“Grief is terribly self-terminating. What I mean by that is that in the experience of grief we usually look to no one higher than ourselves, that is why grief has a tendency to be self-referential. We feel as if no one has ever experienced this degree of suffering or loss before, which means that no one has ever been as alone as we are right now.”
Drew Buell provides this interesting take on grief, claiming that it is inherently self-referential. That is, it is self referential, until we can find a reference much greater than ourselves.
We often miss the enormity of the fact that we serve a God who understands exactly what we are going through and feels an undiluted version of our grief. He always knows exactly how you feel. When you lose someone that was closest to your heart, HE knows. When your parents decide to split, HE knows. When you are left abused, torn and tattered, HE knows. Sure, you could tell me your problems, and you are right, I have no idea what you are going through. But, don’t forget that you serve a God who does know. Take comfort in the fact that there is a God who understands and that Jesus has gone before you and experienced the fullness of your grief.
In the midst of suffering, we need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, or we will be consumed by our grief. We set ourselves up for destruction. As it is, we are physically and emotionally vulnerable because we are human- we are vulnerable to pain, to abuse, to suffering. Yet, when we feel sorry for ourselves, our mind, our heart, and our soul become vulnerable as well, and these are far more precious than any external struggle we will ever endure. You are to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11). If you don’t, grief will consume you. There is a reason we are to love God with “all [our] heart, soul, and mind” (Matthew 22:37). When we fail to do so, our grief becomes disconnected from our source of strength and our foundation of confidence- it will take a hold of us and destroy us. I will have grief, but it will not overcome me because my heart, my soul, and my mind are instruments of a God who has already suffered for me, of a God who is always with me and will never leave me alone in my suffering, and of a God who has already conquered my grief. The danger of our ignorance to the manner in which we deal with grief lies in this: there is a fine line between forgetting that we serve a God who fully understands and forgetting the very character of God Himself.
We get confused sometimes. We confine God by claiming he zaps us with acts of grace, forgetting that it is in the daily intersection of His grace and our grief that we see his presence.
What I find to be even more comforting than the fact that God understands my grief even when no one else does is that God understands my grief even when I myself cannot understand it. Grief needs a reference greater than itself to find purpose and to allow for healing. It is not about our disabilities and the struggles that cripple us; it is about the daily grace we encounter along the way.
In our grief, let us reference the cross, knowing that God will meet us in the depth of our suffering. Let us grieve as those who have hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).