Summary: Grieving healthily means remembering both positive and negative; it means connecting with others who can love us and whom we can love. In His own time God will give joy.
One of the laws of life is: To get something, you must give up something. To gain, you must also lose. We call that the tradeoff principle.
We operate on the tradeoff principle every day. When you go to the grocery store and fill your basket, they have the audacity to expect you to pay for what you get. That’s a tradeoff.
If you go to the regular grocery store, they bag your things and put them in your car for you. But you can go to the discount store, where they expect you to bring your own bag, pack up your own purchases, and get them to your car the best way you can. Now do you want service or do you want low prices? That’s a tradeoff too. To get something, you must give up something. To gain, you must also lose.
The issues of life and death also involve tradeoffs. There are things which we must give up in order to gain. There are prices we have to pay in order to receive. Our God has so created us that, even though we must die and must suffer the loss of those we love, there is also something to be gained. There is a rich recompense for the pain of our humanity.
That is what I hope to help us see through these messages, this week and next. I hope to help us see that God is working to give us something wonderful just as something precious has been taken from us. Even when we grieve our losses, there is cause for rejoicing. Our God is able to replace what we lose with something else. It is a tradeoff, yes.
Tradeoffs are a law of life. But I hope we can see that despite the pain of death, we can gain even more than we lose.
You’ve heard many times that verse, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." I’ve had my problems with that idea. I didn’t want to think about the Lord taking away someone. And I especially didn’t want to fall into the trap of supposing that every time someone dies, whether in a terrible accident or after a long illness, that we could just shrug it of as "God’s will". I didn’t believe in a God that cruel. And I still don’t. But I do see that there is something right in the idea that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. It’s the tradeoff principle again. We are going to lose; death is unavoidable. But, under the grace of God, we are also going to gain.
I am calling the messages this week and next, "Remembering, Reconnecting, and Rejoicing". And I am using a short, simple Scripture text, one which you have heard scores of times. But it contains precious secrets, and I hope we can reveal them together.
The passage is the little vignette, recorded in John’s Gospel, where they are standing around the foot of the cross of Jesus, just a few of them, mostly women. Stunned, I expect; pained, of course; embarrassed, for, after all, he died the death of a common criminal. And grieving. Grieving for him and for the apparent failure of all his efforts. Grieving for themselves and for the loss of his companionship. And grieving, no doubt, that such promise had come to such pain.