Summary: Grief is something to go through, not hold on to. God’s comfort can bring us through difficult times and he certainly will do it.
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
September 5, 2004
“Dealing with Grief”
I Thess. 4:13, 14
Introduction: This week marks the third anniversary of 9/11, that horrible day when we saw unfolding before our very eyes on TV where terrorists brought death and destruction to the lives of 3000 Americans. From out of nowhere at 8:45 a.m. on September 11, 2001, disaster struck with such an impact that our lives have never gone back to the way we used to live.
Think back to that morning. Where were you when you first heard the news? What were you doing when terrorists brought destruction to our homeland? I remember just beginning our vacation. However, our van was in a repair shop that morning in Peoria, Illinois, when the mechanic heard the first report on the radio--the World Trade Center had been hit. The Pentagon has been hit. And another plane went down in Pennsylvania.
People have been dealing with grief experienced from the traumatic events of that morning--not only in New York but at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa. for three years now. Much has taken place in the lives of individuals as well as the rebuilding of structures and the shaping of policies to make America a safer place. We have seen successes in some areas and failures in others.
You might say, “I didn’t experience what they experienced that day. Even though I saw the horrible tragedy on TV, it was not in my hometown. It didn’t seem real. It didn’t change my daily life for the most part. That is probably true to a great extent, however, we know that at some time in our lives, we all face situations of grief that cut us to the very core. Normally we associate grief with death, but it also comes in other forms as well. Job losses, divorce, accidents, illness, aging, acts of violence, health emergencies and personal upheavals all contribute to grieving experiences. People in Florida have been going through the losses of a devastating hurricane. Now another hurricane is headed their way. What will happen next.
We wish that it weren’t so and we would like to protect our family and friends from having to go through painful and trying times. We can’t always do that because this is one of the realities of life that we can’t avoid.
When we view the happenings of 9/11 or the situations of ourselves or others, we notice that each person has a slightly different way of dealing with his or her grief. One person may cry uncontrollably, another may react in anger, and another may be overcome by a blank stare. Some may walk away. Some may experience deep depression. In the midst of death or other losses there are many different emotions and there is no pat answer that we can come up with that makes things better overnight.
Let’s see what we can get out of today’s scriptures that will help us in our struggles with losses.
1. Grief is Something to Go Through, Not Hold On To: Grief is a powerful thing and it serves a good purpose. It is a healing thing that is a way to let go of a lot of pain. But it is something to GO THROUGH, not hold on to.
Why are Christians not exempt from these sorrowful experiences? Why are we not insulated from it? We live in an imperfect world. Since the fall of man into sin, sorrow is an integral part of our lives. In Genesis 3:17 God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you, through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken from dust you are and to dust you will return.” This scripture shows that there will be snags and problems and sorrows as we live in a fallen and imperfect world. David goes on to say, “The length of our days is seventy or eighty if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow...” ( Psalm 90:10). Scripture says that even Jesus was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).
In spite of the fact that grief is a very complex emotion filled with sadness, anguish, anxiety, fear, doubt, loneliness, helplessness, and despair, yet it is something that we are intended to GO THROUGH--not hold on to forever. In one of the most comforting Psalms, David expressed this thought when he said, “Even though I WALK THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, FOR YOU ARE WITH M.” (Psalm 23:4).