Vale of Tears

Beyond the Sequence of Losses



Beyond the Sequence of Losses

Every parting gives a foretaste of death, every reunion a hint of the resurrection.
Arthur Schopenhauer

Losses, like the proverbial buses, often arrive in clusters, leaving us feeling pinned against the ropes. One thing I have repeatedly observed is that many of the experiences I am inclined to label at the time as “horrendous” turn out later to be the matrix by which the Lord brings about great blessings. Just look at how many of the Lord’s finest servants went through staggering losses, only to rise to positions of great influence.

Where would Israel be had Moses not been forced to flee his privileged position in Pharaoh’s palace and serve for long decades as a shepherd in the back of beyond? Although he must long since have given up all thought of ever seeing the Hebrew people rescued from Pharaoh’s grasp, the time came when the bush blazed and the Lord sent forth His extraordinary summons. The rest, as we know, is history – “His story!”

As for the life of Israel’s greatest king, we have seen already that it was interspersed from start to finish with a sequence of immense losses.

If we could catch sight of him on the run, bedraggled and hunted like an outlaw, which of us would have dared to discern in that ramshackle existence the training ground for Israel’s most successful king? Yet here was a man so exquisitely sensitive to the Holy Spirit that his prayers and poems have fed the souls of countless millions to a depth that no other writings have even begun to do.

None of this would have occurred had David enjoyed a straightforward succession to Saul’s throne, with Jonathan selflessly making way for him, and the nation rejoicing in his far flung military successes.

From the moment we leave the protection of the womb and enter this physically and emotionally more challenging environment, life consists of a series of “mini” deaths and losses as we embark on life’s journey and engage with the wider world.

Many factors determine whether or not we relish these new experiences, but it is critically important to remember that the Lord’s unfailing love remains the one constant in our lives. If our faith does not remain on top of everything else, we risk becoming a chronic Puddleglum!21

Like David, who was neither too proud to acknowledge his agony, nor too stoical to give voice to his complaint, we may often have cause to lament loud and long as we express the agony we are experiencing.

Provided that we, like David, call on God to deliver us, He will surely find ways to go on turning one grief-laden situation after another around for His glory.22

Reflect and Pray

Righteous people face many troubles,
but You come to their rescue every time.
Psalm 34:19

From your earliest days onward, you may have experienced the pain and frustration of material things breaking, precious relationships turning sour and promising opportunities failing to lead where you had once hoped.

Take time to ponder the losses you have sustained, and to mourn if need be those that have involved emotional or financial loss. Only may the Lord help you to grieve “into” Him, rather than cursing yourself for being one of life’s losers – for that can only lead to more disappointment and frustration.

Take time, too, to recall how the Lord has helped you when certain phases of your life have come to a close. Have other things not opened up in their place?

God of sharp distinctions,
I give you my strong contradictions –
my longings, lapses,
and many backwards glances.

I give you what You most desire –
a heart that is set on reaching out to You.
In your name I throw off
all loss that weights my spirit down,
all shackles that make my heart dumb.

I turn right round to seek Your face,
and to embrace the new, the now, the next,
in the fullness that comes from Heaven above.