Thursday, November 02, 2006

the goodness of grief

Jesus tells us, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." What is good about grief?

Lately I've been grieving some deeply inside. Partly for good reason from my view. But partly beyond my reasoning, I think.

Grief is good in its place. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of being "the man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah). It is part of living fully in a fallen world. Sharing in its suffering. Weeping with those who weep. And burdened by our own falleness in sinning or being sinned against. As well as the curse accompanying this present life.

What I have noticed is that grief can be a good thing, a stage after which God's grace becomes evident to us. "Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning" (Psalm). Grief involves taking life seriously. Not that we aren't amiss in much of the way we see life. But our grief is still important, and God takes it seriously as well.

It opens us up to heart change. Because it involves the depths of who we are. We can end up, in God's grace, being deepened, so that we are not as shallow as we were before. This opens us up more to others, and especially to our God.

I am one who likes to laugh. We "carry on" quite a bit of our day where I work, in a big, loud factory room/space. I would probably ordinarily be characterized as a dispenser of humor and laughing rather than one who is grieving or depressed (depression, at least as I've experienced it before, rare now). But sorrow has its place. Doing its work in the heart, even when one can still laugh and sing.

What do you see as good about grief?

10 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

I just spoke on this, based loosely on the passage about the widow of Nain. So my answer to your question can be found at llbarkat.com ... it's accessible from the "New Box" and it's called "Do You Love Me, Do You Care?"

I was particularly influenced by Michael Card's insightful book A Sacred Sorrow... worth the read for anyone who's grieving anything. And, actually, though I wasn't grieving when I read it, I still loved it!

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Great post. Though, I think you should have titled it "Good Grief", but then again, people might have thought it was about Charlie Brown (sorry, couldn't resist). Again great thoughts.

Peace,
Jamie

Erika Carney Haub said...

I wonder about grief and sorrow as means of drawing nearer to God because they open more of who God is to us. Living in a poor, urban neighborhood among people who suffer a great deal, I find myself grieving often. But while it does prepare me for future joy and redemption (and help teach me to truly long for those things) I feel like it also draws me into deeper places of God's own heart. When I see my Catholic brothers and sisters on their knees in meditation before the crucifix, I know that there is something good in a continuing identification with God as one who suffers and is broken...

My husband likes this quote by Nicholas Wolterstorff:

“It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it means that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is his splendor.”

Allan R. Bevere said...

Grief highlights the profound nature of humor.

Thought-provoking post. Thanks!

Ted Gossard said...

L.L.,
Thanks for the link. Fine thoughts there. Points to me the goodness of grief over the space of our entire lives, as we work through it in faith. And thanks for pointing out the book. I mean to get his new record album with the same name, I believe. Great music. I heard him do some of its songs in concert. And I mean to get the book, as well.


Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

haha Jamie. I did think of Charlie Brown when I was coming up with that title- I believe (how can any of us think of "Good grief!" apart from Charlie Brown?!?). Thanks!

Ted Gossard said...

Erika,

Thanks for your thoughts. I do think somehow that often in grief one does sense more of a closeness to God. It must be at least partly because we are closer to the very heart of God. Good thought.

Ted Gossard said...

Allan,

Thanks for your thoughtful and challenging (to me) comment. I guess I've never thought of grief highlighting the profound nature of humor. Both are gifts. Both are surely needed.

Interesting how we can experience humor while in grief. Must be an indication that both have their place in our lives, from God. And that the humor is an indication that God and his will, will prevail. Interesting too, that I sense that a certain kind of grief at a certain time is really good, in that I am being drawn somehow through it closer to God.

Thanks.

JP Anderson said...

I was about post something very long and dragged out when I realized that I was coupling grief and suffering together which, in thinking, appear to be different things.

Also, what is the difference between greeving and mourning (spelling?)?

Good question, will work on it. JP

Ted Gossard said...

J.P.,

Mourning could be considered a category under which grieving might fit. Grieving seems to me to imply emotionally or deep down inside suffering over a loss. Maybe of fellowship, of health, of a dream or expectation, etc. Mourning in Scripture to me seems often to be about expressing need and entering into the needs of others.

But really, I don't see all that much difference. And surely there's overlap between the two. I don't know. Maybe you or someone can answer that better.

I do think there is a sense in which grieving is suffering. Though it is surely an outlet to express our sorrows and emotions over suffering or disappointments in life.

I have really seen grieving as a good outlet for me lately, a deep inward kind, not obvious to others, but certainly real.

Thanks!