It’s time to stop pre-grieving.

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“Do you ever pre-grieve your life?”

 

This is a question I’ve been asking a lot of people lately, curious as to how much this particular condition affects others beyond myself. I define pre-grieving as the act of mourning in advance outcomes that are not guaranteed. Or, in other words, giving a voice to anxiety where it has no place; being sad in advance over a future that may or may not ever come.

 

More often than not, in response to this question, I hear, “Oh yes. I pre-grieve all the time. I thought I was the only one.”

 

Recently, I took to Instagram to ask even more friends if they struggle with this too. Out of the nearly one hundred people who responded, 87% said they could relate. These numbers aren’t scientific, but the pattern of pre-grief remains: far too many of us are living in captivity to fear of the future.

 

We fear what we cannot control.

We mourn before there is anything to mourn.

We do not allow ourselves to hope.

We do not fully trust God to be good.

 

Examples of Pre-Grief 

 

The closest medically-recognized example of pre-grieving is anticipatory grief, usually in expectation of the death of a loved one. But pre-grief isn’t limited only to this.

 

When I asked people about how pre-grief plays a role in their own lives, they shared a few things, and shed some light on the things they pre-grieve the most.

 

Pre-grieving the loss of a present season – anticipating painful change.

Pre-grieving worst-case scenarios in the realm of uncertainties.

Pre-grieving the possibility of breakups. The death of loved ones. The pain of losing people.

Pre-grieving losing joy.

Pre-grieving an imagined (and impossible) future where God is not truly faithful or good or worthy of trusting with everything.

 

Somehow, for some reason, I think we can pre-grieve because we don’t want to be blindsided by loss when it does come. This isn’t always the case, but I think we reason that if we can’t control the future, we can at least get a head start on processing now – as if somehow, by mourning now, it will lessen the blow of the pain later, or it will be less shattering. Common sense tells us that doesn’t work – it just makes us more anxious and miserable in the present.

 

Grieving potential futures now is not an effective way of preventing pain – instead, we’re paralyzing ourselves with anxiety, often unfounded anxiety, and robbing ourselves of the joy of the present.

 

Where This Stems From

 

Over and over, I see this pattern – we are afraid. We are afraid of losing. We are afraid of being out of control. We are afraid of pain. And this fear is often rooted in lack of trust that God will be good.

 

Because if God is good, there is no room for fear – because perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

If God is good, then His plans are good – all of them – because ALL things work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28).

If God, the most powerful One in existence is, in fact, good, then there is no other power in heaven or on earth that can supersede God’s power – and He alone is the one in whom we trust (Psalm 56:3-4).

 

The times in which we revert to pre-grieving our lives will always be we fall into believing that our uncertain future has more power over us than God’s faithful goodness does.

 

Our Big Mistake 

 

I once had a conversation with a wise person that changed my life. He said to me, “I spent my entire life captive to the feeling that my life was too good, always emotionally preparing for something devastating to happen. And when tragedy did come, my first thought was, ‘Aha. I knew it.’ And at that moment, I realized that I had just spent decades of my life in unnecessary fear and pre-grief – and even though the pain was real, God was still faithful and good, and carried me through with some of the most powerful reminders of His presence I’ve ever experienced.”

 

That shook me to my core.

 

When we pre-grieve, we do not factor in the truth that even though pain is virtually inevitable, God’s faithfulness never ceases. We worry about what the worst-case scenarios will look like, and yet we are so prone to leaving God’s presence out of that imagined future.

 

As Christians, one of the greatest hopes we have in our lives is that God does not change. Over and over in Scripture, we see this so evidently (Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

 

One of my favorite verses is James 1:17, which tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” He gives us good gifts; He does not change.

 

Therefore, if He is faithful today, He will be faithful tomorrow.

If He is good today, He will be good tomorrow.

If He is present today, He will be present tomorrow.

If He is gracious and compassionate today, He will be gracious and compassionate tomorrow.

 

And because of this, we can echo Job’s words in saying that “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21b). We aren’t denying that pain will probably come, but we are kicking out the anxiety that threatens to steal our joy in the present and keep us from trusting God with everything. He is worthy of praise, no matter what, because regardless of what happens, He is always good.

