Shouldn’t Love Come with a Warning Label?

Love should come with a warning label just like everything else does these days.

Except it should be in bold print and italicized in red ink.

Reading the warning labels on many consumer products in these litigious times can be a source of humor. Maybe out of an abundance of caution, or just because they don’t want to be sued by stupid people, consumers are warned about the consequences of improperly using a product.

  • Like the hairdryer that says, “Do not use in the shower…or while sleeping.”
  • Or the toner cartridge for a laser printer that doesn’t want to be mistaken for something edible, “Do not eat toner.”
  • Or the coffee cup that states the obvious, “Hot beverages are hot.”
  • Or the toilet bowl cleaning brush that reminds you, “Do not use orally.”
  • Or the package of peanuts that cautions the oblivious, “Warning: May contain nuts.

My favorite disclaimers are those associated with drugs.  At the end of a commercial touting the amazing benefits of a new wonder drug, a verbal footnote rapidly lists a cautionary warning, “may cause nausea, inability to breathe, diarrhea, thoughts of suicide, and on rare occasions, death.  Consult your physician to see if it is right for you!

You get the drift. Today we have warning labels and disclaimers for just about everything we purchase. Why not a warning label for love?

You meet that someone special. You soon realize you cannot live without them. You get that funny feeling when you are together, and your heart aches when you are apart, and before you know it, you are walking down the aisle and saying, “I do.

Yes, the minister guides you both to recite your wedding vows. You promise to love and cherish forever and ever, amen. Usually, there is some mumbo jumbo marital pledge about good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part, but hey, those are just traditional words that sound romantic, right? Hardly a warning label.

Maybe the minister should say, “Ok, you two are promising to love each other forever, right?” You both say yes as your eyes glisten with romantic tears and excited anticipation of all the good times ahead. Then he stops and says, “I am obligated to tell you that sooner or later, one of you will die. At that point, the one left behind will experience something called grief. It is tomorrow’s price tag that is the hidden fee of today’s wedding vows. When your partner for Life dies, it’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt bad. I mean, kick in your stomach, take your breath away for months at a time, crawl under the bedcovers in a darkened room kind of bad. Hopefully, you won’t have to pay the price anytime soon, but when it comes due, it’s going to be a whopper of a final settlement. So, if you are willing to accept this inherent cost, please say “I do.” Now, kiss the bride, it’s time to party.”

Yes, love comes with a cost. But it’s worth it.

Having lost my wife of 38 years to cancer in 2011, I know all about the grief bill that comes due. Losing my dear friend Jim to cancer last month reminded me again that grief is a normal human response to loss. (See my October 4, 2019, post titled Well Done Faithful Servant.) At Jim’s Celebration Service this past weekend, his family shared a note they had found in their father’s office. Handwritten, it contained some fundamental truths about grief. It read,

Grief never ends…but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…It is the price of Love.”

Having just lost their father, Jim’s adult children acknowledged how meaningful this quote was. Unaware of the source, they admitted not knowing if their dad wrote it himself or copied it. Regardless, the words proved a consolation to their growing grief.  

Known as a great mentor to family and friends, it sounds just like Jim to leave behind one more pearl of wisdom. 

For those of you who sooner or later will have to pay the inevitable price for loving someone, here are a few observations about the quote from someone who has walked through that valley of tears.

Grief never ends…but it changes.  

The Bible speaks of a time to grieve, suggesting that a day may come when you no longer mourn. While I agree with this biblical admonition, I think in the immediate aftermath of a loss, grief will be your dominant, all demanding emotion. But in time, it will melt into the shadows and the raw pain will ebb softly and slowly.  Though it may never go away completely, grief lingers as a whisper reminding you of the love lost.  But one must realize that grief is normal and everyone handles it differently. Allow yourself time to grieve. Time may not heal, but it does give perspective, a reminder that life on earth is but a temporary stay, and the longing for intimacy with your beloved is a reflection of a greater love that God has for you.

It’s a passage, not a place to stay.  

The land of grief is not a destination, but a stop along life’s journey. To take up permanent residence in your personal valley of tears is precisely what the devil would want you to do — to blame God, blame others, blame yourself. Grief begins as a constant and loud megaphone in your ear, reminding you of your loss.  But if you just keep walking, it will eventually serve as a pathway to gratitude. For a time, you were blessed to have this person in your life. And while you wanted it to last forever, all things pass. Grief (and the devil) would have you drown yourself in your tears, and never look forward. God would collect those tears in a bottle, comfort your broken heart and cry along with you as He gives you the strength to keep going, and living, and loving.

Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…

I say again, grief is normal. Let the tears flow; there is a sacred cleansing in tears.   Let your voice rise with those questions of why, why, why. Go to the shooting range and shoot some skeet or a driving range and hit a bucket or two or three of balls. Give your emotions a means to vent. Find that friend who will listen and doesn’t mind the tear stains on their shoulder. Be transparent about it. Following the loss of my wife, people asked me – over and over again – how I was doing? I said, “Fine” although I felt like saying, “Not worth a damn, how are you?” But I didn’t. I soon realized it was how people who cared about me expressed themselves.  It was more a statement of their love for me than any real question about my state of mind.

To not grieve betrays the love you had. To grieve your loss, honors it, for good grief is a righteous act.  Remember the shortest verse in the Bible spoke of grief,  John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”  He grieved the loss of Lazarus even as he was about to raise him from the dead.

It is the price of Love

Grief is simply the price you pay for loving someone. It’s a painful price, but one that we all gladly pay.

The Good News, for followers of Jesus, is that he offers the brokenhearted a promise in Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

So, for all you lovers out there, here’s love’s warning label: Everyone will experience grief at some time — the greater the love, the greater the grief.  And no matter the grief, it is a price worth paying.

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  1. Jeff

    A mutual friend sent me this link. I am a pastor and do grief counseling for many people. You and I say very similar things. I agree with everything you wrote.
    Grief counseling is some of the toughest counseling because those suffering know that they will never see their loved ones again on this earth so they don’t think they will ever feel better again.
    I think that I will send people to your sight or send the link to others that may be stuck in the land of grief
    Thanks for writing



    1. Buddy McElhannon

      Thanks, Jeff! The topics of my post vary from Marriage and Parenting to Golf and Grief. Quite a mix. I don’t know if you saw the category tab at the top of my home page but clicking on it will breakdown the various categories and clicking on Grief will take you to a number of posts on that subject.

      I’d especially recommend two of them.

      The Story Behind the Book I Never Wanted to Write, posted on 4/14/2018 and
      My Digory Moment posted on 6/8/2018

      My book, Walking Through the Valley of Tears is used by many pastors in grief counseling because, as one of them told me… we don’t have many grief journals by men or from a male perspective.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments.



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