September 8, 2009
Even Jesus Grieved
by Meghan Kleppinger
My seven-year-old cousin died when I was in the seventh grade. The viewing, funeral service, and wake, all of which were firsts for me, provided an introduction to bereavement that I wasn't quite old enough to comprehend.
Family members, I observed with confusion, were dealing with the grief they were feeling with anger, denial, depression, shock, and guilt.
I was confused and scared, and as the days after the funeral slowly passed, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt when life returned to the way it was before.
Fortunately, my cousin's death was the first and last I encountered until I was well into my twenties. This last year or so, however, has been another story.
People I care about have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and others have gone on to be with the Lord. Some friends were lost in tragic accidents and others passed away naturally. I've spent hours sitting in chairs next to loved ones in hospital beds, and I escaped, more than once from bedsides, to shed a few tears.
In my grief, I found myself as scared and confused as I was when I was a pre-teen grappling with the loss of my cousin. The difference this time was in the guilt I felt. I didn't feel guilty when things began to return to normal, I felt guilty because I didn't want anything to be "normal" again. I felt the stabbing pain of grief for those I loved and was frustrated with myself for feeling this way.
Christians often feel guilty about their response to loss. We think, as believers, we should handle death and sickness better than we typically do. Because we know Christ, and believe our lost loved ones did too, we should somehow be thrilled that they're in a better place. We feel guilty because we're not happy. We feel selfish because we want them back and guilty for missing them.
Dealing with the crises of this past year, prayer and study became essential. I began praying through my guilt and God began to show me a few things. Mostly, He brought the story of Lazarus to my attention. I read,
"Where have you laid him?" He asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" (John 11: 34-36)
It burdened Jesus' heart to see Lazurus' sisters in pain. He wept when He saw the body of the friend He loved. He knew grief. He knew the pain of loss. It was a comforting reminder to me that He understands, from experience, our pain and grieves for us and with us.
The eye opener that really caught my attention was that Jesus cried even though He knew Lazarus was only temporarily dead! Have you ever thought about that? Wow! Even though Jesus knew there was a purpose for the death of his friend, and even though the plan was to raise Lazurus from the grave, Jesus mourned. Knowing that Jesus suffered through this loss, as I have suffered, made me think about things quite differently.
It's okay to be sad and miss our loved ones. It's okay even though we know we'll see them again if they had a relationship with Christ. Of course, we need to cling to Christ and His promise that we will not only spend eternity with Him, but that we will see those we love again.
That being said, too often we hurry ourselves through mourning. I just think it's important to remember that it isn't a sin to grieve for our losses, but to remember that it is in fact an important part of the journey towards healing.
Intersecting Faith & Life: When thinking of our own lives and the lives of those we love, remember "When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God's love." C.H. Spurgeon