Mar 13, 2022 Growing into Grief
13th March 2022
Joel 1: 15 The day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty. 16 Has not food been cut off before our eyes, Gladness and joy from the house of our God? 17 The seeds shrivel under their clods; The storehouses are desolate, The barns are torn down, For the grain is dried up. 18 How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle wander aimlessly Because there is no pasture for them; Even the flocks of sheep suffer.
The damage from the locusts has caused many losses.
For many in our church, the loss in the past 2 years is significant. We’ve lost friends, we’ve lost – a friend – Dave – in July.
Friendships have been lost over masks and vaccines.
Friends have been lost over who you vote for – what news you listen to –
And Joel says – nothing like this has ever happened.
Some have lost time with family – kids/grandkids – if your kids live out of state or out of this area – it has been difficult to have thanksgiving or Christmas together. There are parts of the last 2 years we’ll never get back.
Just like we need to grieve the loss of a loved one, so we need to grieve these losses.
I am not a grief counselor – not at all.
There are groups and counseling out there.
What I will talk about – how the psalms of Lament help us to grieve.
There are 3 books I’d like to recommend. These two are old classics – CS Lewis – a Grief Observed
Nouwen – Turn my Mourning into Dancing.
Gerald Sittser – a Grace Disguised. You can get his full story on YouTube.
He said this in the video – speaking of grief – he lost his mother, wife, and daughter – killed by a drunk driver. He is a professor at a seminary in the Northwest – You don’t get over grief – that is what we tend to do – to say we need to get over it – rather, we grow into grief.
That thought is echoed in these other books and in the psalms of Lament.
We will learn to grow into our grief.
Nouwen – we need to take our grief out of its diabolical isolation.
Our tendency is to just – cover it all up. Keep it in and not let it out.
Our efforts to disconnect ourself from our own grief and suffering end up disconnecting our suffering from God’s suffering for us. The way out of our loss and hurt is in and through it – in and through our grief and in and through the cross.
I was listening to a podcast – Christianity Today has a series on people who have gone through significant loss. One of the reasons we don’t grow into our grief – we are afraid that if we go headlong into the darkness of our grief, we may never come back. If we allow our true feelings about God to be expressed, we fear we may lose our faith and hope. The Psalms of Lament tell us otherwise – that the opposite will happen. The Psalms of Lament will help us to a deeper faith and a truer hope.
Often, loss reveals that our faith is shallower than it needs to be and our hope may not be on the right stuff.
Here are ways the Psalms of lament can help us
1 – they give us a language of grief which we do not naturally possess. We need to practice reading, contemplating and praying these psalms of lament. When we pray these, it allows us to say things to God we are either afraid of saying or not knowing how to say it.
Psalm 22 is one of the most popular Psalms of Lament. Praying is not the right sense…
He cried out with a loud voice – (I’m not good at dramatic anything – I despised when they forced us to do a skit or something in school) –
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
Do you ever pray this way to God? Is this your language with him? It was Jesus’! And because He prayed like this, it gives us permission and confidence to do the same.
Lament – a complaint to and against God. We think a complaint is either lack of faith or inappropriate.
We think God is like the parent that says – if you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you a reason to cry.
God is not like that – He wants your complaint.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? (Psalm 13:1)
How long will the Russians bomb Ukraine? How long before my health changes? How long before this grief goes away.
This is the language of the Psalms! And it gets worse! We’ll see. 1/3 of the Psalms are lament.
We need lament when it feels like God has abandoned us in our greatest moment of need.
Lewis: When things are going well and we come with gratitude and praise, and it feels like we are welcomed with open arms! But when we are desperate, come to God and we think we find a door, bolting and double bolting and afterwards, silence!
Ps. 77 7 Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? 8 Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? 10 Then I said, "It is my grief, That the right hand of the Most High has changed."
The Psalmist is saying – something has gone horribly wrong in my life, therefore, something has gone horribly wrong with God. God has changed.
Do you ever pray like that?
Another thing? The Psalms were the songbook of Ancient Israel. We don’t sing a lot of these songs – but they sang them about a third of the time!
In looking up Sittser’s stuff, I came up with a video from Bono. Bono had become good friends with Eugene Peterson –
He was reading the Message Bible – Lord, punch the bully in the nose!
Bono loved it – but had to get ahold of Eugene Peterson. When they were talking – asked – why are our songs always so happy – why do we not sing songs like these.
When we go through loss and grief it can feel like God’s promises have failed and that his love has ended. The key is what happens next – do we grow into it or try to get over it? DO we connect with the suffering of Jesus on the cross?
God wants us to go to Him with all of our anger, grief and disappointment. That is the safe place to put those things.
5 The Psalms of Lament validate and normalize our grief. What we are experiencing is what humans have always experienced.
When we are going through difficult things, we can feel like “I am the only one who has had it this bad” -It is important for us to know that others have been through the same stuff.
6 Lament should be a communal thing
Psalm 80 4 O LORD God of hosts, How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, And You have made them to drink tears in large measure. 6 You make us an object of contention to our neighbors, And our enemies laugh among themselves. 7 O God of hosts, restore us And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.
If you google psalms of lament and list them, you will get many – some are personal – and a bunch – a whole lot more – that are communal. Ancient Jewish people practiced lament as a community.
We are often left to do it alone. Especially in churches that come from the same background as us – we tend to leave people alone in their grief. We have not learned to grieve together.
As we go through this time before Easter – you are welcome – if you have experienced loss and God has done something in your life, if you are comfortable in sharing that – it is beneficial to others.
One of the podcasts – a pastor was sharing that in their church they sang psalms of lament. We are going to get rid of these discouraging songs. And the pastor said to him – even though you don’t need the psalms of lament now, at some point you will.
Psalm 42:5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
Lament leads to hope. Grieving well leads to hope – not the other way around. It opens the possibility of hope when all is dark around us. It is counterintuitive – we think when we go into the darkness, it will get darker.
If you want to catch the final rays of the sun, you don’t chase it. – you turn around.
It is in the darkness where you will finally catch up to the sun.
Hope does not depend on the ups and downs of life’s particulars. We have hope because we believe that while the world we live in is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world.
I’d like to give us a Lenten practice to go into grief. Search for psalms of lament. There are about 50. Then take 1-2 per week – and read and contemplate on these Psalms – and then pray them. You can do 1 per week – or one per day.
Psalm 55:16 As for me, I shall call upon God, And the LORD will save me. 17 Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice.
Call on God.
As you go through those psalms – go to God with your grief.
When you go to God – give the full weight of grief to God – evening, morning – noon – not just 3 times, but just keep doing it.
Go to complain and murmur – moan/groan/roar – like the primal scream to God.
Then know that God will listen and will speak. Lament progresses to praise. True lament will progress to praise.
The problem – we can’t put a time limit on that. Remember – how long must this go on?
Sittser, in his video – talking about mourning and grief – blessing are those who mourn – for they shall be comforted. It does not say – blessed are those who get over their grief – blessed are those who grieve.
When we try to get over it instead of into it – we lose significant blessing from God.