Holy Grieves

For almost a year, I’ve wrestled with the question of whether it’s okay to grieve in church. If I’m honest though, it’s been longer than that. I’ve just been thinking about it in particular over this past year and wondering if it was okay.

Sometimes, I think I’m the most human person in the world when I go to church. I weep when I grieve. Tears come easily though I do my best to hide them, and there aren’t many people who understand when I try to tell them. So, I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself when people ask what’s wrong, or I just don’t cry at all even though I want to. And all along, I think I’m a terrible person because it seems like I’m the only one who needs to grieve, and God must think badly of me because I grieve so openly. As you can see, I internalize many things about grieving.

But, I’m going through a book during this Lenten season as I’ve mentioned before, 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. One of the more recent entries had the answer to my question, and I’m using two of the words in that entry for the title of my blog post, “Holy grieves.” The author provided the translation of the word Luke used when he was describing Jesus riding into Jerusalem. When Jesus cried at the sight of the city, He was wailing. Yes, that is the translation of the Greek word–lament, wail, cry–all of those words. He grieved for Jerusalem. He grieved for all its inhabitants. He grieved for all of humanity.

I read the author’s words and felt better about my question. We’re all familiar with the Scripture where Jesus weeps at Lazarus’ death though he was about to be resurrected. But, the other instances, I had never heard them explained so clearly.

We don’t do a good job though of wrestling with this in the church. The author of my book calls it “wrestling with the mystery of the Incarnation,” and I think that’s appropriate. We use words that are easier for us to understand though they cut open the heart of the receiver because we don’t understand the point and the purpose of grief.

Here are some of those words quoted directly from the author. “You shouldn’t cry, grieve, wail, or weep. God is in control. He works all things for the good of those who love Him…so there’s no need to feel___.” (Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease) I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard those words spoken to me or have spoken them to others. We’ve lost the art of just sitting and grieving with each other.

So, I wonder what I should do in church when I hurt. Should I weep and feel awkward and lacking in faith after I do so? Should I keep it all in and not share it with anyone? Or should I remember this sentence from the author of my Lenten book? “It is never weakness to grieve where God is grieving.” (Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days  of Decrease) Crying is not a sin, and grieving is not a sin, and I think I finally understand what God has been trying to teach me.

May all of us who are believers grieve authentically knowing that our Lord and Savior grieves with us. Praise God that “holy grieves!”

God bless you all!

Transparency

This word has different definitions and different contexts in which it can be used. There is a TV show I like to watch where the main character has traveled from the future. I always get a kick out of watching the episode where she thinks the future technology of transparency has already been developed, but the other character is using the word in the context of honest business practices. It shows the need for us to be careful in our word usage and to make sure the other person knows what we mean when we’re speaking.

With that being said, I want to define the word before I go any further. The first definition is the more scientific of the two. From Merriam-Webster.com, transparency means “having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly or sheer enough to be seen through.” It doesn’t really apply to my topic, but I wanted you to know the difference. Here is the second definition from the same website. Transparent means to be “free from pretense or deceit; easily detected or seen through; readily understood or characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.”

The second definition is the one I want to discuss today. To be “free from pretense or deceit.” I’m pretty sure that’s how God wants us to act in our churches. If I didn’t know for sure,  I would refer to Leviticus 19:11. “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” I would also refer to Colossians 3:9-10. “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

These verses seal the deal for me. We should be honest with our Christian brothers and sisters. We should be free of pretense. But, we’re not. For two reasons. One, we’re all sinners, and two, we’re uncomfortable with the hard emotions. It’s fine and dandy when someone is happy and joyful, but when someone is sad or angry, we try to avoid the emotion as much as possible even though those emotions are just as valid as the first two are. We are uncomfortable around hard emotions and don’t want to deal with them. Yes, there are some people who are compassionate, but I think the same philosophy applies. We aren’t sure how to sit with people in the hard emotions and hold them up like I think God commands us to.

So, what that means is, people who experience hard emotions aren’t willing to be vulnerable around others because they know people are uncomfortable with their sadness. It’s why people put up shields at church and pretend that everything is ok when it’s not. We don’t know how to handle sadness, conflict, or anger. I saw a wonderful quote by Brennan Manning (Thank you, Encounter Ministries for posting it.) which talks about this. “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.”

I don’t do that naturally though because I know it makes people feel awkward. It’s more like I’m driven to it through things which are happening in my life, and even then, I don’t know how to reply to the person who comes to me in my tears. The Christian books I read don’t help either. For the most part, they say we are to be strong in the Lord and to show His joy. While I don’t disagree with this, what happens when there are tears or hard emotions? When or how are we supposed to show them?

I think the answers lie in the words I quoted earlier and in several places in Scripture. I won’t quote them all because there are way too many, but, in summary, God wants us to be transparent before Him. That makes tears just as appropriate as joy. In fact, if we didn’t cry, there would be no tears to wipe away as it says in Isaiah 25:8. “he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to when I get to heaven — to know for sure that my sorrows were just as valid to Jesus as my joys were.

