Shut Up, I’m Trying to Grieve

mourning-804579_1280Today I had the job of trying to minister to a woman who was grieving the death of a colleague. It has long been a personal pet peeve of mine that Christians don’t do a very good job of consoling those who grieve. Unfortunately, we’d rather offer platitudes and cheap words than deal honestly with death and grief.

I’m always reminded of Job’s friends. After Job’s astounding loss of family, livelihood, and personal health, his friends came to comfort him. They put on the signs of grieving (they cried, tore their clothes, and put ashes on their heads). Then they shut up and sat with him. For a whole week they sat beside him, mourning with him, but didn’t speak.

Today we’re so afraid of grief that we say ridiculous (and sometimes theologically stupid) things. We say these things for a couple reasons. Sometimes we genuinely feel bad and want to comfort the one who grieves, so we use our words to TRY to make them feel better. Other times we OURSELVES are uncomfortable with someone’s grief, so we try to lighten the atmosphere for our own sake.

But the honest truth is that words do little to ease the hurt when we suffer loss, when we grieve the death of a friend. Words and sayings do little to dull the pain. So I’ve stopped trying to say things in a cheap attempt to make it hurt less. I say we should embrace the pain.

Stronger
The Faith Will Survive

I’m reminded of King David’s famous 23rd Psalm where he writes:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me….

Notice that David never talks about God miraculously making things better. God doesn’t remove David from the valley of the shadow of death. David simply takes comfort and strength knowing that, even IN THE MIDST of the chaos, God walks alongside him.

Jesus told his disciples:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

We will go through chaos and turbulence. We will know suffering and pain and loss. God never promises to keep us from it. But we know that, through it all, God walks beside us every step of the way.

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If you liked this article, you might also want to see “A Christian Response to Death.” Please consider sharing the article on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or any other tech you use.

A Biblical Response in the Wake of the Oregon Shooting

I was asked to write a response to the mass shooting that recently took place in Oregon.

I intentionally delayed writing this time because I didn’t want to fire off a quick response without having time to digest the situation. Goodness knows enough bloggers and media outlets do that – I don’t need to lend my voice to the fray.

The problem as I see it is that many of the “Christian commentators” are looking at the peripheral issues rather than looking at the heart of the matter. Some of these peripherals include discussions about gun control and homicide statistics in the United States as compared to other Western nations.

One of my favorite jokes has always been, “Gun control is a steady hand.” gun-control-finger-discipline-tshirt-light-zoom

But these issues, while they might be important to some, are not the real issue. As I see it, there are two primary issues from a biblical standpoint:

  1. How do we wrap our minds around the atrocious evil carried out by this person?
  2. How do we appropriately respond as Christians?

The issue of evil and suffering in the world has been covered by people who have much more brain power than I do. I’m not going to attempt to re-argue points others have made. In a nutshell, what we’re talking about is theodicy – talking about God’s goodness in light of the evil and suffering that exists in the world.

And the world IS an evil place filled with vile people. From the dawn of time, humans have done horrible things to each other. You can’t even blame it all on religion, as some are quick to do. Even non-religious people are capable of despicable evil. The problem is the heart of humanity. No gun control in the world, no amount of intensive background checking, no “gun-free” signs can change the heart of a person. Arguing about gun-control doesn’t address the sin issue within us. Those who are committed to doing evil to others will find a way to do it.

Christians waste our time when we jump into the argument about gun control AS A RESPONSE TO TRAGEDY. This leads us to the second issue: how then DO we respond?

We cry, mourn, then shut up.

Job’s friends are a great example. After Job has lost everything and is even told by his wife that it’s time to curse God and die, Job’s friends visit.

Now when three of Job’s friends heard of all the misfortune that had come upon him, they set out each one from his own place: Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath. They met and journeyed together to give him sympathy and comfort. But when, at a distance, they lifted up their eyes and did not recognize him, they began to weep aloud; they tore their cloaks and threw dust into the air over their heads. Then they sat down upon the ground with him seven days and seven nights, but none of them spoke a word to him; for they saw how great was his suffering. (Job 2:11-13)

When we see people in time of distress we love to surround them with a bunch of words. How ridiculous. As if any words or any legislation could fix the brokenness we feel when we go through tragedy.

So just shut up. There is a time and a place for conversations about gun control, about how we legislate and enforce legislation. In the wake of tragedy is not the place. Let us rather come alongside those who suffer and mourn with them. Cry with them. Sit in silence with them.

Just shut up.