(Matthew 5:4 KJVA) Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
When I first started this message I expected to go over the stages of grief and talk about coming out on the other side a stronger person. Then the more and more I researched and studied and prayed, I realized that the stages of grief was not as important as the job that grief does within us. What exactly is grief? I believe everyone experiences it differently. The best description that I have found of what grief really is I found in Chuck Swindoll’s book Growing Strong:
“Author Edgar Jackson poignantly describes grief: Grief is a young widow trying to raise her three children, alone. Grief is the man so filled with shocked uncertainty and confusion that he strikes out at the nearest person. Grief is a mother walking daily to a nearby cemetery to stand quietly and alone a few minutes before going about the tasks of the day. She knows that part of her is in the cemetery, just as part of her is in her daily work. Grief is the silent, knife-like terror and sadness that comes a hundred times a day, when you start to speak to someone who is no longer there. Grief is the emptiness that comes when you eat alone after eating with another for many years.
Grief is teaching yourself to go to bed without saying good night to the one who had died. Grief is the helpless wishing that things were different when you know they are not and never will be again. Grief is a whole cluster of adjustments, apprehensions, and uncertainties that strike life in its forward progress and make it difficult to redirect the energies of life.”
Grief is not exactly something you can just tell someone to “Get Over.” And too often we find ourselves living in a “get over it” society. Before we go any further into this study of grief, I want us to take a little side trip into a Psalm that I am sure will be familiar to us all.
(Psalms 139:1 – 18 KJV) <To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.> O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
Many people have told me never to tell anyone that I know how they feel, because no one really knows how someone else feels. But I am here to tell you today that God does. God know how you feel. He knows your pain, your sorrow, your anger, your confusion and He is right there by your side to be your strength and your portion. This grief thing is not easy and it is not fun, but God can use it to strengthen you and help you to grow. I read a story about how a tree, when it is threatened from a storm or a fire or some other danger, will twist itself around in order to strengthen its fibers. This twisting is all done on the inside while the bark continues to grow straight, so you might not be able to see the new found strength, but because of the pain the tree went through it grew in strength.
You too can grow and become stronger when you wrap yourself around God in your times of struggle. I was reading a message from a pastor who had lost his daughter in an automobile accident. He told about how many people came to his side and grieved with him and for him. Soon he came to this realization and I will put it in His words:
“DON'T GRIEVE FOR US, PRAY FOR US TO BE USED BECAUSE OF THIS GREAT TRIAL!”
That should be your prayer for yourself as you go through the trials and tribulations and fight with the temptations of your everyday life. Make it your goal in life to live your life for God’s glory. When we make that decision, and let go of our own agenda’s and selfish desires, God gives us more than we ever could have hoped for. That is often easier said then done but doing it can also begin with our choice to take that path. Because we must walk on. Every day we have new paths to choose and each one will bring with it some pain. Hanging onto the pain is just as much of a choice as letting it go. Letting go of the pain does not mean you are letting go of the one you love. Sometimes we passionately hang onto the grief and pain in an attempt to hang onto the one we lost. This passionate grief can seem right at first but it can turn quickly into the very thing that separates you from the memories of the one you love.
C. S. Lewis, who lost his wife Joy to cancer, realized in his despair after her death that "passionate grief does not link us with the dead but cuts us off from them." He kept a journal after Joy's death that he later published in 1961 under the title, A Grief Observed. It has stayed continuously in print since then. He noticed that in his worst moments, his misery trapped him - and trapped his memories of Joy - in solemn shades of gray. It was only in moments when he was not swallowed up by his sorrow, when he was just going about his daily rounds, that she would come suddenly into his mind, and, he wrote, she would come "in her full reality, her otherness...not solemnized by my miseries, but as she is in her own right."
Letting go of a love one does not mean letting go of your memories of them. It is the memories of the ones we love that keep them alive in our hearts and carries on their legacy.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel once said: "Much of what the bible demands can be summed up in a single word -- remember!" In our sacred texts, these words appear again and again: "Remember," "do not forget," "do this in remembrance..." We are asked to remember by telling the old stories, not once but many times. This is also true in tribal cultures: the old stories are told and told again, until the children know them by heart. In this way, the people who have gone before come alive again. The same thing happens when we tell stories about a friend or family member who has died. They come alive again. Instead of dwelling on their absence, we give them a new way to be present with us. Every life has a meaning that death cannot cancel. The stories we tell keep us connected to the meaning. This is how we begin to love someone in a new way - and this is one of the ways they live on.
It has been said that each of us is an author writing the book of his or her life. Authors dream of their work becoming a classic, but few ever do. Whether or not the book of our lives becomes a classic depends on us, but not only on us. To an even greater extent it depends on those who remain behind. For what is a classic but a work to which others make reference after it is finished? It is not for us to finish the task.
We have to come to a balance between letting go of the person we love and hanging onto the memories of them. Often times people will hang onto the person they love by trying to keep things from changing in their lives. Life goes on and so must you. An example of how hanging on too tight can hurt, is found in the story of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
The home of Paul Laurence Dunbar, noted poet, is open to the public in Dayton, Ohio. When Dunbar died, his mother left his room exactly as it was on the day of his death. At the desk of this brilliant man was his final poem, handwritten on a pad. After his mother died, her friends discovered that Paul Laurence Dunbar's last poem had been lost forever. Because his mother had made his room into a shrine and not moved anything, the sun had bleached the ink in which the poem was written until it was invisible. The poem was gone. If we stay in mourning, we lose so much of life.
I want to end by giving you a path to follow on life’s journey. Whether you have experienced grief in the past or are going through it right now, or perhaps some day in the future, this map might assist you in finding your way to higher ground. The first thing is to “Turn your Eyes upon Jesus.”
I. Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus.
Too often we try to tie a knot at the end of the rope and hold on. It is only when we let go, that God can lift us up to that higher place of peace that passes understanding.
(Matthew 11:28 & 29 KJV) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
II. Read and Believe the Word of God.
(Romans 12:2 KJV) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It is times of trial that we need to fill our minds with the word of truth more than ever. Human physiologists, human reasoning and human philosophy does not have the answers, but the word of God has the answer to all our troubles, trials, tribulations, and testings.
Always remember “all things work together for the good.
(Romans 8:28 KJVA) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
He is working everything out according to His will for our life. Nothing happens without His direction, control and authority. THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS WITH GOD!
III. Give God Thanks and Praise
The hardest thing in the world is to thank God for the trials when you are going through the trials, but that is what we must do. We do not know what the future holds but our great and gracious God knows what will come to pass and He knows the way through the wilderness. We need to remember that "Joy cometh in the morning."
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJVA) Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
When we do not get to the place in our life where we can and will give Him thanks for the trial. then we will become bitter, or we will never get past the suffering. We must, to grow in grace give Him thanks and do it from a heart trusting in Him.
IV. Tell others about the grace of God in your trial
One of the problems people have during trials is that some want to hold their feelings in and do not want to talk about the problem or do not want to testify about the trial. When we begin to talk about what has happened and is happening we begin to see the grace of God in the trial then we can allow God to have his way in our life and heart.
(2 Corinthians 1:3 & 4 KJV) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
Is there any easy way around your grieving? No, but there is a way through it. God has a plan for you and if you choose to He will be glorified in you and through you. Let His glory arise within you today.