What is the most valuable thing you have ever lost?
I remember a night several years ago when I was out with my mom. We’d been running from store to store, and as we left the mall, she realized her keys were missing. You know that feeling, right?
Our best guess was that she dropped them on the floor of a dressing room, but by that time, the stores were closed. We knew we’d have to wait until the next day to retrace our steps.
A nuisance, yes, but my mom was one to go with the flow. She was good-natured, and really, a few missing keys (which we eventually found) were just nothing at all compared to other losses in her life. I don’t know why, but late that night after the shopping trip, my mind went back to an afternoon long ago when torrential Midwest rains flooded our neighborhood. Back then, my mom’s words were stabilizers for me.
“These are just things,” she told us, gesturing around the living room as water rose above our ankles and waves gently rocked through the room. And if you were privileged to know my mom, you know she meant that.
Our family lost a lot of “things” in that flood.
For me, loss has taken many forms. I remember the season when one hurricane after another barreled down on us here in South Florida. That year I lost my fence, backyard hedge, and favorite little olive tree. The magnificent pink bougainvillea that graced my backyard was blown apart. Without that bougainvillea, the view from my kitchen window suddenly became lifeless. Funny how I could mourn the loss of a bush. In addition, both our church and my husband’s business saw severe damage.
Just in case that wasn’t enough for one season, weeks later, my home was robbed. I lost both practical items and sentimental keepsakes which I knew were likely pawned for cash that could never come close to equaling their value to me.
In the midst of all this, my dad passed away after an extended illness. With our oldest daughter recently moving 1,000 miles away to college, our family felt scattered to me, both emotionally and physically.
Those were some hard months.
Perhaps by now you’re thinking about losses in your own life (and I’m sure you know I’m not talking about misplaced keys anymore). I have friends who have lost loved ones this year. Perhaps that’s you. Or maybe you’ve lost a friend or your good health. Maybe you feel like you’ve lost your youth, your optimism, or your sense of humor. Maybe at some point in your life, your dreams disappeared. Loss comes in a myriad of fashions and often sneaks up to catch us by surprise.
How do you react to loss?
In the midst of all my pain, a friend stopped by to encourage me. Although I had been trying to shrug it off, she saw through my facade. “Ruth,” she said. “I know this hurts, but in time you will be so much more beautiful because of it.” Annoyed with her wisdom, I didn’t say much, but I never forgot those words.
Sometimes we need to sit back and allow God to change our focal point. I definitely needed that. Dealing with loss is difficult, but God’s Word tells us to refocus our heart on Christ, on eternal values, and on living to please Him.
Colossians 3:1-2 says, Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
That year with such significant loss in my life, I began to understand that fences, bougainvilleas, and even my (stolen) rings were temporary. I learned to view my “treasures” as gifts from God to use for His glory—and to have faith that He brings people (like my dad and my daughter) into or out of my life for different times and for different purposes. To be honest, I’m still grasping the wonder of how God, in His wisdom, uses circumstances to clarify my vision—so I can concentrate on the eternal rather than the temporal.
It was a pretty big season of learning for me.
Lately with some new losses, I’ve been appreciating Matthew 6 all over again: Don’t store up treasures here on earth where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What about you? What are some of your treasures? Are they possessions you can put into a box, or are they things too big to hold? The Apostle Paul contemplated these questions also. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:7-8).
Yes, God has taught me a lot about seeing things in light of the infinite value of knowing Him. Frankly, I’m still learning, but today as I look out that very same kitchen window, my bougainvillea is showcasing bright pink blooms. It suffered loss once upon a time, but the pruning did it good, and now the plant is mature and growing beautifully because of it.