Although I have been writing now for the past five years, my formal training is in counseling. Specifically grief, or bereavement, counseling. I worked for several years as a grief counselor at a local Hospice in Pinellas county Florida, and while there attended a bereavement workshop hosted by a well known grief counselor named Alan Wolfelt. It was at that workshop I heard something which I have held in my heart for years:
During times of grief you have an increased need to be understood, but a decreased ability to be understanding.
Read those words again and let them really sink in. That is a deep and important truth for us all to grasp.
I have seen this truth played out over and over again in the lives of others and in my own life.
In fact, I just had to remind my children of this truth the other day. We recently lost our beloved dog, Bailey, and are all grieving. I have one child who wants to talk about Bailey constantly, who goes around the house picking up tumbleweeds of dog hair, and looks at pictures of our sweet dog on my computer. Yet, my other child finds it hard to talk about or listen to others talk about Bailey, and avoids pictures or objects that remind that child of our beloved dog.
Two very different grieving processes, one not so big house. Needless to say tension can rise quickly.
We have had to talk about what it means to show grace and to honor each other’s process.
Each one wants to have their way of grieving understood, but finds it hard to extend that same understanding.
Then it dawned on me. Doesn’t that sound like what is occurring in America right now???
Each one—each people group, each political party, each race, each religion, each individual wants to be heard. Wants to be understood.
Yet seem unable or unwilling to be understanding.
Could it be that America is grieving?
Grieving what was. Grieving what could have been, what should have been. Grieving our identity, our values, our moral compass. Grieving the devastating effects of sin.
Subconsciously, are we a nation of mourners? Have we been so hurt, so disillusioned, become so afraid that we are grieving our security? Our innocence? Our patriotism? Our values?
So how do we move forward? How do we begin to heal?
I believe the first step is in identifying the problem: We are a nation that is hurting. We have tried to sweep the pain, the disillusionment, the hurt, under the rug. We have tried to distract ourselves, to numb the pain, and to pretend it isn’t there. But it is and it hurts. Let’s collectively own our pain.
I used to tell the kids in counseling sessions that grieving is like having a large open wound. Sure, you can cover the wound with a bandage and pretend it isn’t there. But eventually that wound will get infected and cause devastating effects. Or, you can clean the wound out (even though you know it’s going to hurt) and can get stitches even though that will cause more pain. But you will heal. You will always have a scar—a reminder of your pain—but you will heal.
We as a country need to heal.
But I believe that the second step in healing can only be found in God. With all my heart I believe that healing can only come from turning to God. Our problems, our grief, are too big for any one man. They’re too big for us to fix by sheer will. We need to turn to the Creator and Sustainer of Life and ask for forgiveness, mercy and grace. (see 2 Chronicles 7:14)
And finally, I believe we need to be extenders of grace. We need to realize that each one of us carries some amount of pain and loss. We are all living in a fallen world. That in and of itself causes pain. Let’s make a conscience effort to see others as fellow pain bearers. To see past their actions and to their pain.
Hurt people hurt people.
Let’s stop the hurt. Let’s refuse to participate in the cycle of hurt and pain. Let’s grieve together. Let’s link arms and hearts and say, “I recognize your pain, because I have pain too.” Let’s live out Colossians 3:12, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
Our pain may not look the same. We will not deal with pain the same. But pain is pain. And pain hurts. Let’s show grace to our fellow man, for they may be facing a great tide of pain.
America, healing is possible. But not from flawed candidates. Not from snarky social media posts. Not from programs, or initiatives, or news stories.
True healing, true hope, is only possible by turing to God. Asking Him to open our eyes to see the pain in ourselves and others, asking Him to forgive and restore, and inviting Him to extend His grace through us.
“Lord, we are a broken and hurting people. We are a grieving and despairing nation. God, have mercy upon us. Stir our hearts and affections to You. Forgive us of our sin and redeem us as Your people. Heal our hearts and heal our land. We turn to You, not presidential candidates, nor politics. Not celebrities nor any man. We turn to You Lord God Almighty and ask that Your will be done. In Jesus’ Name, amen.”