June 26, 2012

The Space Between Grieving and Despair

My Dad died a few months ago. I took care of him through a prolonged, painful, extended suffering and watched him die slowly in front of me. I also preached his celebration service (link here, more posts to come on this).

From my very personal and real experience of suffering and death, there is something that I as a Christian must wrestle with, a spiritual no-man's land that anyone can fall into when suffering. This is the space between grieving and despair. 

Let me explain. 

Mourning/grieving is good. It's cathartic. It's human and it's necessary. Jesus designed us this way to express and feel as He expresses and feels. The Bible says we are made in God's image, and grieving loss is actually part of how we reflect His character. 

But it is important to note that our grieving turns into despair when it stops focusing on Jesus in our loss to solely on the loss apart from Him. That happened to me the day after my Dad died and I recognized that despair immediately. I had transitioned from grieving and mourning the amazing Dad I had, to slipping into a despair of life itself.

This shift happens when the source of our hope moves in the grieving heart from Jesus to these lost relationships. Unknowingly, our heart will seek to shift away from the hope of Jesus, and rest in experiences that will never happen, conversations that will never again be spoken, and regrets that will never be reversed. 

Frankly, I had never experienced a despair like that before and it was scary. But I started to meditate on Jesus, what He looked like, how He talked...simply meditating on the person of Christ. When I did, He shared with me a vision of heaven and of my Dad worshiping at Jesus' throne. It was a beautiful, spiritual vision that infused hope back in, and moved from despair back to grief and mourning. 

Despair ignores Jesus in the mourning and grieving. It produces hopelessness. 

Grieving and mourning give voice to the longing of the soul that all is not right, that death is theologically, morally, personally, relationally, inherently wrong, and it hurts like hell because that's where it came from. 

In the times of suffering and pain, we are freed by Jesus to embrace grief fully, to mourn passionately, and reject despair intentionally.

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