How to navigate large and small losses

How to Navigate Large and Small Losses in Life

From the authors of I Used to Be ___: How to Navigate Large and Small Losses in Life and Find Your Path Forward  by Chuck and Ashley Elliott.

Do you ever feel like your head and heart are slightly misaligned?

We may “know” that God’s way is perfect (Psalm 18:30), but sometimes it may feel difficult to really believe it in our hearts. We’ve been hurt, burned by people we trusted. We’ve lost loved ones, and we’ve had friendships fizzle. Although it may be difficult to believe that God’s way is perfect, we can work to realign our heart with Truth.

Before we dive into some more Scripture, let’s explore what happens in our minds when we get hurt. Typically, when we feel attacked, we pull back, withdrawing from our walk in confidence. We assemble our armor, using our best mental strategies to brace for the worst. We may deny that our pain is real, rationalize that everything will be fine if we just keep hustling, or displace our disappointment onto others so we resist self-blame.

All these defense mechanisms are fairly normal, but they are wildly inferior to God’s defense system. This is an idea we discuss in our book I Used to be ____.

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul describes the armor that God prescribes we use. In verse 10, we are encouraged to be strong in the Lord. Have you ever felt a little discouraged when you read verses that remind you to be strong? Sometimes, it can feel like a painful prick to an open wound. However, I don’t think that’s the intent. I believe God knew that we would feel weak, so He reminds us that we need to stand strong in those moments. The verse doesn’t say to remain tough on our own. We are encouraged to stay strong in the Lord. Much of the time, when people feel weary, they lean away from Scripture and prayer, a bit like Adam and Eve, hiding from the Lord (Genesis 3:8). But God beckons us to come under His shield (Genesis 15:1, Psalm 18:30, Psalm 84:11). And He is patient with us. He repeats Himself over and again, knowing that we will try our hand at our own solutions.

Yet, our solutions always fall short in the long-term. Occasionally, they appear to work in the moment, but God’s way truly is perfect. And wisdom is shown to be right by its result (Luke 7:35).

Let’s look at the result of wisdom. The armor God offered us includes the belt of Truth (Eph. 6:14). When we utilize our seemingly natural defense system, we often resist the truth. When we deny or rationalize, we run from the truth which creates more pain once reality crashes into our illusion. Our way lacks wisdom and leads toward relational despair.

But God provides a better way. We can face life’s painful truths when we nestle up under the Lord’s shield and realize our strength in Him.

Let’s continue in Ephesians 6:12, which states, “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood.” Again, God wants us to remember that although it feels like our issues are strictly between family members, co-workers, or neighbors, the enemy is truly at work in our lives, trying to drive us apart. Jesus prayed that we would be unified with other believers so the world would know how much God loves them (John 17: 22-23). The enemy hates this plan and wants to destroy us (John 10:10). But we have been given a very reliable instruction manual to follow.

God’s armor is trustworthy, and the result of wisdom is a hope-filled life where we can thrive even after adversity. In Ephesians 6:16, we are told that, in addition to all of the other weapons, we should take up the shield of faith so we can extinguish the flaming arrows that the enemy throws at us.

Grab some paper or use the notes app in your phone to list some of the flaming arrows that your enemy throws at you. It’s good to recognize that the enemy wants to use hurt from your child, spouse, or small group to drive you toward isolation or feelings of defeat. The enemy wants you to feel like it’s someone else’s fault, so a fiery arrow that the enemy throws in your direction might be an inability to handle negative feedback or some other insecurity or weakness you experience.

After you’ve listed some of the fiery arrows, invite God to show you where He wants to increase your faith. Faith may lead you to take a step toward communication, forgiveness, or counseling. Does this feel hard? It’s ok if it does. God’s way is perfect. It may not be easy, but it does lead you closer to the life you long for.

And the last portion of the armor to highlight today is the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (v. 17).” God’s Word is our best defense against the enemy’s ploys and will help us reset when our hearts get out of alignment with truth.

What Truth do you need to commit to memory? The armor of God? Make it fun; sing a song. Teach it to a friend. Record it so you can remember the passage in the future to remind yourself of your spiritual grit.

God’s armor is superior to our human defense system, and you can use these tools to strengthen yourself in the Lord for any battle. If you’d like to learn more about defense mechanisms that impact your identity or relationships as well as Biblical mental health tools to fight for a positive space, check out our book, I Used to be ____.

Order your copy of I Used to Be ___: How to Navigate Large and Small Losses in Life and Find Your Path Forward  by Chuck and Ashley Elliott.