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Reflections: Sharing in our grief

Youth from our church recently presented an inspirational service, incorporating entries they are preparing for our denomination’s Fine Arts competition. This annual event encourages middle- and high-school youth to develop their talents in spoken, sung, instrumental and dramatic categories, with district winners advancing to national competition and scholarship prizes to encourage further pursuit.

 

Sunday’s presentations showcased serious talent, but two that really impacted me were about grief. These young women had clearly experienced grief, or had observed it in someone close to them. As they spoke, they communicated that grief is normal and necessary, that God understands and welcomes our emotions, and that it’s helpful to have the encouragement of Christian community.

 

I found similar thoughts recently in my study of Lamentations. In chapter 1, the writer mourns the absence of a comforter (v. 16, 21). Although he eventually recalls God’s faithfulness and mercy (3:22–24), the pain of desolation and separation are real.

 

Jesus understands. During his earthly life, He grieved with Mary and Martha at the death of their brother (John 11). He was saddened by the hypocrisy of Israel’s leaders (Luke 19). And as He faced the cross, He took on the pain of separation from God as the penalty for sin, reflected in his anguished cry of “Why have You forsaken Me?”

 

Living in a fallen world, many things bring grief. The death of a friend or family member is one of the most painful, but not the only one. During Covid restrictions in 2020, students grieved separation from their friends; high school seniors grieved the loss of the final athletic or music performances of their high school years. Many empty nesters go through a grieving process as they accept their changed relationship with their kids. Loss of a long-time pet hurts, a lot. People suffering a debilitating injury grieve their lost physical independence. The list goes on.

 

None of these are easy, but as the writer of Lamentations knew, they are even more difficult when faced alone. That’s why our faith and our Christian community are so important. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus took on humanity so He could be our High Priest who understands (4:15), and the same writer encourages us to remember those who are suffering (13:3). Many of Paul’s letters express thanks for his friends—is there someone in a nursing home you could visit, or a prisoner you could write to?

 

There’s a difference between healthy time alone to process our thoughts and feel God’s comfort, vs. continuing in isolation. If you are grieving and don’t have community, find one! Counselors at area nonprofits are available to help you; if you’re a student, your school counselor can make a referral. Hospitals offer support groups for those with health issues.

 

Most of all, turn to God’s Word, and find a place to spend time with other believers, especially if you’re wondering where God fits in all this. There are many great churches in our area, and some offer Grief Share classes that you don’t have to be a member to attend. A regular habit of church fellowship can be a lifeline during tough times. Don’t grieve alone.

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