I landed in my seat at Bible study feeling like a refugee. Two tiny sons were happily entertained in the nursery, my study questions were only half answered, and I could just barely recall the point of the lesson, but community drew me to that space like a magnet. In that season, I craved the interaction–and I knew I needed prayer and support for my mothering journey and the state of my heart.
Prayer time began with a flood of need: a wife whose marriage was flailing and failing; a tearful mother with a very sick child; our facilitator’s husband was dying of cancer. What was I thinking? By comparison, my own prayer needs were barely worth mentioning, my suffering minor and my losses miniscule when stacked against the challenges others were facing.
Loss is like that. We rate ours on a bandwidth, pitting it against the stories of others, and it’s a no-win game. If our suffering has been severe, we are reluctant to draw attention to it. If, like mine that day so long ago, it feels minor, we’re embarrassed to complain about it. The characters in Remember Me: A Novella about Finding Our Way to the Cross embody this struggle and blaze a trail to hope for those struggling with depression or suffering from loss. Feeling our feelings, leaning into the gift of community, and enlisting the support of “companions in sorrow” are all ways of moving forward in our commitment to wholeness and health.
Author, Sharon Garlough Brown studied painting and enlisted artistic input from Elizabeth Ivy to bring realism to protagonist Wren Crawford’s body of work. In this sequel to Shades of Light, Wren reflects on Christ’s suffering in order to live her way into an understanding of the crushing weight of grief she carries. Drinking the cup of remembrance with Wren provides readers with the gift of space for reckoning with our own losses, big and small, past and present, and in the reckoning, here’s what we need to remember about loss:
1. Loss stretches in both directions
Like falling dominos, one loss awakens the memory of former suffering and sets the table for future sadness as we grieve empty chairs and events uncelebrated. We affirm the losses of others when we give them the gift of time and resist the urge to apply a deadline to sorrow.
I don’t think we ever stop grieving what we lost. I don’t say this to discourage you but to affirm your sorrow. The grieving changes. The manifestation of grieving evolves. Some losses are soothed and healed by the passage of time. Others leave gaps that are never filled.” (15)
2. Loss is complicated by mystery.
When we lose a loved one, we lose their memories, their stories, and their future. The “what-if” that hangs in the air evades closure and serves as a gritty reminder, like a pebble in the shoe, of our inability to control so much of our own life script. Garlough’s beloved fictional spiritual director, Katherine Rhodes takes on the momentous task of writing obituaries to all her past losses: the relationships, roles, and identities that were ripped from her long before she was ready to relinquish them.
Can you picture writing an obituary for the death of some dream or to commemorate some loss you are working your way through right now?
3. In seasons of loss, do not join the accuser in his work.
The truth is that sometimes our losses come in connection with our own sinful choices and poor decisions. God is sovereign even in this, and we cannot sin our way outside his grace.
Sometimes what the accuser speaks is true, especially regarding our sin. But the accusation is meant to destroy us with shame and guilt. In those moments I use the accuser’s voice as a prompt to remind me I have a Savior who has paid the price for all my sin.” (45)
4. Loss is also a testimony that can bring glory to God.
With prosperity-gospel heresy deep in our bones, we forget that our suffering reveals the power of Christ in important ways that are not present in a story of quick deliverance. Where would any of us be if Jesus had been delivered from the cross?
Even if [loss] is not the testimony you would choose, it is beautiful. And it is yours to share.” (76)
In this season of Lent, Remember Me brings to mind the darkness and the light around those very words, spoken first by Jesus with hope because he knew it was his to give, and then spoken to Jesus by the thief from a place of guilt–where hope grew, regardless. Whatever your loss, whatever suffering has brought you to the end of yourself, you can say those words to Jesus anytime. Let them lead you into a place of hope that no sorrow can diminish.
Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Grace and peace to you,
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