“Loss marks the place where self-knowledge and powerful transformation happen – if we have the courage to participate fully in the process.” (Peter Scazerro)
In 2005, I lost one of my dearest friends to cancer. It was also in that year that I conducted the funerals of 11 church members. To this day, my wife and I refer to 2005 as “The Year of the Funeral.”
My friend had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer in June and was gone by mid-November. His death rocked my world. For months, I was on auto-pilot operating out of a spiritual funk. Later, I would admit I was depressed, a word, at the time, my spiritual vocabulary couldn’t accommodate.
It was during that long, dark period of disillusionment, God began revealing to me a new measure of His grace. During that season of loss, I began to see areas in my life that desperately needed the transforming work of God. But I was afraid to trust God with my pain, my questions, and my fears. I knew God wanted to advance His kingdom into the unreached territories of my heart but I was scared to let Him do it.
Eventually, with the feeblest measure of faith (much smaller than a mustard seed I must say), I told God I was willing to let Him use my season grief for His greater purpose in my life.
I wish I could say the transformation occurred in an instant. It didn’t. However, it did get underway and over the coming weeks, I had a front row seat that allowed me to see the amazing grace of God at work. Not only did He free me from my fears, He also began to address my under-developed theology of grief and loss. While I had been seeking spiritual shortcuts to circumvent my pain, God had been seeking an opportunity to walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death.
It was during those months of renewal, God gave me the song “Joy in the Journey.” The chorus expresses the big truths about God that were being re-established in my heart; whereas, the verses express how those bigger truths about God should impact the smaller realities of my daily life.
While I know I’ll face many more losses in this life, it is my hope that I’ll face them with the new-found assurance that from the ashes of death God brings resurrection life. It was on the day of my father’s death, in the summer of 2016, I first read these words of Gerald Sittser – “The quickest way to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west chasing after it, but to head east into the darkness until you finally reach the sunrise.”
That to me speaks of a faith that has truly learned to find joy in the journey.