“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” — Psalm 90:12
Grief often causes a “circling the wagons” reaction, automatically drawing together what is left. Sometimes we’d been letting the busyness of this age rob us of time with a loved one we’d always had a good relationship with. When that loved one dies, and we realize our mistake, such regret wells up, we feel compelled to warn everyone around us to stop letting busyness rob us of relationships that are far more important than the trivial things we’d pursued instead–or at least they seem so in the hour of grief.
Let’s take a step back and realize a few things. Firstly, sometimes, we were doing important work and just got out of balance. If we listen to grief, we risk ending up out of balance in the exact opposite direction and suffering for that.
Secondly, not everyone who hears the message, “spend more time with your loved ones. You never know when they’ll be gone” are in your situation. Some of them may have good reason to have separated from an abuser and cut off all contact. Indeed, God may have even told some to stay away from loved ones whose abuse tears down the work God is doing in them.
That may shock some of us. God values his masterpieces far more than we realize when we’ve been abused. I am sure it is never with joy that God tells someone to limit contact with someone else he loves, yet Christ meant it when he said “If your right hand offend you, cut it off. It is better to go Heaven maimed than to Hell whole.” When we are stronger, God may send us back, but it must come from God.
When we urge people to reconcile out of fear their loved one will die like ours did, we mean to protect them from the pain we endured. Instead, this can potentially end up being received as a guilt trip that would send an abuse victim back into a relationship that is spiritually harmful to them at this time. Let’s not do that.
Beyond that, I am concerned the classic appeal of grief may put on our friends a burden beyond their control: keeping their loved ones close to them. Not everyone has loved ones willing to do what it takes to have a real, honest, healthy relationship that is mutual, fair, and balanced. There are several different ways things could be dysfunctional, and we can’t do anything about anyone but us.
So I propose we look to God’s word for a healthier appeal in the face of grief: Praying Psalm 90:12. “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
It is healthier to respond to death by remembering our own time on this Earth may be over in an instant. We may not know what words we speak will be the last words we ever get to speak to someone we care about. We should prayerfully consider what actions we can take to leave good memories behind with those willing to take accountability for their own actions and be in a relationship where both forgive. It is better to count our own days than the days of those around us.
Each of us is accountable for only one life: our own. Let’s seek to live to leave the legacy of a child of God who counted our days and sought to give them all to the Lord. Let’s seek to leave the legacy of seeking to live to please God alone, to trust God in all things.