Anxiety is something that I’m familiar with. I have battled unwanted, anxious thoughts as far back as I can remember. Some days, weeks, months even, can be worse and there is often no rhyme or reason to why it rears its ugly head, but having dealt with this invisible antagonist for so long, I have learned some tactics to be on the defense when it arrives. That doesn’t mean that it never overwhelms me and that doesn’t mean that I don’t engage in the fight for a while before winning, but it does mean I know what to expect, I have some sort of knowledge of how to combat it.
Grief is no such war…
It brings the enemy, not to your gate, but in your city walls, while you sleep. It plays unfair. It attacks when you’re weak. It plays on your emotions, your imagination, your will. It doesn’t have a game plan, the five stages don’t always apply.
Some people that wage war with grief will find themselves stuck in a hand-to-hand battle with anger. Anger with themselves, anger with the one that left, anger with a God who allowed this to happen. And while fighting this enemy of anger, coming up from behind, will be the rest of the surprise attack…bitterness, guilt and unforgiveness.
Some people will never be angry. They will never take on that foe. They will stay back, unwilling to fight because sadness has become their comrade. These people don’t have the energy or the will to even see the enemy. They shut their eyes tight, pull the armor over their heart to protect it from any more pain and pray that it will all just disappear. Please Lord, let it all just disappear.
And others, most of us, will fight this war on grief from all angles, turning from anger to apathy, from sadness to guilt. Those of us that are in this fight know it can be exhausting. There is no rest from it and it infiltrates every area of your life. It takes hold of your relationships, your job, your free time and the things that you once enjoyed. But unlike anxiety, no matter how many times you have already fought this battle, it will look different each time it attacks. You may know a little of what to expect, but the magnitude to which you war, is impossible to gauge.
I have been reminded this past week that grief takes no prisoners. You either fight or you lose. I tend to fight alone, thinking pridefully that I can manage, as long as I’m honest with my feelings. Or I place family and friends in a position to fight for me, as if I can take a break and they can carry on.
God pointed me, gently, back to His Word. In 2 Chronicles 32:8, King Hezekiah responds to the fear of the imminent battle…”He only has the strength of his own flesh, but the Lord our God is with us to help us and He will fight our battles.”
I only have the strength of my own flesh. Jim only has the strength of his own flesh. Evie, my family, my best friends, all can battle with me, but still only battle in the strength of their own flesh. I need to remind myself gently (taking my cues from the Lord instead of beating myself up) to lay down my battle plan, lay down my ideas on how to fix this for myself and for all that are close to me, and to allow the Lord to fight this battle for me. Does that mean I have to do no work? Absolutely not, there is exhausting work to be done, but why struggle to win a battle that He has already won.