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Coping With Loss—Our Greatest Resource

This is a talk I gave recently at the Eugene Mission Women’s Center for the homeless.

We suffer from many different kinds of losses in life, don’t we? Not only when loved ones die, but as we age, we face increasing loss.

For example, I can’t tell you how shocked I was when I turned forty-five and my eyesight started going. It wasn’t even on my radar screen that this could happen to me. I’d always enjoyed 20/20 vision and assumed this blessing would continue all my life. So when my vision started blurring, I figured something must be seriously wrong with me. Did I have diabetes?

When I saw my eye doctor, he said, “Just about everyone needs reading glasses when they get to be your age.” What? I’d never gotten that message. Thankfully, he quickly diagnosed presbyopia (an inability to read fine print or see close objects clearly), and with some contacts and glasses I soon resumed a normal life.

And then there’s my hearing. In my early thirties, I suffered a case of sudden hearing loss which my doctor treated with prednisone. This same type of viral attack occurred three years in a row, but the third year my hearing did not return, and I had to get hearing aids. It’s no fun dealing with amplified background noise during a “quiet” dinner or embarrassing feedback squeals coming from my head when leaning in to hug a friend.

And then there’s the loss of my youthful body. I swear that I just look at a piece of cake and it leaps to my waistline. I’ve definitely lost my ability to shed pounds. And these flaps hanging from my arms. What’s up with that? I’ve always had buff arms—unlike the rest of me—but I liked my arms. Now it looks as if I’m sprouting wings.

Aging is just a crazy thing, isn’t it?

What about you? What kinds of losses have you experienced? Perhaps you’ve lost a job, a relationship, or your health…

And that leads to the question, “How do we cope with loss?”

I’m going to speak for myself here, but for me, the only way I’ve been able to deal with it is to hang on to the one thing I can never lose—Jesus Christ.

You see as I age, losses will continue and may even accelerate:

Friends may move away, die, or reject me, but Jesus will always be my friend.

I could lose everything in the financial crisis, but Jesus is my treasure.

I may lose my health, but Jesus is my life and my strength.

I may lose a family member, but Jesus is my Comforter in times of grief.

Finally, and this is a certainty, I will lose my physical life, but through Jesus I have eternal life.

You see, if you have Jesus, you have everything regardless of what happens to you.

Let me ask you this—what do you think is the worst thing you could lose? Ponder this for a moment.

Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:25) You see, according to Jesus, the worst thing you could lose is your soul. There is nothing more horrific or tragic.

Part of the reason why I believe God allows loss in our lives, is to give us the opportunity to prepare ourselves for eternity. As we age, accelerating losses are signposts reminding us that this life is going to end and we need to be ready for the next.

Perhaps now you’re asking yourself, “How can I know that when I die, the real me will live forever? How can I keep my soul?

The Bible says to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” When you believe in Jesus Christ you are born again.

We hear the term a lot, but what in the world does it mean to be born again? Let me try to describe this as concisely as possible.

Being born again means understanding that you don’t deserve God’s mercy and grace because of all the hurtful and wrong things you’ve done.

It means believing that Jesus paid the price you owed God when He died for you on the cross. That He took your punishment so you can go free.

It means telling Him you’re sorry and asking Him to forgive you. It means accepting His forgiveness, receiving Him into your life.

It’s relatively easy to give mental assent to all of the above, but most importantly, being born again means changing direction, choosing to follow Jesus, putting Him first. It’s living in light of the fact that you’re forgiven, clean, accepted.

Now some people hesitate to change direction because they’re afraid they’re going to have to be perfect. Just because you follow Jesus doesn’t mean you will stop making mistakes. Let me explain it this way:

Life always spins in cycles, doesn’t it? We make relatively good choices and feel on top of things before messing up and circling to the bottom again. However, these cycles also spiral in a particular direction. Those who don’t know God revolve in a destructive, downward direction that eventually leads to eternal death. But when you follow Jesus, your cycles of good and bad choices spin upward toward eternal life, almost as if a rope from heaven pulls you ever closer as you live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In which direction are you traveling? Is there something stirring within you that badly wants a new beginning, to be washed clean, to be forgiven? To change direction?

If this is the case, I invite you to make a commitment to Jesus. Before eternity arrives at your doorstep, you may not have another opportunity like this one. With the music playing and every eye closed, please raise your hand if you would like to make this decision. Why raise your hand instead of just making the commitment in your heart? Because an outward, more public action somehow carries more weight in our minds.

Remember, the worst thing you can lose is your soul, but the greatest thing you can gain is Christ. And to know forever…that you are found.

Those of you “listening in” via this blog who would like to make a decision for Christ may email me at ruthywood@gmail.com as your way of “raising your hand.” Tell me a little about yourself and the commitment you’ve made. I will pray with you and send you some helpful material for your new life in Christ.

  1. Dear Ruth,
    What a great talk!! I would like to copy it and share it with a couple of co-workers if you consent.
    Money is not my supply!! No person, place or condition is my supply. God is my supply!!! My awareness, understanding and knowledge of this truth, sets me free!!
    I really enjoyed your picture in Arizona with your family. Isnt it FUN and EXCITING to see them grow up!!! I think of you an smile. We have had some great times and I have good memories.
    I really liked your story of Mary mother of Jesus. Isnt the parent child relationship strange? God is always teaching me….
    I love your Ruth…

    Comment by Shannon Heath-Newell — December 28, 2008 @ 7:55 pm