There will be things in coming days, months, and years that prick your heart with a memory. There will be other things that pierce you like a knife and bring you to your knees with the depth of your loss. My best friend and I decided to call these things thorns. It might be hearing the special song you and your husband shared come on the radio or a song about loss like Diamond Rio’s “One More Day” or Garth Brooks’ “The Dance.” (Seriously, do you know how many country songs there are about losing the one you love?!?!) It could be seeing a truck that looked just like his or seeing another man wearing a shirt just like one your husband had. Maybe it’s seeing an older couple holding hands and realizing you will never have that with your husband. It could be watching a movie where a girl gets married and her dad gives her away…and then thinking about the fact that your daughter won’t have anyone to walk her down the aisle. There are endless possibilities, and I don’t think they will ever stop coming, but fortunately, their frequency slows. Praise God.
So what do you do with them? You handle them like everything else in your new season of life – with prayer and by seeking God and keeping your eyes on Jesus. Sister, that’s the only way we can keep going. Have something that helps you when you get stabbed by a thorn – eating a chocolate, watching a movie, ordering takeout, painting your nails, getting a facial, exercise…whatever helps you. Obviously, you will need to balance these out because it’s clearly not beneficial to eat a chocolate every single time you feel sad or to go to the spa every time your heart feels heavy. Do what you can when you can to help yourself keep going. Counseling, individual or group, can also help. Listening to silly music was helpful for me. I quit listening to Christian music for awhile (because everything reminded me of my loss) and instead listened to the junk I listened to in high school. Silly, but it made me laugh and feel like a teenager again. Make a list of the things that help you to cope and then, when you are struggling, pick something reasonable on the list. It could also be an outlet for your emotions like writing, playing an instrument, painting, etc. (See my blog post, Ways I Coped After Losing My Husband, for more ideas.)
Remember, Christ himself felt grief strongly, and according to Revelation 21, God will one day wipe away our tears and make all things new. Until then, keep pressing on, despite the thorns, and stay focused on the hope of eternity in glory for those who love Jesus.
Paul talks about thorns. After being shipwrecked multiple times, beaten, imprisoned, stoned, and in danger over and over again, he begged God to take away his thorn. He begged him three times. I cannot imagine what it was (some think it was the loss of his vision), but I do know it must’ve been terrible for this mighty warrior of God to ask God to remove it so many times. God didn’t remove it, but instead offered the gift of himself. God won’t remove all the thorns in our life. I have watched women cry for their husbands they lost many, many years after the fact. Hearing “your” song or going to a wedding may always be painful. I always feel a pang in my heart whenever I see an airplane. I know others who can’t drive by a hospital without remembering their husband’s last days. This I do know: when our life is hard, God offers us the promise of himself. We must trust that this is best even when we don’t understand it.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Sweet friend, that’s our promise today. God may not remove all the thorns from our life, but he gives us his power to keep going despite the pain. May we remember that only when we are empty and drained dry by circumstances in this life can God truly fill us with his strength and power.