Summary: Grief, suffering and loss are a part of the human experience. Although we don't grieve like those who have no hope, we do grieve. God gives us the biblical song of lament to help us express ourselves to God and receive His help.
A. One day a homeowner cut down a large shade tree in their own yard, but the tree was so big it also provided a lot of shade in a neighboring yard owned by Joe and Marylou.
1. Joe’s wife, Marylou, was lamenting that the landscaping they had put in that area of their yard was designed for shade and now was completely in the sun.
2. Soon afterward, one of Marylou’s favorite hostas died because it wasn’t in the shade anymore, and she was lamenting its loss.
3. Being the humorous guy that Joe is, he almost said to his wife, “Don’t pout, honey, pick your chin up and say, ‘Hosta La Vista, baby.”
4. Fortunately, Joe caught himself before he said it, because he realized it was better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing and end up dead like his wife’s hosta.
B. Many people who are grieving and lamenting wish that others would think twice or hold their tongues before saying something in an effort to comfort and encourage those going through a terrible loss.
1. I will have more to say about this later in this sermon and in other sermons in this series.
C. Today begins a new short sermon series that I am calling “Good Grief: Expressing Grief, Finding Grace.”
1. Sometime last year, Annette Warren allowed me to borrow a book that had ministered to her after Mark’s death.
2. The book is titled “Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy,” written by Mark Vroegop (Vro-EE-gop).
3. The subtitle is “Discovering the Grace of Lament.”
4. The book is the author’s deeply personal journey of loss and how he learned to lament after having a child die just days before birth.
5. Annette suggested that I might want to use the book for a class or a sermon series.
6. When I read through the book, I immediately recognized that this is a subject that doesn’t receive enough attention and that it is a skill and practice that all of us need to develop.
D. Let’s start with two words: Good Grief.
1. You all know how much I love the peanuts cartoon, and you probably know that this is one of Charlie Brown’s characteristic phrases.
2. But when you think about it, “Good Grief” is considered an oxymoron.
3. An oxymoron is a figure of speech that seems to contradict itself.
4. There are lists and lists of the things that are oxymorons, like: boneless ribs, fresh frozen, freezer burn, jumbo shrimp, small fortune, same difference, healthy tan, and good grief.
5. Why is it that those two words don’t seem to fit together?
6. Well, grief means that we are experiencing some kind of pain or loss, and there’s no way that can be good, right?
7. Well, let me say it right from the start, life is full of pain and loss, there is no way to avoid it, and so we are going to experience grief.
8. The question for us then is: will we experience grief in a way that is good or bad?
9. Will we experience grief in a way that is healthy and helpful, or unhealthy and harmful?
10. Not experiencing grief at all is not an option, but how we experience it and whether we are helped or harmed in the midst of it, does have different options and outcomes.
E. Mark Vroegop asked Joni Eareckson Tada to write the forword for his book.
1. If you know anything about Joni and her story, then you know why she was the perfect choice for such a task.
2. Joni begins the foreword saying, “When a broken neck ambushed my life and left me a quadriplegic, I felt as though God had smashed me underfoot like a cigarette. At night I would thrash my head on the pillow, hoping to break my neck at a higher level and thereby end my misery…My paralysis was permanent, and inside, I died.”
3. Joni continues, “You don’t have to be in a wheelchair to identify. You already know that sad situations sometimes don’t get better. Problems don’t always get solved. Conflicts don’t get fixed. Children die, couples divorce, and untimely deaths rock our world and shake our faith.”
4. Joni says, “After weeks in bed, I got tired of being depressed, and I finally cried out, ‘God, if I can’t die, please show me how to live.’ It was just the prayer God was waiting for.”
5. From then on, she would ask her sister to get her up and park her in the wheelchair in front of her Bible.
a. Holding a mouth stick, Joni would flip this way and that, looking for answers – any answer.
6. Joni sought the help of a friend who was Christian counselor who took her directly to the book of Lamentations.