Grief is a funny thing isn’t it? It can come for many different reasons and in many different ways. We can grieve and feel loss over things we hoped for that did not happen or over things we did not hope for that did happen. Maybe we feel loss over expectations that were never met for a myriad of reasons. But when I really think about it, there are few hurts in my life that have authored more grief than the unfulfilled promises. As recently pointed out to me, this is because promises raise expectations and when not kept, I am left feeling disappointment and loss.
My reflection on this last reason for grief and an honest dialogue with God were initiated by a message I heard last Sunday at North Highland Presbyterian Church. It was a message delivered by Pastor Ashley Seaman. Pastor Ashley shared the story of grief felt by Samuel, (the last judge of Israel in the 350 year span of judges), when he understood that King Saul had turned out to be unworthy of the office God gave him.
To me the most poignant part of the story is found not so much in the identification with Samuel in his pain, but in God’s words to him in his grief. The story is related below. Please accept my apology if you are not a fan of the paraphrase, and I encourage you to read the story for yourself in the book of 1 Samuel.
You see, God sent Samuel to anoint Saul as the first human king of Israel because this is what folks wanted – a ruler, a king. Up until this point, God had been the ruler of Israel, but now they wanted a human kind of ruler. During his reign, Saul used his position to do things that God did not like and basically he abused his authority and the power of his office. So, God told Samuel to let Saul know he was outta there as the leader. Samuel did just that, but it broke his (Samuel’s) heart. And in 1 Samuel 15:35 we are told that Samuel grieved over Saul. After all wasn’t Saul the promise of a new and bright future for Israel? And didn’t Samuel himself, at the direction of God, anoint Saul as king? There is nowhere God said it was not okay for Samuel to grieve. And in fact we are told that God was also disappointed in Saul. But in Samuel 16:1 God came to Samuel and asked, “How long will you grieve over Saul?” Then he told him, “ I need you to focus on another work for me.“ A big work it was too. Samuel was to go and find another man that God had chosen to be anointed and to take Saul’s place. That man, boy at the time, was David.
After Pastor Ashley told this story from scripture, she asked us a question that sent me into a spiritual whirlwind. “Where is the Saul in your life? Where are you in grief over something that did not work out or perhaps was a promise that was not fulfilled?” YIKES!!! I sat in my chair wondering, “A Saul, you say?”
That evening and through the next few days, I sat with that scripture and asked God to reveal the Saul (s) in my life. He did. He showed me at least one situation where I was unwilling to let go because I had been promised something and am clinging to that promise even though it is not how things are working out. I had not realized that for the past few months, I have been in deep grief and disappointment. And I was not aware of all the energy I was pouring into trying to side-step the loss associated with that disappointment.
Then the Lord brought to mind the serenity prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Click. There it was. My struggle with grief was not a bad thing, but now it is time to accept the situation as it is, stop grieving and turn my focus and energy back to working in the kingdom by God’s plan. The message hit home and the result was astonishing.
“So, what’s next Lord?” Can you spell F-r-e-e-d-o-m? Freedom from unproductive labor. Freedom from insisting on my way because after all, I (little Laura) have a better plan? Freedom from being resentful and blaming others. Freedom to be part of the greater plan without reliance on any promise besides God’s. Freedom to let go and let God and know that He has everything under control.
The challenge to look my Saul in the eye, was one of the best gifts I’ve received in years. So now beloveds, I pass the gift and the challenge on. Where might be the Saul (s) in your life and your spiritual walk? Where might you be spending energy in grief and disappointment that could better be used to start down the path God has planned for you? No hurry, we each come to our own truth in His good time. But for me, I feel blessed to have heard that message and to clearly understand that although grief has its place and often is justified and healthy, now it is time to get up and move (dance) forward.
Thanks Father God. Thanks Pastor Ashley.
Copyright June 2012
Lakewood, CO 80401