The past few weeks have been good in many ways. I got to see my army son for a short two weeks. We managed to cram a lot of togetherness into those days. In the midst of it my parents and sister came to visit, as well as my brother and sister-in-law. It was great to see them all. I got to help (in a very small way) in the launch of a friend’s book.
Swirling around in all that good was a lot of hard providences. A friend’s miscarriage, several friends battling different serious illnesses, a fall, a misunderstanding, hard marriage things, loss of key people from church membership, a dear neighbor putting a for sale sign in their yard. On top of the personal news, it seemed that every Facebook post, every email, even every news story was about a tragedy of some kind. I started to feel the weight of it so much I knew I needed to stop for a minute and just grieve. Too hot already outside, I sat in my recliner by the window where the sunlight washed over me. I put my earbuds in, turned on my “comfort” playlist, and closed my eyes. I let the tears come. I know that my sons and their friends were probably a bit mystified by my actions, but I didn’t bother to explain. Young men don’t always comprehend this need to grieve – although it would probably do them good to learn its value. Once I had my cry. I got up and went on with my day.
Why is it that we can see laughter as a natural response to something funny, smiling the natural response to something that makes us happy, but we don’t really like the idea of grieving over those losses we feel in life? As Michael Card says in his book A Sacred Sorrow Christians have lost the language of lament. Don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging us to all stop life to waller in self pity, but lamenting is a part of living. Grieving loss is not only natural, it is necessary to health – both spiritual and emotional. Many of the Psalms are songs written to cry out to God about the difficulties the particular psalmist was experiencing. Job grieved about the loss and pain he was experiencing. In fact, we have a whole book called Lamentations. I think it is pretty safe to say, we were given the ability to cry for a reason. Somewhere along the way acknowledging sorrow became equated with weakness or lack of faith. I would argue that to stay unrealistically cheerful in the midst of difficulty and sorrow is to be living in a fantasy world of our own making.
We grieve. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We do not refuse to be comforted. This grieving process in one in which we tell our Heavenly Father about all those things that are hard and sad (after all, he knows our hearts, it won’t come as a surprise to him). But we also use this time to remind ourselves of what we know to be true according to scripture. We confess our trust in a God we cannot understand. It is the difference between complaining to God and complaining of God (Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment). It is a time to consider the griefs of this world in contrast to the great blessing of the Kingdom of God, both here, and in heaven. I like the way Ann Voskamp puts it, “Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, A God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment.”
And so I cry, “God, I am so sad! These are hard things to bear. I believe, help my unbelief. Help me to trust you even when I don’t understand the sadness I see. Remind me of those who are faithful to stay. Remind me that this life is not all we have. Remind me that there is a Land with no sickness or tears or discord or sin. Remind me that you have numbered our days and have chosen the paths of sanctification for your people. Remind me that the things that are out of my hands are still in yours. Remind me that you are King over all the world; the wars, the politics, the famine and the flood. Remind me that you are preparing a place for me. Remind me that you gently carry your lambs. Remind me that you gather my tears. Remind me that this world’s good-byes are not the end of the story.”
I grieve, and I am comforted by the God of all grace. And I can face the day.