Please don’t tell me to “Just give it to Jesus”

 

Please don't tell me to "Just give it to Jesus." Thoughts on Suffering and Faith. Liturgy of Life. liturgyoflife.com
Bo Bartlet’s Assignation

 

It’s true, I believe that all things come from God and all things hold together in Him.

I believe that in Him is perfect peace and that in the midst of agony we can find ourselves secure in Him.

 

It isn’t that “Just give it to Jesus,” is totally wrong. In our Christian walk we may have powerful experiences of  peace and rejuvenation as we surrender to the will of God.  But there is also a misunderstanding in the church that if we just pray hard enough or if we just surrender sincerely enough we will certainly be cured of our illness and our pain will definitely cease.

We forget that our Jesus wept tears of blood, He was beaten and crucified, He felt real pain and He continues to bear the scars of His suffering.

When we cry to God He is often silent and our burdens remain. Yet in those moments He is present, He sits with us, as we bleed, and vomit and scream and die. He is with us through suffering and because of Him we can endure it, but He is not our escape from it (we will look a lot deeper into this idea in our future books, please join us in a couple weeks when we start The Problem of Pain and then for Silence).

.    .    .

This week we wind up the Liturgy of Life Reading Group’s first book of the year, A Grief Observed. We have read of Lewis’ turmoil as he struggles through the loss of his wife and he doubts about the goodness of God.

 

Here in this last chapter we find Lewis still grieving  but at the same time he has found his way back to God and has a growing peace about his ongoing relationship with his deceased wife.

 

“Grief,” he says, “is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend can reveal a totally new landscape.”

 

He goes on to say,

 

The notes have been about myself, and about H., and about God. In that order. The order and the proportions exactly what they ought not to have been. And I see that I have nowhere fallen into that mode of thinking about either which we call praising them. Yet that would have been best for me. Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it. Praise in due order; of Him as giver, of her as the gift. Don’t we in praise somehow enjoy what we praise, however far we are from it?

Lewis describes peace found through suffering, and hope in a resurrected God. But he is also clear, there is no shortcut.  It is through suffering that he got there.

If today you grieve, or fear, or seek answers from God that are not coming, you are not alone.  You are as Christ was on the cross.  You are as every single one of us will be at some moment in our life. You don’t need to give it to Jesus, He has it.

Just as God was sovereign when the savior of the world was crucified, Christ remains with us as we suffer.  You will find Him, just keep standing, and know that He is standing with you.

 

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are currently reading A Grief Observed. We would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book.


The unnaturalness of natural death Thoughts on A Grief Observed

If, as I can’t help suspecting, the dead also feel the pains of separation (and this may be one of their purgatorial sufferings), then for both lovers, and for all pairs of lovers without exception, bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases; not the interruption of the dance but the next figure (C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed).

 

We gaze into the eyes of the one we love and repeat, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.”

 

It is there from the beginning, on our first day of marriage it has been made clear, death will one day divide us.

We know it is coming well in advance, yet death always strikes with a brutal and unexpected blow.  No matter how long our time together it never feels like enough.

The world of nature  handles it much more gracefully.  There are no tears when a bird or beetle dies.  Its body quickly returns to the earth where it eventually becomes a new bird and beetle, it all seems so logical, even peaceful.

Could we, as Lewis implies, follow this path through grief and come to see death as an ordinary progression, not a death so much as the next step in life? Certainly their are religions that encourage us to do this.

Yet nothing feels more unnatural than staring into the dark face of death.   Our wounded hearts scream and thrash as we long for our loved one, our souls cry, “they were created to live not to die.”

And this is exactly the Christian message.

 

We live in a fallen world,  a shattered glass.

We look at the shards and feel like they ought to make something more than a sharp pile on the floor but we have never seen the glass whole, we can only dream of what it should be. All we know is that something certainly has been broken.

 

A bit later Lewis goes on,

I wrote the other night that bereavement is not the truncation of married love but one of its regular phases-like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. If it hurts (and it certainly will) we accept the pains as a necessary part of this phase. We don’t want to escape them at the price of desertion or divorce. Killing the dead a second time. We were one flesh. Now that it has been cut in two, we don’t want to pretend that it is whole and complete. 

 

Christ came to show us the glass.  He came to defeat the enemy. He came to bring abundant life out of our severed bodies and wailing hearts.

We look for the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

 

This is on of my all time favorites. Sam Baker’s Waves.

 

 

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are currently reading A Grief Observed. We would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book.

 

To keep up with Liturgy of Life please like me on facebook or join our facebook discussion group. Or feel free to comment here and subscribe for the latest from Liturgy of Life.

