Sometimes I’m struck by certain scriptures that give us a better, deeper insight into the nature of God. In grief it’s often so that a new perspective on a single word or idea can penetrate the depth of our emotions and get our attention spiritually. When this happens, we get unstuck - we find the inspiration and strength to move forward in our grief.
The psalmists paint some particularly vivid word pictures usually framed in praise and thanksgiving to God. When we grieve, it’s often difficult to feel thankful because our entire world lies in ruins around us. Most of us would probably agree there’s precious little that’s praiseworthy about death when the one we love so dearly is no longer with us. Yet the very fact that we survive and grow and live to accept our own changed life is reason indeed to be on our knees in profound gratitude to God. We give thanks for the gift of life, even in the face of our loss and sorrow.
Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am driven far from your sight.’ But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help” (Psalm 31:21-22 NRSV). If you watch television channels that focus on world news, you probably have an impression of what a city under siege looks like. Usually the scene is utter chaos, complete mayhem. When we grieve, our life becomes a city under siege – our world is turned upside down and inside out by the death of our loved one. We’re assaulted on all sides, beset by the forces of change and the insistence of others that we “get over” our grief. Somehow we’re supposed to make quick order out of the ashes and rubble of our lives in the aftermath of the death of one we love. Rebuilding a city that’s damaged or destroyed takes more time than we could ever imagine.
Hidden in plain sight amid the chaos of our grief is the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. It’s not timid love, reluctant love, or measured love – it’s wondrous, abundant, unimaginable love. God lavishes love on us every day, if only we will lift up our heads and hearts long enough to see and experience it. The visible and invisible evidence of God’s love affirms God’s tenacious, resolute presence in our lives. God’s steadfast love assures us of God’s care for us individually and personally, especially when we grieve.
For a while we may feel isolated from everyone and everything - perhaps even from God - somehow almost invisible, “driven far from your sight” because of our grief. Like the psalmist, we’re alarmed by this momentary state of mind and heart. We want help; we need help. We cry out for help in prayer. The wonder of it all is that God is never threatened by our emotions, especially the outpouring of our grief-stricken heart. God is trustworthy. God understands our grief. We express our trust and thanksgiving when we call out to God and ask for help, when there are no words except, “Lord, help me” (Matthew 15:25 NRSV).
On a walk in the neighborhood one afternoon, I saw a little girl tangled in a pink bicycle with wobbly training wheels. I heard her tiny, anxious voice cry out in distress, “Help me.” I crossed the street, murmured a few words of comfort, and helped her get unstuck. I put her feet back on the pedals and showed her the way to her nearby home. Like this small child, God comforts us, untangles our lives, and points our way toward spiritual safety and home. Though we suffer for a while, we are assured by the psalmist of God’s wondrous, steadfast love. We are never driven from God’s sight. God hears us and answers when we call for help. Like the psalmist, we give thanks for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to us always, especially when we grieve.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the faithfulness of your steadfast love.