Reading this chapter about The Burden of Grief was a mercy today. The morning started with news of a parishioner's death.
I tell those who've suffered loss that grief is an expression of love for a person we can no longer hug, kiss or even see. The absence of grief would suggest indifference or cold-heartedness. Such reptilian stoicism is encouraged only by those who perceive "religion" as a "tool" to help people "get over it" and (prepare to gag) "have closure."
Christian faith should make us vulnerable to grief. Romans 12:15 tells us to "weep with those who weep." In his First Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul responded to questions about death and loss. He did not say "keep a stiff upper lip" - he said, "Yes, grieve, but not like pagans who see only death and no hope." (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
How could the apostles teach any differently when the Lord taught them, "Blessed are those who mourn" (Matthew 5:4)? What else could be concluded when the One who could give new life still wept at a friend's grave ?
I think Lucado does a very fine job bringing out the hardest spiritual probelm - "anger at God. Anger that takes the form of the three-letter question - why? Why him? Why her? Why now? Why us? You and I both know that I can't answer that question." (p. 91)
"Why?" is one of the main themes running through The Psalms. And with that fact, we know the question is not offensive to God, since God Himself breathed it into our Bibles. Jesus used two little stories to tell us that prayer is like pestering or nagging God until we get our answer. (See Luke 11:1-13 & 18:1-8 ).
At Easter dinner in 1991, we told my dad that my wife was carrying his first grandchild. It all seemed perfect - he would make such a wonderful "grandpa" and what better time than Easter to celebrate a new life, especially since my dad had suffered the early death of my older brother?
But my dad died a week later. I have no answer to my "Why?" I had such a neat version of cosmic justice and mercy all set for him. Why did God have a different plan? And why was my son deprived of someone who would have given him much love, wisdom and joy?
As Lucado says, "God is a good God. We must begin here. Though we don't understand his actions, we can trust his heart." (p. 91) The Jewish Mourner's Kaddish reflects this - in the face of death, lift a song of praise to God.
And this is where our faith and works meet - when we act as though our beliefs are true. As many of us will hear in this Sunday's Epistle: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) When we mourn from loving hearts, ask "Why?" in prayer, carry on in hope of seeing the dead raised to eternal life, and praise God though it all, we show faith that our unseen Father is the loving, listening and life-giving God revealed by Jesus, taught in the Scriptures and at work in us through the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 12 on Friday.