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Pilgrim's Guides


  Facing the Reality of Grief
Part Two





Knowing God
Faith or Presumption?
The Shock of Severed Hopes and Shattered Dreams
Broken Relationships
When the Grief is all our Own Fault
Shrinking Horizons
Changing Roles
Shock and Guilt in the Aftermath of Loss (i)
Shock and Guilt in the Aftermath of Loss (ii)
No Pit so Deep
Eleventh Hour miracle?
Removing Trauma
Never too Late to Grieve
Yielded Hearts and Altered Perspectives
The Power of Letting Go.
A Pilgrim Restored
Angelic Assistance

The Treasures of Darkness

  And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
Isaiah 45:3
  For the first few weeks after Ros was convulsed by spasms, I found, as so many people do in times of crisis, that the Lord sent special strength. Friends leapt to action-stations in prayer, adrenaline flowed and the Lord’s presence hovered like an overshadowing cloud, while I put this enclosed time to good use by completing the next draft of this book.

There is evidence in Scripture to suggest that the Lord quite enjoys a “rough and tumble,” but I wasn’t tempted to try and make any “bargains” with Him.29 Over the course of my life, with a few notable exceptions, I have preferred to focus on the fact that He is much better placed than I am to make the key choices for my life.

Beyond a certain increased proneness to irritability, (every diabetic’s perfect excuse!) anger wasn’t particularly an issue either – which only goes to show that by no means all of us automatically experience all five of the classic grief stages.

Ros and I often see things differently. Most of the time we compliment each other well, but on this occasion I thought she might be straying into denial. In reality, she was just trying to make the time in France as sheltered and “cocooned” as possible under the circumstances. In other words, this was less denial than common sense, combined with a hint of “divine anaesthetic” to tide her over.

The one thing I was not short of, as a result of being well advanced with drafting this book was an understanding of the grief symptoms I could expect to experience! Was I experiencing sharp pangs of grief as the initial numbness wore off? Yes, an abundance of the darned things.

We knew we had been overworking – but how could we have done otherwise with Ros preparing her lectures for the first time as well as having to complete her Master’s degree? Neither of us were inclined to indulge in prolonged “if only” regrets, and I think this protected us from many of the feelings of shame, guilt and depression which so often accompany the grief process.

Shakespeare termed sleep the “sole comforter of minds with grief oppressed,” and loss of it is common in almost all grief episodes. No wonder sleep deprivation ranks as such an effective method of brainwashing and torture. Most of us can cope with almost anything, providing that we get enough rest! We were certainly “nocturnally challenged,” both because of the increased frequency of the attacks, and the implications that they raised.

Engulfed by a sensation that I am sure many of you will be entirely familiar with, I felt alarmingly powerless. These feelings of helplessness became a cause of further grief themselves, leaving me prone to bouts of anxiety. My phone bill shot up as friends received phone calls at surprisingly early hours of the morning. (We were on holiday in rural France, you will recall, far from our usual support structure).

The fact that we have helped many others through times of anxiety undoubtedly went some way towards helping us to cope. We knew that it is usually best to skip the tricky questions in the initial stages of grief. After all, the Hebrew word for “why” doubles as the symbol for “chaos!”

For the time being, we could no more answer the inevitable questions going round our heads than we could appreciate a painting by standing with our noses pressed against it. We knew that it would only be when we were able to stand back that we would gain a better perspective.

Standing back is difficult, however, when every part of you is longing to find a solution. I sensed that if I could cooperate with this surging and unpredictable current I would have more chance of emerging intact from the experience. Being anything but level-headed when it comes to the health of my wife, however, my grasp on that particular perspective wavered from hour to hour, let alone from day to day.

Life proved complicated when we returned home. Like so many couples, our lifestyle affords little slack for emergencies, and shouldering all the transportation posed predictable problems for a two-driver family. Simon and Maria Redman took Dominic to school for us, and lovingly “soaked” Ros in the Lord’s presence. A group of leaders came to our house to pray (at extreme decibel pitch) for the problem to shift.

All of these were vital stages along the way, yet every time people prayed seriously for Ros, the spasms invariably seemed to worsen afterwards. That itself, of course, was a clue. A condition that reacts so intensely against prayer is more than likely to be carrying the stench of sulphur.

A few weeks before Ros’s first spasm I had gone for a walk with Rob Grinsell, a friend in the ministry. Suddenly, Rob threw his cap on the ground: “The gauntlet has been thrown down, and a challenge has gone out!” he declared theatrically. “Satan is challenging and God has accepted it.” He was alluding, of course, to the passage in Job 2:3 in which the Lord challenges Satan concerning one of His own servants. There is a New Testament parallel to this when Satan asks permission to “sift” Peter. In that instance, as surely for our own, Jesus promised that His own prayers would bring Peter though this testing period.30

The Scriptures are clear: Resist the devil and he will flee from you.31 By the time Ros had suffered well over one hundred of these dreadful attacks, we were desperate. Rather as military advances traditionally begin by laying down a heavy artillery barrage, I organised a major prayer push, mustering as many praying friends as we could to pray at a specifically arranged time, either with us or at a distance.

It was this day of prayer that proved to be the turning point. Even then there was a crocodile lash of the tail. As we drew to the end of an incredibly special time of prayer, Ros had one of her most violent ever attacks – and another one a few hours that night. Had our prayers not prevailed?

The following morning, as Ralph and Sarah Deakin laid hands on Ros and “soaked” her in prayer, the Lord showed Ralph a vision of an angel plying a microscopic needle and thread, gently “suturing” her nerve endings together. To our immense relief, the attacks receded in strength immediately and, within three or four days ceased altogether.

I discovered long ago that the same word is used in both Greek and Hebrew for to tempt, to test and to try. In other words, while the devil is tempting, God is also testing, and our soul is being tried! By God’s mercy, this proved to be a test and an attack rather than a final chapter.

Rob Grinsell had also pointed out to me that “tunnels” are often God’s fastest way of taking us through particular obstacles in order to reach an entirely different landscape beyond. As it turned out, the Lord had an entirely new appointment for me the moment this particular trauma had passed. In all probability, however, your situation may be an ongoing one, which is why we are going to turn our attention now to more serious forms of grief.


Serif photo dvd


Part Three
Approaching the Final Transition
WESTERN SOCIETY is more understanding than it used to be, but many families and communities continue to send out unspoken signals to preserve self-control and decorum at all costs. This can leave us people in more emotionally turmoil than in supposedly less developed societies that encourage a more open expression of grief.
Read More . . .
29 Genesis 18:22-23; 32:24-30; Exodus 32:11-13
30 Luke 22:31
31 James 4:7, cf 1 Peter 5:8-9a

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