If I’m being honest, this is not my favorite topic to deal with. However, we can’t escape the fact that we’re all going to experience loss and we are going to grieve; but there are some real choices to be made in times of grief. Those choices will determine whether our experience turns out to be bad grief or good grief. We’d better manage our grief well, because our future depends on it.
Last year I moved to a new location to start a totally new career. Since this is the first time I’ve made a shift this drastic I was unaware that I was also strapping myself into what has amounted to a twisting, turning, climbing, and dropping emotional roller coaster ride. The uncertainty driven fear has, at times, caused me to look back and grieve over the loss of my comfortable yet challenging ministry as a pastor.
So, what do you do when you find yourself knocked to your knees relationally, emotionally, professionally, or even physically – and it hurts? What does good grief look like? I think God has some things to say to us on this and, not surprisingly, they contradict the conventional wisdom at every point.
1. Conventional wisdom tells us to bury our feelings, but the example of the Bible is clear: EXPRESS YOUR PAIN.
Do you know what the shortest verse in the Bible is? You may know that it’s in John 11:35. Jesus wept.
Do you know what caused Jesus to weep? A very close friend died. When Jesus got word of Lazarus’ death, he traveled to their town, and met with his two sisters and as the three of them stood beside the tomb of one of His closest friends, he cried his eyes out.
Jesus wept. Those two words speak volumes about good grief management. Tears have been called the language of the soul, a cleansing river of emotional release. And God’s approach says, let the river flow.
In fact, there is an entire book of the Bible that’s called Lamentations or “The Lament” and it’s literally a book of weeping. It recounts the exile of God’s chosen people into Babylon.
“For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks. No one is here to comfort me; any who might encourage me are far away. My children have no future, for the enemy has conquered us.” Lamentations 1:16 [NLT]
By the way, expressing pain isn’t limited just to weeping and tears. Sometimes expressing pain means confronting another person with their wrongs. Sometimes it’s doing something symbolic that represents the pain you feel. I’ve heard of divorced people who burn their wedding pictures as a way of saying, “this hurts so badly.”
In the past I have expressed my pain through my songwriting. In addition to songwriting I now write blogs and manuscripts for books I intend to write… but not always. Sometimes I crawl up into the weak area of my Melancholy temperament and grovel around in self-pity.
Let me ask you a question. Have you experienced a major loss in your life but you’ve gone around trying to ignore or avoid the pain of it? May I suggest that you find a positive way to express it instead? If you need help with this, don’t let your pride keep you from getting it. Share your struggle with a friend, your pastor, or a counselor. Express your pain.