Our pastor has been preaching about grief for the last few weeks. I still need to watch the first sermon, “Hope in the Face of Grief,” but after hearing last week (my title – “Joy in the Face of Grief”), I know I need to do that very soon. If you’re interested in the sermons, you can find them on the Media page at www.gvbc.org. For a bit of background and a base to jump from, the text for last week’s sermon is John 16:17-24 where Jesus is preparing the disciples for his imminent death, and the definition of grief Bobby uses is “a God-given emotional response to a significant loss in your life”. You know what my significant loss is, but that loss could be anything: a job, the death of a loved one, a change in health – anything that significantly impacts and changes your life.
I won’t repeat the sermon (go watch it for yourself), but I will share a few things I gleaned from it. My grief is a gift from God, and my joy is not earthly, fleeting happiness; it is the enduring joy of the presence of Christ in my life. My grief is not abnormal or sinful; it is the normal and healthy expression of the pain of loss. My questions and doubt are a natural byproduct of sorrow, and they have strengthened my faith insofar as I have made God the foundation on which I build. No matter what, God has my best interests at heart, and he has planned good things for me, even when they aren’t the things I would have chosen for myself.
The last three years have been a loooooong journey through grief. And doubt. And fear. And love. And hope. But no matter how much I have questioned, the base I jump from is always God. I could share many Bible verses that have caused me no end of frustration and doubt; I have shared with you much of the experience that has caused great doubt and pain. I hope I have done a good job of sharing why I haven’t jumped off a cliff yet. Whenever I feel completely lost and sinking, I go back to basics. What exactly do I believe and why?
Step one: do I believe there is a god? I know there are dozens of scientific theories on creation, but I cannot look at the earth – the creek in my back yard, our bodies, the “natural law” we humans spend so much time trying to define with equations and numbers – and think this was a random cosmic hiccup. I believe that there is a Creator God. Step two: how do I know that I believe in the right god? Rationally speaking I don’t. By faith I believe that God sent his only son, Jesus, to die and live again to allow me and you to have a relationship with him. I can’t scientifically prove to you that there is a god or that my God is the one true God. I know in my heart that it’s true, and my life and my words should bear that out. Step three: how could a god who loves me allow this to happen? I still can’t really answer that except to say that God is always doing bigger things than we can see. One example is this blog. Mabbat wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t felt the need to share my losses and my experiences. If a single person has been helped or comforted by something I’ve shared, then God has used my grief to do something good. I can live with that. It still sucks, but I can live with it.
I don’t know that I learned any new material last Sunday, but God used Bobby’s words to speak to my heart and tell me that I am on solid ground. I have found joy in the face of my grief. My sorrow will someday soon be turned into joy. I am moving in the right direction. There are times when I have been crippled by grief; there are still days when I have to stop and cry for no apparent reason; but I am able to see the good things in my life. I have a deeper faith than I ever knew, I have a wonderful husband who has managed to stand by me even when I push him away, I have great and supportive people in my life, and I am learning to see how strong and beautiful I am as a child of God. That is my joy.