Living and Loving in the Midst of Grief

4w_mon_300x300_071513Last Sunday, a remarkable procession of 19 white hearses wound their way through Arizona towns and cities, traveling 125 miles from Phoenix to Prescott in order to lay to rest the bodies of 19 brave firefighters. Despite stifling 104-degree heat, thousands of people lined the route, standing in silence as the procession passed. I wasn’t there of course, but I find the image incredibly moving, especially considering what it must mean to the friends and families of the firefighters to see their loved ones honored in this way. And as I think about the grief all of those touched by the Yarnell Hill fire, and by the crash of Flight 214, whose victims were honored just two days ago, I can’t help but reflect on my own experience in living with grief.

Some people will say that grief is something you have to get through, as if it has a definite start and stop. But make no mistake, grief is something that you live with in this world, not something you get through. I don’t mean that to sound depressing. The truth is that we’re part of a world broken by sin, and that means that in your life you will grieve. You’ll encounter loss and pain and disappointment and suffering, and grieve through it all.

And that’s okay.

You can’t prevent grief, but you can live, and love, and even experience great joys in the midst of it.

A lot of how we deal with grief has to do with how we understand God. In the words of author Erica McNeal,it is our understanding of who God is that either hinders or enables us to continue to trust Him when bad things happen in our lives.”

As someone who tends to try to “do” to deal with grief, its valuable to reflect on Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God. That verse has taught me its is OK to rest, pray, and simply be in God’s presence as you acknowledge your hurt.

Last week I had the precious opportunity to spend some quiet time away at the family farm in Oregon. Mom and Dad passed away so recently, that it still feels a bit eerie to be there without them. But its helpful to talk about missing them, to do things that they would have done in their honor, and to laugh about funny stories, letting tears fall where they may.

Whenever I am feeling particularly overcome by grief, I tend to fall back on some of the first verses that I ever memorized; lines from the 23rd Psalm.

Knowing that the Lord is my shepherdhas been the key for me in dealing with the grief of loss when my parents passed away, the grief of disappointments, big and small, and even the grief of hurt and betrayal when my first marriage ended. Through it all I trust that God is present and working.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his names’ sake”. . .  “for you are with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

My foundation has been my faith in God the father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit.  That faith has taken me through times filled with grief.  Knowing my Mom and Dad are together in a glorious place versus the trials they were dealing with in our family and the weariness they were feeling keeping a large farm operation going, gives me hope for them and takes away some of my selfish feelings when I miss them terribly.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all of the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

This is the truth that carries me and comforts me even in the midst of sorrow.

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How do you live with grief? What verses bring you the most comfort in dark times?