On the way to work one day last week something rather unusual happened – every traffic light was green. I can’t ever remember breezing along on my daily commute without the usual stops and starts. This small coincidence made me feel like it was going to be a good day, like I was somehow in sync with the rhythms of life. But that’s not exactly how the day played out - in the middle of the afternoon an unexpected aggravation put the brakes on the euphoria of the morning. But I managed to pause, laugh at myself, and turn the day around. I simply could not let a small calamity become a full-tilt disaster.
When we grieve life screeches to a halt. The death of our loved one brings us to a complete stop, at least for a while. We feel immobilized, unable to move forward, away from our experience of death and overwhelming loss. Yet even as we idle without clear direction through our pain and fear and anxiety, God is always present, “I will not fail you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5 NRSV).
And one day we realize we’re in a different place – our tears aren't as frequent, our sorrow isn't so daily, we’re restless to find a new way for the rest of our lives. In grief it’s normal to think we’re on the right path then run into a roadblock or some obstacle that shows us a different way. Grief is about lurching forward, abrupt stops, and occasionally slamming on the brakes. We try different ways, different paths to get a sense of where the future is leading us. It’s a bumpy ride, but eventually there are more green lights than red.
Many of us experience grief as adversity, especially if we feel that someone is responsible for our loss. It’s far easier to nurture our anger and resentment than to let go and move on. We want accountability, which seldom, if ever, truly satisfies our need for justice. Most certainly it will not bring back our loved one. These are the dead-end desires and emotions of grief that lead us absolutely nowhere.
When we’re in the throes of our deepest grief often we forget that God is for us. It’s a hard emotional and spiritual concept to embrace when the one we love most in the world dies. Sometimes the death of our loved one feels like a kind of punishment – I struggled with this for weeks and months after Leighton died. But as I’ve grieved, what I’ve come to understand is that God doesn’t punish us – illness, accidents, and death are not personal. They’re what happens in life, just not when we expect it or how we imagine it.
And through it all God is with us, God is for us. God reaches out to us in our pain and sorrow with a comfort so large and loving it’s sometimes hard to receive. God is good, God is kind. God cares for us – you and me. God never fails us, especially when we grieve the death of the one we’ve loved now lost to us in this earthly life. God directs our lives forward through the green lights of acceptance, peace, hope, and grace.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us?
Romans 8:31 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the affirmation of your goodness. Amen.