Thursday, February 26, 2009

Good Grief

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines grief as "deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement; a cause of such suffering."

Last night I was thinking about a particular passage of scripture describing Jesus in Isaiah that says He was, "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."

The word "acquainted" was curious to me, when we use the word "acquaintance" it is usually to describe someone that we know, but usually we are purposely trying to clarify he/she is not someone we would consider a "friend." But the definition of "acquainted" says, to cause to know personally; to make familiar.

I know a lot of people think of "God" as an angry, distant, taskmaster-type. I know there were certainly times in my life that that was my personal perception. But when I think of Jesus, I think of Him differently, I think of Him as meek, not weak, but gentlemanly. When I saw the movie "The Passion of the Christ" a few years ago though, one of the most interesting parts of the movie for me was what was depicted in his relationship with is mother. There is a scene where he is playing with her, teasing her. I had never thought of Jesus in that way, but knowing He surely possessed the joy of the Lord when He walked here as a man, I imagine this scenario is very plausible. On the other hand, my perception of Him is not of one who is heavy hearted or always serious, but then here I come across this passage of scripture. He knew grief well.

Lately there has been a lot of turmoil in lives of people we care about, in their hurt and struggles, we have had to witness it. There are times when I am busy about my life and the life of my family and suddenly I have this overwhelming sense... of grief.

I remember something similar to this about a decade ago. The son of a couple of our very dear friends had a horrible accident, and although it didn't end in death, the consequences were devastating. I remember during that time Jake was just about 4 or 5 years old. I would be walking around the house and it would hit me. I remember one time in particular I was vacuuming and the thought of what they were going through just overwhelmed me, it literally knocked the wind out of me and literally sent me to my knees.

Your own grief has this sort of effect sometimes too. It's been almost a year and a half since Neal's mom passed away, and yet sometimes the thought of her being gone comes upon me again suddenly and my heart just drops. When I think about how Neal must feel it goes even deeper. There are times when I consider the thought of losing Neal, or one of my own parents and it's like I can almost borrow in advance on the grief. I cannot even begin to comprehend what it would be to lose one of my children.

The definition I shared of grief talks about it being poignant, so I looked up the word, and it says it means to be pungently pervasive as though a sharp pain. It hurts everywhere.

I imagine how deep Christ's grief must have been on the cross. As He looked down upon God's chosen people who chose to crucify their own salvation, who not only turned their backs on who He was but actively participating in the cruelty against Him. I think of other times when the Lord must have been carrying so much grief, when people were hurtful to one another, when they had no faith, when they willfully chose to go against the will of the Father.

Then I think to myself, what has changed? Still how acquainted He must be with grief. Grieved by the unbelieving, grieved by the unfaithful. Not only does He hurt for those, but He hurts with those. He hurts with the one who has lost his way, and has given up on finding their way home. He hurts for those caught up in situations they have no control over, the littlest ones who can't even fully express their pain. He even grieves for the one who has hardened her heart against Him.

I feel like I have had a glimpse of what it is to be "acquainted with grief" for others. I cannot imagine the burden that must be on the Lord. Being all knowing, and all seeing, looking ahead and knowing when someone has gotten on a path that will only lead to more pain, or knowing the devastation that will be reaped in the lives around them, it must only make the burden greater to actually know, than to only be able to imagine. Surely it is a grief that only the Lord can carry.

Most people only react with that kind of empathy to the grief of someone they love or care about. But the Lord care about and loves each and every one of us. It must have been that great compassion that drove Him to the cross, for He knew, if left to our own devices, most of us would be destined to only more pain and grief.

There is so much grief in the world. It isn't only in death that we grieve. Truly as a Christian, I think in some ways that is the easiest form of grief. The bible describes it as grieving "with hope." As a believer in Christ and resurrection life, I know what comes after death for those who are followers of Christ, the difficulty lies in not knowing whether or not a loved one knew the Lord.

But there are so many other losses that we grieve. I remember when a friend of mine divorced after her husband left her after more than 20 years of marriage how I was overwhelmed at the thought of the continuous grief that would come. As I watched her have to give up her home, I thought of how she had to grieve the loss of having her someday grandchildren in her home where she raised her kids. I thought of the grief as she would not share the days of her children's weddings with her husband by her side. She would have to grieve time and again.

We grieve the death of people, of plans, of dreams. And yet, we have the One who is acquainted with grief, who is with us in our suffering. We grieve for ourselves, and we grieve for others, but there is One who grieves with all. But again, it is this grief, and His empathy for us that led Him to the cross. Hmmm, I wonder if that is perhaps what old Charlie Brown meant by the phrase, "Good grief."

Of course, even in all this, I am amazed yet again at the promise God makes to us in His word.

1 Peter 1:6-9 says, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls."

Even in our grief, He promises to bring good. So perhaps as Christians even our own suffering is indeed good grief.

In my blog stalkings I came across the blog of a woman who is in great suffering. She lost her unborn quadruplets more than halfway through her pregnancy. I read a statement she wrote, one I have shared my opinion on before. She said to the effect, "I know God doesn't give us more than we can bear..." but the bible doesn't say that, it says He wants to carry our burdens, carry our grief. He carried it all the way to the cross so we might not have to carry it alone.

I know I am rambling a bit tonight, but my heart is so heavy, for those who are consumed in their grief who do not know, or perhaps have forgotten that the Lord is for them. My heart is heavy for those who are making wrong choices and unwittingly heading towards grief, while leaving a wake of grief for others behind them. It makes my heart cry out, "Jesus come quickly." If not in the literal physical return we await, then now in the moments, in lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Jesus come, bring hope, bring healing, awaken hearts and open eyes, rescue us from ourselves and from one another. Jesus, come.

Oh Lord come, we long for that day...

"And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.'” Revelation 21:3-4

Jesus, come.

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