Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Model of Mourning

There are many kinds of grief. I have known many kinds of grief. I see people suffering under their own grief daily. Some embrace it, cling to it… make it their identity… refuse to surrender the burden to the ONE, the only one, who can carry it. Some suppress it, pretend it is not there. They suffer under confusion. Buried grief in the soul shows on the countenance of the face and is revealed through action… through our WALK.

I suppose in our culture, grieving is not a process we are good at. In any culture, mourning is not a process that will produce much of anything good without God. Without a place to take our grief, we are left simply trying to accept the reality of living in the fallen world. Without revelation from the WORD of God, we are at a loss to see any purpose or hope in our place of suffering.

I have a friend who lost her husband recently and she named her blog: Good Greif. That title strikes me two ways: First I chuckle at the thought of Charlie Brown’s exasperated phrase. Then I think, is grief good?

“Oh show me Lord the purpose for this grief that plagues me.”

That has been my cry for years. Well, it didn’t start out like that. It started out like, “Lord take this pain and grief from me. Help me… Heal me…” Then it turned into, “Lord show me the reason.”

I could give you a list of the things that grieve a person, but I don’t have to. You know your own heartache. Even if you have buried it deep, you know that you hurt. If you take a moment, you can probably identify that you have buried.

As for me, my grief and my season of grieving did not begin when my mother took her own life. That is the time when most would agree is the appropriate time to grieve. No, my season began when I realized that I had I had suffered trauma as a child and that I had an open wound in my soul. I spent a long season learning how to grieve what I had lost and pour out my burden on the Lord.

I think that is the point of transforming a worldly sorrow into a sorrow that brings salvation. It is all about WHO we are pouring our grief and heartache and pain on. I go back to Lamentations and to David the author of about 73 Psalms. The object of the lament is ALWAYS the Lord. If David was a contemporary song writer, he would have been writing some SAD songs. Like most song writers, he was working through his grief through his craft: music.

As a young person, I was always drawn to sad songs, so I suppose it makes sense that I would be drawn to the Psalms. But unlike the worldly way of broadcasting our misery so others can commiserate… relate to our suffering, the Psalmist’s grief provides what I think is a model for mourners.

David was suffering different kinds of grief. He was persecuted and pursued. He mourned the tragic death of many Godly men. He grieved over his own sin and the consequences there-of.

I think that is how my grieving happened. I grieved over wrongs done to me and senseless tragedy and then I grieved most bitterly over my own sin and the people I had wronged.

David poured his lament out on the Lord and yet in his grief, he was doggedly committed to the idea that God is good. Even as he accused God of forgetting about him, David reminded himself of the truth.

Psalms 13:1-6 says For the director of music. A psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (2) How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (3) Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; (4) my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. (5) But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. (6) I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Do you think God has forgotten you? Do you wonder how long this season of suffering will last? Cry out to the Lord in your grief. Remind yourself that it is God who saves you. God has unfailing love for you.

I think we are so afraid to say what we really think to the Lord. I think we are afraid to admit to God that we don’t think he is coming to our rescue. Let me tell you, when you tell God you think he is not coming to your rescue, you can bet he is going to prove you wrong. That moment of confession is the moment God will whisper to your heart.

I was speaking with a friend who is suffering with depression recently and I asked her if she was crying out to God and placing her burdens at his feet. She said that all she could really manage in the way of prayer was: HELP! This morning I chuckled when I was going over some of my favorite psalms. I saw one that begins with the word: HELP.

Psalms 12:1-8 For the director of music. According to sheminith. A psalm of David. Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. (2) Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception. (3) May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue (4) that says, "We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips—who is our master?" (5) "Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise," says the LORD. "I will protect them from those who malign them." (6) And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. (7) O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever. (8) The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.

Is it true that EVERYONE lies and faithful men have vanished from among men? Well, no, but that is just where David was at. He was oppressed and pouring out his frustration on the Lord. He even used graphic words to tell the Lord that he wanted those fools to SHUT UP! I can even hear David saying, “Well they were like…. And I am like… well God says he’s gonna get you cuz he is ALL for the under-dog!”

This last part of this model of mourning is VERY important. Whatever your lament begins with… and whatever you pour out before the Lord, it should ALWAYS be directed at the Lord and it should always end with either a statement of the goodness of God or praises to Him.

The place we deposit our lament…. the receptacle of our cares is the Lord.

Psalms 55:22 says Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

What good does it do to pour our cares out on people? They cannot change your situation or bring peace to your conflicted soul. If they are believers it may serve the purpose of reminding you of the goodness of God or the promises he has for you in your situation. But the FIRST place we lay our burdens is on the Lord. He may give you people in your life who will help you carry that burden but all the solutions come from HIM. We need to remember that: all GOOD things come from God. He is the one who sustains us.

If you have hidden the word of the Lord in your heart, most likely, by the end of your lament, there will be a ray of light in your soul. Just the simple act of heart-felt confession of your burdens to the Lord can turn your negative attitude into an attitude of praise.

That is modeled in Psalm after Psalm begins like: My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—(Psalms 55:4-6)

And end like: But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. (17) Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (18) He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. (22) Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (23) But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you. Psalms 55:16-23

Even if that truth we cling to is just a small morsel, it is a crumb on a trail that will lead to the abundance of God. David grieved the persecution he suffered and yet his morsel of truth was that God will sustain those who cast their cares on Him. That tiny flame of truth can spread into a circle of flames that will surround you in even the darkest moments on the path.

Even if all we can manage to say to the Lord is: HELP. We have begun the practice of crying out to him.