 


An apology for every stupid thing I’ve said to someone grieving Thoughts on C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed

The first time I sat down with a family to explain a terminal diagnosis I felt my whole body trembling with the weight of the conversation. My voice stuttered, I felt faint. I can’t remember a word I said, only the despairing dark eyes staring back at me.

 

I am sorry for every time I let my fear take priority over your grief.

 

After several months of these  conversations I had learned to navigate them outside of my emotions.  I could gather the family, do introductions, make small talk and then squint, take a deep breath,  and calmly deliver the bad news.  I’d answer questions and then leave, pick up a package of peanut M&M’s, and move on to my next patient.

 

I am sorry for every time I faced a grieving soul as a robot.

 

Now as a mother the pain of the world is amplified. Sometimes my own helplessness gets the best of me and I can not quiet the impulse to do something.   I send a sappy note, talk too softly, my eyes too wide, and deliver a thoughtless cliche that probably feels like a punch in the chest to the grieving heart.

 

I am sorry for every time that I met grief with arrogance.

 

Right now we are reading C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed in the Liturgy of Life Reading group.  In it he describes interactions with his colleagues after the death of his wife.

“An odd byproduct of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to a bar as quickly as they decently can.”

 

Living among the dying is hard, yet it is a task we are all called to.  Everyone we know will die and yet caring for the grieving remains elusively difficult.

 

Death exposes our deepest fears.  We have no control.  All of the preparation and intelligence in the world can’t make it any easier.   Death dismisses our plans, our future becomes utterly unexpected.

 

I want to be someone who can stand with you in grief, facing the unknown world, letting the pain roll over us, knowing that trying to fix it is futile, surviving it together.

 

I know I will fail.

But I will not stop trying.

 

 

Lord grant us your peace.

 

Only in you can we live in safety.

 

 

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are currently reading A Grief Observed. We would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book.

 

To keep up with Liturgy of Life please like me on facebook or join our facebook discussion group. Or feel free to comment here and subscribe for the latest from Liturgy of Life.

 

 

 

Finding Right in Wrong Reflections on Grief, with the help fo C.S. Lewis

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear,” is C.S. Lewis’ opening line in A Grief Observed which we will be reading over the next four weeks in the Liturgy of Life Reading group. This is a simple book, it is nothing more than a printing of Lewis’ journal as he mourned the loss of his wife.

 

Reading his thought I feel a bit embarrassed as I realize that most of what I have called grief was in fact actually fear.

 

To be honest my personal losses thus far have been few. And though my heart aches with friends and family who grieve their loved ones, when I pause to think about it, as I sit with them, I mostly feel afraid.  Watching them struggle through grief my thoughts quickly turn to myself, “I hope I will not share their fate, I wonder if I would be able to survive this type of sorrow?”

 

I remember watching from a distance as a family from our church dealt with the illness and eventual death of their young child. The experience felt so entirely wrong, my gut twisted with outrage, a death like this should not come to a child so innocent, to a family so dedicated. Watching them I realized that nothing had ever spoken to me more profoundly about the reality of God in the world than watching them live through a grief that I’m certain I could not withstand, and still come through it  with their faith intact. It is the closest thing I know to watching the impossible unfold in reality before my eyes.

 

In this first chapter Lewis describes his grief as,

 

feeling mildly drunk,

a sudden jab of red-hot memory,

agony,

a bath of self-pity,

laziness,

desperation,

a door slammed in your face,

silence,

no answer,

the locked door,

the iron curtain,

the vacuum,

absolute zero,

endless day,

monotonous tread-mill march of the mind,

being an embarrassment,

deaths head,

like an empty house,

ups and downs,

animal fear,

separation,

Alone into the Alone.

 

It is no wonder that grief and fear feel so much the same. Grief stalks us. We live our lives on the edge of a cliff  waiting for our turn, knowing that the plunge into grief will someday be required of us.

 

And yet while we cry out for relief from all that is wrong in the world, we synchronously proclaim a quiet hope, that if such wrong exists that there must also be a Right.

 

Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life. Christ is this Life. And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely, the enemy to be destroyed, and not a “mystery” to be explained. Religion and secularism, by explaining death, give it a “status,” a rationale, make it “normal.” Only Christianity proclaims it to be abnormal and, therefore, truly horrible.

(Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World)

 

 

 

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are currently reading A Grief Observed. We would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book.

 

To keep up with Liturgy of Life please like me on facebook or join our facebook discussion group.  Or feel free to comment here and subscribe for the latest from Liturgy of Life.

 

 

 

 

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