Friday, May 10, 2013

Grief: Words just aren't enough

Grief is an inexplicable pain. When you see someone suffering this much, it makes you feel helpless. Sometimes hopeless. Sometimes it makes you want to grieve.

And when you're the one grieving, you oftentimes feel isolated. "Why does the world carry on, ignoring my despair?" Even close ones feel distant to you. Grief is messy. There's no classy way to grieve.

Nevertheless, it's important. Without grief, there can't be healing. It's worse to fight grief and to try to suppress it in order to stay strong. Caging this unwelcome feeling and always making the excuse, "I'll deal with you later." Will you ever plan time to deal with it? Or will it hit you when you are unprepared? In the past I've worn facades. I know they don't last. And it's even messier afterward.

If you're someone (un)fortunate enough to encounter someone filled with grief, what do you do? What do you say? One time in high school I was sitting at lunch with friends and the girl sitting next to me suddenly broke out in tears. She was a good friend of mine -- someone who later helped me out with my own pain. But when it came to consoling her, I had no idea what to do. So I sat there awkwardly, munching on my sandwich, silently empathizing with her pain. But was I helpful? Did she even know that I cared, or did I just look like another insensitive person, like the rest of the cafeteria? One of my other friends did the right thing. He went over and put his arm around her shoulder. That was enough. I was paralyzed with fear of what was right to do on that situation, and in turn, I did nothing. At least, not until I had an example.

Clearly words weren't needed in that situation. People often just need the presence of others. Even just a bit of confirmation that they are still human and that they aren't alone. No words we say are effective enough to stop the pain. But we don't need to stop the pain. We need to experience the pain with our loved ones, crying out together with them for God to help. But when we come to God for help, what do we say?

Again, our words can't express how we truly feel. There aren't enough words in any language to describe the situation going on in our hearts. But we don't need words to express ourselves to God. That's what the holy spirit is all about. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26, ESV). It means that the very groans or cries we make speak more than the words we struggle to create. It means that every cry -- even a sniffle -- communicates our exact situation and needs to God.

For a God that desires to "wipe every tear from [our] eyes," this is enough. He promises that "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4, NIV). It doesn't mean that the pain is gone now, but it means that God is working in this world to bring it to the place where this becomes reality.

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