“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” —Reinhold Niebuhr
I cannot undo death. I cannot force time to move backwards. I can pound the table as much as I want, but I cannot change the fact that my beloved son no longer lives.
I have a distasteful choice before me: to live in grief and regret, or to accept what has happened and try to move on. I am choosing to move on.
Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting my son. Doesn’t mean no longer missing my son. Doesn’t even mean that I don’t wish I had the power to turn back the clock and stop him from killing himself.
Moving on, to me, means trying to find a way through all of this grief and regret to something that reflects my core belief in a good and living God who has more life to give to me, for now, and more opportunities to live out whatever his purposes are for me.
You can get stuck in grief. Right now I’m tempted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. I remember doing that when I was a child, when lightning was flashing outside of my window and burrowing under the blankets made me feel safe.
I remember doing that, too, as an adult struggling with depression, when everything seemed dark, my energy and joy was gone, and I just wanted the world to go on without me.
But, God is not yet finished with me. The Bible is primarily the story of God revealing himself and working out his plans through the very messy lives of ordinary men and women. What you see in those stories of youth and old age, faithfulness and apostasy, joy and sorrow, is that God continues to pour himself and his love into his people and his creation without ceasing.
Though he knew he was walking towards the cross, Jesus kept walking and kept the faith. He neither ran away from his grief nor from his Father. He walked through the valley of the shadow of death willingly, faithfully, not missing a step along the way.
Acceptance, for me, looks as simple as keep on walking, keep on taking one step at a time, leaning on the Father for strength as I need to, fixing my eyes on what lies ahead rather than what has passed. It doesn’t mean that I won’t look back and lament at times. It does mean that I won’t allow myself to stop walking.
“We are invited to bless the Lord; we are commanded to bless the Lord. And then someone says, “But I don’t feel like it. And I won’t be a hypocrite. I can’t bless God if I don’t feel like blessing God. It wouldn’t be honest.” The biblical response to that is “Lift up your praising hands to the Holy Place, and bless GOD!” You can lift up your hands regardless of how you feel; it is a simple motor movement. You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your arms. Lift your arms in blessing; just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise.” —Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction