It Doesn't Have to be That Way

Does Scripture intersect with your life on a regular basis? I hope so. I'm referring to those times when you're reading the Bible like you do most every day (because I do hope you're reading it most every day -- it just works best that way...) and something from It's pages jumps out and tackles an issue that either you are personally going through or you've just read about or someone in your life is going through.

Those are the most personable, most intimate and most amazing encounters we have with God's Word. And I think it can happen most every day if we're really seeking God in the pages of His Word with open and eager hearts.

That's exactly what happened this morning.

I had just read an e-mail update for the Happiness Project, a web site that I'm giving a shot, but haven't really determined yet if it's for me. Mostly I'm just keeping an eye on it to see how Gretchen Rubin handles our universal search for satisfaction, something I've studied and written a little bit on lately. But this morning she introduced me to another author, Ruth Davis Konigsberg, who has written a book entitled The Truth About Grief.

In her book, Konigsberg debates the validity of the five stages of grief as originally outlined by Kubler-Ross in On Death and Dying, published in 1969. Long story short, Konigsberg says that these long-accepted grief stages were based on poor evidence and don't really characterize grief as experienced by most people. In fact, Kubler-Ross based her grief stages on people who were facing their own deaths, not those who were grieving the deaths of someone they loved and lost. And yet, most of us probably learned these 5 stages of grief sometime in a college psychology class and have assumed ever since that anyone who loses a loved one will experience them, including ourselves. The stages, largely held as factual stages by many counselors and psychologists, are:
  1. denial, 
  2. anger, 
  3. bargaining, 
  4. depression 
  5. and acceptance.
I find Konigsberg's research and book fascinating because it proves a sad point: that to often we base our expectations for behavior on faulty or dated information. Konigsberg's book is not a Christian book, from what I can tell, and I don't really know what her religious beliefs are, but I appreciate the fact that she was willing to test and defy a long standing theory because it just didn't ring true with her.

But Rubin's e-mail and Konigsberg's theories got me to thinking further. As a Christian, do I really have to behave according to the patterns mapped out for me by popular psychology? The answer is a definitive "no." In fact, much of the Bible expressly directs me, a believer in Jesus Christ, to think, feel, behave, and speak completely contrary to the ways that are natural.

I'm not debating the fact that grief is a process, but I don't think our grieving process has to follow the same formula as that followed by most of the world. Nor do we have to follow the same processes when we've been offended, hurt, rejected, belittled, or mistreated. We don't have to follow the same process as the rest of the world when we've been praised, awarded, and applauded either. We are, in fact, supposed to take a different path in almost every behavior known to mankind. 

This morning I read:

There are many who say,
"Who will show us any good?"
Lord, lift up the light of Your
countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart,
more than in the season that their
grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace,
and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, 
make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:6-8)

And therein lies the reason that we don't have to grieve that way, suffer that way, retaliate that way, get puffed up that way, become depressed that way, or do anything else "that way." Because He alone is the one who does us good. He lifts up His countenance upon us. He puts gladness in our hearts. He makes us dwell in safety. He gives us peace. 

Jesus makes all the difference in the world. And because of Him, we can be different from the world.

Will we grieve? Yes, but not as one without hope. Will we stumble? Yes, but we do not have to stay down. Will we get angry? Yes, but the sun doesn't have to go down on our anger. Will we be offended? Yes, but we don't have to retaliate because He has our back.

Because of Jesus, life is different.

Here's my bottom line for today. Don't be so pulled in by the 5 steps of grief, the 8 steps of forgiveness, the 4 steps for dealing with anger, the 4 stages of marriage, the 10 steps of parenting, or any other steps, whatever they may be, that you honestly believe it has to be that way. It doesn't have to be that way. 

Jesus should make a difference in our lives. How has He made a difference in yours lately?

Just today I was confronted with a situation where I probably should have been offended, but quite honestly, because of Jesus, I wasn't. I didn't even know I should have been until the person who had said something "offensive" came and apologized to me out of the blue. I was able to tell her honestly that I had never taken offense at what she had said, but I accepted her heart-felt apology any way. And I knew that Jesus had spared me the offense. He made a difference in how I handled a little piece of life.

How have you handled life differently because of Jesus? I'd love to know!

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