I am so good at coming up with my own feeble solutions. I will spend hours of my day trying to work things out and yet fail to spend one MOMENT of my day crying out to the Lord: HELP! I have come up with charts and strategy and all kinds of my own solutions and yet now I see that when I seek the Lord for answers, all the puzzle pieces fall into place.

Whatever kind of grief you have, follow the model in scripture: Take it to the Lord, pour out your HONEST heart cry, and then remind yourself of a tiny bit of truth from scripture. Then you can watch that truth grown and swell in your heart until it crowds out the lies.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I struggle with writing words about painful experiences. Are we not supposed to dwell on the positive?

Philippians 4:8 says Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Why broadcast my pain and heartache to the world? Has not the Lord healed me? Is there a basis for grieving in the bible? If so what is that basis?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 says There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: (2) a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, (3) a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, (4) a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

Weeping, laughing, mourning, and dancing… What is appropriate? When is the season? What does it look like to mourn? When does mourning turn into brooding? When does grief turn into bitterness?

My mind turns to the “greats” in the bible who mourned… the ones who poured our their grief before the Lord… the ones who lamented great tragedy and yet their hearts did not turn from the Lord.

Jeremiah was called the “weeping prophet.” He wrote a series of poems which are now called Lamentations. He grieved his own personal tragedy but more then that he grieved the fallen city of Jerusalem. He grieved the fallen condition of the heart of man. Yet through it all, he remained in the posture of a man who knew that all of the things the Lord did were GOOD.

The city was broken and yet that is what had to happen. It had to happen to make a way for the ONE to come and restore man to true communion with God.

I believe every tragedy we experience in our lives are making a way for God to move. Every heartache we experience is making a way for God to reveal himself to us or someone else. When I see God moving in someone else’s life, I STILL SEE GOD.

When I experience pain and heartache, I have a choice to make. I can either become bitter and resentful toward God or I can make the choice to believe that God has a plan and a purpose for my pain. The refining fire is painful most of the time but the purpose of the fire is to bring out the best in me.

What about you? Do painful circumstances in your life make you press in harder toward the Lord to try and get a glimpse of his hand in it OR do you dwell in your grief and become distant from the one who would show you the way to TRUE peace?

Where is the line between heart felt cries to the Lord and bitter lamentations?

2 Corinthians 7:10 says Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Godly sorrow recognizes that salvation comes from the Lord alone. Your sorrow, your pain over wrongs done to you should lead you to a place where you recognize that all men have evil veiling their good hearts and that evil is no respecter of persons. Evil does not seek out the guilty… evil seeks to destroy the innocent. The turning point comes when you recognize that you have evil in your own heart and that your sin is no different from the sin that the person who wronged you has committed. This Godly sorrow LEADS to repentance.

If you surrender yourself to the process and believe the LORD wants to heal you, you will see the Lord’s hand on your life.

Worldly sorrow is a perpetual carousel of replaying that grief over and over again. To dwell in that place without the purpose of seeking the Lord’s hand in it… to stay in a place of asking whys but not wanting to hear the answers…. That is a path that leads to death.

Do you want to hear why God allowed pain in your life? Do you want to know why the innocent suffer and evil men seem to prosper on this earth? Do you want to know why, if God is loving God, why does he not simply make everything RIGHT again? Do you want to know why followers of Christ seem to be dealt a double portion of grief?

Do you truly want the answers to these questions?

There ARE biblical answers but if you are drowning in a worldly sorrow, you probably do not want to hear the answers. Godly sorrow seeks to find the true answers to those questions rather than wallowing in a sea of bitterness and self-pity. And yet even in seeking the answers, there is still pain.

THAT is why I write about painful experiences because you need to have permission to ask the hard questions. God is not scared to hear your cries… any of your cries… He wants you to seek the truth in this place. He wants you to press into the hard stuff so that you can be healed. He doesn’t just want you to sweep it under the rug.

He wants you to hate injustice and seek to expose lies and proclaim truth.

That is what I am here to say: There is a wealth of injustice in the world. The truth is that God is good and he wants to heal you.

Lamentations 3:18-26 So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD." (19) I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. (20) I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. (21) Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: (22) Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (23) They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (24) I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." (25) The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; (26) it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Chapter Closes

Bones remember what the heart does not

I have to pause at this spot

The spot that I have tasted pain

Drown in pools of tears that rain

The echo of a song not sung

The image of beloved one

Whose hand forever slipped away

On that fateful, tragic day

A day not very long ago

When will these tears cease to flow?

The epic tale, this chapter closed

Marked the fork in the road

My loved-ones earth journey is now done

They reached the end on race they’d run

In this gruesome, bloody war

Dirt stained hands wanted more

We wanted all to make it out alive

No one dear to up and die

And yet this chapter’s tragic twist

Tries to pull me into abyss

Of sleepless nights and guilty days

Turning from the lighted ways

It tries to drag me into night

Or from this battle to take flight

Do I want the fate of those?

Who tried to fight our forever foe?

Can I withdraw from the fray?

Just be “normal” as they say?

I know I didn’t start this fight

Does that justify my flight?

Or do I have to stand and fight?

I don the armor of the ONE

I know the war’s already won

But in this battle, here... today

Could just go either way

Behind the armor, my body quakes

I shiver… I pray I do not break

I grab hold of the only weapon known

To smite the enemy it’s shown

To uphold the weary one

That’s what the WORD of God has done

I mediate on it everyday

I try to walk in the WAY

I know I can only cling

Of His GRACE I boldly to sing

And his praises loudly ring