TITLE: GRIEVING AND GROWING
DATE: July 21st, 2016
WRITTEN BY: Pastor Conrade
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. (Ps 31:9)
When tough times befall us, it is only human to grieve. Whether it is losing a loved one or someone we have come to know up close and personal, we are often filled with a sense of loss. We are stunned. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know what feelings are right and what emotions are wrong. In times of distress, we need guidance. Most importantly, we need a way to express our bottled-up soul of helplessness. The most natural question asked in such moments is: Why?
- Why is he suicidal?
- Why must such a promising girl die at such a young age?
- Why did the woman do such a tragic thing?
- Why do bad things happen to good-natured people?
- Why …….?
One frustration is that every utterance of ‘why’ is often met with a deathly silence. Many answers sound like noises coming from empty vessels. It is like what Catherine Frompovich has confessed as a “The Question Without Answers.” After the sudden death of her husband, Frompovich, an experienced caregiver herself was ushered into having to move from caring for others to taking care of her own self. She reflects with pain and grief:
“When I became a widow life changed instantaneously! It’s as if it had turned on a dime and I found myself reeling emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually. Suddenly an intelligent and independent woman who was a caregiver for years became an emotional wreck – a basket case – trying to make her way through the shadow of the valley of death with what looked like no apparent way out in sight.” (Catherine J. Frompovich, Lord, How Can I Make It Through Grieving My Loss, Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008, p5)
The Psalms in the Bible provide us with an appropriate outlet of releasing human emotion. Throughout history, the Psalms have been a treasure of comfort for people who need a way to express how they feel. Many scholars have identified a genre within the 150 books in Psalms as “lament psalms.” Instead of some scientific study or analysis, these psalms express the deep longings of the heart in a manner that only God understands. We are free to cry out to God as we linger in anguish. Knowing that it is not something easily ‘gotten over with,’ God walks with us as we struggle with questions and doubts about the meaning of life. Instead of some big-bang-theory-like explanation of our human hormonal changes and erratic heartbeat rhythms, God comes to us not as a celestial lecturer or some kind of a divine i-told-you-so Deity. God walks with us, waits with us, and wails with us. He knows what it means to suffer. He knows full well how it hurts to see His own Son, Jesus straining in pain when nailed to the cross.
Grieving is human. It is not a problem to be solved. Neither is it something that we can get over with. For some, we can never really get over the loss of a loved one. We can remember the good times. We can celebrate the great moments together. We can even bring ourselves back to the nostalgic times when we enjoyed having that person around us. We can give thanks to God for the opportunity to have known the person.
Having said that, grieving that is aimless can be extremely loathsome. We often need help. One of the best ways is never to mourn alone. The Bible teaches us that “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” It is in the plural. It is showing us that we grieve better in the context of a community. While there are appropriate moments to be left alone, we need to come out of our own individual shells from time to time and to be with likeminded people. People who have known of the same people we have lost. People who have suffered loss in other ways. Learning to grieve well is something that we can only learn with time and experience. It is not an easy task. For some of us, it hits us sooner rather than later. Truth is, it will definitely come.
Here is the good news. Amid the mourning, the lamenting, and the grieving, there is an opportunity to grow. Here are three ways we can grow amid the grieving tides.
First, grieving together with the community helps foster togetherness and unity. This is one reason why the Church community is extremely powerful in supporting one another. As a Church, we learn to cry on one another’s shoulders during difficult times. We hold out our hands to support one another. We offer a word of encouragement because we care. We learn to pace with those who are grieving, to provide sufficient space for people to speak or not to speak; to share or not to share; and to cry or not to cry. All we can do is to listen attentively and nod appropriately.
Second, we grow in appreciating those who are still alive. A common feeling among those who have lost a loved one is regret. Filled with ‘if-onlys,’ people may regret not spending enough time with the deceased. They weep as they think about the missed opportunities during the times when they were alive. Rather than to cry over the past, we can learn to grow by appreciating our existing family; to touch our loved ones when we still can; and not to take for granted the people we claim to love and care for. See the grieving as a reminder that there are still people around us that we can be a part of, that we can be vessels of encouragement.
Third, we grow by setting our hearts and minds on the Author and Finisher of our faith. Our God is fair and just. He is perfect in every way. He will take good care of those who have left this world. By fixing our eyes on Jesus, and to know that Jesus knows far more than we do, we are better able to trust. As we grieve, we wrestle with our own mortality. We wonder about the meaning and purpose of life. We wander as pilgrims on a journey toward God. The writer, T.S. Eliot says it well, that “At the end of all our wanderings, we return to the place of our very beginning, and see it, as if for the first time.” It is a reminder that God has been with us right from the beginning, the now, and through to the end. We are never alone. God is always with us. The strange thing is this.
The more we fix our eyes upon Jesus, the more we will realize that God has been gazing at us all along, with love even before we know it, before we feel it, and before we even sense it. Jesus understands perfectly what it means to suffer and to die at the cross. Yet, He waits for us. He longs to hold us in a loving embrace.
Let me close with a paragraph from Laura Story’s beautiful song, “Blessings.”
Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
We may never bring back the lost. We may never chat or drink coffee with the dear loved one who had passed away. Amid the grieving, there is hope. It is difficult but possible. In his song, ‘Anthem,’ Leonard Cohen captures this hope powerfully: “Ring the bells that still can ring; Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.“
This light is a way we grow as we let God comfort and guide us. The loss may not go away, but we can still find ways to grow. We can grow closer to existing loved ones. We can grow inwardly with gratitude for all God has given us. We can grow closer toward God.
“16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:16-18)