Good Grief

There have been more than a few tears in the last month or so, on account of my family's car accident. Looking back, I'm realizing that the trigger has been not so much directly by thinking of the losses my family members have suffered, but rather someone's thoughtful response in our time of grief. I don't think it is just that such empathy has been touching, although it has been; I think, more importantly, that someone coming alongside our family and hurting with us gives me a sense of permission to take in all the hurt instead of holding back.

So I have a growing appreciation for all who have helped me give myself that permission to hurt and cry. For it is not something we easily do in this day and age, not when we are tempted to otherwise gloss over or shake off or outright avoid any discomfort. But it is good to cry; I can think of at least three good reasons:

1. It affirms the depth of pain that someone is bearing. To allow yourself to feel the depth of hurt over someone else's hurt is to validate the depth of that person's hurt. If we do not cry, it may not be because our lives are not surrounded by and filled with anything cry-worthy; it may instead be because we have shut out the pain or discounted its significance. And if so, our lives are not fuller or wholer for it, but in fact the contrary.

2. It affirms the fragility of our humanity. Strength and self-sufficiency are highly esteemed in this society, and so we are tempted to do whatever it takes to cover up our innate weakness and dependency. It can be a tiring effort, since it requires constant vigilance and, in some cases, smoke and mirrors. How much of a relief it is to acknowledge who we really are, which is vulnerable and needy and, well, human.

3. It should stoke our longing for the other side of glory. The further and longer we are from home, and the more we know of the goodness of home, the more homesick we feel. And so, in an otherwise straight line towards making this side of glory as comfortable and homey as we can, we are periodically reminded that this is in fact not our permanent residence, but that rather we are having prepared for us an unthinkably glorious place where we are finally rid of sin and shame.

Pain avoidance is big business these days. When we want to drown our sorrows, we have access to countless avenues. Some are healthy and some not so healthy. But all are meant to take us further away from feeling the pain in our lives. When we suffer real loss, and someone comes alongside us and grieves with us, we are offered an alternative path, a path that I submit to you is richer and fuller and righter.

The pain of tragedy is real enough to make us hastily scurry toward a life that protects itself from future pain. We expend much energy in this direction, and even if we are unsuccessful we aspire to that end. Except that that is not life at all. And that is not where I understand my God to be, or where He wants me to be.

Some worldviews explain away suffering by motivating us to overcome it by brute force, others by comforting us that it will be rectified in a future life, and still others by condemning us in that it is brought upon us for past sins. But only one worldview grabs hold of suffering by having as its central tenet a God who became flesh and suffered and was glorified, not that we might not suffer, but that we might too suffer and be glorified.

I present to you a Savior who did not vanquish evil in rugged triumph, or go down to defeat with guns blazing, but who voluntarily, impelled by His life mission to do His Father's will, succumbed to a criminal's death on His way to glory, and who continues to redeem our sorrowful paths in similar ways. And so we can grieve, and know Him who grieves with us, who will one day take away all grief, and in the meantime make good out of our grief.
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