Is there anyone alive who has not experienced loss and the resultant grief that follows, sometimes for years? I somehow doubt it.
I remember driving past our local park once and stopping to watch a football game by a group of boys (maybe 10-12 years old). As I watched, in the words of Taylor Joy Murray, I was suddenly “ambushed” by grief. I began to weep uncontrollably, and I knew why. As I watched those children play, I wanted that kind of childhood for myself. But I knew it was now impossible. It was what it was (and it was often painful) and there was nothing I could do about it but grieve the loss of what could have been. Also in the words of Taylor Joy Murray (a TCK, i.e. ‘Third Culture Kid’), I allowed “myself to sit in my sadness and grieve what I [had] lost.” (see her insightful Blog at taylorjoymurray.com in her Posts entitled “7 spot-on ways TCKs Deal with Grief” and “5 key steps to walking through TCK grief.”)
In the second of these Posts (under the heading “See your present reality through different eyes.”) she says:
“Part of grief is identifying what was. After grieving these losses, I could then shift my gaze to my new reality. I hadn’t dismissed my past. I had released it…The next part of grief is identifying what could be…I could accept my new life because I had grieved my old life fully.
I recently read the story of Joseph in the Bible, after he had become second in command of Egypt and had married an Egyptian. Decades ago, he had been sold by his brothers, and he had never returned to his homeland. Joseph had two sons. I think the meaning of his sons’ names perfectly describe this step of grief…which Joseph was currently in.
He named his eldest son Manasseh, saying “God has made me forget what was…”
He named his second son Ephraim, saying “God has made me fruitful in the land of my grief.”
With God’s help, he had let go of his old life. He was flourishing in the land of his grief. He saw his current situation from a new perspective. He had crossed his grief bridge and embraced the other side.”
Psalm 74 is a passionate prayer of a man “ambushed” by grief at the destruction of the Temple and city of Jerusalem. Listen to his cry:
9 We are given no signs from God;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.
10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
Brueggemann writes concerning an amazing truth in this psalm, when he says:
“Perhaps the wonder is not that the psalm reacts so strongly to the loss of the temple. The wonder is that in that loss there is still one to address, known by name. There is one to address who is still credible, who has a known past, who can receive imperatives, and who is therefore the ground of hope. The coming and going of the temple does not reduce Israel to despair. Instead, it drives to indignation, which properly is deposited at God’s throne. So, the psalm has a curious and surprising outcome. This psalm, ostensibly about the temple, is in the last measure not about the temple, but about the source of life and hope in the absence of the temple.” (# 2)
And so the psalmist continues:
12 But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.
13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
And concludes with a prayer:
18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
20 Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamour of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.
At a later time in my life (later than the previous story), I sat in a church and was listening to a young man preach. He shared how grateful to God he was for his Christian upbringing and praised his parents. I sat there thinking to myself, “Yes, that would have been nice!” and suddenly God spoke to me with the words, “Did I make a mistake then?” I quietly answered, “No, Lord.”
I am who I am in spite of and maybe even, because of my upbringing and God has used that over the years. No matter what the circumstances of our lives, no matter what are the losses and the grief that sometimes “ambushes” us, there is always One we can come to and express our deepest thoughts and then expect compassion from Him.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that although you were “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” and yet, “by [your] wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3,5). Thank you that you are able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” and therefore we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16) Amen.