Summary: Jesus taught that those who grieve will be blessed with the comfort of God’s love.
There was an earth shaking boom that many of us heard yesterday morning, and the debris of the Space Shuttle Columbia has been raining into our lives ever since. I am talking about the emotional debris of such a disaster. The shock, the disbelief, the anger, the sadness, the fear. All the emotions that come with such a loss, with such an incredible waste of precious lives and hopes and dreams. None of us knew the seven men and women who died in the skies over our heads yesterday. In fact, if you are like me, you probably were not even aware they were up there. Yet their deaths fill our hearts with the same feelings we have felt when we have lost somebody we loved. And so we all grieve, we mourn, we suffer as if our brothers and sisters, our mothers or fathers, our daughters or sons had been in the space-craft.
That is the nature of grief, isn’t it? And we as a family of faith have shared much grief in the last couple years. We have said “Good-bye” to four members of our church family: Jerry Heiman, Nova Davis, Ellen Shomette, and Pete Gray. Members of our church family have said “Good-bye” to members of their families: Chuck and Ellen McGowan lost a son; Troy Wallis lost his grandmother; Linda Robinson lost her husband and David Hunter his dad; Hunter and Betty Wise lost a daughter; Troy Wallis lost his grandmother; J.C. and Colleen lost a nephew; Carolyn Maddox lost her daughter; Helen and Ralph Lacy lost a son; Joan Wilbur lost her mother, Buddy Trotman lost his wife; Judy Youngs lost two aunts; and, just yesterday, Joyce Ives lost her mother.
Grief is an emotion every one of us has felt. It is an inevitable hurt because death itself cannot be avoided. Yet it is not something we talk about. It is one of those subjects that we avoid. Our culture begins teaching us to turn away from our grief very early on. Although God gives each of us the natural ability to heal these emotional wounds, most all of us got messages early in life that we should not express those feelings. And it was from then on that many of us got so good at suppressing them that now we don’t even feel them. Until a loud boom in the sky above our heads. And then all our hurts and losses, all our griefs rain down on our lives again.
From our earliest days we were taught that sad, pain-ful or “negative” feelings were to be avoided at all costs. And if we were unable to avoid feeling them, we were not to show them in public. Most all of us have heard words like “Don’t cry, it will be alright.” “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” Or maybe even “Shut up that crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Most all of our tools for handling those kinds of emotions were de-veloped when we were quite young. So we usually are trying to manage the most difficult times in our adult lives with the limited perceptions and skills we learned as children.
Our misperceptions and fears keep us from learning new skills and developing healthier perspectives. That little child in us thinks things like:
· People will think I am weak, or immature, or out of control or crazy if I show my feelings.
· I shouldn’t burden others with my troubles.
· I have to be strong for others.
· I have to keep busy all the time.
· If I start crying I’ll never stop.
· I should be over this by now. What’s the matter with me?
So when we are hit with a shock like yesterday’s tragedy, and our hearts are flooded with feelings we thought were too old to bother us again, that little child in us wants to run away and hide. Or as a friend of mine told me yesterday, “I just want to do that ostrich thing and stick my head in a hole and pre-tend none of this is happening.” Its no wonder then that we try to avoid the subject altogether.
But a mature and healthy understanding of grief can help that little kid inside each of us not feel so scared or overwhelmed or lonely. When we understand that we are not the only ones feeling those scary painful feelings, when we understand that those feelings are normal, that we are not going crazy, or having a “nervous breakdown”, then we can see grieving for what it is: a god given way to heal the hurts of our losses, to celebrate and cherish the blessings and memories, and to redirect our lives in meaningful and hopeful paths to wholeness.