Peninsula Community Church
Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness
January 27, 2019
Psalm 31:7-10 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.
Today, we begin a new series. The reason for this series is that we have all been affected by the power of grief at some point in time. If you have not, you will. To focus our attention I have entitled this series “Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness.” Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at grief, and how God can use grief to bring us to a new normal. We will see how God can bring us to a place where can trust in His grace and His power again. To be honest, there is much to cover so fasten your seat belts and let’s get started.
To begin this study it would be helpful to define grief. Grief is a multifaceted and natural response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which there has been a bond or deep affection. While our focus will be on the grief that comes from losing a loved one, we recognize that grief can come from several different areas in life. It might be a lost job, financial disaster, loss of a home, a pet, and more. Grief is grief no matter what and everything we discuss here applies to every circumstance.
The question often asked in the process of dealing with grief is why does the loss of a loved one hurt so much. I think the answer is found in the fact that we grieve because we have loved. To love and lose is to encounter grief. Grief must be understood as a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away.
Along with our definition stated above we also find that the Bible does a good job of defining grief. David grieved on multiple occasions and he did not shy away from writing about his grief. As we read his stories, we find his spiritual, emotional, and mental condition expressed through the pages of the Psalms. He knew the power of grief, but he also knew how to navigate grief to establish a new normal. We are also reminded that Jesus grieved. He grieved the loss of Lazarus, His best friend. The Bible says He wept. He cried bitterly. I love that Scripture does not shy away from giving us insight into the heart of Christ. We find the one who created all things, and knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, still mourned and grieved over his death.
In this passage, David does a good job of defining and painting a picture of grief. Did you catch his description? My eyes, my soul, and my body are wasted from grief. David is saying I am spent. I have nothing to give because I am so worn out from my grief. I am consumed by the pain and agony of my grief. There is nothing left. Do you see his pain? Do you feel his anxiety? He is worn out. He goes on to say that his life is spent with sorrow and his years with sighing. Have you experienced such grief? Perhaps you still do? At some point we will all have an encounter with grief that is beyond our ability to understand or cope. David had such an encounter.
David knew the agony of grief on many levels. If you remember the Biblical account of Saul and David, Saul had targeted David and was trying to kill him. David had been anointed as king and now Saul was trying to do everything he could to take him out because of jealousy and fear. David grieved over the loss of his son when he had taken Bathsheba and set her husband up for death. David grieved when his best friend Johnathan died. David’s life was filled with grief and sorrow. He knew grief, but he also knew his Lord would sustain him.
So for today let me give you a couple of points that will help us understand the journey of grief. The first point is that grief is chaotic and it is more like a tangled ball of emotions than a linear process. There has been some research that suggests that grief is linear and moves from one stage to the next. Rather than being linear, grief is one big ball of emotions that impact us on a daily basis. While it is true we deal with denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance these are not stops along a path to healing. In fact, we can experience one or more of these at any given moment or any given day. Sometimes we revert back to the areas we feel we have already conquered and are familiar to us.
The second point is that grief is normal. Too often when it comes to grief we try to remove the process from our life. We tend to want to get rid of it. Somehow, we think we are different. Somehow, we believe that no one else is experiencing grief like we do. Somehow, we are deceived into thinking that what we are going through is so different and is not normal. But from the onset of our discussion know this, grief is normal. To love and to lose causes grief to come.
Too often, we try to avoid grief because we think somehow we should be immune to its effects. Sometimes we are confused at the effects of grief upon our life. A case in point is when my mom died 4 years ago. To give some background, my mom and I were separated when I moved in with my dad in 1969. I had been living with my mom and stepdad for five years prior to this. Those years had been very difficult as my stepdad was a very violent man because of his alcoholism.
Later in life, I found out that my stepmom had destroyed letters that had been sent to me by my mom. But through a miraculous set of events, nearly 25 years later, my mom and I we were able to reunite. God knew what He was doing because shortly after that my mom had a major brain tumor that required her to have surgery. What appeared to be a successful surgery turned into a struggle for her as she had multiple seizures, and quickly developed dementia and Alzheimer’s. I lost her again as she was no longer cognizant of anything going on around her. When she was moved to a nursing home I lost total contact with her, as my stepbrothers did not keep me in the loop. So for another 10 years or so I lost contact again.
At Christmas four years ago I received a call from my stepbrother that my mom was not doing well and did not have long to live. This was surprising because we had not had any contact prior to his call. I booked a flight for New Year’s Day to fly to Austin, Texas where she lived, but on New Year’s Day morning around 4AM I received a call from my stepbrother that she had passed away and that I did not need to come to Texas. They would not be doing a funeral service for her. Now to my point. Because of my separation and not being very close to her, I had often wondered how I would respond to her death. What surprised me when she passed is that it did a number on me. What I thought would be an easy path to travel turned into a difficult journey. I believe that my grief was enhanced because I struggled with regret and many other emotions. I began to believe that I was alone and that no one else experienced such things. But as I would later find out everything I experienced was normal. It was a part of the journey toward healing that I needed to process. So my friend know this, grief is normal.
Thirdly, everyone will experience and deal with grief differently. Too often we try to pigeon hole people into dealing with grief a certain way. Too often we tend to judge how people deal with grief from how we ourselves deal with grief. But here is a fact we need to understand and accept. No two people experience grief the same way. In fact, we do not experience grief the same way with different losses in our life. The point is do not ever let anyone tell you how to grieve. The fact is even within a family different members of the family will experience the loss differently. Personally, we will respond to different losses in different ways. No two losses and no two people will be the same. Each person will navigate grief differently. Therefore, we cannot allow ourselves to be placed in a box, nor can we place others in a box in regard to the way grief is handled.
Fourth, and this is critical, you can take your grief to God. In the midst of grief you do not always sense His presence. In fact, sometimes in grief God feels distant and far away, because we are numb physically, spiritually, and emotionally. This makes grief a difficult process, but we can know that regardless of how we feel; God is always there and we can take our grief to Him.
Stephen Viars, counselor and pastor, had this say about grief. “I can’t understand God as my rock unless I am willing to acknowledge that I’m feeling overwhelmed. To be able to talk to God and to other people in my life about it is an important step in processing grief with truth.” Look at David’s words here in this passage. David who knew grief well called out to the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress.
When we are in the midst of grief, it is hard to navigate grief, but never hesitate to bring your grief to God. We can do that because God loves us no matter what we experience. His love for us is steadfast which means it is unmovable and unchangeable. Additionally, we can be assured that God knows and sees our affliction and the stress we experience. This is not a surprise to Him. Finally, trust God because He will deliver you and help you establish a new normal in your life. Are you ready? Are you ready to take this journey together?
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom