I am no expert at this, thankfully, but I think I must have picked up some difficult to understand things about grief. I hear it called “sitting with grief”, and maybe we can share our various definitions of it. I get a mental glimpse of it when I am listening to a client talk about their grief, and I am “just sitting there”, but inside myself I am praying with all of my might, and with all of my strength, “Please give me something good to say, and don’t let me say something wrong or insensitive.” Provided I don’t say something insensitive, I will usually hear something about someone who did. It is often about a Bible study group concerning grief. There are many wonderful ones in which people get a lot of help. Yet, my client is highly distressed over what they heard. They heard someone say to them that God will repay them for their grief some “doublefold”, “fourfold”, or even “hundredfold”. But what does that mean? Does it mean they will get two children back for the child they lost, or does it mean they will get one hundred times the “value” of the health they have lost? No, there is no payback that makes grief become acceptable or somehow quick to go away. Comfort, resolution, deep peace; none of these are about payback.
Acceptance may be the first thing to define. Acceptance doesn’t mean we approve of something, or that we no longer feel pain from it. It means that we take it on and experience it with our full mind and spirit. It means we don’t resist it with anger, or avoidance, or demands that the truths change. We sit with it. We experience it and look inside ourselves and then to God to grow in wisdom and in peace. Grief changes over time, as we sit with it, changes into a memorial for our loved ones (or our lost dreams). We feel peace made, and we see a long story, not a short story, of life and love being told.
Explaining God can be a pretty formidable job. If I really was smart, I probably would not try, but my soul has these questions and I have to look into them. Other people ask them, too, and I just can’t leave them with an “I don’t know.” Of course, I know I don’t explain God, but I must grapple with the questions. That’s one way I grow. We live around no end of easy answers, and people who want quick solutions to difficult pains. Maybe people think they have to justify God or make him look good to all, with an assurance that all sorrow will be turned inside out and into something happy. But, I have never seen God work that way. In fact, and here comes a shocking statement… I have come to realize that not even God gets the big things he wants in little periods of time. He wants holiness from us, and that job isn’t through as yet. No, God’s plan of redemption is a long, long plan. One day there will be the fulfillment of his promises to do for our bodies what he has already done for our souls. But, in the meantime, there is grief.
Yes, we grieve not as those who have no hope. But we do grieve as those who do have hope. Hope doesn’t blind us, nor does it show up in clichés or a salve that makes us stop hurting by the end of the day. We sit with grief, with God, and with one another, but not always with answers or quick relief. We heal because of gracious love, because we accept grief, and because we hand compassion back and forth between ourselves as grief does its perfect work. Sometimes we just outgrow the questions. Sometimes we find the search more rewarding than the answers.
More to come…