Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Good Grief!

Someone close to me recently lost a cousin to cancer. It was a multi-whammy for her, since she herself was just decreed "in remission" from a different type of cancer, but more so because she had been very close to this cousin for most of her life.

The thing that surprised me, though, is that she was afraid of admitting that she was grieving!

It seems that a particular church (for which I have little respect, based on what she had been taught there for too many years) shamed those who actually didn't "celebrate" when a child of God passed away. Grief, it seemed, was either a sin, or something not to be felt by a Christian.

I have no idea where they got that bit of theological illogic, but it certainly wasn't from a thorough reading of Scripture.

Consider †his: if Jesus did something, it's nothing that should bring shame.

So when did Jesus grieve?

The shortest verse in the Bible, in just about all English translations of which I am aware, is John 11:35. Even the usually-wordy Amplified Bible keeps it at 2 words. (If you're interested, Bible Gateway can show you how all of its English translations render this one verse.) "Jesus wept." Simple enough. But why did He weep? The full story is found in John 11:1-44. This is the story of Lazarus, brother to Mary and Martha, a family that was near and dear to Jesus' heart even though they weren't part of his traveling band. You probably know the story. Lazarus had died, Jesus chose to wait to go there, and when He did, He brought Lazarus back to life, making his name synonymous with restoration of life.

Jesus wept!

Why did Jesus do that? "Certainly" it couldn't have been because His friend was dead. After all, He seemed to know that He was going there to restore him to life. Perhaps it was due to the strong feelings of his sisters and other friends, including the one that came to bring Jesus to them.

Or maybe it's the obvious answer: Jesus grieved for his friend.

Sound wrong? Too bad. We're not to judge what the Bible says based on our own preconceived ideas. One of the reasons I started this blog was to challenge those preconceived ideas that don't really match what Scripture says. This is one of the big ones, though I pray it's not as common as I fear it is.

 Christians are called to joy, but that doesn't mean insane laughter or happiness or any of the other bits of garbage emotionally-driven churches try to push. There are times of sadness. There are times of grief. There are times of trial and emotional depression. There are even times of anxiety and distress. Jesus went through all of these. Why do we think we won't? Why do we think we shouldn't?

Grief is normal. Grief is even healthy. There should be no shame accepted or poured on those who grieve the loss of a Christian. Even though we know we will see them again, the forced separation that will remain for the rest of our own lives is not a situation we can just push aside. As temporary as it is for Christians, the separation caused by death is the second greatest separation we can experience. (The first is when God isn't in us or the loved one, making the separation eternal.) Consider †his: death is not a separation we were intended to endure. Such separation came about because of sin. Sin causes even greater grief, in more ways than one.

So don't put shame on those who grieve. Put the shame on those who reject grief and those who grieve.
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