How to recover from loss is a lot like returning from exile. What comes to mind when you hear the word exile? You might think of someone booted from their country, like the Dali Lama. He was exiled from Tibet and now he is a man without a country. In the Bible, Israel was often in exile…forced out of their land to live in Egypt or Assyria or Babylon.
But living in exile isn’t just about leaving your country. Exile can happen on a personal level when life throws you a curve and you end up in a place you never planned on being. Exile is a place of loss where you feel displaced, disconnected, confused, and often depressed.
In the Bible, exile involves people leaving their country and walking through a desert to a place of imprisonment in another country. The desert symbolizes the isolation and hardship of exile.
When you and I end up in exile, we aren’t in a literal desert, but we still end up in a dry place emotionally and spiritually. Like exiles, we are often cut off from people, and though we may not hunger and thirst like desert people do, we hunger and thirst for things like; peace, love, health, stability, purpose, or comfort.
Exile is a place where fear and sadness can flood your mind unexpectedly. Just when you think it’s gone it comes back with a vengeance. You feel trapped and even fear that God has left you.
Seven Types of Exile
We all experience exile. Following are seven types of exile/loss with a few examples of each.
- Emotional exile: depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, etc.
- Spiritual: bad church experience or just feeling disconnected from God
- Relational: bad marriage, divorce, estrangement from children/parents, death of a loved one,
- Financial: debt, loss of job.
- Career: bad fit. 70% of people feel like they aren’t in the right job.
- Health: inability to have children, chronic pain, terminal disease.
- Season of life: Life between college and marriage and/or career, managing old age.
How to Recover from Loss (exile)
Here are five things to consider in regard to how to recover from loss:
1. Name it. Some times it’s helpful to simply name the problem. Like going to the doctor: they can’t always solve your problem but they can diagnose it. Somehow, just having a name for it helps. So point to the pain in your life and call it what it is: a loss.
2. Grieve it. Grief is something we often skip over. Put simply, grief involves a few things:
- identify your loss
- acknowledge the impact of the loss on your life
- give yourself permission to express your emotions about the loss
- allow God to redefine your new life because of the loss
3. Learn from it. In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah learned that even though Jerusalem had been destroyed, God was still faithful…his mercies were new every day (Lamentations 3:20-25). God speaks to us in the midst of our darkness.
4. Reframe it. To recover from loss you need to see things from God’s perspective, not a human perspective. You need to see things from an abundance mentality, not a scarcity mentality.
5. Expect to return from it. There’s no formula for how to return from exile or how to recover from loss. Neither is there a timetable. I can’t promise you when it will happen. But the record shows that God always brings his people out of exile and he brings them out better than when they entered. God spoke to his people in exile by saying…
They will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land ; and I will leave none of them there any longer. Ezekiel 39:28
I know a number of my readers are in exile today. The good news is: God knows that too and he has a plan for you to return from exile. His faithfulness is great and his mercies are new every morning. Let me pray for you here:
Father, in the middle of heartache Jeremiah was able to say: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness… Father, be with those of us in exile today. Fill us with hope and thanksgiving. Reveal yourself to us. Show us the path out of exile and how to recover from loss. Amen.
This post is taken from a message I spoke on 3.24.13. To read or listen to the entire message, download Return from Exile – Part Two.