The darkness had not yet slid into the gray of the day, not yet surrendered to the morning light, when my eyes cracked open. The black of the night reflected the pain in my heart. Grief weighs heavily some days.
This is the season families gather and celebrate, when grown children return to the nest to wrap their arms around the parents that have grown them. Facebook posts of happy family outings, generations gathered together to celebrate just seem to be a knife stabbing the heart. Celebrating the Babe laid in a manger that long ago night who grew to carry the weight of the world, to set captives free. Joyous. And yet, my heart so deeply grieves.
Grief seems rawest at what are supposed to be the most joyous times. Death and sin tinge joy with sorrow.
A friend suffers deep loss and she grieves. I watch her grieve with all this beautiful grace. I carry her in my prayers, knowing that even though she is doing well, grief interrupts life at the most unwelcome times. We were not made for death! Death was invited to become part of our existence long ago in a garden (see Genesis 3), but when God spoke us into being, He created us for life in communion with Him.
Grief is born not only from the loss of earthly life, but also from the robbing of earthly hopes and dreams. I was told at a young age that I had a broken womb. Children would not be part of my life, at least not naturally born children. I grieved deeply because of both the harm that caused the brokenness and the empty womb that resulted.
But, with God all things are possible – that broken womb cradled many children, two of whom my arms were privileged to cradle and I have watched grow. Still, there was another ache. The ache of a mother bereft of her unborn children. The inexplicable joy of being a mother tainted by the grief of the children my arms would never hold here on earth.
These last few years have been years of deepest sorrow and grief. Grief that I was unable to name for so many years because Christian truths were supposed to wash away the heartache. This pain stemmed from harm I endured years ago, years so far behind me that I thought I had outrun them. Still, heartache and pain when unacknowledged don’t really go away. They stay and take up residence in the heart, hiding in places and making themselves known in unrecognizable ways.
It is this grief that weighs on me now. Unacceptable grief. Grief the church doesn’t know what to do with other than quote a Scripture at and claim that if I meditate on truth long enough, if I get involved in serving, if I follow the right equation, the sorrow will resolve. It is messy, debilitating grief at times. It makes me feel incredibly alone. Like Tamar, the sister of Absalom must have felt after being raped by her half-brother Amnon. Hide away your shame – well, no. Really, hide away yourself. Don’t let others see your heartache. Only her shame didn’t go away – and was never hers to bear anyway. Her shame festered in the heart of her brother Absalom, who eventually killed her rapist Amnon. Grief, unacknowledged, sin unpunished, destroyed more than a woman. It destroyed an entire family.
My grief and shame are similar to Tamar, and they have ruined an entire family. Only, the shame was never meant for me to carry. And I was not the one who ruined the family. The shame and ruin belong to the men who harmed me and to the one who could have protected me and chose not to. And holidays always accentuate the grief of a family torn apart by men’s selfish sins in my life.
And for you today: Grief is a part of everyone’s life. So, how do we handle it? How do we walk through grief without losing our faith?
First, grief is not sin. No matter what we are grieving, the loss of a loved one, the loss of innocence, the wayward path a son has taken, the answer is the same. Run to Abba Father, crawl into His lap and just cry to Him. He knows this world was not made for death and destruction, for the harm men (and women) do, for the sin that is so rampant. He knows that our hearts grieve. And He holds the brokenhearted. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV) I know it may not feel like it, but your Heavenly Father sees your tears and cares. And you know what? He records those tears (see Psalm 56:8). He doesn’t chastise you for your grief, but welcomes you in to His arms of comfort.
For those of you who have lost a loved one, grief is necessary. The depth of your grief is not evidence of lack of faith, but evidence of the depth of your love for the one you have said a good-bye to. We know we shall see them again, but some days, that doesn’t help the ache in our hearts when we miss them now, to feel their arms hugging us, to hear their voice. In moments of grief, we understand how beautiful heaven is, that we shall never have to say good-bye, that death is defeated! (See I Thessalonians 4:13-18) We do not grieve as the world. We grieve, but we also hope. Because grief causes us to feel lonely, I would recommend connecting with a GriefShare at a church near you!
Only God can give us the faith to hold on to His promises when our hearts are aching and grief overwhelms. Surround yourself with His people who allow you to grieve freely without trying to fix you. People who love Jesus and aren’t afraid of tears or the messy truth of life in a fallen world. People who keep the faith for you when you can’t keep it for yourself.
Another suggestion: if social media seems to flaunt all the happy families and accentuates your grief, don’t be afraid to take a break. I have to do that occasionally to keep my eyes on Jesus and His many gifts instead of on the seemingly perfect families others have.
And finally, if you aren’t in a season of grief, is there anyone you can support in their grieving process? Great support comes through your prayers and your encouragement. Pray for God given wisdom and words, pray for the person grieving to be able to hold on to the promises she already knows as she walks through this season. Send her a card that lets her know how loved and valued she is. Be present and listen, without needing to fix it for her. Let her grieve. Let her cry. Listen to memories of her loved one or listen to her lament over the things done to her. Her pain needs to be seen and validated without a lecture or without someone trying to fix it. She needs truth, but she needs love first.
Father, Thank You that when we grieve You are the great Comforter. I pray for the grieving today. Father, give them a friend to walk with them, an arm to lean on, a sister to share her tears. For those walking through grief with others, Father, will you just grant them wisdom and grace, an abundance of love and insight. Help them discern when to speak and when to remain silent. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.