Like a shadow, grief follows us wherever we go. It hovers over us like an overseer in charge of a slave, making us feel powerless. Its invisible prison bars hold us captive. Its oppression is unrelenting, and its control seems to reach into every part of our being. Like a bird unexpectedly trapped inside a house, we fight to escape. We fly aimlessly in search of an opening. We want so badly to be free from the trappings; to be on the other side where those untouched by grief dance so freely in a world that doesn’t understand our pain. The way seems clear, but we fly helplessly into its closed glass over and over again. Tears cloud our vision. Chaos and confusion obscure our path. We are caught in a prison and the sentenced to life.
Prison bars have two purposes. One is to protect society, but the other is to rehabilitate. We seek protection in our self-imposed solitary confinement, but nothing shields us from the pain. We must move beyond the imprisonment to rehabilitation. Do not become a slave to grief. A slave lives powerlessly under the domination and control of the master. Every day in the life of a slave looks depressingly like the day before. They drag their exhausted bodies out of bed, quickly take care of the necessary needs of other oppressed family members and then mindlessly go about the rigorous toil demanded by a cruel task master. At the end of the day, they fall into a bed for another restless sleep that will end all too quickly as the sun rises on another day of monotony. Sound familiar? How do we make our weary, brokenhearted bodies break free from the entanglement of grief? How do we move beyond this prison to begin rehabilitation? What does rehabilitation even look like?
Rehabilitation means restoration; the ability of something to function again in a former capacity; to bring back to a state of health, soundness or vigor. It means more than banging helplessly against the window in search of freedom. Rehabilitation means living with the grief and not in the grief. It means picking up the pieces of our former selves that lie shattered on the floor and allowing our true Master to use our tears as the mortar to piece them together into something of purpose and beauty. It doesn’t mean we will no longer hurt. It doesn’t mean a restoration to our former self, for we will forever bear the scars. It means allowing the scars to remind us of the healing that is taking place. It means relying on His energy rather than our own because in admitting our weakness, we affirm His strength. It means taking the painful steps out of the darkness that entangles us and letting the Master unravel us until we feel His grace liberate us.
Let the prison bars of grief that surround you be replaced by the loving arms of a new Master; a Master who calls you His child and who sings over you a song of deliverance.
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7
He too has given you a life sentence, but it is one of freedom. Christ is the already, the not yet, and the is to come. He has come to redeem and liberate, but His glory will not be fully realized until the things of this earth are no more and every knee bows to call Him Lord and Master. Living in the “not yet” is hard sometimes. It is a chapter in our life sentence that we must maneuver. However, we don’t have to navigate it alone. We have a conquering Master who leads us through the yuck of the “not yet” to a never-ending final chapter of joy on the other side of grief.
Let hope and faith be more than random letters put together in meaningless words. Let them hold you secure as you wait for the “is to come” when we will forever dance in a heaven where there are no tears of mourning. Until then:
“We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our heats rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.”
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”