I hate buying sympathy cards. I can never find what I am looking for, though I don’t think my expectations are unreasonable: a simple picture, maybe a tasteful scripture verse and a message that says something like, “I’m so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers.” If needed, I could even stomach the orange sunset with gold embossed Helen Steiner Rice poems. But instead, the majority of cards I open are a buffet of bad theology. They say things like, “May the memory of your loved one comfort you in this time,” or “Your loved one is the breeze that blows, the flower that grows…”, or even “May you be comforted by whatever comforts you” (I really saw that one!). I could dissect what is annoying to me about each of these but I will spare you. (I can also offer my critique of birthday cards for dads. Yikes. Another time.)
What reminded me of the sympathy cards was the common phrase: “Time heals all wounds”. Recently that phrase came up and Brad remarked how untrue it is. I agree. While it is true that the shock and pain of a loss tends to lessen over time, I would argue that it is not time that is curative. I have met people who are just as wounded today over a loss as they were 20 years ago when it happened. Perhaps they have grown used to the pain, or have become good at numbing it, but it’s there nonetheless. For some, time can even twist the original injury, heaping further resentments on top. These people can end up progressively more angry and bitter as the years go by.
Of course, this is not to say that there is no relief in sight for those who suffer! But I would submit that it is love, not time, that does the healing. After all, what is a wound but a deprivation? Something precious which is lacking? Such a thing can only be cured by being filled up. The sincere outpouring of support from friends and family in the form of meals, cards or listening can be helpful, but ultimately, if real progress is to be made toward wholeness, one must be filled with God.
I think this is why we can be so tempted to anger and bitterness after a loss. If Satan can get us to turn our backs on the physician, we will remain in our sickness forever.
This past weekend, I was on retreat (with grown-ups!), and both witnessed and experienced some of this amazing healing. Like the paralytic on the mat, God gave me some sisters who, by their prayers, lowered my mat down before Jesus. Ever so gently, He forgave me and then cured me of that which was holding me bound. It is funny how God works: He did not change any of the circumstances of my life, and yet my peace has returned. I am reminded of that which I knew all along, but had allowed myself to forget: He is there. He is upholding me. If I allow Him, He will do great things in and through me.
So, thank you to those of you who prayed me out of my pity party, to those who planned and ministered on retreat, and especially to that Love which heals and fills all wounds.