Whenever we experience the loss of someone or something precious to us–whether through death, dissolving of a relationship or friendship, loss of a job, financial ruin, disease–there are several options for reacting.
One response is to tightly grasp onto everything and everyone else in desperation and fear of losing them. Ironically, the more we try to hang on to what’s precious, especially in the case of people in our lives, the more we may end up driving them away. Desperation is a turn-off. No one wants to feel “possessed”.
Another common response is to close our hands and our hearts firmly against loving anyone or anything again. While this may seem a safe approach, a way of guarding against loss and hurt, in reality it causes much more damage than any loss could.
As C.S. Lewis so wisely said,
“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Although I’ve certainly been tempted at times in my life to try both of these “closed hand” tactics, I’ve found that the best way to respond to loss is with open hands. Opening my hands, and my heart, to what God chooses to bring into them–and keeping them open so that, should God choose to remove those people and things that are precious to me, I can freely give them back to Him.
I’ve always been amazed at Job’s response to the overwhelming losses that he experienced. One messenger after another arrived at Job’s house to inform him of one loss after another, from his oxen and servants to his sheep and camels to, most devastating of all, his own children.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22, emphasis mine)
Job wasn’t some superhero who didn’t feel hurt or loss. On the contrary, he tore his robe and shaved his head, traditional signs of mourning. But his response was to worship God and recognize that all he had ultimately belonged to God, who could give or take it away as He so desired.
I’ll admit that Job’s response is not often my first response when I face some loss. Even something as petty as losing a dollar in a faulty vending machine smacks of injustice to me; I do not always immediately think, “Well, Lord, this is Your dollar, so You can take it away from me as You please.”
But the more that I recognize that everything I have and everyone in my life is a gift from God, the more freedom I am able to give them. Realizing that what I have could be taken away at anytime, I am more appreciative of what I have while I have it. I worry less about losing them, because they are all ordained by God to be in my life, and they are under His care.
It is funny how sometimes loss can bring about great freedom, particularly freedom from fearing loss. Perhaps that is part of the reason that God allows loss into our lives, to teach us to rely not on the gifts of people and things in our life, but rather on the gift-giver.