“My son, my son, I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”-Aslan, The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
When I was in high school, one of the girls in our youth group lost her father in a tragic accident. Michael and Monica got a group of us together and drove us over to her house to express our condolences. Lacking the words to say, we all hugged her and just spent time with her. We sat with her at the visitation, offering as much support as we could.
I remember Michael telling us that when loved ones are lost, the funeral is not the hard part. The hard part is when the funeral is over. When the casserole dishes stop coming. When the dust settles and life has to go on even though it seems impossible that it should. He encouraged us to not stop pursuing those who are grieving once the funeral is over. In word and example, he taught us to pour the hope of the Gospel into a lost and hurting world.
Little did I know I would one day seek to apply his advice to the loss of him and his precious family. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on the way the Church responds to grief. Often people rush to speak, as if words can suffice. We repeat phrases like, “Praise God we know they’re in heaven.” Or, “God has a plan!” While those things are true and good, they don’t lessen the hurt. They don’t fill the void left by the Cruce family. It’s almost as if we don’t believe that we as Christians are allowed to be sad.
In John 11, we see a powerful glimpse of Christ’s response to our grief:
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.35 Jesus wept.
We can discern that Jesus wept for any number of reasons. (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/why-jesus-wept) The point is that He did weep. He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus. He knew that death would be conquered by his own death and resurrection. He knew that His father would ultimately be victorious. If Jesus in His sovereignty and His complete and total reliance on God has the freedom to grieve, we have it too.
God is good. They are still gone. We are still hurting. It seems inconceivable that these things are all simultaneously true, but they are. Solomon in his infinite wisdom noted that there is “a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3) As we wake each day to face the reality of our circumstances again, there will be days we mourn. But there will also be days we dance. May God grant us the courage to both with grace.