Our Grieving Hearts
Loss of any kind is painful. Loss of a close relationship, a position, our health, a home, or something else of value to us, may cause significant pain and sadness. Certainly, when we lose a loved one through death, we experience great pain and suffering. With the passing of Patrick, our beloved brother, friend, and pastor, we may experience an array of feelings such as sadness, abandonment, fear, anger, hurt, disappointment or despair. Even with the confidence that our loved one is now experiencing his faith as sight in the presence of Jesus, our pain and grief run deep. It is a great comfort to know that God’s Word honestly addresses grief. In fact, bringing our unfiltered feelings to the Lord is the safest thing we can do. The Bible is clear that it is important to mourn (lament) our pain. To lament is to feel or express sorrow or regret or grief.
Scripture is filled with lament. Habakkuk cried out to God, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2). The book of Lamentations is a one long lament. “Arise, cry out in the night at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!” (Lamentations 2:19a). Our Savior, too, cried out in lament on many occasions. As Jesus approached Jerusalem (the triumphal entry), Jesus grieved the Jews’ rejection of Him and what He must endure to bring peace with God. “And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41-42).
The lament psalms are more in number than any other category of psalms (about 40%) and express the heartfelt cries and honest pleas of the troubled, hurting psalmists to God whom they trusted and chose to praise despite their pain. We can do the same. As modeled in the Word, we are to put words to our grief and cry out to God. We are to ask Him for help and choose to trust that He will meet us and care for our every need. And, we are to praise Him because He alone is our holy and faithful Father.
The psalmists recounted God’s truths in the midst of pain, and we can do the same.
Psalm 22:1-3 - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Psalm 42:3-5 – My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Psalm 57:1-3 - Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
It is important to remember that our grief does not have a timeline. It will take different forms at different times and be expressed through varied emotions. Our painful emotions must find expression, and our Lord is faithful to hear us when we cry aloud to Him. Though some of our emotions may surprise us, they do not surprise the Father. God is always near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18).
In addition to seeking the Lord through the Word and prayer, it is a comfort to know that the body of Christ is our family, and as a family we seek to care well for one another. Here are some things for us to consider as we walk alongside those who are grieving.
Listen. In addition to praying, listening is the most important thing we can do for a grieving person. It is a gracious gift to give a person time and space to share their feelings, thoughts, and memories. Listen without interrupting and without giving advice.
Do not compare their situation to yours. Each person’s suffering is unique to them.
Leave a message. A person may not have the capacity to talk on the phone or to reply to a message, but she will appreciate hearing from you.
Valley Bible Church is going to begin a GriefShare support group where trained, caring VBC leaders will walk alongside those who are experiencing grief of any kind. To learn more about the GriefShare ministry, visit their website at griefshare.org. If you are interested in participating in the upcoming VBC GriefShare support group (exclusively for VBC), register by contacting Jay & Fritzeen Scott (firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-6999-9771).
In the meantime, if you would like to talk or pray with any VBC elder, pastor, or leader from either of our campuses, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We want to come alongside you in any way we can and provide you with the care and comfort of our Heavenly Father.
As a family, let us continue to ask the Lord to show us ways we can care well for one another and stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
(A helpful resource is Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy – Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop.)