Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Grief

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 88:8-10
8 You have taken from me my closest friends
   and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
 9 my eyes are dim with grief.   
I call to you, O LORD, every day;
 I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
   Do those who are dead rise up and praise you?

I thought about the things I could write about. Grace, goodness, godliness each wonderful but I am trying as I go through this a - z challenge to take the road less traveled. To write about some of the more difficult things. Or to be more open about my own journey. I thought today that it would be better to talk about a subject that is painful and uncomfortable and as a result one we tend to avoid.

We want to sweep things like grief under the rug. When others are grieving we feel awkward and uncomfortable. We feel powerless to change anything. The person who is grieving sees that stand offishness from most people and takes it to mean that no one cares. They feel abandoned, forgotten, miss understood and unloved.  I suppose unless you have ever truly grieved a loss you don't realize it is a process. In some ways you have to go through the cycle of at least a year and experience how that loss effects the things you do during the seasons of the year. You remember what was, and feel the pain of it being no longer. How many things that you used to do will continue to be possible and even if they are they will be changed. Does doing them bring back too many memories making it impossible to enjoy doing that thing you once loved doing. This is a massive journey that a grieving person must travel through. 

I know my tendency with my own personal grief it is to lock it away - ignore it and move on. There are things to do and I need to be the strong one. I will tell you, while that may buy you sometime, eventually all chickens come home to roost. In the end it just prolongs the healing process. At some point it is important that we feel the pain of that loss of a person, a job, a dream, a way of life. Often it is not only the loss of what was, but what could have been. In those times of sorrow we often want to blame, we want there to be a clear cut why. We might go through a long list of "if only's. We think why didn't God just step in and fix or rescue or save the day. Why did this bad thing happen to me - and where was God. Why didn't he help me. In some cases He did not step in to help because he was not invited. Sometimes we have been so sure of our own means and it is only when they all fail that we realize we need God. We want to blame God for not helping when we did not allow him in or if we did we tied his hands by our demands that he do things our way. Sometimes like the chick hatching from an egg we need to fight through something to gain the strength we will need for the next phase of our life. This past year I have finally done a lot of grieving. Jesus is helping me to go through trunks and closets and to take down the walls I have built around things I did not want to deal with. It has been hard, and painful but as I walk through feeling, forgiving, repenting, releasing, trusting I am becoming more and more free. I am not so quick to dismiss present painful situations or to run away or just burry them and move on. I am choosing to walk through them - knowing that Jesus is walking beside me. Often there is nothing I can do but watch and wait as Jesus works.

My heart should grieve over the things that grieve the heart of God - Where has my heart become calloused, cold, un-caring or indifferent?

We have bought into a lie that wants to tell us that following Jesus is all rainbows and warm fuzzies.
That we will go from one mountain top blessing to the next. Yes those mountain tops are wonderful but there is always a long valley and a difficult climb between them and people often neglect to mention that part of the journey. We were never meant to live on the mountain tops. Growth happens in the valleys. Strength comes from the climb. Maturity comes when we go back down and help others. Faith comes from continuing to walk day by day, step by step with our eyes on Jesus.

Working together with other people brings out each others rough edges. Most of us duck and dodge and run away rather than do the hard work of seeing our own blind spots. It is easier to point out the blind spots of others. They are so obvious to us - why can't that person see the damage that ___ is causing? What we fail to do is to just be responsible for our own stuff. How have my actions and behaviors intentional or otherwise hurt someone else. I need to repent. I need to be humble enough to be truly sorry. The other side is that when someone else comes to me to repent of a wrong that they have done to me, I should not hide my pain - I should share it. We should grieve together over the pain and the brokenness, the losses. I should forgive - not that in doing so I in anyway am saying what was done was not wrong, damaging or painful. It was - I am choosing to forgive - to no longer hold it against the other person.

