So, my favourite youtubers, the vlogbrothers, have launched another channel called ‘how to adult’. It is much needed! Interestingly, they’ve already covered, ‘how to ask someone out’, recommending ‘the indirect method’ of, well, basically, not actually asking someone out… This has provoked quite the controversy in the comments, and I’m pleased to say that many join me in believing that honesty and directness is the way to go, over indirect murkiness…
Having said that, I know that my last post provoked a controversy all of it’s own (for the three people who read it anyway!), and one of most provoking aspects of the suggestion we just tell people we like them is the heartbreaking reality that many of them will not like us back.
This is particularly difficult if you’ve allowed yourself to become obsessed with someone over a number of months/years, as even without them knowing it, they’ve become a massive part of your life. Possible elements of this include: imaginary conversations with them, factoring them into your hypothetical life plans, stalking them, fantasising about them, sexually fantasising about them, pondering their actions and character deeply, stalking their friends, and, in extremis, you may even talk to them. A lot.
Now I know I’m not out here on this pathetic limb by myself. Better to have loved and lost than never to have remembered any Shakespearian quotes correctly.
MANY of us experience unrequited love, and whether you tell the object of your desires and they reject you, or you never tell them and they reject you ipso facto, you’re going to experience pain, hurt, grief and anguish.
And if someone really close and important to you, even if it’s just in your mind, essentially rejects you, dies to you, is torn from you forever, you’re going to experience grief. Which is its usual painful and strange self, but often without even being able to tell anyone about it!
(By the way, it’s important to say here, actually, the people probably know. The friends closest to you will know, because you constantly talk about this person anyway. And even some of the most emotionally insensitive of co-workers or acquaintances may notice if you’re hit so hard by it, even your body betrays you… If your hidden grief is not actually hidden, it may help to get it out there properly and talk to someone about it. My goodness. I’m accidentally becoming the queen of tell-people-everything…!)
So how can you deal with this grief, not just gracefully and elegantly, but in a God-honouring way? If I did this subject justice, this post would be 50, 000 words long, so instead, I’m gonna shoot some bullet points at you, of advice I’ve given and taken myself.
1. One of the comforts God gives to those who are grieving is the knowledge that some partings are only temporary. If a brother or sister in Christ dies, they are merely sleeping, and we will see them again in glory (1 Thess 4:13-18). But does this help if you’re not grieving the death of a loved one, but the loss of a possible relationship?
I think at the very least it points us toward a future home where there will be no more tears or mourning or crying or pain (Rev 21:4), because God Himself with be with us and amongst us. Surely that is worth pondering no matter what you’re grieving. It also lifts our eyes beyond the romantic to our unity in Christ, with God. You may never ‘hook up’ with the person, but you are members of the body of Christ.
2. You’ve been hit where it hurts, in the self-worth. This person you adore does not adore you, and the deceiver will happily use that as a foothold to lie to you and accuse you. It may be worth meditating on your incredible worth as a person made in God’s image, and as a dearly loved son or daughter of God. I suggest checking out Isaiah 43:1-13 (yes yes yes there’s a context regarding the story of salvation, but, what God says to His people He can say to His person), or meditating on the crucifixion (in Matthew especially, you can see substitution after substitution, highlighting that Jesus took this on for you! In your place! Greater love has no man than that he lays down his life for his enemies!) and calling to mind our Father’s great love. The author(s) of Psalm 42 orders their soul about, questioning it’s grief and reminding it of God’s powerful, saving acts. We can follow this same advice, and call on our soul to remember God’s gracious, powerful acts and praise Him.
3. You’ve possibly also been hit another place it hurts, in the idolatry. It is more than possible to twist something good by making it into ‘the best’. If you were pinning more and more hopes to this one person instead of to God, not only are you unfairly loading up a human with the weight of the universe, you’re cheating God by robbing Him of the rightful place in your heart. A good diagnostic for this is, how pissed off with God are you that He’s taken this person away from you?
It’s not that you’re never allowed to be angry with God, but anger is a secondary emotion. It’s a symptom of something else. Did you get to a point of believing that God ‘owed’ you a break? That you’ve been good enough, so He should give you this thing you desire? That He just should be good to you anyway, and is clearly not because He didn’t give this person to you? If you feel anger at God, or distance from Him, use that as an opportunity to ask the Spirit of God to search you and know your heart, test you and find all your anxious thoughts (Psalm 139, especially verse 23). Like all times of trial, allow God to pull you closer to Him in your grief, don’t wander further away.
4. Get some awesome friends who will support, love, pray for and distract you. This getting-of-awesome-friends is a labour of love drawn out over many years, so don’t get so boy or girl crazy you ignore it. They will be there after this person is gone from your life. Choose friends wisely and love them well.
5. Change it up. There’s also just some basic stuff you can do when grieving to help yourself out. The Queen believes in a good long walk every day as a way to help grief work itself out. She’s not far off! Fight the urge to mope, call a friend and get out of the house. If you can, go on a holiday! If totally necessary, avoid the person for a while!
If however you find yourself feeling down most of the time and crying at least once a day for more than four weeks, I suggest seeing a doctor. You may need some helping moving out of this grief. Speaking with a counsellor can also be really helpful, and you will gain some skills for dealing with grief and loss.
We worship a God who comforted and fed Elijah in the wilderness when in exhaustion, fear and anger, he fled (1 Kings 19). We are the children of a God who sweat blood for us, stained with His own tears (Luke 22:44 – note in verse 43 that God sent a heavenly messenger to Him to strengthen Him in His grief, pain and fear). There is no reason to hide our grief from God, and every reason to invite Him into it, calling on Him for prayer and comfort, and simply telling Him where it hurts.
I pray God will give you time. Time to mourn and time to heal. Time remember His goodness and time to praise Him again.