If you ask me, a lot of Christians worship the idol of “Positivity.” They’re afraid to grieve and are self-medicating on happiness. Though I advocate no grim view of God or the practice of sour spirituality I just think that in our effort to avoid despondency, we have mislaid the healthy art of lamenting our losses. We pretend they’re not losses after all or that God’s perfect will is always done or that if we just wait long enough we’ll see the good in everything.
Mourning is nonnegotiable. It can’t be avoided in any life fully lived. The healthiest thing to do after losing something – and we all lose things – is to grieve. Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge and grieve their losses – the small ones and the large – is drowning in a river of denial, and you can’t dance while drowning. Continue reading →
You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul… I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. I have become like broken pottery. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” (Excerpts from Psalm 31)
Are you comfortable with the kind of emotion exhibited in this diary entry of David’s?
Is it OK with you that he, the “man after God’s heart,” felt anguish, distress, sorrow, grief, groaning, weakness, and terror?
Does it surprise you that he had days in which he was afraid to get out of bed?
Are we bad Christians for feeling what we feel?
Are some emotions bad and others good?
Shouldn’t we be happy all the time? After all, we are God’s people.
How could we have faith and, at the same time, be depressed?
What do we do with these intense feelings that we have at times?
Do we disregard them, deny their reality, or try to get rid of them at any cost?
Mourning is nonnegotiable. It can’t be avoided in any life fully lived. Mourning and grieving are identical twins, and when we’ve irretrievably lost something, the healthiest thing to do is grieve. Anyone who doesn’t “grieve their losses” – the small ones and the big ones – is drowning in the river denial.
Mourning comes first and dancing comes after. We don’t usually get to begin with dancing. It comes after the mourning is over – over for the moment anyway. So the typical order is: losing, then mourning, and then dancing; and then it starts all over again when we lose the next thing or person. This order is important. It’s not against the law to switch them around or anything – it’s more like against nature. Continue reading →
Does it seem to you that some Christians expect God, like a personal assistant, to keep everything on schedule and on an even keel? They might not express it that way, but their rush to hold him in contempt when Plan A is upset, delayed, or becomes altogether defunct, is pretty telling. To be disappointed – even temporarily – by setbacks is human, and leads us into the process of grieving our dead visions. But when the Plan A ship has sailed we are advised to find another vessel, preferably the one God had in mind all along. It’s called making adjustments. Continue reading →
I’m not usually nostalgic about my birthday. But the other day I was in my car the day before the milestone of my fifty-eighth, and on the radio came the Beatles song: “When I’m Sixty-four.” You know the one…
When I get older, losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four.
I don’t know what it was about “sixty-four” that made McCartney sing about it. Maybe he had a premonition that sixty-four would be a bad year, but probably it was just because it rhymed with “door.” Nevertheless, it got my attention and brought up some grief in me about being divorced and sick with cancer. I felt a tiny pang of sorrow (that periodically recurs) about the loss of the dream of growing old with my wife – children and grandchildren around us as one big happy family. Growing old at all is sort of iffy at this point, let alone it happening with the wife of my youth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked about seeing Jesus, but if I’m being honest, leaving here sooner than later has its nostalgic downside as well. Continue reading →