by Debbie W. Wilson @DebbieWWilson
One summer, I found myself in a real-life Alfred Hitchcock-like drama. On my way to clean up after weeding, I yanked up a dead shrub and unearthed a yellow jacket nest. My stinging limbs alerted me to my peril. Yellow jackets clung to my shins. I wondered if I was going to die.
That experience left me reluctant to garden in shorts and a T-shirt. A ski mask and thick layers seemed safer. But heat and humidity changed my mind.
At one time I thought mature faith would protect us from emotional pain. That hurts, insults, and disappointments would ping off those full of faith. While God provides spiritual armor, I don’t believe the insulated Christian is biblical—or desirable.
When my mother lay dying of cancer, I was in high school. Our family put on a strong face. No one mentioned her prognosis. We acted as though she would get better. Years later, I realized how lonely that must have been for her. Instead of shielding us, our layers of pretense only added regret to our sorrow.
When we learned Daddy had terminal cancer, I prayed it would be different. I’d learned that masks, whether of pretense, humor, or strength, didn’t suit such times.
On his deathbed, Daddy spoke of his pending death. We said our good-byes and talked about the promised reunion we’ll have with our loved ones in heaven. We named different ones we looked forward to seeing again. We laughed through our tears as we anticipated what we hoped to do in heaven. That open exchange of grief and hope was one of the sweetest times in my life. And though I still grieved losing my daddy, sharing our pain sweetened the bitterness of my loss.
A man whose child was hospitalized with leukemia spoke at our church. He boasted, that while the medical staff expressed concern for his lack of grief, his faith made him impervious to pain. Denial is certainly a part of grief, but as I listened and observed this stoic father, I thought how lonely his wife and family must feel in the sorrow his daughter’s suffering surely brought.
The Apostle Paul didn’t wear masks. His faith gave him the courage to open his heart and receive God’s comfort. His experience qualified him to speak about the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).
He told the Corinthians about the great pressure that caused him to “despair even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8 NASB). “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced” (2 Cor. 2:8 NIV). He even cataloged some of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12.
It’s wise to beware of yellow jacket nests. And long sleeves and gloves are appropriate for gardening, especially around thorny roses. But, ski masks and thick clothing aren’t practical for warm weather yard work.
In the same way, being honest with God, myself, and some trusted friends is healing and a lot healthier than suffocating under layers of self-protection.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matt. 5:4 NIV
Bio: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog. debbieWwilson.com
Join the conversation: Is there a grief or a pending loss that you’ve avoided facing?