Good Grief

Dec 19, 2020

I grieve things late. It’s what I do. While my feelings are worn on my sleeve at all times, there is something about grief that I tend to shy away from. Not the tears – oh, y’all know those come naturally – but maybe it’s naming the loss that is hard for me. Or, the finality of that which I am grieving. Or, maybe it’s my tendency to minimize my own feelings because I look around and see those who are struggling in ways I could not even imagine.

But, here I am, in 2020, like so many, choosing to name the “I’m sad.” Oh, how hard that is for me. Every personality test that I have ever taken unveils words like “positivity,” “enthusiasm,” and “upbeat.” Admitting grief feels like failing, but I am learning that the alternative actually feels like living.

Several months ago, I sat at a funeral of a beloved wife, friend, and mother. Even though I only spent consistent time with her for a few months several years ago, her legacy gives me chills from my head to my toes. The words spoken about her at her funeral are words every person would long to have spoken of them at theirs.

Selfless. Godly. Compassionate. Kind. Generous.

Her funeral was utterly sad but her celebration of life was tremendously hopeful. I left the memorial that day wondering why I felt such a deep sorrow. I have said goodbye to loved ones who I knew at a much deeper level. I knew this woman had been taken to Glory to meet her Savior. But, the weight of emotions behind this particular day seemed unbearable. While I cannot be too sure (#2020?), all I know is that it felt like another loss in a year filled with losses.

Not wanting to experience that emotion any longer, I quickly tucked it away and went back to work. Several other experiences panned out similarly. A relationship I invested so much in seemed to end abruptly. A prayer I prayed so desperately wasn’t answered how I thought God would answer it. A pursuit of a dream seemed so far from reach. (Don’t cry, just hang in there ‘til the end.) I kept tucking away these experiences to, ya’ know, “stay positive.” And, then, a little miracle happened. A friend saw right through me and said, “You’re not okay.”

I broke.

In God’s providence, our church had been walking through a series on Jonah. (For your next drive or walk, I urge you to watch or listen here, here, here, and here.) While we studied Jonah as a church, I studied it with the Lord; and Jonah chapter 4 wrecked me. Quick recap on Jonah: God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah to preach a sermon telling thousands of very sinful people to repent. Jonah is like ‘forget that,’ and instead, hops a ship to Tarshish. God sends a deadly storm. Jonah tells the crew to throw him overboard so the storm will cease and they all won’t die. A big fish swallows Jonah. Jonah cries out to God in the belly of the fish. God has the fish throw up Jonah. (This is for reals in the Bible, y’all.) He tells God to go to Ninevah again. This time, Jonah goes. Ninevah repents.

Then, Jonah Chapter 4 – Jonah is ticked. God did what Jonah thought he would do – He was merciful. So, Jonah went out of the city to pout and watch what would happen to Ninevah. And God has a plant spring up and provide shade for Jonah. Then, God sent a scorching sun that killed the plant and Jonah cries out in anger. God calls Jonah out for being angry about the plant, which he did not labor for or make grow. Then, God gives Jonah a lesson: If you pity the plant, Jonah, should I not pity the 120,000 sinful persons of Ninevah? Short commentary (c) 2020. 😉

I am Jonah. There are circumstances like the dying plant that I am grieving about this year. But, as I have named them to God, He has felt nearer. Like Jonah, He has given me space to run and then He has run after me. He has given me a spot to sulk, and then He has provided the shade. He has let me voice my anger, and then He has kindly taught me a lesson. I have never grieved alone. If you are battling loss today, cry out to God. He is near.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Ps. 34:18

Rachel grew up in Rockwall, Texas, a community thirty miles northeast of Dallas. Raised in a loving Christian home, she prayed with her mom to receive Christ and was baptized as a little girl. In eighth grade, she made the switch from a private Christian school to public school, a decision that greatly deepened her faith. Rachel went to college at the University of Texas at Austin where she studied corporate communications and business. She was heavily involved in serving and leading on campus ministries through her local church and had always prayed about going into vocational ministry. But, God had different plans initially.

When Rachel graduated college, she worked at the global public relations agency, Burson-Marsteller. She was then awarded the opportunity to attend an academic fellowship program at the John Jay Institute in Philadelphia. Following the John Jay Fellowship, Rachel took a job in West Chester, Pennsylvania, at American Philanthropic, a consulting firm that provides fundraising services to nonprofits.

At the beginning of 2017, God began reminding her of the calling that she wasn’t ignoring, but simply postponing, “to connect people to the person and mission of Jesus through the people of Jesus.” Rachel loves studying God’s Word in a deeper way as a part-time seminary student at Westminster Theological Seminary, and she believes God has called her to Pennsylvania and Project 938 for such a time as this.

Rachel Short

Director of Discipleship and Connections, Project 938