Olivia had been abused emotionally by her husband for more than 30 years. She finally got free.
She was living in her new-found freedom when he showed up once again, having been gone for over a year. He was getting more and more aggressive as he sought to gain entrance to her life once again.
Olivia sought a “protection order” against him. The judge was extraordinary. The order went into place without much of a battle. Leaving the courtroom following the hearing each of us, who accompanied Olivia, were rejoicing in God’s kindness.
On the other hand, Olivia was crying. I asked her if she was okay. I fully expected her to say, “I am crying in joy. I am so glad it is over.”
Rather, she said, “It is so sad.”
She was deeply saddened that her marriage had come to this. Despite being free from the suffering under his abuse, she was grieving the loss of her marriage.
Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be
We left our mission in Africa five years ago. We have grieved the loss of our life and work there. We had a good life. We loved our work and found great satisfaction in what God was doing in and through us. We felt we had grown in our eight years of life there more than in all our years prior put together.
Because the founders and director of the mission were toxic, abusive of the authority God had given them, we lost our jobs, home, and friends.
We rejoiced to be out of that mission, yet we have grieved these losses. It is certainly not as bad as a dear friend or family member dying, but it is grief nonetheless.
Our losses are real. I remember a friend explainging to me that death is not “the way it ought to be,” therefore, we grieve when someone we love dies. Though it is a normal part of life, it is not what Adam and Eve experienced before sin entered their world, nor what we will experience once Jesus Christ comes again in glory.
These losses are not the way it is supposed to be. It is a normal part of our broken world, but it is not how it was or will be.
Grieving the Loss
How do we grieve these losses in a way that is healing?
I would first suggest, as I have suggested over and over in these pages, that we find safe places to share the loss. We need people who will listen without judgement. Find them and let it out.
Secondly, do not retreat from, but seek the Lord…for He will be found. Some of us may feel at times the Lord abandoned us in the midst of our suffering. But, it is not true.
God’s primary goal is to show us our dependency on Him.
From the very beginning, man was dependent on Him. He made us and gave us what we needed. We were to always recognize we depend on Him for everything. I am thankful that my children, who saw the brokenness of the church firsthand in the leaders who abused their authority in our mission, remain connected to God’s people (the church) and consistent worship. It is easy to throw up our hands and slide away from the “means of grace” found in the church body.
He has not abandoned you ever. But, he is certainly helping you see your dependence on Him. So, turn to Him…over and over. Depend on Him.
Finally, some may seek to give us pat answers like, “God is good and you just have to trust him.” Or maybe, “God is sovereign and he wants to teach you something.”
Usually, grieving people just need someone to listen. But, I would encourage you to listen to that well-meaning friend, consider the truthfulness, not the insensitivity of it. David prayed, after seeking the destruction of his abusers,
With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,
to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.
Psalm 109:30-31 (ESV)
He leaned heavily on the Lord. He knew his dependency. Others may be unwilling to listen, but they may point us to this good and sovereign God whom we need deeply.
I pray regularly for toxic leaders to be stopped. And I pray regularly for those who have been traumatized by them to be healed. To find the peace of His presence and care. And that they may find greater and more fulfilling dependence on the Lord of the Universe.