So heres the hard part - I did that but now a situation arise and the same person hurts me again. The easy thing to do is to stop of saying I tried, its hopeless. The wise thing to do is to admit there is something deeper that perhaps we only scratched the surface the last time. How many times must we forgive Matthew 18 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”  22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."  Before you get all noble saying you've tried - I'm going to tell you - try again, and again. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying one should stay in an abusive situation. Kingdom stuff is not easy to really walk out - the temptation is to say its too hard and give up. It is too hard - we can not do it without the constant help of the Holy Spirit. Invite him into your situation. Admit to him that you would like to forgive but you don't know how to get there. You are willing but you need Him to bring about a heart change that will make it possible.

 I have two dear friends in desperate need of Gods intervention. Their relationship is full of little wounds that have been brushed aside as no big deal. Now those wounds are festering and the poison has spred beyond just the two of them. Now their little wounds are infected and affecting those around them. My heart is grieving over this situation - I love them both but neither one can see that the problem is both of them not just the other. So I am seeking God about my own blindspots in this situation. Have there been times when I should have spoken up. Have there been times when I have failed to acknowledge and affirm the giftedness of one or the other.  Were there points where I should have corrected or challenged them to not just brush it under the rug but to deal with the issue before moving on. I have to ask the hard question of how have I failed these two people. While I can't be responsible for the choices that others have made, I must be responsible for my own.  Incidents that we often pass over as no big deal can like a small untreated wound become seriously infected and if not treated result in the loss of a limb or death.

I was sitting in my office thinking God who can I even share this burden of grief that I'm feeling with. In that moment my friend Karen called from Ohio. She says to me "Whats going on - God told me to call you." Thank you Holy Spirit. In that instant I knew that God was working. She shared a wonderful word as she prayed with me over the situation. It was a very medical picture. That God was doing surgery - and everything looks bloody and hopeless in this moment but God has not given up.  His fingers are nimble and he is working to get to the roots of the infection. The caution was given not to sew up the wound too quickly and even when it is sewn up it will have a drain tube to continue to allow it to drain. 

We can be too quick to try and patch up something to quickly eleviate the feelings of pain and grief. We need to walk through them. Jesus endured the pain of the cross, he did not avoid it - he faced it head on. While there was nothing they could do the ones who loved him stayed near by. They experienced the horror of the crucifixion. In the days that followed they tried to sort out what had happened and why. I suppose G is also for Good Friday which it is today, while I am writing this  post. (I'm a day ahead in my posts at present) On the surface nothing looks good about all that pain and suffering. The guilt, the confusion, to feeling of hopelessness and loss not just of a good friend and leader but of the one they were so sure was Messiah. I have heard more than one person say that they don't want to go to a dark and gloomy service. They don't want to experience the darkness or the grief of Good Friday. Ahh but we must remember that in our own dark times that Sunday is a commin!
I think it is important that we remember the things we have done and to remember how Jesus suffered that we might be free and returned to a right relationship with the Father.

Sometimes we need to be a witness to the life of another. We need to stand by them even as they go thorough pain, anguish, difficulty, loss, fear, hopelessness. We need to be a witness to say look I see your pain, I know God is working. There may be nothing we can do but pray and just be there as emotional support for another. We think prayer and emotional support to be little insignificant things but in reality they are huge. Often they are the bridge that gets someone over the canyon of hopelessness and into the new land of possibility.  It is a journey and a process. We have been so programed by the television to think that all life's problems can be solved in 30 minutes. What a joke, that we would hold our lives up to the sitcoms and think that we are such failures because God is not providing a quick fix in 30 minutes or less. It is in difficulty that we learn to depend, that we learn to trust, that we learn to remember when God has helped us before and to look forward with faith, hope and assurance that He has not forgotten us.

Dear Lord, You know the weight of the grief we bear. Isaiah 53 say
You were despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Lord you took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered you stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

You were pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon you, and by your wounds we are healed.

Lord, help us to not run away from grief and suffering. Help us to trust and to pray and to see that you are working even when everything seems dark and impossible and hopeless. You know, you understand the pain we bear. Thank you that through it we may in some small way understand the pain you bore on our behalf. Let us like wise be willing to walk through the darkness of our own suffering and to walk beside those around us as they face suffering.

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