Therapy and Theology

What if instead of avoiding grief, you could see grief as your friend?

In the sixth episode of our miniseries titled "Boundaries Boot Camp," counselor Jim Cress will teach you to recognize signs of codependency so you can adjust your own expectations and work toward seeing progress in your relationships.

Related Resources:
  • Download Lysa TerKeurst’s free resource "Is This Normal? 15 Red Flags You May Be Missing in Your Relationships." Stop tiptoeing around dysfunctions that are robbing you of inner peace, and learn the difference between a destructive pattern and a difficult season.
  • Continue your personal journey to setting better boundaries that lead to better relationships with the help of Lysa TerKeurst's book, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are. Purchase your copy today!
  • Ready to take the next step in finding your own personal Christian counselor? The American Association of Christian Counselors is a great place to find the right fit for you and your circumstances. Start your journey here.
  • Click here to download a transcript of this episode.
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What is Therapy and Theology?

Have you ever looked at a situation you’re facing in utter disbelief and thought, "How will I ever get over this?" Lysa TerKeurst understands. After years of heartbreak and emotional trauma, she realized it’s not about just getting over hard circumstances but learning how to work through what she has walked through. Now, she wants to help you do the same. That’s why Lysa teamed up with her personal, licensed professional counselor, Jim Cress, alongside the Director of Theological Research at Proverbs 31 Ministries, Dr. Joel Muddamalle, to bring you "Therapy & Theology." While Lysa, Jim and Joel do tackle some really hard topics, you’ll soon find they're just three friends having a great conversation and learning from each other along the way.

Jim Cress:
Hey, it's Jim Cress, back with you again. How’re you doing today? That's a very important question for me because what we're going to talk about today is almost a strange topic in the midst of a book or a Bible study on boundaries — [we’re going] to talk about grief.

Why would we talk about this in one of our last sessions? Maybe we've saved the most important thing for last, or near the last of what we're talking about.

I say often to people in counseling … I've realized as a Licensed Professional Counselor that a big chunk of what I do is grief work. It doesn't mean somebody in your life just died, [though it] might mean that, but maybe a relationship is over or a marriage is over. I call a divorce “the death of a marriage.” There's just no
funeral or a memorial service for it.

I realize that's not all I do, but I really help people grieve through their losses. There is a process. Actually, [the] strange thing is: Grief is actually your friend. The many stages of grief and cycling through and working through the process, processing all your emotions — and actually grief is actually not our enemy.
I love when the Word of God says we grieve not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). But we're going to work through a grieving process, especially around boundaries. If a relationship doesn't get to a good place, what are some of the ways, maybe in a relationship you're in right now, that we can grieve certain dynamics of that relationship? Yes, do that in a healthy way.

That “healthy way” part's really important because one of the two kind of ... There's a couple dynamics in grief, different stages, but [one] I look at a lot is anger. [It can be] turned outward: I'm just mad at God, at myself, and at you and this person who's violating my boundaries, or I've tried to be healthy with them and they won't let me. Or maybe I'm mad at myself, like, What a fool I've been to stay in this relationship so long! Or mad at God: God, why would You allow this to go on? I begged and begged and begged for You to turn this person around.

Let's take a look at some of the aspects of grief and what it means, like, in a relationship. A couple of things are going to happen. Yep, you're going to have a revisionist history. It's actually pretty accurate. You're going to look and say, "Wow, I look back, and this person gaslighted me." There's three different ways a person can lie to you or betray you: L.O.G. They either lied to you — they right there looked at you and lied — or “O,” they omitted: They didn't tell you some of the details that you'd want to know in this intimate relationship. Lie, omit … or “G,” they gaslighted you: They knew the truth. You knew the truth.

They tried to make you feel crazy.

You have to go back and go, "What was really real in this relationship?" You ought to be with a counselor, a good friend, a pastor, someone who can help you sort through so you're not just doing that alone, and more than just with a journal. A journal is great, but [it’s better] to have someone go through that revisionist history to say, "What of this was real and how do I even know?"

So many times I've heard a person say, "You [don’t] understand … I've wasted so many years of my life." Maybe — but God never wastes a wound.

Or they'll say, "You know what? That person, they'll go on and they'll be happy. They'll move on to another relationship as though my relationship with them never even meant anything." That's possible.
What's it like when someone gets by with something? Remember the Word of God. Be not deceived. God is not mocked. He will not be mocked, for whatever a person sows, that shall they also reap (Galatians 6:7-

Your grieving process is between you and God, [and maybe] another person helping you. Grieving the loss or the damage of a relationship is not dependent on another person, including what they end up doing or not doing.

I've said it before: Take that person off your hook and put them on God's hook. Not in a vengeful way, but say, "You know what? They may seem like they're getting by with it, but ..."
We also, as I've said so many times in other venues, know that the mental health we all want — and spiritual health — is a commitment to reality at all costs. Hear that last part: There's your grief. It's a commitment to reality at all costs.

I do an inventory and say, "What does this cost me?" Yes, years of your life, times of your life. You've been betrayed … but you know what else [grief] does? It creates a sacred space as you grieve between you and God and your journal and the Word of God and a good friend and good conversations to process what was there that you might go forward [from] and not [cultivate] what the Scripture calls a root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15).

Again, if you don't grieve, the pain won't leave for you to be free to go on and entrust that person to God. As you think about grieving, part of this will feel counterintuitive, but I hope you'll trust your own process. It's going to take time to grieve so that you are free, and it'll take time for you to realize that you don't have to own the other person's sinful behaviors. Don't own their stuff, but you can take a time to look in the mirror and own your own stuff and go forward and see grief as your friend, no longer as a dark, scary enemy. Let's all be together in the grieving process of life.