Sometimes grief makes you less want to honor the memory of a loved one who’s been lost or a stage of life that can never again be lived and more want to hold onto anger over the parts of life that were stolen by that loss.
Sometimes grief is even harder to figure out – the feelings are no where near so obvious.
Sometimes grief is just plain hard and you want to talk about the parts that aren’t considered acceptable for public confession.
But here’s the thing: like it or not, those anniversaries and birthdays keep coming around and they are guaranteed to make you remember something. And when what you remember are the parts of grief you’re not “supposed” to talk about…well…maybe it’s time to start talking anyways.
And if there’s one thing I knew about my brother it was this: he could have cared less about what you were supposed to do in any given situation. Following the rules was my thing. But not his. So maybe the best way to honor him on this day, on the day he would have been 27, is to speak perhaps a little too honestly about the hard parts of grief.
Because I don’t want to have to look a certain way in my grief. And I don’t want to feel as though because I’m a Christ follower that my grief must somehow be proper or that I must maintain a particular appearance – a façade – in order to honor Christ in my grief.
Yes, in the midst of grief I rest on the promises of God. I claim his perfect peace, his goodness, his sovereignty, and his sufficiency.
I claim those truths in all areas of life, so I don’t check them at the door of my grief.
Grief is hard. And messy. And ugly. And unexplainable.
And in all those things, it’s still sacred.
Sometimes I desperately want to talk about Jesus in the middle of a grief wave. But other times, I really don’t.
And somehow, in those times when I don’t, I suspect that it doesn’t honor him any less.
Sometimes all I can do is sit in silence and feel the void. Other times all I can do is cry. And still other times I ask endless and unanswerable questions.
And in each scenario, Christ knows my heart better than I do.
And even when I’m clinging to his promises for each breath, I still just can’t quite understand, and the questions still often come in torrents.
The unholy questions that don’t have easy answers because they really don’t have answers at all…at least not that our human minds could fully comprehend. The ones we seem to silence publicly, but then whisper in prayer on a drive home under the cover of darkness.
Why? What if it hadn’t happened that way? What if he had lived? What would life look like? Where would we all be now? Would I recognize him? Would I recognize myself?
No, ultimately, the questions don’t get me very far. But they rarely last long. And sometimes, the most honest thing we can do is just to ask the questions that are right beneath the surface. If they exist, if we’re thinking them, we might as well acknowledge them.
And while there’s no safer place than prayer, sometimes we need to voice them to an in-the-flesh person who will stand with us and walk with us. They don’t have answers either, but somehow, there’s beauty in the community and togetherness.
But regardless, I think the Lord sees through the questions we tend to shy away from – the ones we consider unholy.
I think he knows that more often than not, I’m not asking for literal answers. He sees through my lack of understanding and knows that what I’m really asking for is nearness to him. To experience his presence more fully in the moment and place of my lack. To be told it’s okay. Okay to have questions. Okay to not have answers. Okay to have feelings. Okay to not understand. It’s okay.
And in the unholiness of those questions, I find holiness. Because I find His presence there.
Grief and suffering are part of this life.
Even Jesus grieved during his time on this earth, dwelling among us, as one of us.
And the most profound thing Scripture had to say about it was that “Jesus wept”.
And somehow, those two words say so much. We get it; we identify with it. Because the incarnate Christ, the God with us, identified with us.
Mourning and weeping are part of grief.
Hard questions are part of grief.
As our human minds try to come to grips with a loss that exists only because we live in a fallen world.
And although there are times I don’t want to talk about Jesus in my grief, it all comes back to him and to the promise of his presence.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because in him, I don’t have to live up to certain expectations in my grief. He frees me from those earthly expectations to be honest and to grieve deeply.
I need him. This Great Physician who heals both body and soul. The one who sees me…who sees my heart and soul and the very depths of my emotions.
And it’s the security, the safety, the assurance of his presence that allows me to grieve deeply and fully and well. To experience the parts of grief we would rather not talk about. And to come out on the other side a little closer to the healing and wholeness found only in him.