Various holidays and occasions often sharpen the pain of loss. Yet tragedy can be an occasion for victory. This is a hard word, a difficult message and yet it can bring hope to widows, widowers, those who have recently lost a loved one, or those who are keeping watch over someone who is about to pass out of this world.
God gave us emotions for a reason. Even anger can accomplish good. People who allow themselves to be energized by righteous indignation over the wrongs they see can change the world.
Likewise, while grief and sorrow are potentially destructive, they too have an up side.” Of course, none of us would ever wish the benefits of grief and sorrow upon our loved ones! Still, grieving is important. It digs out the cellar of our souls, making us deeper people. Grief helps us to appreciate the life of the departed person more fully. Sometimes our deepest regret in grief is that we didn’t show the departed person how very much we loved and appreciated them. That regret can help us express more love and appreciation towards the living.
Grief also teaches us to depend on God as we realize that He alone will always be with us, and that nothing we have on this earth will last, including our own bodies. The only way to preserve whatever has meaning to us is by investing it in Christ: serving Him rather than serving self; magnifying Him rather than magnifying self; promoting Him rather than promoting self. For we are continually reminded…’All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever'” (1 Peter 1:24, 25a).
Grieving reminds us of our own mortality, that our days are numbered and that we need to accomplish whatever we will for the Lord. It also reminds us that the only lasting things we can offer our loved ones are the eternal things of God. Those who grieve without a knowledge of the Savior will not derive all of these benefits, but still they understand the importance of grief.
Various cultures develop their own grieving rituals. The Jewish form of mourning is called “sitting Shiva.” Shiva, a Hebrew word, refers to seven days. Sitting is exactly what it sounds like. For seven days you go to the home of the departed or a near relative. You say the traditional prayers with the family and you just sit with them. It is not a matter of saying the right thing; it is just a matter of being there for them and showing the depth of your own feelings by your faithful presence.
Jesus longed for that kind of faithfulness as He grieved over Calvary. Perhaps the loneliest moment of His life was in the Garden of Gethsemane. As He faced a burden so great that He prayed for the Father to take it away from Him if possible, He looked for comfort in the presence of His disciples. The suffering to come weighed heavily enough upon Him. How much heavier it became when His closest friends and companions slept through His prayers concerning this ordeal. Yeshua wasn’t looking for answers from His friends. He just wanted them to share some of what He was feeling.
The way to help our friends in their grief is not with platitudes or kind words. We need to sit with them and share their grief and just be there with them, for them. This month many have chosen a day to celebrate romantic love. Let’s remember those who are grieving over a lost loved one, or those who are grieving over a love they never found. Don’t be afraid to share some of what they are feeling, not with your words, but with your presence and a listening ear.
As we allow ourselves to grieve with people, we should also allow ourselves to grieve with God over lost souls who need to know His love and forgiveness. The pain we allow ourselves to feel for the things that are close to God’s heart will always bring us closer to Him.