Thursday, April 8, 2010

More on grief

Today is better than yesterday.  Anna and I stayed up last night talking and trying to wrap our minds around the "why" again, only this time it was "why, when although we knew them we didn't know them really well, would there be such a profound sense of loss and pain?"  On top of that, what do we do with it?  For me it reminds me of sympathy pains when my wife gave birth to our children.  My stomach would sort of turn and cramp when I'd see her going through her contractions, but I certainly didn't experience it with her.  So for me I've had sympathy pains this past week and a half, sensing the loss not only of what was but what could have been.

For those that have lost a spouse or a parent I would imagine the sense of loss goes beyond sympathy to empathy.  They deal with not only the pain their friend suffers but they are reminded of the pain they went through and, to some extent, feel again.  They do not "merely" observe the others pain, they feel it in a way only a co-sufferer could.

I struggle with my own pain.  Nothing that has happened recently happened directly to me, yet I feel the need for comfort.  I was sitting in both the services praying, "Dear Lord, please take the pain away and replace it with your peace and comfort", and at the same time condemning myself for my selfishness; this wasn't about me, it was about them!  God, in His grace, brought to mind the following from Matthew 5:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
The mourning referenced here is not "mere" sadness over events and circumstances which cause pain.  It is in response to two things:  1.  my poverty of spirit caused by sin, and 2.  the impact of sin around me.  Said another way, my response to the recognition of my poverty is mourning as there is nothing I can do in and of myself to improve my position.  I stand before a holy God with nothing to offer on my behalf or in my stead to pay the price of breaking His law.  What other response is there?  When I see the effects of the fall around me I also respond in mourning, if not for their direct impact on me, then for their impact on someone else.  And that's where I've been for about two weeks now, mourning for how the fall is hurting people I know.

But my God does not leave me there, He promises to comfort me whether the pain is mine or vicarious.  I can tell you today that I am better as I focus not on the storm, but on Him, His character.
"I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, 'My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.' I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'  The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. "
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (La 3:17–26). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 One other point that I want to make about grief and I'll move on.  In neither service did I hear anything remotely like, "Don't cry; he wouldn't want you to be sad and cry for him."  I can't tell you how grateful I was that instead we heard, "You grieve now.  You do what you need to do to walk through the loss."  I can tell you that grief un-grieved turns into bitterness.  We were made to feel and because of the fall we have plenty of opportunity to feel sadness, grief, sorry, etc.  If we try to avoid it we do ourselves and others a great disservice.

Jesus wept a number of times while He was here.  I remember He wept before He raised Lazarus from the dead.  Martha didn't go up to Him and say, "Cheer up, Jesus.  Lazarus wouldn't want you to cry for him."  Jesus wept over Jerusalem during His triumphal entry!  Don't tell me that we're not supposed to mourn.  But here is the difference, we do not mourn and weep as those with no hope!  That is why we can walk through the pain because of the surety of purpose, the surety of a reason, the surety of God Himself working it together for His glory and my good.

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