Early in my journey of grief, I was asked if you can prepare for loss. I responded with a yes and a no. The way you live prepares you for life and loss. However, you cannot prepare for the exact manner in which you lose someone. The circumstances cannot be known or prepared for, but the way you live provides a foundation for anything you face, whether desirable or undesirable.
“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness…” 1 Timothy 4:7
Refuse Irreverent and Silly Myths
When loss descends on you, uninvited, your shocked mind and numbed emotions give birth to thoughts out of nowhere. “Where did that come from,” you think. I remember a crazy thought within the first day or two after my loss. There were many people, comforters, in and out of my house. And a thought out of the blue crossed my mind. “Maybe I can just walk out of the house, go to the airport, move to Africa…and maybe no one will even know.” Bizarre.
Worse than these spontaneous thoughts are the silly narratives in our culture that surround death. A few examples…
Death is the end, and my loss will lead to unavoidable despair. Or another. When a person dies, God will weigh the good and bad things done. Or worse. You deserve the best, but God has let you down. Another. God needed your loved one more than you did. Silly and irreverent. And terrible theology.
Rather, Train Yourself in Godliness
Training in this passage carries with it the idea of athletic training. This passage uses terms such as train, toil, strive, devote, and do not neglect. These are active words requiring energy and intentionality.
The target for training is godliness. Paul says, “…set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Instead of listening to reckless silliness and irreverence, apply discipline and train yourself in godliness.
“Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:15
Practice and Immerse Yourself in Truth
Paul continues in delivering good advice for life and loss. Practice. Rehearse. Immerse yourself in a training regimen that will promise to bear fruit. In missionary circles, there are numerous strategies for language learning. One strategy, language immersion, is a method where you surround yourself with those who speak the language you’re seeking to learn. You immerse yourself in the language. Similarly, Paul instructs us to immerse ourselves in truth.
Make and Show Progress
Paul’s instructions for life reveal good advice for dealing with loss. Progress can be made in maintaining your emotional, physical, and spiritual health. In fact, you can thrive and not simply survive. Your circumstances have nothing to do with your thriving or surviving.
Paul says, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all” (2 Corinthians 3:2). Living a life known by godly traits displays a message to others. The Corinthians were a letter to be known and read. Likewise, we are to make and show our progress.
So, lessons for a godly life delivered to us by Paul are also lessons that aid us in facing loss in a healthy manner. We should refuse irreverent and silly myths and, instead, train in godliness. We should immerse ourselves in truth and make and show our progress.
“He isn’t so much working to transform our circumstances as he is working through hard circumstances to transform you and me.” Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies