Grief and Faith

Sometimes I feel that people (especially Christians?) in our society have an expectation placed upon others to work through something and tie everything up neatly. To wait until the struggle is over to openly share. There’s this enormous pressure to share the good things, put up a face, and keep private the mess. I get it. Messes aren’t fun to share. They aren’t always fit to be shared, especially publicly online. Sometimes, they aren’t always even ours to share.

This expectation to neatly tie things up trickles into things such as loss. The expectation that someone will work through it and come out as some finished product within some time frame. Check it off the list. And, in the midst of it, manage to maintain certain levels of joy and happiness and grace and composure and faith. But I’m fully convinced it’s not as neat and tidy as that. It’s not as cookie-cutter or simple as that. Our faith guides us, and God is with us, but the struggle is still very much real.

“You may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” 1 Thess. 4:13

We will grieve. I will grieve. There is so much loss and pain and grief and sorrow in the Bible. Thank you, God, for this. There are so many examples about the kind of mourning that people demonstrated. I keep thinking of this verse: “You may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” 1 Thess. 4:13. It doesn’t say that I won’t grieve, but that I will grieve differently. I do have hope, and that shapes my grief. It helps, but it doesn’t make the pain away. It is still very real and very hard.

I think one thing that has struck me this month doing the Capture Your Grief Project (which is not faith based) is the beauty and real-ness of working through grief. Not just reading some verse or someone else’s story and blindly accepting that I can feel the same way they feel, but truly working through it for myself.  Not just looking around and seeing how I ‘should’ grieve, but embracing the feelings, however painful, and seeking God and honestly struggling through it with Him.

C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed is all about the struggle of grief and loss and pain. It’s not too helpful as a guidebook for grief, as it is very specific to his struggle and really round-about and vague, but there are some helpful parts. Interestingly, he wrote it very soon after losing his wife and used a pen-name. Several friends saw this new grief book come out and recommended it to him, as they were very concerned about how poorly he was handling himself after loss. (It’s normal for it to be hard.)

He writes on the feeling of loss as an amputation. We’re adjusting to life without that limb, without that part of us. We’ll always sense the loss. Somehow we’ll learn to adjust and function without it. Yet, we won’t quite ever be the same.

“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off it is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole away of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”
– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I’m pressed, but not crushed. Struck down, but not destroyed. There is hope and healing and trust, but it’s not just something I can readily and immediately grasp. It’s struggled for, and I hope that will be what makes my faith all the more real in the end.

“Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.”
-Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.”
-Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

A beautiful promise of the coming joy:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

One thought on “Grief and Faith

  1. Holly Colonna says:

    Amen. Thank you for your insight, dear sister in Christ. I absolutely love the last quote by Tim Keller. Praise God that we have our entire lives waiting for us. I can't believe our boys have beat us there, those little stinkers. What sort of fun are they having?


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