Grief has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s not something I’ve faced much before but it has become an uninvited guest that has chosen to sit at my side and follow me in my wanderings. Whether I like it or not, grief has come and with it have come new thoughts and questions as I try to navigate what it means to grieve, to hurt, and to long.
While I have lost people I loved and have grieved deeply for them, the type of grief that follows me these days is a different sort of grief. This is a grief that rears its head every morning as I turn on my computer or watch the news. A grief that looks at the world and the lives around me and leaves me choking with despair. It’s a grief that I’m finding harder to deal with, one I feel totally unequipped to bear.
It started a few years ago when I was challenged by a friend to widen the comfortable little sphere in which I live. She urged me to branch out and look past where I was and see the beauty and variety of the world at large, or at least, a little bit larger than mine had become. So I did. And it was harder than I expected.
For the first time in my life I came to understand what the writer of Ecclesiastes meant when he said, “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). I tried to understand the world, but I found brokenness instead. I longed to really see people, to listen to their stories, to know them, and love them, but doing so only made my sorrow increase because so many people are hurting in so many ways. The world is a broken place and never in my life have I felt that so much as I do in these weary days.
Loving like Christ was easy when my circle was small. But it’s harder now. I long to love like he loves, but that means hurting like he hurt—and I will admit that most days, that feels like too great a task. Opening myself to love means first and foremost that I am doing just that—opening myself. It means being vulnerable. Seeing others means first seeing my own heart and the sins and hopes that dwell there. For only when I am confronted with the depth of my own need am I able to approach the needs of others with compassion born from grace. I can love well when I know that I too am loved. I can forgive only because I have been forgiven. I can listen because I am already known.
I am slowly coming to realize that this is a sort of divine grief. It is a blessing, though a heavy one. To weep with those who weep is a privilege not to walk away from. To stand with those who cannot rise is a precious gift. And to act on behalf of the weary and broken is an honor I cannot fully comprehend. Yet it is a gift and privilege and honor I will gladly accept.
I am learning that the weight of the sorrow of the world is too great a burden to bear without the strength of a holy God bearing it first. And he has. He bore the sins of his people, he faced the hardship of this life, he drank of that cup, and conquered sin. He rose victorious. Grief may be a constant companion, yet I will take its hand willingly if it means loving like he loved. This sort of grief, I have found, pushes me to the feet of the Lord and then drives me to my own.
While I sit with Solomon in his sorrow, I can also stand with him in his hope. For in all things he saw God; just, loving, righteous, and present. And while I weep with those who weep, as Paul instructed us, I can do that only because of what Christ has first done for me. On my own, the brokenness of the world is too heavy to bear. But in Christ and by his grace, grief like this leads to love. And love leads to action. Through him we can hate what is evil and cling to what is good. Through him we have hope and through him we can love, serve, wait, pray, give, and we can rejoice in the most difficult of times. And yes, we will weep because it’s very possible that this grief is here to stay. But that’s okay too, because this is a good grief and when we sit to weep, we will do so with hope, firmly anchored in the Lord our God and then, in his strength, we will rise.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Garn is a writer, speaker, wife, mother, and a total geek. When she’s not picking Legos off the family room floor, she’s writing about everyday theology and talking about what it means to be made in the image of God. She has her MA in theological studies from RTS, writes for christandpopculture.com, The Gospel Coalition, and blogs at www.ElizabethGarn.com. You can follow her on twitter @GarnElizabeth.