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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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.”

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.”

Cry, Pray, Trust: for when you’re stuck in a season of waiting and need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Cry, Pray, Trust

Sometimes all you can do is cry, and pray, and wait. And trust that God is in control, even when it takes every ounce of faith inside you to catch even a glimpse of that.

 

*

 

I wish I could say I spend my New Year’s Eve in a glamorous way. I didn’t.

 

At 10 pm on Sunday night, my family went to bed, and I washed dishes alone, in my kitchen. I played a worship album two times over, and fell to my knees and cried all the tears I’d been holding in for a week. I prayer journaled and dedicated my year to Jesus, and tiptoed into my living room to watch the ball drop in the darkness of my house, holding a flute of formerly-sparkling cider.

 

3…2…1…and, it’s 2018. Everyone celebrate with your friends and lovers, but I’m still over here alone. I flicked on Netflix to numb my thoughts, and played that worship album again as I drifted off to sleep.

 

*

 

God is faithful. The words echo in my head, and as I think about one word that would define 2017, it’s that one – faithful.

 

Over and over, God spoke. Both in the loud and in the quiet, in rooms full of worshipers and in the solitude of my bedroom, He confirmed those three little words, time and time again – I. Am. Faithful.

 

Gracious, good, perfect God, remind me again what Your faithfulness looks like, won’t you? Because I’m stuck in a long, hard season of waiting right now, like I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff, and gravity hasn’t yet decided if I’m going to stay or if I’m going to fall. Oh, how I need you.

Continue reading “Cry, Pray, Trust: for when you’re stuck in a season of waiting and need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.”

Real Life: grace, twinkle lights, depression, & me.

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If you met me today, you’d be meeting a pretty normal girl. I like coffee, and cozy sweaters, and reading, and smiling, and driving, and Chick-fil-A.

 

And I really, really love Jesus.

 

If we had a conversation, we might talk about how I like your hair, where we’re each from, or what our day-to-day lives look like. I might ask you if you like coffee or tea better, what makes you feel alive, what your favorite ridiculous bad jokes are, or how I could be praying for you.

 

Sometimes I think we only let the world see one side of us, and today, I’m here to say that it’s okay to be a lot of things. It’s so important to be you, every ounce of the you that God designed you to be.

Continue reading “Real Life: grace, twinkle lights, depression, & me.”

On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God

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i.

 

Oh wow He’s faithful.

 

There’s something so ethereal about knowing when God is speaking.

 

Oftentimes, before I leave my house to go be with other Christians, I pray a few things. One, that I’d have some sort of meaningful conversation, two, that God would speak, and if I remember, then three, that I’d be filled with the Spirit and used by Him.

 

And the funny thing is, once I arrive, when I kick off my shoes and put down my phone and start hugging people, I completely forget that I ever even prayed it. And every single time that I come home so filled, I’m overcome with awe at how He worked.

 

I’m stunned by the conversations that left me glowing with joy, how I heard God in worship songs and in listening to my friends preach, tangibly experiencing God’s love and presence in everyday interactions.

 

I heard His voice again this weekend, and it left me breathless.

 

For three days, I’d been praying hard that God would lead me to trust Him. And He has. Oh, how He has.

Continue reading “On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God”

When God Doesn’t Fix It: learning to hold onto faith in the midst of the mess

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Sometimes I forget there’s such a thing as a messy faith to go along with my messy life.

 

And in this moment, I’ll be totally honest – I’m not really sure how to best express what I’ve been feeling, lately. My thoughts are jumbled, my words ineloquent, and the feeling of being stuck permeates my every thought.

 

It’s quarter till eleven on Monday night where I am, and everything in me feels weary, uncomfortable, aimless. To try and pretend I have it all together, or that my messiness is endearing simply wouldn’t be right – I’m drained, deep thinking has left me unsettled, and all I want is for everything just to feel right again.

 

As I sit here, I begin to think hard and deep once again –

 

What do we do when reality hits and our lives don’t turn out the way we wanted them to?

 

What do we do when studying the Bible seems to leave us wrestling with questions more than finding answers?

 

What do we do when we find ourselves heartbroken, or filled with guilt and shame, just barely grasping what exactly grace is? Continue reading “When God Doesn’t Fix It: learning to hold onto faith in the midst of the mess”

my story isn’t over yet.

 

My Story Isn't Over Yet.

My story isn’t over yet.

 

I gently ink these words onto my left forearm, pen gliding along my skin, the letters coming out with lines and loops.

 

The words echo in my head, bringing me peace and hope that wasn’t there before.

 

It isn’t over for me –

 

I mark a semicolon on the edge of my wrist.

 

I know the One who holds the pen to my story.

 

** Continue reading “my story isn’t over yet.”