Monday, July 29, 2013

Finding the Good in Grief

Finding the Good in Grief

Peggy K. Mack 

July 29, 2013

Last night I was watching television and saw the news of Rick Warren and his wife's return to serve in their church, The Saddleback Church, following the death of their son.  I remembered weeks ago hearing on the news their son had committed suicide at the age of 27.  TSeeing Pastor Warren standing in the pulpit, so broken and filled with grief I was stricken by the sheer power of grief we all must bear sometimes in our lives.   

Your level of faith does not diminish your absolute grief stricken pain.  It is the worst emotional, mental and physical pain we can know.

As Rick Warren spoke, he said, " I asked God every night for 27 years to remove this mental illness from my son."  He went on to explain that though he cannot explain why his prayer for his son's healing was never delivered,  he will not let this death separate him from God.  Then in a trembling voice he defiantly said, Satan picked the wrong family when he chose mine!"

In recent weeks Dottie let me know that she had found no way to celebrate in her sadness over losing her dog, Maddie.  Maddie was only six and her suffering and death caused by an annual shot made no sense.  There are deaths and there is suffering that cannot be made sense of in our minds and the reason in that is, it makes no sense.  Seeking to find some understanding only makes our suffering worse.  We grieve when we lose someone who is fragile and elderly and wants to die, but we find peace early in knowing they had lived good lives and truly were tired and ready to go to Heaven.  We have an understanding and acceptance.  Those two emotions help a great deal in our healing process.

The sheer agony comes when we lose someone so full of life or someone we have prayed for and know they are such good people who love God and they are taken from us. Their deaths make no sense.  We do not understand and cannot accept what has happened to our loved one and to us.

On the news today, I saw where a bus had overturned on an interstate exit.  A child, a youth pastor and his expectant wife were killed. The driver reported the brakes failed.  My first thought was for the church congregation and for their families, knowing the cry would be, "Why would God take such great people who loved and served Him with all their hearts?"

Mother and Dad died in their early 70s, both of colon cancer.  I had held them in my sad heart for decades with no understanding or acceptance.  I still had memories and questions about a young family of three from our church killed unnecessarily on the interstate outside of Atlanta on the way to a family wedding. Their deaths brought so much sadness to our church with seemingly no answers to, "Why?"   My lack of understanding lead to my turning away from my walk with God. God never abandoned me, but I chose to walk away from Him.  As I often told others, "I believe in God, I just don't want to talk to Him."  For 14 years I did not talk to Him and remember thinking how much easier life was for me.  Everything was going well for our family and life was so good.  Until it all fell apart and we never saw it crumbling. 

Dottie taught me so much about grievous suffering in one little phrase.  She told me, "I could not find anything good in Maddie's death and I know I am supposed to find joy even in suffering, but I just cannot".  I can't remember the Bible verse she mentioned to me that challenges us in the worst of times, in the most painful of losses, when we have no understanding of the "why", we are challenged to search for something good.  Is God serious?  How do you find good in the loss of innocents, in the suffering of those who mean the world to us?  The answer comes not in being joyful for their death, but in knowing, that in our suffering God will make something wonderful happen.  It may not even be related to the one we've lost, but it will be in God's direct response to our cries for understanding, acceptance and such deep sorrow.  He will come and bring us a peace which passes all understanding. It is simply our task, in our grief, to watch for the something good that will come from God.  And if we do, joy follows.  Yes, we still feel great loss and our sadness lingers for years, but we feel God's presence and we find a tiny gift that keeps us in our faith.

I realized this morning as I have said in an earlier writing, there is no good, no sense in the death itself.  The good comes from how God takes our afflictions, our grief and uses them to speak to others hearts and in doing so helps to heal our own.  For me, Dottie's comment was a huge "light bulb" moment or what we sometimes call, an "aha" moment. For me it was a "God moment".  I had this peaceful sense that God was with me.

My prayer for Rick Warren and his family as they fight through this grief is that God will begin to heal their hearts and fill their mind with peace by giving Rick powerful sermons for others to heal on how to survive the worst of times and stay close to God.  I pray that Rick and his wife and family will know of God's reminder to us in our grief to find joy in it.  I believe that it is in that joy we find the beginning of healing when understanding and acceptance are impossible to find. When the "why" never comes, in its place we find the tiny light of joy.  He is such a powerfully, uplifting pastor and my prayer is that Satan stays far away so that God can give Rick time to find something "good and positive" that comes from their painful loss of their beloved son. He's already made a commitment to fight for a better understanding in society of mental illness.  That fight may be the source of his joy and will keep him strong in his faith and service.

One of my statements that had stayed with me in conversations with others for years was, "I will never understand long suffering and death of innocents and when I get to Heaven I am going to ask God to explain it to me."  Maybe I don't have to wait.   Maybe God is showing me now, some twenty years after my dad's death.  I have never understood the "why" of his long suffering and death, but maybe finally, my eyes are being opened and I can begin to see the joy in my writing and sharing it with others.

Dear Heavenly Father,
We know that part of living here on earth is learning to deal with the death of those we love.  In those times when we are grieving, surround us with those who would lift up our hearts and carry us on until we can find our own way, once again.  For those of us who have returned to a place of peace, please call us to minister to those who are grieving.  It is in losing that we gain peace, comfort and a deeper sense of love from our fellow man and from you.  Walk with us Lord when our hearts are broken and keep our faith strong in you,
In Jesus' Name,

Irish Blessing
Author Unknown

 May you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone. 

John 16: 20 (Now Jesus said.......) "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy."  

John 16:22 (Now Jesus said......) Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

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