Thursday, March 15, 2012

Permission To Grieve

A time to cry... 
      A time to grieve...Ecclesiastes 3:4

“How saddened I am over hearing about your recent loss...”

As I wrote these words in an email to a recent acquaintance who had just experienced the death of her beloved mother-in -law,  I couldn’t help but ask God to give me His words of comfort to write. I also asked the Lord to give me the courage to draw from the well of my own experience in losing someone I loved deeply so that I could express adequately, Jesus’ sorrow for her loss. Although I do not know well this grieving sister in Christ...I have experienced some of what she is feeling from the hard blow that death has struck upon her soul.
So I continued to write...
“My heartfelt prayers are with you and your husband and family as you experience the deepest sorrow and grief that has now taken up residence in your hearts. Although we often feel as Christians that we must keep our focus on the "pleasantries" of death...(by that I mean, to know the joy we have for our loved ones who are now enjoying the delights of Heaven with Jesus, and that one day we WILL see them again)...
In doing so...we inflict further pain upon ourselves by feeling that we have less faith than we should, as we experience this pain and longings in our heart which death has delivered to us.” 
Strange...that a Christian should ever think we will be spared from feeling the excruciating pain from the penetrating cuts death inflicts. 
The loss of a loved one for the Christian is felt as deeply and is of no less pain as it is felt by anyone else in this world. 

We are not exempt from feeling the deepest pain of separation that death delivers. God's Word even encourages us to allow these feelings to be expressed; "There is a time to cry.. There is a time to be sad..." Ecclesiastes 3:4. NLT
We are given even more encouragement to feel our sorrow deeply by how Jesus responded to Martha and Mary upon seeing them suffering tremendous grief over the death of their brother Lazarus four days earlier. Then Jesus cried. ...‘See how much he loved him!”~ John 11:35-36b NCV  

To be completely honest with you...before my husband's death, I minimized Jesus' tears as he comforted Mary and Martha. I attempted to spiritually analyzed them as being only the tears of great sympathy towards his dear friend's  grief. I had removed from them any thoughts that these may have fallen from His grief. I thought perhaps Jesus’ tears were His way of saying to Mary and Martha (and us too), that  “It's ok to cry”...but in the midst of our tears of sorrow, a gently spoken; "Stop crying... Come on, now...Ye of little faith...Where’s your hope?” After all, within a few more moments Jesus would exchange Mary and Martha's tears of sorrow for tears of joy! 
When I only thought of Jesus' tears falling out of sympathy and not out of His own deeply felt sorrow and grief...I removed from my Savior his sincere pain and anguish that He actually felt over the death of His good friend Lazarus. 

When I do that... I also remove from the Christian believer the acceptance to feel the deepest pain and anguish that grief and and sorrow bring and the abundant comfort we will receive when we understand that Christ's tears of sorrow... are mingling with our own.  
After Brad's the moments of my deepest despair, the Lord revealed to my heart that the pain I was feeling was felt completely by His heart as well. I found myself often imagining Jesus siting next to me...his arms surrounding me as He held me tightly to His chest...His tears anointing my head and mingling down, mixing with my own...and then falling safely into nail- scarred hands. My tears so precious to him that they would be collected and kept in a sacred place...treasured by God and recorded in his book.

  “You keep track of all my sorrows.
      You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
      You have recorded each one in your book.” ~
Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
I have learned in my own experience with sorrow and grief...that God does not look upon my grieving heart as one that is weak in faith or hope because I loved and grieved so greatly. 
The separation which death delivers is overwhelming to all of us and Jesus not only understands...He knows what it feels like...personally.  
Yes...Jesus knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead that day he cried with Mary and Martha ...Yet, no matter how fleeting the time of actual separation death had brought to Lazarus’ loved ones...the painful cut inflicted by death was felt. It was harsh and it cut deep ...and it was felt by Jesus as much as it was felt by Mary and Martha...and by us today when a loved one of ours dies.
Death may win battles but it can not claim victory. Glory to God! In the midst of our greatest sorrow and pain...God is faithful to deliver to all who call on the name of Jesus in faith...Hope. 
We are given a hope that gives us the strength and power of God to live for Christ one more day at a time... renewed with His joy...until we are once again reunited with all those in Christ whom we love. We will all be with Jesus!
Each day on earth we carry the longings of our heart to have another day with our loved one, but there along side these longings is a companion that also abide in us...hope. This hope is a secure anchor which Christ delivered inside of all believers through His defeat of death...(John 20). 
Perhaps you not so unlike me a few years ago when I misunderstood  Jesus’ tears. Believing they fell only from a sympathetic love for Mary and Martha’s grief, and not from the pain of his own grief over his friend Lazarus’ death.  
You may have recently found yourself while trying to comfort a grieving Christian friend, that you are a bit too "quick" to remind them only of the joy they should hold in knowing their loved one is "In a better place", without first seeking to understand their sorrow personally and just weep with them as Jesus did. If so, I pray this helps you to see a better way to comfort.

Yes...we should encourage each other with the hope we have of Heaven and the abundant joy we will experience in seeing our loved ones again, but...everyone really does need to have a time just to mourn... and a time to be filled with sadness as well. When we attempt to skip over this part of the pain we are experiencing in the loss of a loved one...we delay the healing that comes from finding the comfort in our pain that only Jesus' compassionate love will provide. I sought God’s leading as to what I could say in closing and to bring my new acquaintance some comforting words... The Lord graciously gave to me in the words He spoke in my heart to share, a new and precious piece of comfort for my sorrow as well. 

Here is what the Lord had me share...
Thankfully, Jesus doesn't see our sorrow in a condemning light fact, His compassion and loves draws Him to sit with us..wrap His arms tightly around us...and anoint our heads with His healing tears as he weeps with us.  May you, your husband, and all who loved your mother-in-law so greatly...draw closer to Jesus under His cover of healing which He is providing just for you in your sorrow... it will be there you will find rest under God's blanket of mercy and grace and in His amazing love for you.~ In His Grace, Kathy 

So grieve fully my Christian friends without believing your faith is weak. But...please, do not grieve without knowing Jesus is faithfully at your side as well! He will not only listen to your cries of sorrow and grief...he will respond to them with the perfect understanding of One who also feels your pain.                                                                                                               

Even greater still...

Jesus is able to provide you with a blanket of tenderness to cover your sorrow with His healing mercy and grace, and the most amazing love that heals all wounds with the salve of Hope. 

Glory! How I love you Jesus!

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