Blog: Reckoning with grief—part 2

In my previous blog, I shared a glimpse into some of my own journey through grief. I mainly talked about the events. Now I want to talk more about what I am learning in this process.

While no one enjoys walking through grief, I believe our society has robbed us of the beauty that can accompany lament. We have been taught that grieving is to be avoided at all costs. We get awkward and uncomfortable when someone expresses genuine heartache, and we (myself included) start throwing around clichés like confetti.

Grief can be taken to unhealthy extremes, but I think our culture—both secular and Christian spheres—views all grief as unbecoming or inappropriate. This cannot be true. Christ, our ultimate example, expressed anguish. There is an entire book of Lamentations (not to mention numerous psalms of lament) in God’s Word. What are we missing that might offer a more complete understanding of “the grief beast”?

First, grief gives us space to truly feel all of our emotions. God created us as emotional creatures. An emotionally healthy individual experiences a full range of feelings and can employ those to navigate various situations in life. Because of the effects of sin, we need help interpreting and responding to our emotions properly. Scripture is full of instructions for us such as “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,” (Eccl. 7:9) or “Rejoice in the Lord always… do not be anxious about anything,” (Phil. 4:4,6). Our emotions, when brought in line with Scripture, are beautiful gifts. Grief provides an opportunity to explore the multi-faceted nature of our feelings and to experience His grace in the midst of them all.

Second, grief pays tribute to the weight of love and longing we have carried. I love the saying that we grieve much because we love much. How true this is! We see it in Christ’s lament over Jerusalem in Matt. 23:37. His heart was broken for them because He loved them so deeply. Another old saying, “You never know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” also applies here. Grief highlights and increases our gratitude for that which we’ve lost, thereby helping us live out the command to “give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thess. 5:18).

Third, grief reminds us that this world is not our home; it is in shambles. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Sin wrecked everything but God’s ultimate plan. All creation groans under the weight of humanity’s burden (Rom. 8:18-22). Healthy lament acknowledges the pain but shifts our gaze from our sorrow to our Savior, to a love that exceeds our own, and to a world no longer broken. When life seems unfair, enemies (physical or spiritual) surround us, and it seems God has forgotten us. Our hearts often cry with Asaph’s “Why do You hold back Your hand, Your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!” (Psalm 74:11) But notice his next words: “Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalm 74:12).

This is grief—raw, messy and gut-wrenching, but so much more. In Christ, there is hope in the heartache and beauty in the brokenness. I am no counselor or expert, just a fellow griever making observations. There is so much more that could be said, but my prayer is that, in whatever grief you experience—loss of a loved one, broken relationships, infertility, loss of a job, or whatever it is for you—you will recognize HIM there with you and learn to grieve as one who has hope.

If you are experiencing grief and would like more resources or to be connected with a Christian counselor, please feel free to email me at cjones@oklahomabaptists.org.

 

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash