(Check out: Grief and Loss – Part 1 — Morning Devotions)
For the past two days, if you’ve been listening to our program, I’ve been talking about grief and loss. I read recently of a woman whose daughter was brain damaged and she said, “I can hardly bear it. My most recent wave of grief came just before her 16th birthday. As the day came,” the mother said, “I found myself brooding over all the things that she would never be able to do. What did I do? I did what I’ve learned to do again and again, and that is to embrace my grief.”
So I cried and cried and I cried and I faced the truth of my grief head on. Now I said yesterday that society has its own way of handling this. It says, replace your losses and move on as quickly as possible. We’re taught to turn the page to fix it up as quick as you can move on and not to hang out in sad places. Don’t become sad, but I believe that the Bible has a much better way to help us. There were not to replace our losses, but to talk about them and to even write about them and, most importantly, to pray to God about the issues that we face this biblical journey through grief. It begins with facing it and embracing it. We’ve read in the Bible that Jesus wept. He responded to his loss. He lost a friend of his and he wept.
And as Christians, it’s important for us to learn that it’s not only okay to cry. It’s actually also God’s way of expressing grief.
There’s nothing weak about crying. It’s God’s way of grieving our losses. Our tendency is to run from pain, to replace it as quickly as we can without or replace it with another feeling. But the reality of it is, of course, that unexpressed feelings never die. The psalms in the Old Testament put words to feelings. They allow me to grieve, and we really do need to express those feelings. And the feelings are anger and despair and resentment directed at God.
But do you know that God cares deeply about how you feel? He’s big enough to handle any anger or frustration that you want to hurl at him? Way back in the 16th century, Martin Luther lost his son and his wife, Katie, shouted at him, “Where was God when our son died?” And Martin Luther said “the same place he was when his son died on the cross, he was there watching and weeping.” You see, we have a God who knows what it is to experience, loss, who knows how to weep. So in our fast paced culture today, one of the things that’s helpful, especially when we suffer these losses, is to reduce the pace of our lives and really take time, slow down, take time to review the losses.
We can also express our feelings prey through them. God’s way is not to run from pain, but to feel it to express it and then to pray about it now in society, much of this grieving is done alone, but God’s approach actually is different. It’s to grieve in the community Now. For example, the Bible’s got this instruction to bear each other’s burdens, to weep with those who weep.
Jesus, when he approached his own death, grabbed Peter, James and John, and he asked them to come with him. He said, Come to a quiet place. Pray with me. It was almost like I want you to be there to hold me up. It’s really interesting to see how Jesus grieved in community, and his disciples must have learned that lesson because after the crucifixion we’d read that they grieve together in a friend’s house. So really, it seems to me that we’re not meant to grieve alone. But in our society today, there’s a tendency to be isolated to go and cry on your own. Don’t let anyone see how you’re feeling. The truth is, too, that the church has sometimes not been that very helpful. We like the disciples. We fall asleep. We feel seem to be uninterested in the person who is suffering and grieving. And even at times we’ve been judgmental and condemning, saying things like, Look, you’ve been grieving long enough now you know it’s time to move on.
So society’s approaches there. What about this idea of time will heal. I mentioned this yesterday, but God says something else, he says. The Holy Spirit is our healer. The Bible teaches us that he is there as our comforter, so time will not always heal, but we can support each other and allow God to do something special in our own lives.
Lord, sometimes we want to get out of our responsibilities. We can’t see the good in things because of some fault. But I pray that you’ll open our eyes and see the blessings around us, particularly in those difficult periods of grief and loss. I pray for Jesus’ sake, amen.