MORE AND MORE I am meeting people whose
world has fallen apart. Loved ones leave or die, marriages unravel,
friendships tear apart, and even seemingly vibrant ministries lose
their cutting edge, and people find themselves as shocked and
dismayed as David was as he wrestled with many pressures and losses.
Events that cause us to experience
the valley of the shadow of grief can strike any of us unexpectedly
at any time. One moment King David was sitting securely on his
throne overseeing his far-flung empire. The next he was on the run
for life in a barren wilderness.
When we go through times of extreme
mental anguish, we will find ourselves gravitating towards the
Psalms of David, for they blend the heart cry of our human pain with
a profound longing to see God move on our behalf. It is not so much
our faith as the the Lord’s faithfulness that supports us through
the often long-drawn out process during which we struggle to accept
what has happened, and to adjust to the changes that are now called
Fully aware of the effect His death would have on those He left
behind, the Lord Jesus prophesied to His disciples,
||I tell you the truth, you
will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.
grieve, but your grief will turn to joy . . .
Now is the
time of your grief,
but I will see you again and you will
and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:20, 22
In Psalm 84, the poet pictures a
group of pilgrims wending their way to Jerusalem through the Valley
of Baca – a phrase variously translated as “a dry valley,” or
“the valley of weeping.” Most explorers find their strength
diminishing in pro-portion to the length of their journey and the
ruggedness of the terrain they are passing through, but the psalmist
promises here a very different outcome, that we will go from
strength to strength (Psalm 84:7). God anticipates the hardest times
we must pass through, and sends special help and comfort to see us
When the psalmist speaks of the
autumn rains gathering in pools, the image is of our tears mingling
with the Lord’s comfort to provide a balm that can transform even
savage wildernesses into a place of renewed hope. It is only
unresolved grief, or grief that has developed complications, which
leaves people brittle and embittered, weighed down by ancient scars
that remain achingly close to the surface, crushing all flicker of
By the grace of God, it is entirely
possible that we will emerge from such times with renewed hope and
fresh goals, but there may be a considerable journey to experience
first. If even swallows and sparrows make their dwelling close to
the altar of the Lord, then how much more welcome are we? We cry out
with David, Be to me a protecting rock of safety, where I am
always welcome. (Psalm 71:3).
As surely as the young man David
emerged beyond his griefs and losses as a man of God, so we can also
see that many of the world’s most caring ministers, and our most
brilliant artists, musicians and scientists, have only emerged in
their full anointing and creativity on the far side of profound
Far from permitting their suffering
to crush them, these people have found ways to “cooperate” with
God’s mysterious purposes through the grief process, using their
loss to strengthen their spirits.
If I may dare to speak of such a
thing, their ongoing surrender to God has permitted suffering to
accomplish in them its highest redemptive work. We come away from
spending time with such people feeling cleansed and refreshed.
In this opening section, therefore,
we are going to examine some of the most common reactions people
experience when loss strikes and grief comes their way.