What is the good of grief? Is there anything we can snatch from the jaws of death? Or is it a final defeat – senseless, purposeless and meaningless?
My mother died eight years ago today. I remember feeling the sense of total defeat for her. I was still alive. I might rise from the ashes of my grief and find joy again. But she was dead.
My feelings contradicted my spiritual beliefs. I believed my mom was in heaven and in the presence of God. But I live in a tangible world. I could not see where she was or how she was.
The vision of her stuck in a hospital bed with a broken hip, gasping for breath, was my tangible image. What made my anguish that much more pronounced was that my mother was a fighter. I was used to her winning, to overcoming.
All my life I listened to her life stories and saw her meet obstacles with a winning, can-do attitude. She survived a murder attempt. Poverty. Intimidation. My mother could do anything.
And then she died. She lost. And I lost her.
My mother taught me to pick myself up from the floor, to overcome, and so I looked grief straight in the face and decided to find out what kind of victory I might claim.
But this Death was unlike any enemy I’d ever known. It sucked all the power out of me. I was finite. Mortal. It laughed at me. I clung to the infinite, immortal God. He had power I didn’t.
Five years after my mother died, I looked back at all the lessons I’d learned and all the questions I’d had answered and all the perspective I’d won. I found I trusted God more than I ever had, because he’d walked with me in the “valley of the shadow of death.”
I realized grief had become a doorway to God, and it may become that for us all. I wrote this in my journal that year:
Grief is so personal no one can quite meet us in the place it takes us. God doesn’t waste this moment. Alone with grief, we look up. In our pain, we look to and for God.
He utilizes the moment. We should, too. We should fully embrace the opportunity to find God. We shouldn’t shrink back. We should fall at the feet of God and allow him to take us to his side.
He is the expert on grief. On Earth, in the person of Jesus, he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” We feel as if our pain will destroy us. He knows our pain. He offers to walk with us, and even carry us.
God didn’t create a world of grief, but he uses its existence. He knows what the broken heart needs. He offers to create beauty from ashes and an end to the senselessness of death.
Death may feel like an utter defeat, even for Christians who believe because Jesus rose from the dead, his followers will as well. While we wait for resurrection, we may find purpose in death now, and yank all victory from Death – because loss will bring us closer to God if we allow it. What greater outcome could there be to our loss than to come to know the Creator, Comforter of our souls and Conquer over death?
My vision today is of my mother in heaven. She lives victoriously in a place won for her by the God I strive to know better and better. He shows up every time I open my heart and show him my grief. And miraculously, I find victory.
Have you discovered the good of grief?
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