By: Sharon Young
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary grief is defined as “intense emotional suffering caused by loss, disaster, misfortune, etc.; acute sorrow; deep sadness.” Mourning is the expression of grief.
We usually think of grief as affecting our feelings and emotions, but it really affects every part of us. We may feel things such as shock, anger, fear, anxiety, guilt, loneliness, helplessness, depression, confusion, overwhelming emotional pain, feeling empty or lost… Physically we may experience numbness, shortness of breath, a heaviness or tightness in the chest, fatigue, headaches, muscle tension…
We may not be able to sleep or concentrate on anything. We may have no interest in what is going on around us or in things that previously were very important to us. We may over-react or be hypersensitive and feel out of control. We may cry and cry or feel nothing at all and show no emotion. We may want to be alone or feel afraid to be alone. We may feel like we need to run away from it all or even the need to attack someone or something.
One of our first responses to loss is to search for a cause or anything that might offer just a hint of explanation or justification or meaning that might help us in dealing with grief. This search sometimes causes us to question our faith in God and our religious beliefs, adding to the turmoil and grief that the loss already thrust upon us.
The death of loved ones is the most difficult loss to recover from. All our dreams and plans with or for them come to nothing, leaving us feeling empty and forlorn. We feel as if a big, clumsy, fiendish claw has thrust itself deep into our vital organs and callously ripped a chunk out of us, leaving a ragged hole that we can’t imagine will ever heal.
We all react to grief and loss differently and process it in our own way and time. However, there’s one key element that is required of all of us if we want to recover from our loss. The key element in working successfully through the grieving process is action. Simply sitting back and waiting for time to heal our deep sadness and intense emotional suffering brought about by loss or death is not enough.
Mourning is a process in which we take action to define and process the pain of our loss, seek effective ways to respond to it, adjust to our new reality, reconstruct our lives and eventually heal.
Mourning begins with the simple action of acknowledging and expressing our pain. Job provides an example of the mourning process. Just like all of us he was busy with the day to day routines of his life-business, family, friends, religious, and community duties and responsibilities. Sure, he was aware of the risks of living where he did. He knew there were violent gangs and rustlers who attacked and stole ranchers’ herds from time to time. He knew violent wind and lightning storms caused destruction and death sometimes. He may even have personally experienced loss from these things or from drought or floods or infestation of destructive insects at some point in his career. Illness, disease and death were regular occurrences in his life as in ours. He just didn’t expect them to happen to him and certainly not all at once!
And when it happened to him, Job reacted just like you and I do. He grieved.
“Why didn’t I die at birth?” Job groaned in his intense pain. “If I had I’d be at peace now. Why does God prolong my miserable life when I long for death? I have no peace or rest-only troubles and worries. It’s impossible to weigh my misery and grief! They outweigh the sand along the beach…” (Job 3; Job 6:2,3) “Why is life so hard? Why do we suffer?” (Job 7:1)
Job was bombarded with conflicting thoughts and feelings. Like his friends, Job had always believed that sinners suffered trouble and hardships, but those who loved and obeyed God were spared. Job was confident that he had no sin on his slate that remained unconfessed. He was careful to never do anything that would offend God, but knowing no one is perfect he regularly offered sin and guilt offerings to atone for each sin, both known and unknown. So what was going on? Was God unfair? Why was he being treated like a sinner when he knew he was blameless and in right standing with God? Was everything he believed to be true about God, not true after all? God was his friend. But why was God suddenly treating him like an enemy?
He began to question God, and demand an explanation. He felt very confident that God was wrong. He examined and honestly voiced his troubling questions and looked for answers.
“I am sick of life! And from deep despair, I complain to you, my God. Don’t just condemn me! Point out my sin. You have not explained all of your mysteries, but you catch and punish me each time I sin. Guilty or innocent, I am condemned and ashamed because of my troubles. Sometimes I try to be cheerful and to stop complaining, but my sufferings frighten me, because I know that God still considers me guilty. So what’s the use of trying to prove my innocence? God isn’t a mere human like me. I can’t put him on trial. Who could possibly judge between the two of us?” (Job 10:1,2; 10:13thru15; 9:27thru29, 32thru33)
“Leave me alone and let me die; my life has no meaning. Why am I your target and such a heavy burden? Why do you refuse to forgive?” Job 7:16, 20thru21
From out of a storm the Lord said to Job: “Why do you talk so much when you know so little? Now get ready to face me! Can you answer the questions I ask? How did I lay the foundation for the earth? Were you there? Did you ever tell the sun to rise? And did it obey? Can you arrange stars in groups such as Orion and the Pleiades? Do you control the stars or set in place the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper… I am the Lord All-Powerful, but you have argued that I am wrong. Now you must answer me. Are you trying to prove that you are innocent by accusing me of injustice?” (Job 38:1thru4, 12, 31thru32; 40:1, 8)
Job said to the Lord: “Who am I to answer you? I did speak once or twice, but never again. No one can oppose you, because you have the power to do what you want. I have talked about things that are far beyond my understanding. You told me to listen and answer your questions. I heard about you from others; now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 39:3thru5; 41:1thru6)
In his mourning process, Job defined and boldly expressed his feelings and thoughts. He looked to God as he sought answers and effective ways to respond to his grief and loss. Experiencing God for himself helped him begin to adjust to his new reality. With his new, enlightened view of God he could reconstruct his life and heal.
God is bigger than our pain, disappointment, doubt, fear – and everything else we can throw at Him. I encourage you, my friend, to include God as you take action to process and express your grief so you can reconstruct your life and heal.
About the Author:
Sharon Young is a dedicated mom and wife with a deep desire to discover who God is and how to navigate this life guided by His truth. Mourning Glory, A Devotional for Grieving is a book for struggling through a loss and looking for comfort.