August 15, 2014
Thoughts on Grief
[intro]Grief as defined by Merriam Webster: A cause of deep sadness.[/intro]
I have never been one to cry much, but recently it’s been different. It is several levels of hurt, both for my own agony over the passing of a little boy whose life ended much sooner than expected, and watching the ones who loved him most grieving his loss. His name was Maxwell, and I had a chance to say a few words at his funeral. Others spoke as well, with a similar and resounding theme that Max’s parents had faithfully, prayerfully and tearfully trusted Max to Jesus. God’s plan was to bring him home, leaving those left behind to feel the loss.
Grief seems too small a word to contain the sadness. At the same time, times of grieving are the best times to reflect on grief as there is less chance of leaning too heavily on shallow explanations to explain it all away.
C.S. Lewis is the best I’ve found at using words that penetrate beyond my brain and reach my heart, so I will lean on a few of his quotes from The Problem of Pain.
Death and loss don’t feel natural. It points out that there is something horribly wrong. We are stuck between a time of perfect relationship with God in the garden and our future in Heaven. God has allowed this period of time to exist in which sin and death and loss are always present. Despite our best efforts to forget that these things exist, we are constantly reminded that this world is not ok. We still have God’s creation and all the good things he has given us, but on this earth we are never far away from the uncomfortable realization that sin has a tarnishing effect on the beautiful things around us.
Lewis says it this way: “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
Second Corinthians also reminds us that our stay here is temporary.
So 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 Corinthians 4:18
We have the impossible task of ignoring the things directly in our line of sight and focusing on things that we can’t see for now. It is uncomfortable and hard to do but it is the source of our hope. Pain can have the effect of crystalizing our focus on the unseen and blurring our focus on the temporary things in front of us. Lewis says, “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
God has not taken our pain away just yet.
Talking about the promise of heaven as believers helps us to be hopeful about our eternal future, but it doesn’t do much to replace the void left by the absence of somebody we love. God gave us community, love for one another and human connectedness. The whole of the church exists because we are all connected as part of the body of Christ moving in unison to proclaim his gospel. The reality is that only heaven offers security from the possibility of “divorce” (complete separation) from the ones we love.
While on earth, pain is present and real. Let’s not minimize the pain and the loss when it comes. Sometimes we face horrible circumstances and God understands that. He knew before we were born that we would have valleys and times of mourning; moments of loss that would make it hard to breathe; feelings of despair that would leave us numb and broken, grasping for answers. In those times the best we can do is tend to the needs of those who hurt. Comforting those in pain does not fix the problem, it just eases the sting.
How do we pray for God’s will when it might mean the loss of someone so dear? How do we trust his plan for our lives even if it means sleepless nights and tearful days? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know Jesus loves us. We can only point to his death on the cross as a physical example of his understanding of our pain and his sacrifice to one day take it away. “How great the pain of searing loss / The father turned his face away / as wounds which mar the chosen one / bring many songs to glory”.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
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Image credit: Hartwig HKD
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