Reflections on Death and Loss

"Woman in Grief" by Animesh Roy

“Woman in Grief” by Animesh Roy

I so appreciate these thoughts: “God is not the opiate that makes it easier to cope with death and loss. Death becomes more ‘complicated’ when God is there…  The same God who took our place now takes life away. He is there with us in death, and we encounter his presence both as a weight of ‘glory’ and as an unbearable wound… The God encountered in grief and loss is the God who has already gone ahead of us, already taken our place in Jesus Christ. And so this God gathers up all things into glory: even in the hour of death, it is his face that turns towards us in the radiance of glory, and in the beauty of grace.”  This is a blog post written in reflection of the song “Casimir Pulaski Day” by Sufjan Stevens.  The full post is here.

I’ve been thinking lately about how difficult it is sometimes for us Christians to admit how grief-stricken we are, as if it would be less godly or spiritual for us to reveal to the world or even ourselves how bewildered, distraught, and devastated we are by some of the losses that we experience in life.  We immediately want to say, “I know God is in control.  I know that He loves me.  And I know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose – to be conformed to the image of Christ.”  All these things are true and biblical.  But I don’t believe these truths are ever meant to be used by us to manage and control the sorrow in our hearts, or as a means for us to live in denial of the fact that we feel angry, upset, empty, deeply shaken, or even lost.  No Christian likes to admit feeling lost, especially because we define ourselves as found people. If we’re honest, though, all of us have found ourselves feeling that way at some point, especially in the midst of overwhelming emotional pain or overwhelming circumstances in which we feel trapped or doomed.

All that said, I do believe that we start with and ultimately come to rest in these realities: God IS in control.  God DOES love me.  All things DO work together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose – that is, to be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.  But there is a fundamental difference between trying to use God as a means of covering up or denying the extent of our inner suffering, and coming before God completely naked both spiritually and emotionally, fully undressed from the trappings of religious and cultural sensibility (and performance), so that our eyes can be opened to God’s ability to supernaturally wed our pain, our suffering, and our seemingly unbearable griefs and losses to the above truths about his sovereignty, love, and divine purposes. He does so by firmly anchoring them in the suffering, death, and resurrection of his own Son, our Lord Jesus, “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.” (Isaiah 53:3)  And this mysterious wedding is not merely an event.  Rather, it is a lifelong process of transformation and healing, with many bumps along the way.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)

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Categories: Spiritual Formation

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1 reply

  1. This nails it. All those feelings are felt. The losses do sting. The losses do make us question. The losses are overwhelming and all encompassing. There is always the whys, how can God do this? Anger does seep in. But God continues to keep us and eventually even though still fresh in our hearts and minds, the losses and feelings come full circle. In my mind, a major loss can only be survived by those of us left if we have God. Otherwise, we would have no hope in seeing our loved ones who have gone ahead. Without God I know I would have never made it through to the point I am now. No, it is not an easy place to be, but I know when I get to heaven, He will be there to hug me and lead the way His precious gift given to me, my daughter.

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