“You don’t have a full plate right now,” she said. “You have a platter at an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

It had been a year of back-to-back punches. You know, the kind of year where you feel so knocked down you’re not sure you’ll make it back to standing. My friend was attempting to balance me the way you balance a too-full glass of water on the way to bed–cautiously and with much care.

At the tail-end of my tailspin, I found myself navigating a divorce during the middle of a pandemic. Not exactly the answer I gave to “where do you see yourself in five years” at that job interview in 2015.

Expectations are tough that way.

Things fall apart because our world is broken by sin, and yet, every single time, I find myself surprised that things don’t work out and that people leave and that life can be so painful.

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I’m a dreamer by nature, a planner. If you want to know what life will look like in five years, I can tell you with pinpointed accuracy, complete with a Pinterest board and matching outfits. That’s just how the Lord built me, and I swear it’s going to serve someone someday.

But for now, those grandiose dreams are hard to reconcile with reality. Have you ever found yourself desperately searching for meaning out of a pile of rubble? Searching the ashes for even a glimmer of the thing you knew you were destined to have?

Shattered dreams are hard like that.

And I think the enemy wants nothing more than to leave us right there–a pile of ashes, smoke still rising from the thing we loved that burned to the ground.

It’s easy to stay there. It’s easy to set your focus on the thing you’ve lost, the thing you never had, the thing that was taken from you.

Grief is all-consuming like that. It’s like quicksand. The more you struggle, the more it consumes until, before you know it, you’re up to your neck gasping for the next breath.

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And whether it’s a broken marriage or an unexpected death, a lost pregnancy or a failed business–it hurts. Pain is relative, and it’s not a competition.

Hurt is hurt. Betrayal is betrayal. Loss is loss.

It’s all part of the human experience, they say, but it was never supposed to be this way, and I think that’s why it feels so hard.

“Everyone has their thing,” someone once told me. The more I thought about that, the more I accepted its truth. Some people get the marriage but not the baby. Others get the job but not the marriage. Some people get the baby but not the health. Pain is relative, and we all carry some with us.

Comparison is toxic like that. In our world, it’s easier than ever to identify all the ways you don’t measure up, and we find ourselves playing a constant game of where do I rank?

We weren’t made for that either.

The Bible tells us to grieve. It acknowledges that we need to feel and experience pain. But it also encourages us to move forward with hope.

Joyce Meyer taught a sermon on the passing of Moses as described in Deuteronomy 34:8, “The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over” (NIV).

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Thirty days. Under the Old Testament law, that was the prescribed period for grieving. I thought it sounded harsh until I heard Joyce Meyer’s teaching. The 30 days wasn’t a callous instruction that ignored the human need to mourn. Quite the opposite; it was a loving nudge that acknowledged the difficulty of pain but encouraged perseverance. It was about not getting stuck.

And I think, if the enemy can’t deceive us, he’ll distract us. Getting stuck in grief and bitterness is a great way to keep our eyes off the hope and future God promises.

So if you’re with me in the muck today, if you’re knocked down and struggling to find your footing, I hope you’ll hear this:

Take your time. Be gentle with yourself. Let yourself go there and feel all the things and cry until your voice is hoarse. Let yourself be angry and devastated in the same day. Take the time you need to stand back up.

But whatever you do–don’t get stuck. In the height of your grief, don’t lose focus.

You’ll make it out of this season, trust me. But more importantly, trust Him.

Kendra Barnes

Kendra is co-founder of Daylight to Dark, a lifestyle blog. She's a fun-loving wife and momma to a spirited, blue-eyed girl and a particularly jolly baby boy. She's an expert at holding down the fort, abandoning her coffee, and interjecting just the right amount of snark into any conversation. Through her love of writing, she aspires to share how she turns regular days into memories.