Friday, February 5, 2010

The Physical Toll of Grief

Ok, I admit it. I am a coffee convert. I’ve been making fun of my parents for years (sorry, Mom and Dad) for bringing their own coffee pot, mugs, and beans to my house every time they visit me (even though I already have those items ready for when they come). And, here I am, about to turn 35, and I NEED coffee in the morning….and sometimes in the afternoon (is that bad?), as was the case yesterday! As I watched the rain continue for the 48th hour in a row, I thought I would lose my mind! February in Texas. Yuck. A perfectly unlovely month for showing love. Why isn’t Valentine’s Day in June? Where is the sun?! I wondered if I should build an ark. I drug myself to the gym, but it only drained me more. I pondered taking a nap. I couldn’t figure out why I was in a funk. And, at 2:30 p.m. coffee (God bless it) pulled me out of the gutter long enough to gracefully finish my day with the kids. Catastrophe averted.

This may be a silly example, but whether we want to admit it or not, there is a strong connection between our minds/souls and our bodies. I battled depression long before I lost Audrey or faced marital trouble, and I didn’t even know it. But, when medicine restored my brain chemistry, I was able to see that there was a very tangible correlation between my body and my thoughts/feelings. I had birthed three babies in three years, I had nursed for nearly five years straight, and my job required me to be awake at all hours of the night. I was exhausted and very discouraged. When I finally attended to my body, I was able to think more clearly, access my faith more readily, and face my life with more energy and optimism. Weakened bodies often lead to weakened emotional, mental and spiritual faculties.

The opposite is also true. When we face severe emotional trials in our life, our bodies can react negatively. Weakened emotional, mental and spiritual faculties often lead to weakened bodies. Obvious, you may say. But, I think it is relevant to point out that our Creator is well aware of how he made us. He has lovingly expressed his understanding of this aspect of our humanity in his Word. I found this very comforting when I had first lost my little girl. I was beside myself. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not function. I think my family walked me through my daily routine for at least two weeks. I don’t even know who took care of my kids. I remember talking to them, but I didn’t fix them a meal or bathe or dress them for a long time. To top it off, the whole family and many of our friends came down with a terrible stomach virus a day or so after the funeral. So, as we held each other’s heads over the toilet, I was asking God to just let me die. In addition to being emotionally bankrupt, I felt so physically weak.

Perhaps some of you have been there. Perhaps this describes you today. Whatever your emotional pain that has left you physically weak, God is not unaware of how he made you.

The psalmist cries out to God in chapter 102: “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly…my heart is…withered like grass; I forget to eat my food…I am reduced to skin and bones…I lie awake.” (v.1-7)

Job also knew the physical toll of grief. “I sigh when food is put before me, and my groans pour out like water. For the thing I feared has overtaken me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. I cannot relax or be still; I have no rest, for trouble comes.” Job 3:24-26.

Many, many places in Scripture, the loss of physical strength is noted. But, there are just as many references to the supremacy of God’s strength, including the promise that he will give it to those who love him and who ask. There are many kinds of strength, not just physical. But, I don’t see a reason to rule out the possibility that God is willing to give us physical strength when we need it. Psalm 46:1-2 says, “God is our refuge and STRENGTH, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

In recent years, this verse has become personal. I like to fill in the blanks for myself. “God is MY refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore I will not fear, though _________________________.”

How would you fill in the blank? Does your own strength fail you today? God is attentive to our cries for help. He knows how he made us. And, he promises to give us the strength we need to face whatever comes. Guaranteed.


Donatella said...

really love what you wrote.. with god we can do anything!! its sad to know people live life never ever really getting a chance to know about god and the word.. thank you for your post!(: a new follower now... so so sorry!! about your loss.. cant amagin the pain you are dealing with on a daily basis... you should write a book with all that you have gone through plus youre a great writer my prayers are with you!! god bless you!xoxo

Heather Rae said...

Sarah, I am filled with tears and can totally relate. Thank you for writing this, and the Truth!!

Amber Greenlees said...

Sarah, you wrote these words nearly 4mo ago. And, yet, they are exactly what I need to hear today, May 26, 2010. Isn't God awesome! I have suffered the loss of a child and i know God gives us strength. But, here I sit struggling with things like losing weight and eating the right foods. It seems ridiculous to think about. I know first hand the strength that God bestows upon us when we need it. And I am struggling with the strength to make every day decisions. It's super frustrating. Thank you for your words.