When Grief Looks Like Bargaining

When we experience loss or must make difficult decisions, we sometimes go through a period of bargaining. Bargaining usually arises from a feeling of deep guilt or regret, so we wish we could argue with God to go back and change something we did or the outcome of a situation. Often , bargaining is associated with one of the stages of grieving in death. However, we do not grieve only when we face loss from death, we also grieve other types of losses as well. How are we supposed to navigate this? 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). 

Whether we are faced with the bargaining that comes along with the loss of a loved one, or if we find ourselves bargaining in another situation, we always have a Wonderful Counselor who is able to guide us toward the answers we need.

Jesus Understands

We may be so hurt and overcome with emotion that we find ourselves desperately begging God for a different outcome. We try to make promises to God or negotiate with him. It’s as if we believe we can bribe God to get our desired results. This is a natural response to suffering; even Jesus did some bargaining leading up to the crucifixion. When he went to Gethsemane with his disciples, he told them that he was overwhelmed with sorrow and that he needed to pray. 

“...My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). 

Even in the midst of the anguish that Jesus was going through, he did not pray a selfish prayer. He asked God to let this pass him by, but only if it was in God’s will. He didn’t try to bribe him or make a deal with him. Jesus trusted that God’s plan had to be fulfilled, and if Jesus was the only way for that to happen, he accepted his fate.

Trusting God’s will

Notice that when Jesus prayed, he kept the will of God at the forefront of his mind. This can be different from bargaining in a situation of suffering. We may be so wrapped up in our emotions that we forget that everything that happens in our lives is already predetermined by God, so we start trying to bribe him and make deals with him, forgetting that his will must be done. Even in The Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Thy will be done.” We pray this often without realizing that sometimes the will of God may not align with the plans we had for our own lives, which can cause a wave of emotions for us. It is important that we surrender to the will of God and trust in the plans he has for us. Once we make it a habit of accepting what God allows, we won’t find it necessary to try to bargain with him, because we trust that his plans are far bigger than the ones we have for ourselves.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

Surrendering to God’s will

Going through a period of bargaining can be very confusing, especially when we try to navigate it on our own. However, we can accept that God's will will be done, even when we don’t understand it. This is easier said than done, but once we accept that God’s will is that everything works for the good of those who love him, we start to realize that there is no need for bargaining. 

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Instead of trying to change the outcome of a situation, we should trust that God is in the midst of every situation and that everything will work out according to his plan.

About the author — Jalicia Maeweather

Jalicia (Juh-lee-suh) Maeweather is a life coach with a specialty in mental health. She is also the author of the book, The Uninvited Guests Of Grief. Jalicia enjoys writing, knitting, and spending time with friends and family.

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