 

Breaking the Patterns of Pre-Grief

 

Slowly, slowly, I am learning to break the patterns of pre-grief in my life. Late at night, when I find myself overthinking everything with a well-worn journal in my lap, I go through these questions and force myself to answer honestly:

Do I trust God to be good enough and powerful enough to write a good story?

Do I trust God to be good enough for me no matter what?

Do I trust that God delights in giving good gifts to His kids?

 

Sooner or later, we will all come to terms with the reality that there is so much out of our control – and mourning over the things that may one day be lost will not keep them there. Trusting God is our hope.

 

We must choose to hold onto temporary things loosely, and hold onto Him tightly. Not because we should love the temporary things any less, but because God is the only steady One when our reality is uncertain. And if He is good, there is no room for fear, or worry, or anxiety over the things to come, because He has never left us and He never will. Our hope will always, ultimately be rooted in who He is.

 

We can only flourish if we’re willing to let go – so we can instead hold onto the One who holds our lives so much better than we can.

 

He’s good. He’s really, really good. And so, we are faced with a choice: will we trust Him?

 

It’s time we stopped pre-grieving.

 

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Hallelujah in the dark.

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It’s Monday morning, and I miss my old life.

As I tumble out of bed, I glance at my phone and frown at the time. It’s later than I wanted, but I’m up now. I look at myself in the mirror as I put my hair in a scrunchie on top of my head – the bags under my eyes are beginning to resemble suitcases. I sigh.

 

My first coherent thought is to brew a cup of coffee, and so I do – the first good cup of coffee I’ve had in three weeks. This morning routine provides me with a small shred of steady familiarity; every sip is reassurance.

 

From where I sit, I have the perspective of a gnat. I am selfish and spoiled by nature, and I know this. I miss my friends. I miss my life. I miss normal. I miss lunch dates and late-night ice cream runs and Bible studies with my community. I miss road trips. I miss coffee shops. I know people are dying and yet I am a helpless bystander grasping at anything to numb the feeling of powerlessness.

Continue reading “Hallelujah in the dark.”

To love is to be vulnerable: how one simple concept is changing my life.

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C. S. Lewis wrote that to love is to be vulnerable.

 

The full quote is a beautiful one. It’s one I’ve held onto for a while, one that reminds me I have to give up safe in order to receive something so much better. But that doesn’t mean vulnerability is easy, by any means. And slowly, I am peeling back the layers of my life to reveal the fear and the imperfection, and I am learning to find joy.

Continue reading “To love is to be vulnerable: how one simple concept is changing my life.”

seeing Your goodness in the land of the living.

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“How do you reconcile the two? The goodness of God with the pain and brokenness of life. How do you make sense of it all?”

 

It’s after midnight, and the three of us are sitting around on the floor of our room, Bibles in our laps, honesty hour for each of us. After a long day of travel and unexpected experiences, we’re exhausted and cutting right to the heart of what we’ve all been walking through.

 

“I guess…I don’t know exactly. I think I often tend to believe that God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good.”

 

I pause for a moment, and gather my thoughts.

 

“Almost this: I know I don’t deserve His love, so I see the love He does give me as a beautiful, wonderful gift, and everything else as extra. I don’t think that’s right or healthy, but that’s how I tend to reconcile it. He doesn’t have to be good to me in my mind for me to still believe He’s good.”

Continue reading “seeing Your goodness in the land of the living.”

There’s Joy in Both: finding hope in brokenness.

 

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“There’s joy in both.

 

This mantra has been echoing in my head for months now, ever since a friend of mine sent me those words right when I needed to hear them. Right now, I’m watching the range of life seasons my friends are in, the happiness they’re seemingly consumed with – stepping into their careers, traveling across the world, falling in love. And oftentimes I wonder, in the mundane, everydayness of life – is there joy here? Truly?

 

In this season, I am fighting for joy. This season, in which my heart is tired, I am learning to find hope again.

Continue reading “There’s Joy in Both: finding hope in brokenness.”

West-Coast Grace: resting in His presence.

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Sometimes it takes a trip to the other side of the country to really start to see God more fully.

