As we grieve we spend a lot of thought energy seeking - but what is it we really expect to find? In the first few days after my husband died I remember listening at the back door, hoping to hear his car and familiar footsteps at any moment. Quite irrationally I expected him to bound into the house, once again whole and well, full of exuberant life and love. I couldn't find him, he wasn't there.
And so we set out on this journey of seeking and finding we call grief. Really, though, we have no idea what to expect. Who or what is it we’re seeking? What do we hope to find? It’s only as we go through grief with all its pit stops, detours, and setbacks that we begin to recognize what we need to survive the death of our loved one and what we want the rest of our life to look like.
The journey of grief is rather counterintuitive to our careful travel planning in everyday life. Most of us wouldn’t even consider setting out on a trip without at least a vague idea of where we’re going, the best way to get there, or a general idea of when we might arrive, wherever it is we’re going. Just today I saw a well-used car plastered with souvenir stickers from many places and far away travel. I wondered whether the driver was a true adventurer, someone who would simply jump in the car and go – north, south, east, or west – without a plan or real destination. A seeker, someone ready to find….
When one we love dies we begin seeking, though not always with the expectation of finding. First we search within - we examine our heart and spirit in search of our own unique qualities. The awkward truth is that some of us live part or most of our lives without ever really considering who we are as individuals. When we seek our inmost self we find the person of stand-alone value and worth God created us to be. And when we’ve found our own true self, we’re ready to seek out someone or something or someplace that inspires us to reclaim a life of abundant peace, joy, and love.
The expectation of finding is predicated on hope, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24 NIV). Through all the pain of sorrow and loss, often we experience grief as an honest confrontation with our inborn urge to hope. We’re created with an internal reflex that coaxes and encourages us to resist despair and live on. Gratefully it’s the very nature of the human heart to hope. As we grieve, our response to God’s faithfulness is that we pray for what we hope to find.
A dear friend whose wife died three years ago told me he’d begun praying for someone to love. He felt ready to begin seeking with expectation and hope. In an exuberant email he described a lovely woman he’d met and quickly acknowledged that God had brought them together. They married this summer - the answer to prayer, the fulfillment of hope. Through God’s grace he found a new wife to accompany him into the future.
Prayer is our greatest expression of hope. We pray for what we hope to find. We pray in order to survive our grief and live forward into the great unknown of life with confidence in God’s promise for good in our lives, “And you will have confidence, because there is hope; you will be protected and take your rest in safety” (Job 11:18 NRSV).
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the confidence of your hope. Amen.