The last week of December it seems people automatically greet one another with, “How was your Christmas?” Gratefully, many recalled our loss as soon as their query was out, and said sorry, it must have been difficult. Our day was special because we remembered the birth of Christ and the reason he came. It was also special because we had several family members present. We kept some traditions. We tried some new ones. Everyone brought delicious food. We enjoyed being together and had some laughs doing a “white-elephant” exchange.
An American Indian proverb says” “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.”
My daughter and I shared many such proverbs, and though I am sure she was initially very grieved to realize she was leaving family, including children and grandchildren, I’m equally sure she had fulfilled the above proverb. She did live in such a way that we grieve, but she could rejoice that her eternal destination was secured and that she brought joy to many with a life of service.
Unable to sleep after everyone left, I turned on the Hallmark channel, not realizing that almost every movie would in some way deal with the loss of a loved one. Each movie had a moral such as don’t let your grief consume your emotions to the point that you exclude other family members from continuing life. Another was that God did not take them, but receives them. And, they are still with you – you just have to look in different ways, or different places. In your home, in your hearts, in the lives they touched, and in our memories. Those were all good points and good stepping-stones as life goes on. They do not, however, remove the elephant-sized hole.
I have always had a heart for other people and their burdens, and I wondered how people like pastors could look over their congregation and see all the hurt and pain and grief, and survive it. But for all I felt, or thought I empathized, I have found the longer I experienced life, the less I really could understand things I had not experienced.
Jesus also felt such grief in the Garden of Gethsemanee – Matt. 26:38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
Jesus, because he was omniscient, knew what was coming. He could see all of the sin, pain, sorrow, grief, burdens that would culminate on the cross. And he was grieved – to the point of death. He shared that most extremely deep revelation and emotion with a few of his closest friends. I’m certain Peter, James and John were sympathetic. They must have been grieved for Jesus – and likely worried or fearful for themselves. Imagine the man they followed – the one they had seen walk on water – the one they imagined would set up a new kingdom as Messiah – was now telling them he was consumed with grief, to the point of death. Their reaction?
This story tells me that like death, grief is an experience we experience alone. We all grieve in our own way. We cannot expect anyone to totally understand or accept our way or steps or feelings of grief – anyone except Christ, that is.
I now realize too, that Christ has experienced deeper grief than I have known. His elephant-sized hole in His heart includes me, and it includes you. He, contrary to his disciples, will not fall asleep. He will grieve with us. He will understand us.
Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Resources on Grief: Two articles by Kay Warren after her son’s suicide have challenging, but comforting information that greatly resounded in my heart – especially as she quoted 2Corinthians 4:9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
Again I also recommend an excellent booklet from Radio Bible Class Ministries – you can view and read the PDF at this site or order up to 25 booklets.