I want to be transparent before my Lord and Savior now though. I want to be the person who doesn’t wear a false face and who doesn’t pretend. I believe that’s what God has called us to–all of us, and I want to reflect that in my walk with Him.  Praying we can all be transparent with our Lord and Savior!

May God bless you all today!

God's Tears

The inspiration for this post began last week. I subscribe to several devotional emails as I’m sure some of you do. I received one of those on Thursday, and it was eye-opening. It spoke of how our churches have lost the art of lament and contained an excerpt of a book entitled No More Faking Fine. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I do pretty well with the written word when I communicate what is going on in my life, but not so well with the spoken one. In fact, if you know me in person, faking fine is something I can do quite well, and if it gets to the point where I can’t fake fine anymore, I feel very awkward talking about what’s going on.

So, I decided this book was a necessary purchase for me and have begun reading it. I will review it when I’m done so I’m not going to go into any of the details yet. Finding out about the book was just a springboard for this post.

Anyway, for the last several posts, I have talked about what is going on with my husband (no news yet as to what it is) and relating it to my faith. The last few years have been hard, and this time has been particularly hard.

Fast forward to this morning. I had to get up very early to take my younger son up to the church for a hiking trip he was going on with his youth group. It was so early that I watched it get lighter and lighter as I waited for the bus to leave. When I got back home, it was still early so I decided to take my chair and sit outside and write in my journal. It began raining as I wrote. I wrote a half page, a full-page, and then stopped when I was on the second page. I watched the rain come down and remembered the Scripture I had read in the devotion. I know God has many purposes for rain, but at that point, the only thing I could think of was that God was crying. Expressing grief at all that I’ve had and will have to go through. Crying on my behalf. There’s not a lot of people who will do that. Oh, they will try to sympathize, and maybe one or two will empathize, but mostly, I cry alone. But, that’s not true. I don’t cry alone. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some Scriptures.

Genesis 6:5-6 says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved.” Grief–sure sounds like crying to me.

The Holy Spirit also grieves. From Isaiah 63:10: “Yet they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.” Yes, there’s another example.

And finally, the one we’re all the most likely to be familiar with. The shortest verse in the Bible. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” We look at that verse and say, “Oh how nice, He was mourning the loss of his friend even though He was about to resurrect Him from the dead.” But, we don’t translate that to today’s church. People are made to feel awkward if they share their pain at church, if they answer the question of ‘How are you?’ with nothing but fine. I feel awkward too, but I have come to realize that I might be a pioneer in my own circle. I’ll speak more of this once I’ve finished reading the book, but God wants us to be sad with him as well as happy. He wants all of us because He loves all of us, and we all need to realize that.

But, back to the rain. God was crying with me. It brought an inexplicable peace to my heart. A peace that passes understanding. The peace that is described in John 14:27. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” It has been one of my favorite verses for a long time.

So, I grieved, and then I had peace. I think there might be something to this “not faking fine”. More thoughts when I am done with the book. In the meantime, I pray for the peace that passes understanding for all of you.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Total Surrender

Topics and titles for this blog come to me sometimes through situations I’ve gone through or am going through, questions I have about those situations, and dreams. Today’s topic comes from all three. I woke up this morning with a strong sense of guilt about something that happened on Sunday and whether that meant I hadn’t totally surrendered my life to Christ so I thought I needed to explore what total surrender meant and how it related to my situation and the guilt I was feeling.

First, the topic of total surrender. There are two verses which,I believe, demonstrate this well. The one I’m sure we’ve all read is one I read from when I first came to faith in Christ. That verse is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Another one is Romans 12:2. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” And this verse, especially, related to the questions I have because it spelled out pretty clearly what I had always believed surrendering to Christ meant.  If we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, we’re supposed to let him have control over everything–to let Him direct all the parts of our lives. That’s a hard one for us humans. Giving up control. It’s something I have to work on daily.

And that brings me to the question that is related to the guilt I’m feeling. If I have to cry about something, does that mean I haven’t totally surrendered my life to Christ? Yes, I broke down on Sunday. I had gotten to the point where I had to. Last week, my husband spent three days in the hospital with possible heart related issues, and I had to be the strong one. The one who didn’t break. The one who was always encouraging. It got to me after a while especially when people were making comments on how strong I was. So, I broke down on Sunday and went up when the service was over so I could have someone pray over me. Now, I feel guilty about it because I feel like I shouldn’t have, shouldn’t have had to cry, because I’m supposed to have the peace of Christ in me.

I know God gave us tear ducts, and I praise Him for that, but I rarely see anyone else in the church cry. Does that mean they’re better Christians than I am? I don’t know. Does that mean they’ve totally surrendered more than I have? I don’t know that either. I guess these are…theological questions. Maybe my pastor could answer them. Not sure I want to ask him though.

I think I need to trust God–to take Proverbs 3:5-6 to heart. To know that He is directing my paths because I trust in Him and acknowledge Him. And to also know that He made tear ducts for a reason and just because I use them doesn’t mean He loves me any less. Thank you, God, for this truth!

God’s blessings on all of you today!