written by Abigail Brown
A couple of years ago, my friends and I decided to dress up as a few of the characters from the animated movie Inside Out for our church’s Fall Festival. My friend Hannah played Disgust, Taylor played Joy, and I played Sadness. If you’re familiar with the movie, you probably remember the story of a girl named Riley and emotions, characterized as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Riley ends up running away from home after moving to a new school, not because there was too much Sadness, but because Sadness doubted her purpose in Riley’s life. In the end, it’s not Joy that brings Riley home in the end – it’s a good memory tinted with both Joy and Sadness.
For me, part of beginning to understand grief was first understanding joy – not the fleeting emotion as characterized in the movie, but Biblical, ever-present deep joy that comes exclusively from knowing and being known by God.
Paul’s description of joy couldn’t be farther from our human expectations:
It seems that Joy, at least for our earthly experience, is very much attached to hardship. This relationship between the two, though it certainly wasn’t present in Eden, has accompanied the world we now live in. Ours is a broken world, a fallen world, a world that need Jesus to become flesh and die for us. Sadness is now part of our world, and a significant part of the crucifixion. It is the crucifixion. Jesus’ death is the ultimate sorrow, as His life is the ultimate happiness. For believers, the joy of the resurrection is well known because the weight of the brokenness which Jesus took for us is well known. The immense loss brings to light just how colossal is His victory.
How the inner circle must’ve mourned. Even those with the hope that He would rise again – how they must’ve wept. And how much more they must’ve laughed and sang at the good news.
But what was it that sustained them after? What pushed them to suffer and eventually die for their savior? During their last meal together, Jesus made a representation of His body, broken for them, and His blood poured out for them, and commanded them to remember.
“And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’” Luke 22:19
Perhaps some level of grief is necessary to remember: to remember why we fight, why we love, Who first loved us, Who has conquered the world. (John 16:33)
Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, experienced grief, He knew full well the cup He was taking, the anguish He would experience, the separation from the Father. But in leaving the garden, He was able to face the sorrow ahead, because He knew the Father’s heart. He gave it all to God. (SCRIPTURE)
The song “Porcelain” by Tow’rs touches on loss, especially on unexpected, premature loss. This song is colored in sorrow, but also has an underlying feeling of joy – like golden memories. It’s about losing someone – losing part of your life that is not coming back – but it perseveres in the joy of the life that is lost.
When I have experienced loss, I’ve tried to cover it up, pretend life is normal, to force life’s continuance. But I’ve found the only way to healing is to fully mourn. And that sadness is okay, for a time. A season of grieving is needed before a season of healing. And especially in losing a loved one, it can make it possible to truly celebrate the lost life and time in a way that is grateful and allows growth. It can make it possible to remember, not without feeling loss, but with peace and assurance for the future.
In heaven there is no cause for sadness, as there is no cause for anger. Yet, in this world, just like anger, sadness can be just and appropriate in its season, in its time and place.
“There is an occasion for everything and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
It may seem backwards, but I have come to see great value in grief.
So how do we move forward? How do we experience grief in its true fullness and depth? And how do we take a step toward healing?
The answer has been prescribed to us already: Sabbath.
The connection between Sabbath and grief (and many things, I’m finding) is similar to the connection between our bodies and our beds. Sleep causes us to forget the small, fickle things we ought to forget, face our nightmares, dream about the things we don’t dare make plans for in our wakeful minds, and rest. Sabbath does something similar to our souls. By taking a moment to be still and remember God, He helps us let go of burdens that are not ours, shuck off the old habits that have found us again, pursue what inspires us, and rest.
In grief, God has worked through Sabbath to help me let go of the small things that don’t matter and release expectations I’ve imposed over time upon myself and those whom I love. He’s brought to light the messiest, ugliest nightmarish parts of my own heart that I’d hidden in busyness, accomplishment, and occupation. Grief hasn’t so much as caused these sore places but magnified them, brought them to my attention. God, in His goodness, meets me in the stillness of Sabbath to first reveal those places in full light, then to administer healing treatment. HE soothes, He bandages, then overtime, knits back together what has been marred.
He’s replaced my old habits with an ambition for His own heart and consequently His people and Kingdom. And He’s given me the purest and truest Rest.
I want to point out one last thing. I’ve thought about titling this blog as “Good Grief,” but I think it is important to make a distinction. Grief is not good. Neither is brokenness, illness, loss, hardship, or temptation. But God is good, and He is mighty to use whatever He chooses to sanctify us, edify, bring us closer to each other, and bring us closer to Him.
Be encouraged. In grief there is good. And there is God.