This week, we delved into Chapter 5 of Becky Avella's book, And Then You Were Gone: Restoring a Broken Heart After Pregnancy Loss. We have two groups of ladies meeting face-to-face to discuss this book and our online "mommies" who have been joining in. You can get up to speed and read all of the previous posts by clicking on the links below:
In Chapter 5, Becky addresses the very real issue of bitterness. Personally, I find it hard to clearly discern what constitutes "bitterness" and what is a part of our normal grief reaction to our losses. In our discussions in the face-to-face bible studies this week, coupled with the reading of this chapter, we agreed that there are some things that are just normal grief reactions that certainly have the propensity to turn into bitter thoughts or feelings. If those normal reactions are leading to sin, then that is where we must draw the line.
Becky talked about the "peripheral issues" that she faced in the aftermath of her losses. These were prime territory for Satan to attack. Some of these issues may include: weight gain, phsyical effects of pregnancy and loss such as milk coming in or embarrassing accidents due to heavy menstrual periods that follow loss. Can you relate? I certainly can!
We talked in the group about the reactions and feelings we have when we see women at the store screaming at their children. One person shared that she tries to cope with this by asking God to help her get through those moments as she faces them. Something I've done to ward off any ill feelings toward these women is to stop right where I am and pray for them. I pray that God would intervene in the escalating situation and I pray for the woman to have patience and kindness toward her children. I have to be honest and tell you that I don't do this every time. Sometimes, I just leave the store angry and frustrated at the fact that such people are blessed with chidlren. Honestly. Yet the times when I have stopped, prayed, and turned it over to God are the times when I am at peace. A peace that only He can bring.
There were a couple of questiosn that Becky brought out in Chapter 5 that I want to repeat here:
"After all I've been through, don't I deserve a little self pity?"
"Aren't I justified in feeling some bitterness?"
If you are like me, you can probably read each of the above questions and say impulsively answer "Yes!" to them both. I confess that there have been numerous times where I've felt entitled to wallowing in my grief. The issue is not about whether or not we can and should grieve...we certainly need to allow ourselves this outlet. Rather, it comes back to the issue of where we draw the line. At what point do our feelings and emotions associated with grief corss over into the realm of bitterness and sin? That's what we need to be cautious of.
Becky points out that we can "choose how we respond each and every time we face heartache." That's right, ladies...we can choose! That doesn't mean it's easy. It doesn't even mean that we will choose a god-honoring response every time. Still, we can choose. This reminds me of a devotion I read some time ago about "Choosing Joy." What does that even mean? A similar question arose in our face-to-face study last night when talking about Scripture that refers to "rejoicing in our sufferings" (Romans 5:3, 1 Peter 1:6, James 1:1-2). How is it possible to do such a thing? Well, again, we have a choice. I leave you with a quote from LuAnn Prater, a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, based on her take of the following verse:
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstance, for thsi is God's willl or you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 4:16
LuAnn explains, "We can be jouful, not for what we're going through, but for WHO we're going through it with." That's our Jesus...He is walking through this valley right alongside each and every one of us. So while we may not rejoice in the circumstance, we can rejoice in our Savior!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic....in what ways have you struggled with bitterness and how have you managed to cope with it? What questions, if any, do you have for Becky. We will be compiling our questions and passing them along to hear her take...thanks for your willingness to share with us, Becky!!