 

It’s not about the travel, though. Sometimes just a change of pace, and scenery, and a lot of long walks and talks with people that know your soul. Sometimes it’s just the space to sit for an hour with a journal in the early hours of the morning in a dark living room, or as the wind whips through messy hair and thick sweaters on front porches.

 

It is in the kitchen that I find myself on a Saturday morning, gripping a mug of good coffee, overthinking. We’ve squeezed seventeen people into a beach house, and so I’m surrounded by the coffee drinkers, those of us lingering around the counter as people have started to spread out – some on couches with fuzzy blankets and guitars, some around tables with card games, some zipping up jackets to walk to the beach.

 

As the conversation begins to wind down, I quietly slip out of the kitchen, grab my Bible and journal, and find a place alone outside, to think and pray and read and cry silent tears, if they’ll come.

Continue reading “West-Coast Grace: resting in His presence.”

Unfiltered: because the world needs more vulnerability.

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i.

 

It has been much too long since I have sat myself down to write. In the past months, exhausting and chaotic as they have been, I have lived.

 

I have mourned things that would never come to be. I have both sat on the floor of my room sobbing for hours, as well as driven myself to the beach in the middle of winter to dance with joy, alone on the shore, letting my feet be tickled by the ocean waves.

 

I have spent countless hours with friends, working through relationship issues and talking through breakups. I have attended Bible studies, and I have made too many commitments. I have scrubbed floors and washed thousands of dishes and cooked too many complicated dinners.

 

I have stayed up late to get work done, and gotten up with the sun some mornings. I have slept through too many of my alarms, eaten too much ice cream, spent too many hours on social media, and then realized how empty I really felt.

 

I have gotten on planes and braved hours of traffic to hug precious friends from all over, and have gone to coffee shops by myself and pored over my laptop with an overpriced cappuccino trying to force myself to absorb information. I have passed exams, and I have failed them. I have lived up to my own expectations, and I have failed myself too.

 

I have lived with a free and contented heart, rejoicing in both the goodness of God and the sweetness of my circumstances, and I have laid in bed late at night and realized the depression I thought I had beat and the loneliness that came along with it never truly went away.

 

I have prayed apathetically and worshiped sporadically. I have studied the Bible intensely, and I have pleaded with God wildly.

 

I have read books. I have gone exploring. I have lost people I was holding too tightly onto, and have grieved over the people I have disappointed.

 

And in all of that, through the joys and the sorrows, I have become exhausted – too tired to let myself think, but in not letting myself contemplate, become even more drained with the seemingly meaningless chaos my life has consisted of. Continue reading “Unfiltered: because the world needs more vulnerability.”

Disappointed: for when life hurts, and you’re wondering how God fits in.

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Sometimes life just doesn’t turn out the way we always thought it would.

 

Sometimes we feel like we’re left with more questions than answers – more waiting than action – more hours of crying than smiling. Sometimes, something that seemed like it would be so perfect just wasn’t.

 

That dream school – that relationship – that job – that friendship – that trip – that opportunity. When everything felt so right, so God-led, so hopeful, and nothing comes, it’s easy to become discouraged. The question is not, “God, if You’re good, why did this happen to me?” as much as, “God, when I felt like You were leading me to this place, did I hear Your voice wrong? Was I wrong to trust You for this? Are You still as faithful as I though You promised me that You were?”

 

And as I’ve been walking through this, I’ve realized a few things.

 

I’ve realized that if I make the object of my joy, my satisfaction, and my hope anything other than pursuing Jesus Christ, I’ll never find the peace in my heart that I crave, even if my circumstances seem to be exactly what I thought I wanted.

 

I want to be faithful right where I am, trusting the God that’s directing me to right where He has for me to be. Not because those circumstances are the ones I’m dreaming of – but because I will only find true joy when I’m pursuing the Person of Jesus, not because I think He’s a shortcut to achieving my own desires.

 

For where else can we find hope in our brokenness? Where else can we find grace for our weakness? Joy in heartache? Peace in the midst of missed opportunities, rejection, and despair?

Continue reading “Disappointed: for when life hurts, and you’re wondering how God fits in.”