Loss is an inevitable part of life. Loss comes in many different forms—loss of a loved one, the loss of health, relationship break-up, end of a job, leaving home, loss of financial security, the letting go of a long-held dream—to name a few. Dealing with a significant loss can be one of the most difficult times in a person's life - and an opportunity to discover an inner strength we didn't know we had.
Watch the story of one person's experience of loss and what she discovered.
At the age of ten, Stephen Colbert's father and two older brothers died in a plane crash. In this interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper he relates his experience and how he and his mother coped with such great loss. Watch how Stephen Colbert discovered loss as a gift.
Our losses come at particular times in our lives—when we’re in good health or ill, when things are going smoothly or are otherwise difficult, when we have good friends around us or no one to turn to. All of these circumstances contribute to the way we make our way through our losses. Losses never come in a vacuum, but always in the context of the rest of our lives.
Each one of us has an individual style of coping with losses. Some of us take personal time alone, talk to family or friends, seek counseling, join a support, read books, listen to music, exercise, engage in social activities, and seek spiritual support.
As you work through the experience of loss (and mourning and grief), might this be a time to discover God calling you? Watch two stories of discovering calling through loss.
After domestic abuse and divorce, Joyce felt called by God from chaos to a new vocation. See how this surprising twist allowed her to serve others.
When Gaye’s husband died, it was a shocking blow to her faith. See how she found God in surprising ways through her grief.
Out of the despair of loss—of loved ones, jobs, roles, homes, physical abilities—many people keep on living, finding purpose and meaning. They also turn to God. God does not make everything better or return our life to what is had been before our loss. But God never hides, abandons, or forgets us and our loss. God is always and everywhere present, seeking out those who have experienced loss and who suffer and bear great pain.
God offers us care and compassion for our health and wellbeing. God is like a friend, walking alongside and listening. God is a confidant, holding us during our difficult times. God is present as a comfort and guide. Sometimes it comforts us to see how God may be calling us through the difficulties with face.
We may have thought that God calls people only once, for just one purpose. In reality, it is safe to say that God calls us many times throughout the situations and seasons of our lives, and each call challenges us to stretch further than we might have anticipated or imagined.
How might you discover your calling during this time of loss?
Watch the video, Discerning God's Call, by Jennifer Haworth and then use the reflection questions below to help you discern God's call.
Consider these three insights as you begin discerning how God is calling you through your experience of loss.
1. Pay attention to your daily experience and what it stirs within you.
In the stuff of everyday experience - your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your routines - God is at work, inviting you to notice what brings you joy, what you're good at, and what others need you to do. Pay attention to where God is active in our life.
2. Reflect on what you notice, sorting and sifting in order to understand what is leading you to an abundant life and what is not.
Understanding develops through reflection, taking the time to see the patterns in your experience, and grasp their significance. While you can begin to notice and interpret God's action in our lives individually, if you want to hear deeply, see clearly, and choose wisely, trusted companions on the journey are essential.
3. Take loving action on what you have learned.
Discernment does not end with becoming aware of how your experiences are drawing you closer to or further away from God. You must eventually decide what you want to do with this knowledge. How will you act on what you've learned?
We grow into our distinctive callings if we are willing to become aware of God's movement in our lives, to reflect on this movement prayerfully alone and with others, and to take loving action on what we have learned.
Questions for Discernment
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all day long.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you,
for you will answer me. (Psalm 86:1-7)
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, NRSV)
God of grief,
be our light in darkness,
our comfort in sorrow,
our strength in doubt,
our support in suffering,
our peace in fear,
our love in loneliness,
our hope in despair,
our healing in pain.
Be for us
all that this world cannot be:
Help us to trust
in the hope of your name
and the promise of your word.
The C3 Project is a service of Vibrant Faith funded through a $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Called to Lives of Purpose Initiative with the purpose of assisting congregations in developing and testing new ministry models for helping Christians discover and claim their callings.
Vibrant Faith: https://vibrantfaith.org