit thinking about something. If I say to you, “Don’t think about pink elephants,” what do you think about? Pink elephants. If I say to you, “Don’t think about ooey-gooey, warm brownies right out of the oven,” you’ll think about the brownies, smell the brownies, and maybe even start salivating. (You’re thinking about them right now, aren’t you!)
I can’t say to you, “Stop thinking about the thing that is causing you grief. Just stop it.” That won’t help you at all. When a grief-carrying thought comes, which it will, you have to recognize it, reject it, and immediately replace it with something else. If you don’t replace it, that thought will keep returning, over and over, stronger and stronger every time. Do you remember the story about the unclean spirit from Matthew 12:43-45?
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
The point: Empty spaces are not good. If you’ve ever owned rental properties, you know that an empty house isn’t a good thing. It profits nothing and attracts unwanted visitors, such as rodents or squatters. Your mind is just like that rental property. Once you’ve cleaned it out by packing up all the grief, you’ll need to rent the space out to thoughts that will deter the rodents and squatters, i.e. the grief, from successfully returning.
God’s Word is the most reliable renter of space there is. Go to His Word, find out what it says about your situation, and then magnify it over what you’re feeling. Value His Word above all else, especially over your ever-changing emotions. Thinking on His Word gives value to it, and at the same time de-values the grief. It will fill that empty space completely, not leaving any room for grief to squeeze back in.
Memories will come, and that is normal, but don’t let them rent even a broom closet in your mind. Thoughts of my fur babies and the things we sacrificed weren’t allowed to set foot in my mind until my broken heart began to heal. After some time, they were allowed short visits until the first inkling of grief tried to join the party, and then they had to go, turned away by thoughts of the Word and the joy that was before me. Now those same thoughts that once brought me grief, only bring a smile to my face.
You Can Do This
Activate Hebrews 12:1-3 in your life by doing two things:
1) Change your focus by getting your eyes off of yourself and onto the joy that is set before you.
2) Value His Word above all else by giving it first place in your thought life.
Just remember, the transition from mourning to dancing is a process, my friends.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness..
It won’t happen overnight, but I can assure you that if you have been meditating on and putting into practice the previous teachings, then the healing process has already begun. If you will follow Jesus’ example on a consistent basis, the healing will continue to completion until you are completely free.
If you meditate on these truths, fill your mind with them, the grief will be overshadowed by the light of God’s Word and it will lose its grip on you. You will notice, day by day, that it is having less influence and less control in your life. Consistency is the key. Stay after it. Never forget that He knows and loves you, and that He has given you His Word to empower you to overcome.
Now it’s up to you to take what you know, act on it, and experience the freedom and joy that is yours. You can overcome.