A message for the grieving

This is the fourth column I’ve written in a week. While the others are all topics and ideas important to me, the timing feels off to share them. I just can’t get past the need for some collective grief. At the time of writing, over 724,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. Worldwide, nearly 5 million. This is significant. It touches us all, in one way or another.

And with great loss comes great grief.

If this isn’t a topic you’re interested in, I can understand. Grief is hard and is often unwelcome. Sometimes it’s simply too overwhelming. I realize that sometimes people need a diversion; I get like that, too. In fact, my husband and I have been watching various sitcom reruns in the evenings for that purpose. But with this column, I just don’t have it in me to pretend I’m OK right now. I’m not. So, if any of this applies to you, please feel free to skip ahead to another article with my blessing.

But if this acknowledgment of grief is something you need, I hope this will be a space, however small, where you know you aren’t alone. A space that slows the spinning world, if ever briefly, so you can catch your breath and not feel quite so dizzy — because if you’re anything like me, almost two years of knowing things aren’t OK even when others pretend it is has you feeling disoriented, isolated, ostracized, overwhelmed and possibly a tad crazy.

I don’t know about you, but my mental, emotional, physical and relational health is simultaneously suffering. No matter how many times I tell myself, “OK, I can do this. I can keep going,” something or someone happens and I go right back to the depths of despair. I know there are some Christians who would say I’m sinning. I’m no theologian, but with scripture full of lament, a whole book called Lamentations, psalms of grief, depth, pain, and a Savior who wept and is called a suffering servant, a Savior who, in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death,” I feel confident that my God understands the depths of my grief and pain, and that He also understands yours.

I’m confident that it’s possible to be full of faith and full of tears. In fact, Psalm 56:8 says “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Just like I wouldn’t turn away my crying child, my God doesn’t turn me away either. And even if I’m somehow “not trusting enough,” or “not faithful enough,” the grace of Christ is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9a).

The truth is, I don’t save myself. No one does. We don’t prove ourselves worthy. Only Jesus Christ — born, died, buried, raised, coming again — is Worthy. We don’t have to muster up something we’re not because the way of salvation is through Christ alone. We can boast gladly in our weaknesses because then Christ’s power is displayed (2 Cor 12:9b).

To me, that’s the most hopeful message I could ever tell to a grieving world.

I’ve found it possible to celebrate the Hope of Christ with tears streaming, crying out for justice or for relief. This has become a sacred act of worship for me because it helps me better know the God who sees.

As I re-read Psalm 69 this morning, I wanted to share some of its message with you, my grief-filled friends. I’d highly recommend reading it in its entirety, but space constraints prevent that here. It’s my hope these poetic words will renew you, knowing King David, that “man after God’s own heart,” penned these words:

“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” (v.1-3)

“For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. I am the talk of those who sit at the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” (v.9-13)

“Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant, for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies! You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” (v. 16-21)

“But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.” (v. 29-33)

Fellow grievers, you aren’t alone. God sees and knows. He cares. And so do I. Much love and tenderness to each of you.

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