I have a friend, a former pastor and strong believer in Jesus Christ, who says for two whole years after the death of his teenaged son he couldn't focus his thoughts enough to even read a book. Especially heart-rending when you realize how the right reading materials have been so key to helping so many through the grieving process! The gurus of grieving tell us the second year is often even rougher than the first, particularly for the father. Reason being, he spends the first year taking upon himself the weight of watching out for everyone else's well-being, usually to the neglect of his own (whether he does that well or just makes a bigger mess of things is beside the point). After two and a half years, I feel I MAY have finally "turned a corner" and "gotten a grip" on this whole grieving for my son thing. Not saying it doesn't still hurt like hades every single time I'm reminded of my loss, or how utterly irreplaceable that young man will always be in his old dad's shattered heart. Not saying I'm "over it," or will ever be the same in this life. Nor do I believe that I'm "better" because I finally just "got right with the Lord" in this matter. I don't believe my heart went astray from God because I was in the throes of mournfulness and sorrow. I was as close in my walk with the Lord as ever, through the darkest of times. In fact, the darkness drew me even closer, just out of sheer despair "crowding me to Christ" through the very worst of times (Psalm 23:4). How else could I have learned for myself, “There is no pit so deep, that He is not deeper still” (Corrie ten Boom)? The Bible says Christ, Himself, was "a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). I, for one, am SO very glad I have such an High Priest who can be, and IS "touched by the feeling of our infirmities” (empathizes with us), and does not just stand aloof, impatiently waiting for me to get my act together and pull myself up out of that deep dark pit of sorrows. But what a living paradox the Christian is! The believer in Christ often is a veritable self-contradiction; a study in contrasts; harboring in his soul two opposite extremes of emotion in perpetual tension at one and the same time. Sometimes we may get the idea that the Apostle Paul was so spiritual, he experienced only continual joy without interruption. Au contraire, mon frere! IMMEDIATELY after the mountaintop exuberance at the climactic end of Romans chapter eight, Paul writes, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have GREAT HEAVINESS AND CONTINUAL SORROW in my heart" (Romans 9:1-2). The pinnacle of exultant joy, coexisting simultaneously with the very depths of sorrow! “CONTINUAL sorrow,” no less (what, couldn’t find the “off” button, Paul?)! See also where Paul asserts that the death of his dear apprentice, Epaphroditus, would surely have caused him "sorrow upon sorrow," BUT GOD, in His mercy, elected to spare the young man's life (Philippians 2:25-30). The phrase in Greek was used to describe “waves crashing upon the shore." As Levi Lusko puts it, Paul was convinced that only through the mercy of God, he was spared "a turbulent emotional experience that would crash into his heart like a tsunami." And sometimes, our infinitely wise and all-merciful, loving God elects NOT to spare the life of a young man dearly beloved. Cue the tsunami. Jesus, Himself, groans in His Spirit, and weeps at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:33-38). And don't we love Him all the more dearly because He did? He cries in "loud lament" over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). At the threshold of the Garden of Gethsemane, the Son of God "began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy, And saith unto them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful UNTO DEATH" (Mark 14:34). The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, "As the four walked into the garden, Jesus became noticeably distressed (from ekthambeo, "to be alarmed") and troubled (from ademoneo, "to be in extreme anguish"). He told the three that His soul (psyche, inner self-conscious life) was overwhelmed with such sorrow that it threatened to extinguish His life" (BKC, New Testament edition, p. 179). Neither Jesus nor Paul ever indicated they were in the wrong or out of communion with the mind of God the Father at any time when they were traversing those depths. Not to say there are not times when we can wallow in a self-indulgent "pity party," become embittered towards God, use our grief to seek attention and estrange ourselves from the One we need the very most through sinful self-focus. Where is that line? For that, I believe we can, and we must, rely implicitly on "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort." He is more than able, and is faithful to show us (Philippians 3:15), to "restore our soul," and to put us back on track. I can trust Him perfectly, even to "make my feet like hinds' feet," and to ”make me to walk upon mine high places." I wish every believer, whether their lives have been turned inside out by tragedy or not, could read Levi Lusko's refreshingly witty and insightful book, "Through the Eyes of a Lion;" AT LEAST chapter four, titled "Turn off the Dark." A lot of perspectives would be radically altered, methinks. As Lusko says, "Here's something you need to know: hurting WITH HOPE still hurts."
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