Grief

I vividly remember the day I was told that my close friend died. That will be 10 years ago today, August 3. Looking back, I now see how this sad event was a trigger to eventually show how much disappointment has impacted my life. I realize this post was inevitable once I started picking away at this thread. It was not the plan, but here we are.

Jon and I were part of a posse of friends who journied through bible school together. We met as roommates on the first day of the first year in residence. He was kind, big and loved to laugh. He had the most infectious laugh. Those were great years of friendship which continued after graduation into ministry. Jon was taken far too soon, leaving a young wife and a special little boy with significant developmental challenges. Jon didn’t even make it to 30. Simply, his heart gave out on him. Too young. Too soon.

His death shook me, although I did not see it at the time. Even today I search for greater peace about the whole thing. It will certainly be my first question after crossing through the Gates.

There is a big difference between being disappointed and disappointment. We can’t help being disappointed. Stuff happens all the time in ways that we don’t expect or plan for. We always expect a straight path moving forward but curves, bumps and dead ends greet us almost every turn. It is how we deal with them that determines where it takes us. Disappointment however, is a different animal.

Disappointment at its core is basically ungrieved loss. This is not a dictionary definition but rather a working one. It is simply how I have come to understand it. We often find ourselves at the level of disappointment when we are incapable or unwilling to properly grieve when we experience loss.

It does not always have to be a significant one like the life of my friend Jon. It can be a whole bunch of little things that pile up which we continue to brush under the carpet of our souls. This then becomes “death by a thousand cuts” as the saying goes. An inability to process grief leaves us woefully inadequate to deal with most of life. Eventually when a big loss comes our way, the weight of it all can simply be too heavy to bear. In some cases, the ability to cope disintegrates. And we are then forced to grieve; sometimes in unhealthy ways.

Yet good grief is a gift to us. We don’t think of it this way because it is something we try to avoid. We don’t normally turn away gifts, do we? As I slowly learn what it means to grieve loss in my life, I have come to also know how cathartic and how cleansing it is. To grieve is to release the toxins of the soul. King David understood how important this was. His psalms are perhaps the most vulnerable and painful writings you will ever lay your eyes on.

“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.
Tears blur my eyes.
My body and soul are withering away.
I am dying from grief;
my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.” Psalm 31:9-10

Have you ever felt like this? These writings are given to us as permission to release grief from the deep parts of our souls. Not only that, but they give us the words to use when we have none of our own. They are gifts to us, for they open the door to healing. But perhaps more importantly they open the door to the Giver, the Healer of our souls, Jesus Himself. The Bible describes Him as a “man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief“. He understands.

As a healthy griever, David quickly acknowledges this opportunity. He says to himself,

“But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God! My future is in your hands.”

When we can’t imagine tomorrow, God is already there.

There is hope on the other side of grief, but only if we are willing to release the loss of disappointment. We may never answer the “why” that loss cruelly leaves with us, but we can be left cleansed with a peace that helps us carry on.

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