Where is God in our grief? It is a question that has been asked everyday, in every generation, by hurting people in our world. What is the Gospel of Grief? Is there any better person to ask than a pensive person of faith who lost his young son? My friend Mike grapples with this question and generously lets us enter into his journey in his book called A Force of Will: The Reshaping of Faith in a Year of Grief. Mike brings us close to his pain and yet out of his pain grows a shoot of hope and a reminder we all need to hear. Because the Kingdom of God is WITHIN us – so there is God. God is IN our grief. God is IN our life – IN ALL OF IT. We can’t fix people’s painful situations and we can’t fix God for people. But knowing that God is within us now and that His power is magnified in our weakness, we can be present in grief, learning from it all that it has to teach us. We can be present with our griefs and grieving friends here and now. Here and now, we can see our weaknesses utterly transformed into strengths. When we move beyond giving out pithy statements about all being made well in a remote future, we show the courage to BE the love and presence of God for friends in grief and need, here and now.
“…God is always and ever right in the midst of our troubles.
sometimes trying to save us from ourselves
sometimes fixing our problems
sometimes causing them
frequently standing by like some indolent bystander
‘deaf’ to our cries of loss, our cries for justice, our cries of heartbreak.
When my son died, I learned that people mean well, but they say some stupid stuff.
They are trying to help, but their attempts only illustrate the irredeemability of the situation:
I might never see my son again
(and I wouldn’t want to hold him back that way)
my life will never be ‘normal’ again
(and that is okay– that’s my life now)
my pain might never be completely healed
(and neither might yours)
Loss of any kind makes us look into the abyss.
Loss opens our eyes to the truth:
that loss is everywhere, for everyone
without a discreet 5-part plan to relieve it.
But all is NOT lost!
All is not bleak.
Gospel of grief is that loss is universal.
Gospel of grief is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Gospel of grief is that YOU ALREADY KNOW what to do.
The KINGDOM IS WITHIN YOU, so pay attention to ALL of your life:
your victories, your losses, your joys, your heartbreaks
embarrassments, and your moments of pride
and your embarrassments *at* your moments of pride.
It is not all “good”, but it is ALL for YOU.
ALL OF IT.
Take it all in,
and find that your strengths become weaknesses.
and even more, learn that your weaknesses BECOME STRENGTHS.
You could of course choose to numb yourself to the pain
through all manner of methods and means,
but being dull to pain means being dull to joy.
Love and loss walk hand in hand.
In my case, I could callous myself against the pain of my son’s death
but that would make me callous to his twin sister’s life.
Dull to her joy. Numb to her happiness. Cold to her love.
Being tuned in to pain means being PRESENT to myself, and to my pain and my joy,
but also, present to my friends.
Our communities can be places of grief and joy, of sorrow and celebration.
Our communities can be places where we experience life, in all of its pleasure and pain.
Communities of trust and vulnerability.
Not places of formal therapeutic care, and not sad or insular. But honest and open and human.
Devoid of fake Sunday smiles.
The truth is, we are never whole. Riddled with mistakes, failures, and broken relationships.
Distracted with disappointments.
The truth is, these experiences do not make us unusual, or aberrant, or faulty.
These are common experiences; a part of our humanity.
The gospel of grief is that our un-wholeness is something that brings us TOGETHER.
Our holiness is tied up in our acknowledgement of our un-wholeness.
Of our embrace of our un-wholeness.
We in the emergence church are learning that our strength is not found in our power or might or intelligence or our perfect insight.
Our strength is not found in our certainty, but in our doubt.
In our wondering, and in our wandering.
Our strength is found in our weakness.
Like Jesus in the garden, overwhelmed with his own life.
Like God at Golgotha, utterly separated from God’s son.
Like Jesus at Calvary, utterly forsaken by his Father.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
A cry that each person has cried into that same dark sky since time out of mind.
You, and me, and Jesus, completely disempowered. UNDONE.
But the power of God is found in that weakness.
So wave your losses high.
wear your weakness like a flag.
Embrace the darkness all around you,
for the LIGHT SHINES in that darkness.
Know that, like the gospel of Home Depot,
grief is a do-it-yourself project.
You know the way to do it.
…or you will know the way, as you walk it.
The KINGDOM IS ALL AROUND YOU, in the darkness and in the light.
YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO.”
Mike, thank you for reminding us that, in our lives, even in our grief, EVERYTHING BELONGS. The Kingdom of God is within us, even amidst our grief, and we are not alone.