In a recent Ask the Counselor post, I addressed the question, “Should I try to forget my past?” I said a hearty, biblical “No!”
I also said that one biblical response to our past is “reflection”: honestly facing our past face-to-face with Christ. In God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I call that “candor.” Here’s an excerpt from chapter two: “Candor: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn.”
Candor: Telling Your Self the Truth
The world has its way of grieving. But, when our fallen world falls on us, when suffering crushes us, we need much more than research. We need revelation—we need God’s inspired truth about how to grieve as those who have hope.
God’s Word offers us profound practical wisdom for moving from denial to candor. What exactly is biblical candor? Candor is courageous truth telling to myself about life in which I come face-to-face with the reality of my external and internal suffering. In candor, I admit what is happening to me and I feel what is going on inside me.
My Personal Candor Journey
I had to move from denial to candor after the death of my father on my 21st birthday. In fact, it was not until my 22nd birthday that the process truly began. I had been handling my loss like a good Bible college graduate and seminary student—I was pretending!
On my 22nd birthday, one year to the day after my father’s death, I went for a long walk around the outskirts of the seminary campus. That day I started facing my loss of my Dad. The reality that I would never know him in an adult-to-adult relationship. The fact that my future children would never know their grandfather.
As I faced some of these external loses, the tears came. Then I began to face some of the internal crosses—what was happening in me. I felt like a loner. Fatherless. Orphaned. Unprotected. On my own. The tears flowed. The process of candor began. The floodgate of emotions erupted. I was being honest with myself.
Biblical Candor Samplers: Fearlessly Facing the Facts
But was it biblical? Does God really allow and even invite His children to be brutally honest about life? Can we support candor biblically?
David practices candor in Psalm 42:3-5.
My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Notice that David is honest about his external suffering. He describes his losses—the loss of fellowship, leadership, and worship. He also is candid about his internal suffering. He depicts his crosses—accurately labeling his soul as downcast and disturbed within him.
Job consistently models candor throughout his response to his losses.
What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil (Job 3:25-26).
Again we witness brutal frankness both about external losses and internal crosses.
We could profitably examine the accounts of other biblical characters who practiced candor—Jeremiah, Solomon, Asaph (Psalm 73), Heman (Psalm 88), Jesus, Paul, and so many more. They all convey the same inspired message: it’s normal to hurt and necessary to grieve.
The Apostle Paul does not tell us not to grieve; he tells us not to grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He chooses a Greek word meaning to feel sorrow, distress, and grief, and to experience pain, heaviness, and inner affliction.
Paul is teaching that grief is the grace of recovery because mourning slows us down to face life. No grieving; no healing. Know grieving; know healing.
The only person who can truly dare to grieve, bear to grieve, is the person with a future hope that things will eventually be better. When we trust God’s good heart, then we trust Him no matter what. We need not pretend. We can face and embrace the mysteries of life.
On the Road to Hope
Candor or denial. The choice is a turning point. It is a line drawn in the sand of life, a hurdle to confront.
Faith crosses the line. Trust leaps the hurdle. We face reality and embrace truth, sad as it is. If facing suffering is wrestling face-to-face with God, then candor is our decision to step on the mat. Will you?
Join the Conversation
True faith faces all of life face-to-face with Christ. Where would you put yourself on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being total denial and 10 being facing all of life—internal and external suffering?