In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote of the stages of grief in her book, On Death and Dying. The stages are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. She described these as a linear process that everyone passes through when they are processing a loss. Years later, however, when she experienced a significant loss of her own, she realized that the stages were not linear, but instead cyclical. People can move in and out of any of these stages many times throughout the process.
Paul described a similar process for living in Christ. He encouraged people to move through the stages from goodness, knowledge, self-control, and endurance, to godliness, mutual affection, and finally love. But maybe these aren’t linear either. At any time in my own life I can be on a path toward great success and find myself suddenly derailed. It feels a little like getting a few color blocks away from the Candy Castle and pulling the Candy Cane card, which sends you back to the beginning.
Take my mad parenting skills. One day I’m telling my kids I love them (and meaning it to the core of my being) and beaming with pride over what amazing human beings they have become! Just as I’m patting myself on the back for a job well done I get hit in the face with the unmistakable stench of kitty litter that was supposed to be changed yesterday and – bam! Candy Cane card – back to struggling for self-control over anger and resentment. *Sigh* Thankfully, God knows I’m a work in progress.
2 Peter 1:3-15
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.
For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.