Grief evades no one. It is a common human experience. Yet, grief is a slippery thing, always sliding away from our ability to fix and resolve it. Explosive grief leaves evidence of its detonation behind, shards of shrapnel which cling in us and poke at us reminding us they are there when the weather gets bad, even well after the destruction is behind us.
Christy and I (Heidi) taught a workshop at the GCN Conference last week on extending Christian love and hospitality towards those who wrong us. The response to the workshop was overwhelming – over 100 in attendance, room overflowing, people sitting on the floor just to be with us. Afterwards, person after person who attended the session approached Christy and I, sharing many stories of suffering great losses – losses in relationships with parents, friends, family members, churches, job environments, and more. Each person, so beautiful in their own right, was aching to know how to be more Christ-like towards their haters, and each person blessed and challenged us as they shared. During the session, I asked for people to call out words which described the hurtful interactions they were recalling. The room quickly filled with cries of “betrayal, disappointment, ostracized, worthless, misunderstood” and the grief hung heavy in the air.
That’s what grief does. It hangs with us but we rarely know how to hang with it. Hanging with grief means allowing yourself to both lean into and out of the pain in the right measures, all while receiving God’s grace and comfort, and discovering how to cope without drowning in a bottle, a drug, or something worse.
The other day I found myself crying out that common grief question to God. You know the one: “Why?” “Why, Lord Jesus?” I called out. “Why must this be so?”
Have you ever prayed that prayer, alone in your desperation, tears streaming down your face? We want to know why. The other night, as I sat in that very condition, praying that “why” prayer, it struck me that I didn’t actually want an answer. Do any of us? Do we really think a stroke of logic and clarity will come to us which will right our grief, which will correct the way that we have lost something or someone precious to us? Is there an answer to the “why” which solves the grief?
There isn’t. Instead, in that moment, I sensed a gentle invitation to share what was on my heart. I got confused for a moment by this invitation but then suddenly, it became crystal clear. Instead of asking “why” I started telling God why I was asking my “why?” question. I told God that it hurt, that no answer could ever feel good enough, that I didn’t know how to bear it any longer, and that I was really at my end.
A long time ago, I heard a preacher say that instead of asking “why” in difficult times, we should be asking God “what” – as in, “What do you want to teach me or do in me through this?” This advice stuck with me for a long time. I’m here to tell you that preacher was wrong.
God doesn’t want to teach you a lesson when you’re grieving, crying, hurting so deeply you don’t know how to draw another breath. He wants to do what any good friend, any person who loved you desperately and deeply, would want to do. He wants to invite you to share your hurt with him. He wants to sit next to you. He wants to hold your hand. He wants to be with you. There is no answer to loss. But at least we need not be alone.
Our hope is not in our circumstances, but in the God who is bigger and better than them.
Next time you are crying out “Why?” consider responding to his invitation instead. Share your burdens with him. Let him sit with you. Ask him to come to you and hold your hand. “Come to me Jesus” is the prayer of the grief-stricken. It is one He answers.
He has not forgotten you, oh grieving one.
Gungor reminded me of this today:
This is not the end, this is not the end of this
We will open our eyes, wide, wider.
This is not our last, this is not our last breath
We will open our mouths wide, wider.
And you know you’ll be alright.