This week is like being stuck in a master class taught by God on grief, faith and mission.
It’s funny (funny-strange, not funny-haha) that God sees fit to teach me about all three in the same moment. I’m in microwave mode, not slow-bake. I’m learning too much too fast, and I just keep trying to grasp the realizations hurtling past my head and stuff them in my pocket to free up my hands to grab whatever’s coming next.
When I get precious moments, like this one, I pull one of the things I’m learning out of my pocket and try to unpack it a little more.
Today, I’m processing a thought on grief.
A week or so ago, I was at breakfast with one of my all time favorite people.
Here are some characteristics about her, (in case you’re trying to become one of my all time favorite people): she’s loving, and gracious, and kind, and funny, and compassionate. In hard times, she will literally match me tear for tear.
She’s also GREAT at asking questions.
At our breakfast, she asked me: how are you handling grief?
I had no response.
Eh? What do you mean? Grief? Oh gosh! Is this grief? Is this weird feeling that makes me feel numb and then fine and then happy and then sad all within 20 seconds – is that grief??
Grief seems like a big word for people with big struggles. It seems like a word for the death of spouses or children. It doesn’t seem like a word for me.
Nevertheless, I guess I fit the description.
I think I’m afraid to use that word. I’m afraid to process what I’m thinking. There doesn’t really seem to be a place where it’s safe to be where I am.
Working for a church, I have this weird fear that people are watching me go through this and taking notes and learning how to grieve, and they actually might be. You actually might be. The problem is – I have no idea what I’m doing.
I just want a few places where I can be raw first, and share what I’m learning second.
Places like breakfast with my pal. And places like meeting with God. With Him I can be real and honest. I don’t have to have the right answer. I don’t have to be afraid that if I tell Him how I’m really feeling He’s going to be shocked or discouraged or give me a lecture on unbelief.
At breakfast, my friend reminded me of something we both heard at a Conference a few years back. John Piper shared that we have to learn to discern between statements people say that need our correction, vs things they say in grief that are just ‘words for the wind’.
I desperately want to grasp the concept that grief and unbelief are not synonyms. I want to be someone who is safe for those who are grieving. I want people to be able to tell me where they are in a single moment without having me test the accuracy of every theological thought that comes out of their grief.
I’m eager to learn how to be the kind of friend and woman who can listen with tears coming down my cheeks at the most raw and transparent version of the person I love and trust them with God.
If you know someone grieving, take a look at Piper’s thoughts (especially the part in bold).
In grief and pain and despair people often say things they otherwise would not say. They paint reality with darker strokes than they will paint it tomorrow when the sun comes up. They sing in minor keys and talk as though that is the only music…
What shall we do with these words?
Job says that we do not need to reprove them. These words are wind, or literally “for the wind.” They will be quickly blown away…
O how quickly we are given to defending God, or sometimes the truth, from words that are only for the wind. If we had discernment we could tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.
There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil.
But not all grey words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by the pain, the despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within. There is something real within where they come from. But it is temporary—like a passing infection—real, painful, but not the true person.
Let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind—spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul not reproving the sore is the aim of our love.