• Tim Grissom

What's often said about parenting can also be said about grieving: the days are long but the years are short.

To parents, the statement is a warning against letting busyness and fatigue blind them to how quickly time is passing and how soon their children will leave the nest. To grievers, it’s a recognition of the slow-moving gears of rebuilding life after loss.

Slow moving, but moving nonetheless.

You wake up one day and realize an entire month has passed, then six months, and then a year. Or more. You’ve survived the pain that you thought would surely end you.

Look back now over the ground you’ve covered. Sure, you might have taken a few detours and made a questionable decision or two, but here you stand in a new place. Here, by God's grace you stand. And the big question has morphed from Why? into What’s next?

You've picked up some wisdom along the way, and some patience. Maybe even a new perspective. Maybe your heart has been pulled toward eternal matters. You’re back on speaking terms with God . . . if you ever stopped. You‘re learning things about Him and about yourself.

Dare I say it? … Grief is actually bringing about some good.

You have fuller vision and deeper understanding. You are wiser. You are stronger. You are less certain of some things and more certain of others. Even some of your desires have changed. And here you stand. Here by God's grace you stand.

What’s next?

Maybe you’re not there yet, not ready to tackle what’s next, or to even think about it. That's okay, but be encouraged to know that the question is coming. You do have a future.

Is life going to be different than you had hoped? Yes. Is God finished with you? No.

There is a next.

© 2022 by Tim Grissom. All rights reserved.

  • Tim Grissom

Grief makes us revisit the past more than we might have had loss not become a chapter in our stories. Doing so brings both blessing and curse.

The blessing is that we become increasingly thankful for what the gone person was to us and to others. This thankfulness then compels us to tap into their influence and to try to emulate them. For me, that has meant trying to be more merciful and compassionate, because my wife was so merciful and compassionate. I try to do and be things that I learned from her.

The downside is that we can get emotionally locked into a life that no longer exists. We feel only the pain of what was and none of the joy of what is. Sadness sans hope.

We are shaped by our past; it is one of the key players that has made us who we are. And now the person we have lost, and how we are responding to their absence, is part of who we are becoming. But just as we would never want to erase our loved one from our memory or deny that our grief is real, we should not try to escape the present. We have to live—even though that means a different life than we had envisioned.

I like to think of the past as a type of advisor who can: show me how to make better decisions in the light of lessons learned; remind me to enjoy the swiftly passing moments; urge me to value old friends and to welcome new ones; focus my efforts on loving God and serving others instead of building more barns to store more stuff.

There’s so much that the past has to teach me, and though I don’t always appreciate what it says, I’m learning to listen. Learning as I hurt forward.

© 2022 by Tim Grissom. All rights reserved.

  • Tim Grissom

One morning a few weeks ago I looked out my kitchen window and noticed that the garbage can I’d taken out to the street the night before had been moved. The city’s trash hauler was due any minute, so if I didn’t get out there quickly and set it back in place, my garbage wouldn’t get picked up until the following week.

Fret not; I made it in time. Order was restored . . . kind of. In my mind this very little situation started to grow: Who moved the can? Why did they move it? Could it have held two weeks worth of garbage if I hadn’t seen it in time? How can I keep this from happening again?

I rapidly shifted from confusion to irritation to worry to prevention strategy . . . over a garbage can.

Little things often trigger my worst reactions.

Thankfully, God reeled me back in, maybe chuckling a little as He did, and then reminded me about the birds and the wildflowers. He takes care of them without their tactical input and He takes care of me—in the little things and the big ones.

Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. (Matthew 6:26–29)

I don’t need to strategize a defense to keep things from going wrong (as if I could). I can’t offer God any more assistance than the birds do, or the flowers. And they seem to be doing just fine with Him in control.

I’m not saying that grief was the onset of my obsessing ways, but it sure gave them a boost. The loss of a loved one, and the many changes it sets in motion conspires against our sense of order and control. Worrying and obsessing seep into the cracks that grief has opened up.

But it never really was our order, was it? We were never tasked with holding our world together. And perhaps this is one of the favors that loss does for us—if we let it. It helps us notice the little things God does, like watching over birds and flowers and kinetic garbage cans. And we know that if He cares that much about the little stuff, He certainly cares about the big.

© 2022 by Tim Grissom. All rights reserved.