This blog post was written in January of 2020. At the time, I wasn’t personally grieving anything, but the Lord laid this scripture on my heart. I wrote it on Friday and scheduled it to post the following Monday. That Sunday, the tragic news of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and their friends dying in a helicopter accident took the media world by storm. From there (as we know how the rest of 2020 went), it seemed like my phone was a harbinger of grief. “This person died from suicide. This person died on a ventilator from COVID-19. This person died of a heart attack.” One of the most challenging parts of 2020 was working in a nursing facility, getting COVID, and coming back to half of the population dying. As the building’s Human Resources manager, I had to process funeral leaves for many of my employees. I listened to the stories of their loved ones. I cried with them.
When I came to NextGen in 2021, I carried all of that grief with me. And then, Tuesday night, I got a call that some of my closest friends lost their dad suddenly to a heart attack. I tried to carry this grief with “dignity,” but when I experienced genuine Soul Care at the hands of my brothers and sisters at NextGen, I broke down. Because of your prayers, I could go back to my community and give the ministry of presence to a grieving family. Now, as a social worker, a significant part of my training is “trauma-informed care.” Because we deal with young people’s deepest needs and heartbreaking losses, we are told to be mindful of second-hand trauma and compassion fatigue. Some of you have not personally experienced loss, but you have cared for so many people who have (myself included). I urge you to watch for your soul by acknowledging how you have been affected by grief and taking it back to the only one who can carry you through.
I Well Remember Them
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
It can be easy to spout “right-sounding” scripture verses to one another in difficult times. Still, if we read them without the proper context, we won’t understand the depths of their meaning or their application to our current condition. The book of Lamentations is just what its name means: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping. It lives up to its name so much that scholars call its ascribed author, Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet.” Lamentations is a collection of poetic prayers mourning the destruction of Jerusalem, and most of it doesn’t even sound like the traditional ways we like to talk about God and the realities of mourning.
There are too many times in Christian circles that I have seen people dance around the messiness of grief. There is this urge to ignore or gloss over the very awkward and discouraging fact that a good God has allowed something terrible to happen. Lamentations remind us to be authentic about our pain and go through the stages of grief entirely. It encourages us to be honest about what is hurting us, even if we feel that God is the one doing the hurting. In verse 16, The author practically says, “God punched me in the face with rocks and stomped my head in the ground!” His writing may be poetic, but it’s not at all pretty. The picture he painted is of fear, anger, and desperation, the most authentic manifestations of soul-deep grieving.
But suddenly, there is a shift. A ray of light in the dark night.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
LAMENTATIONS 3:21-23 NIV
The author searched his mind, grasping for a blessing in the chaos and misfortune, and he found God’s love. He found consolation in the destruction and rubble that was his life. He found hope. And hope is one of the most potent forces in the universe. Without it, we quit, check out of this life in some form or another. But even the slightest bit of hope can give us the will to go on, allowing us to feel our pain but not be consumed by it.
Spoiler alert: the author keeps lamenting. Lamentations 3 is a long chapter, followed by another chapter… And another after that. Grief is a part of life, and seasons of deep grief can seem endless. I’m not promising you will feel better after reading this post or doing daily devotions or a Bible study. You might hear a message that brings lasting comfort, but more than likely, you will receive the encouragement then go back to feeling the pain of grief and sorrow.
There will always be things that make us weep, but I urge you to take them to God. Cry to God, yell at God. Bring God your doubts, worries, and accusations. Whatever you do, stay near to God. Hold on to God in times of trouble, and you will find small rays of light in your darkness. Until one day, you will find the darkness has dissipated, relegated to the shadows, as light fills the day and warms your face. Your pain will be relieved for the moment and be replaced with the purest joy.
That is my prayer for you.
But in the meantime, I weep with you.
If you are grieving, I encourage you to use the resources available to get help. Grief.com has many resources if you or a loved one is experiencing a loss. It can also be helpful to speak with a licensed therapist or clinician. God wants us to experience healing, and sometimes we need professional help to make that happen. Find help today so that you can process your grief healthily.