Fear has been an ongoing theme in my life these last few weeks. Okay, it’s a reoccurring theme that shows up over and over in different forms. Fear is sneaky. It shows up in subtle ways. Fears that books aren’t selling. Fears that I’m not talented enough to follow through on this call. I think this is one of the enemy’s favorite ways to hold us back. Fear allows us to hold onto anger and unforgiveness leaving me with a sense of control. It allows me to feel like I am managing my life.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a message by Pastor Rick Warren with Saddleback Church. There was another piece of that message that struck me. It was about grief. He said that if you are stuck in anger or unforgiveness about a situation, maybe you need to allow yourself to grieve.
This reminded me that we don’t just grieve when someone dies. We grieve the loss of dreams. We grieve when we have been wounded by life. We grieve when there is divorce or broken relationships. We grieve when things don’t turn out the way we wanted. Scripture tells us grief can turn to joy.
John 16:22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (NIV)
There are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
I would take acceptance one step further-restoration. It is one thing to accept that the situation that was has changed things, but it’s another to let God take the residue that the grief left behind and cleanse your heart. For us to get to the joy that no one can take away, we need more than just acceptance. We need restoration.
27 He’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.
28-29 Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire! (Hebrews 12:27-29 MSG).
Restoration involves seeing where God is in the situation. We do come to accept that it didn’t go the way we wanted, but we also embrace God’s love for us in that situation. I believe that when we get to the other side of grief, we have something new in our hearts. Maybe it’s more compassion for others, or a greater sense of God’s love. It could even be a burden lifted.
Grief is a godly emotion as referenced in the scripture above. It is one of the ways God has given us to “clean house.” It allows us to separate out free will and the enemy from the experience and be left only with God’s love. Allowing fear, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness to remain leaves us stuck. We move back and forth from anger to bargaining to depression and back to anger. We need to take the hand of Jesus to walk through these phases of grief and separate out what the enemy is trying to use to hold us in this painful cycle.
Reread the Hebrews scripture. God promises that He is not indifferent to our pain and will thoroughly clean our house. He has so much more in store for us than fear, anger and unforgiveness. When we allow ourselves to grieve, we allow Him to come in and burn the trash and restore our hearts.
What are you holding onto that God wants you to restore? What fears are keeping you stuck? How has God changed your heart? Share your story here to encourage others.