Your Choice When Facing Loss

A friend said, “I know I am getting old because there are three things I can’t remember. I can’t remember names. I can’t remember faces. And I can’t remember the third thing I can’t remember.” We live constantly under the threat of degeneration and loss—from the loss of teeth, hair, and a waistline; to the loss of health and energy; to the loss of a spouse and children. When losses come we make one of two choices—we can become bitter or we grow better. The truth is that we will face losses. No one is exempt. Tragedy will come. Life is not smooth. I used to tell people, “Life is a series of losses and gains.” Now, as I have grown older, I have changed the statement slightly: “Life has more losses than gains.” When we face loss, the real test is how we respond. Loss is inevitable, often, painful. Unfortunately, in this fallen world, our lives are touched by loss over and over again. How can you and I grow better instead of becoming bitter? Find a safe place. In a neighborhood I once lived, small but bright posters in the front windows of certain homes pictured the silhouette of an open hand. The poster was obviously positioned in a prominent place, seen even by a child. The poster was a sign of a safe place. It was a signal to a frightened or sick child that this home offered protection and assistance. If one only knocks on the door, safety could be found. Everyone needs a safe place when they have encountered a loss. Like the theme song to the old television show Cheers says, “You want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” People who have experienced debilitating loss need a safe place. A place surrounded by loving and caring family and consoling friends. Just as a child who has lost her way, or is in trouble, or experiencing pain, we need a place that offers comfort and protection. Find a friend. Someone said that a friend is a family you choose. The main business of friendship is to sustain and make bearable each other’s burdens. After I received the call that my father died, my wife said, “Do you need to call Matt or Mike?” (Two of my best friends.) She knew the importance of friends to soothe the blow of a major loss. We need friends who will significantly contribute to our lives. They provide us with relational strength. Friends are the Velcro of life, enabling us to stick in spite of the rough spots. Good friends make us better people. Find a cause. In May of 1980, teenager Cary Lightner of Fair Oaks, CA was hit and killed by a drunk driver. His mother, Candy Lightner, was a successful real estate salesperson. She discovered that the driver of the vehicle had been arrested many times for drunk driving, had his license suspended for driving while intoxicated, yet was still on the road. Within months she began, what became a nationwide organization known as MADD—Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Candy Lightner experienced a tragic loss. But she did not bottle up her loss in selfishness. She channeled her energy into helping others. She chose not to become bitter. She devoted herself to a cause. You or I probably won’t start a national movement like MADD, but we can find something to give ourselves to that is bigger than ourselves. The way to recovery from loss is to empty ourselves of selfishness and find something or someone to invest our time and our talent. Loss does not have to defeat us. It can make us better. But, it is our choice.

Rick Ezell serves as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist
Church, Greer, SC.