I remember sitting in the office with the grief counselor in the fall and laughing when she told me I needed to lower my expectations. “You are expecting too much of yourself,” she said. “In this season, it is okay to just survive, and not thrive.” I very literally laughed at her. What she was telling me went against everything I have been taught and believed up until that point and I told her that is not how I face things.
If there is anything I learned from Ben throughout over a decade of marriage it is that you don’t do things halfway. You give everything you face, everything you’ve got. I thought grief would be the same way… I would just choose to fight against it and overcome it the way I have fought to overcome every other trial I have faced the past. 1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
I really thought I could give grief my all and come out ahead of everyone else who suffered a great loss. But as my 6 year old frequently tells me, “I stand corrected.” I was wrong. Grief is not something that you just wish away and it goes. No matter how much you push it away it hits you again when you least expect it. And you have to let it run its course…
So with the help of a few close friends, last fall I learned to lower my expectations. And for a few months, I was happy to just survive. If the kids were fed and clothed, I considered a day a success… no matter what they were wearing, and no matter what I fed them. I learned what things had to be accomplished, and I did them. And everything else I decided to let slide for a while. It was healing to throw out all my expectations and just live life for a few months.
But I woke up in January and my expectations were back… I decided that even if the grief wasn’t gone, it was time for me to thrive. My children needed me, I needed me, and I wanted us to start to do more than just survive. Job 14:7 says, “At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.” I am ready for the Lord to allow me to grow again, to flourish, and to thrive.
I have met a lot of grieving friends during the past six months, and I have found myself repeating that counselor’s advice over and over. Telling them that it is okay to throw their expectations out the window and just survive this season. It won’t last forever, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t believe God can bring them through it. It just means that for a season, it is okay to just make it through the day.
I believe that we are all faced with those seasons at some point in time. Those are the seasons we are happy to just have survived. Seasons it was impossible to thrive through. But I encourage you to not allow yourself to stay there. Our pastor in New York started every service with the reminder that it is okay to not be okay—but it’s not okay to stay there. I get it now in a way that I never did before… and if you are in a season like that right now, I would love to pray for you. You can send me a message here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m cheering for you and praying that whatever season you are just surviving is short and that you will allow God to bring you out of it!