Mourning loss with a crowded heart

evening walk

My heart feels crowded these days. Grief from a distance does that. My heart is occupied with the day to day concerns of the relationships close to me. My local concerns include celebrations, maintenance, and grief. So it  starts to get crowded in here when the headlines cascade with pain.


When that happens I read Lamentations slowly.

14The elders no longer sit in the city gates; the young men no longer dance and sing.

15Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.

16The garlands have fallen from our heads. Weep for us because we have sinned.

17Our hearts are sick and weary, and our eyes grow dim with tears.

18For Jerusalem is empty and desolate, a place haunted by jackals.

19But LORD, you remain the same forever! Your throne continues from generation to generation.  Lamentations 5:14-19 NLT

 

I know we all get a turn when loss totally occupies the heart. I have had my own days occupied by grief – when death and grief have swallowed up all the space. I have seen in the lives of those close to me how oppressive grief can be. Joy becomes a faint memory. But now for a moment in these days of my local occupation, I need to practice the discipline of “grieving with those who grieve.”

 

My distance from the many cities and tragedies filling the headlines of the news does not leave me immune from the rage. Instead my heart gets crowded with undigested griefs and fears. Its not immediately obvious to me that these are “my people” whether its Cairo, Orlando, or Allepo. However, reflection with the Lord Jesus Christ reminds me that we are all His Creation. The King’s mission of which I am a part always seeks to include His Creatives within the future of His redeemed people.

 

And so I lament.

I lament our distance from the way of holiness.
I lament the violence.
I lament the loss.
I lament the difficulty love requires.
How long O Lord?
I lament the burden of finding answers.
I lament the oppressive fame-seeking germ of Babel making its death march across the planet.
I lament our desperate search for peace.
How long O Lord?
I lament our fear, our shame, our guilt.
I lament the
How long O Lord?

I lament

I lament because I want to pray and to live according to our Father’s heart. People matter to God and His cross interrupts the stupidity of violence. I don’t want a hard, self-righteous, apathetic heart that resists the Spirit of Jesus Christ. I’m convinced that a hard-not-my-people-attitude will take me where I don’t really want us to go.

Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again!

Give us back the joys we once had! Lamentations 5:21

Grief ~ The gift we hesitate to open.

I have had sadness welling up in my heart and mind since the weekend. Two UBC students died in a horrible accident on the Sea to Sky highway on Saturday. My heart goes out to their families and friends. But I confess I have had my own reluctance to fully enter into the feelings rising to the surface. You see, I have experienced great loss this year and I know there are still sensitivities and unresolved pain there for me and especially for my friends who feel the weight of their loss more dearly.

Christmas is coming.

Gifts are wrapped.

But there is a tear in the paper and I see a gift that comes with tears. Shall I open it?

Loss and grief crash through the thin veneer of invincibility we wear as a shield to our vulnerabilities and mortality. I have a smouldering anger just under the surface. The smoke stings my eyes and generates fear. Its a fear of losing again.

Christians believe God enters into our suffering, our loss, and our grief.

When Jesus came from the communion of God to enter with flesh into the relationships He had ordained for us: with God the Father, with people, with self, and with the stuff of earth, Jesus did not come with a special shield against loss and grief.

He had friends; He attached; His daily life was woven intricately with their lives with memory, with presence, and with hope for the future. They did life together. Knowing that his friend Lazarus had died and knowing that He would raise Lazarus up did not give Jesus immunity against the grief.

32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  John 11:32-

God meets us in our grief and people can too.

Losses come. Grief is the pain telling us all is not well in the world. The smile of God seems hidden. But if we meet Him in that grief, if we wait for Him in that pain, our hope is that we will live again.

We don’t have to open this grief gift alone. Its good to reach out to friends and family, to pastors and counsellors, for company and when we are ready some insight. Opening the gift requires talking and knowing someone else is listening as a witness to our grief.

What about happiness?

I think the well of joy we long to drink from must be dug through the ground of our grief. Its too easy to settle for surface pleasantries and trivial cover-ups.

The extraordinary reality of Jesus’ identity was hidden from Mary and Martha and even the disciples until they entered into the grief with him. Jesus’ declaration, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” surely filled their hearts and minds through the years.

Oh how He loves us!

Here’s Brene Brown sharing how this story of Jesus’ grief brought life to her.

Who is crying now?

Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up without having ever watched the evening news on TV or ever played a video game full of death?  The first time would be shocking.  The absolute abandonment of respect for others would be shocking; Unless of course that is your life and is the reality of the house you live in.  Without calluses toward the shock of violence, rape, murder, anger, theft, lying, we would daily be utterly crushed by the evening news.  Or having viewed it with no tears, we walk away with our self-righteousness intact, glad we are not like those people.

I’m reading Ezekiel with one of my Life Transformation Groups and I have been challenged with the question “Who’s crying now?”  God gave Ezekiel a scroll to eat and on both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.  And God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.”

So I’m wondering whose lament, whose mourning, and whose woe filled those pages?  God’s?  Was it God’s lament for a nation that was incapable of knowing, and loving Him.  Or was it the mourning of victims; Were those pages filled with the cries of those who had received no justice; who had only suffered at the hands people or a system out to steal even their hope?  Or did that scroll give voice to the regret of those who realized the folly of their ways?  Those who wish they could go back and do life over because of the pain their callousness had inflicted upon others?

The scroll was sweet to eat.  However, Ezekiel is totally overwhelmed by his encounter with the glory of God and the assignment from God to go to a people who would not listen.  He writes, “The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in anger in my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me.  I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River.  And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days–overwhelmed.”  Ezekiel 3:14-15

The Gospel has a sweet taste but also creates a disturbance.  To respond to the reality of a world that is not as it should be and to our own complicity with rebellion against God is disturbing.  But I do believe the Holy Spirit fortifies us for honesty and promises, “joy in the morning.”  And Jesus promises, “The Truth will set you free.”

James encourages the followers of Jesus to humble themselves before God.  “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn, and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the LORD, and he will life you up.”  James 4:7-10

What does such humility look like?  Perhaps it looks like Ezekiel utterly overwhelmed sitting quietly by the river Kebar for seven days among the very people he was called to serve.