Imagine for a moment you know someone whose loved one died a sudden death. When your friend got the news, she didn’t shed a tear. In fact, she acted like everything was fine. She also didn’t go to the funeral, and she never so much as whispered a “goodbye” to her loved one.
If this were a real friend of yours, you’d assume she was in denial and you’d wonder how long until she’d break down.
Though we know that grief is normal, healthy, and necessary, you and I try to skip over it all the time in the recurring losses in life.
One area I see this a lot is in the area of letting go of sin.
Breaking free from old sinful habits is reason to celebrate, but if a sin has been a longstanding part of your life, it can still produce grief. Why? Because you’re experiencing a loss. The fact that something is a sin doesn’t negate the feeling of loss when it’s gone.
When you lose a friend, grieving is what enables you to move on. Similarly, grieving can help you leave a sin behind and not return.
How do you grieve the loss of a sin?
- Begin by acknowledging how the sin felt like a friend.
In all likelihood, if it’s been with you for a long time, that’s very much how you’ve felt about it. What were its good characteristics—or at least those characteristics that seemed real and good at the time? Reflect on what this friend has meant to you: When did you meet? How long did you know this old friend? How much time have you spent together? When was this friend there for you? And what did this friend mean to you?
For example, if you’re a man or woman grieving pornography, you might say, “I remember I met you when I was in middle school. During that awkward time of adolescence, you never made me feel weird for being interested in sex. You made me feel great. On a deeper level, you spent hours with me during times when I felt lonely. When I felt anxious, you comforted me. When I felt insecure, you made me feel worthwhile.”
- Express your grief.
As you take time with #1 above, what emotions come up when you think of saying goodbye to this friend? Let the emotions come. Scream, cry, get angry, feel depressed. Let yourself feel the loss. If feeling sad about leaving a sin feels scandalously un-Christian to you, keep in mind that the emotions you feel are not rooted in the sin, they are rooted in your God-given humanity.
- Acknowledge why you’re saying goodbye.
When a real friend passes away, loved ones let each other know about it because we understand that acknowledging the death is essential to grieving and letting go.
Similarly, when grieving a sin you’re leaving behind, it’s essential to come to terms with the very real reasons it’s time to say goodbye. So, why are you saying goodbye to this sin?
Returning to our example above, you might say, “You lied to me. You pretended to be there for me, but you never were. You acted like you cared about me, but you didn’t even know me. You pretended to give freely, but you have been keeping me as your slave. As much as you made me feel good in the moment, you actually have made me feel so ashamed. You pretended to be a friend, but in reality you are destroying me and my real relationships with the people I love most.”
- Draw near to loved ones.
Grief is not a road to walk alone. The more significant the loss, the more support and time you’ll need along the way. So find others who can support you as you say goodbye to your sin and as you mourn its loss. And especially, draw near to Jesus as you grieve. He is well-acquainted with grief and he has entered into the hell of your sin in order to bring you back to the land of the living and loving. Travel the road with him and discover the kind of friend he is to you.
Grieving the loss of an old beloved sin is just one example of the value of grieving. For more on the importance of grieving common losses in life, check out this week’s podcast, Grieving our Expectations.
And if we can walk a mile or two with you, let us know.
Question: Consider an old, beloved sin in your life. If you were writing it a goodbye letter, what would you write about it from #1 or #3 above?