NOT everyone who reads the title of this article will agree, and many will disagree with its content. But I write out of experience, and my experience is pretty much a Gospel experience; one that millions have come to attest to in their experience.
I don’t title the article glibly or proudly. For me, it’s a statement of fact. I spent my first thirty-six-years-and-six-weeks oblivious to this reality. I was a shell compared with who I am now.
You will understand this if you’ve been wrecked by loss. You will not understand this if you’ve not yet suffered the anguish of something you cannot fix, ever.
Paradoxically, this article is written not for the person who already knows, but for the one who may yet one day experience that which turns life from day to night as a precedence for the dawning of a brand-new day, a majestic solstice.
Loss obliterates the life that entertains it has control over life.
That is the purpose of loss – to bring us headlong before an incontrovertible truth. Until we’re power-slammed by the grief outbound of loss we don’t understand the true depths and heights of life; until then, we evade reality. And even as we face plant the bitumen and are dazed by severe realities we couldn’t previously predict were possible, something truly remarkable may occur, if we descend the cavernous abyss with courage enough to place our faith in God.
Loss teaches us that we do not control life. This is an essential lesson to learn; the earlier in adult life (preferably) the better. But, with loss must come a faith that something makes the loss meaningful. It’s not a faith that believes it’s enough simply to get through the grief, but it’s a faith that says, “I believe God will eventually show me more of the life there is, here in this physical world, as I endure this pain; as I accept it even through occasionally resenting it; as I come to the end of myself, again and again, over and over.”
Suddenly, out of loss, we read our Bibles with focused lenses, ever more spiritually attuned to the words that God has breathed His fresh life into. Those lines read differently and the themes spring forth. Suddenly the Old Book has immortal value.
Loss challenges every single assumption we ever made. It overturns the theology we had come to understand and realigns it with the great biblical narrative that we hadn’t until now recognized.
Until I had suffered the compendium of losses that I did in 2003 I had no idea, and had no real care, for the levels and the extent of suffering that pervades much of the world. Loss taught me compassion. It broadened my horizons. It taught me a deeper dignity for life. It created within me an interest in life that had not until that time been there. It sparked something in my consciousness; it honed my conscience. It was the redeeming of my heart and my mind, making me to feel and to think as the Redeemer would have me to feel and think.
Loss also taught me that everyone suffers. If not yet, some time soon. Loss catches up with every single soul. And it always comes as a shock, rudely entering at the most inopportune time, taking no prisoners. Reflecting on this truth breeds within a thinking person great empathy for the human condition. We’re born into this life and grow and develop in ways that produce great joy. But life is also full of great sadness and unknowable sorrow. The heights of life and the depths of loss – the enigmatic range between them – are impossible to comprehend.
Loss takes us into mysteries that can never be explained. It forces us to mature. When our hearts shatter, our eyes and ears are opened. Our ignorance is challenged and our arrogance is stymied. Loss humbles us. It makes us realer persons. Praise God.
Our modern way has been to shun anything that kills our pleasure; that inflicts pain. But the way life works in this world isn’t like that at all. We cannot bear misery, but the fact we have misery shows that God has made a way beyond it. Jesus came to show us.
This fact ought to encourage you: life begins (again) at loss; God’s compensation for what we must go through. Not a life the world considers a life. Not that ‘life’. It’s a life characterized by the capacity to bear raw reality. That’s life – not pleasure, but to live it real.
Steve Wickham is a writer who holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counseling.