May 4, 1996 in Features

We Can Find Comfort In A Grieving God

Paul Graves The Spokesman-Revie

When our then 7-year-old came home from walking his first - and I think his last - “fun run,” his first words were “I don’t think my body will ever forgive me!”

As I write this column, my wife and I have just returned from the five-mile “Spring Dash in Coeur d’Alene.”

I’m not too concerned about whether my body forgives me. But I think it did those five miles against its collective will. My body’s heart, so to speak, just wasn’t into masochistic exercise today.

It was dealing with a far more immediate dilemma than lack of regular exercise. It was weighed down by a grief brought on by multiple deaths in the 17 days before the run.

Since just before Easter, my body has been dealt “soul blows” by the deaths of a close family friend after 13 years of battling cancer, a 15-year-old boy struck by lightning in Deer Park, and a 17-year-old boy hit by a train near Sandpoint.

Then we learned of a 23-year-old friend of our son’s who chose to end his life. The final blow came when we heard that a friend and incredible person/artist, Steve Lyman, died in Yosemite National Park.

I didn’t even know the teenage boys. But their senseless deaths, and the other so difficult deaths, catch me in a vulnerable time. Plus this sadness doesn’t even count the memorial moments for the 168 persons killed a year ago in Oklahoma City.

I share this not so anyone will feel sorry for me. Direct your compassion to the families of the people I mentioned. Or direct your compassion to the families of people you know who have recently died.

And while you’re at it, give thanks that we are created by a God who can seriously grieve! I was actually put on the track of this train of thought by a reader of last month’s column. That’s when I spoke of Easter as God’s April Fool’s joke on death, and on us as we struggle with death.

The reader graciously but firmly challenged my contention that we fall all over ourselves pretending death doesn’t really happen. This person affirmed “because we believe Christ is alive, we need not fear death, since we believe in a life after death.”

Yes, life after death is one of the central affirmations of the Christian faith. This belief does take the fear of death away for many Christians.

But, dear reader, not all Christians. We do not all have the same amount of faith. Nor do we all enjoy the same perception of Christian faith on certain matters.

Yet having said that, I believe it’s also important to remember that even for those people, Christian or not, who do not fear death, the pain of death is very real for those who are left to grieve.

Speaking only for myself, death isn’t what I fear. What I struggle with is the survivor’s fear that I may not cope with the emotional pain a loss by death will inevitably bring.

A “logical death” is easier to deal with emotionally, isn’t it? When an elderly person dies of so-called natural causes, death is logical.

But with that logic often comes a different level of grief than when a young person dies what seems to be a senseless, even an unfair, death. This “illogical” death turns our assumptions about life and death on their head, if only for a short time.

We have all kinds of phrases and feelings we can vent against death. I’m into that kind of ranting at the moment, though I can hardly imagine my ranting has the same depth of passion experienced by the surviving family members of the people whose deaths prompted these reflections.

And yet … and yet I deeply believe the God to whom we cry our unanswerable questions and pour out our frustrations, our fears, understands grieving pain more deeply than we can ever know this side of our own deaths.

We are created and sustained by a God who knows grief more completely than we will ever know.

Why is God’s grief even necessary? Because God’s children all die. Why does God create us to die? Because … because … we don’t really know.

So knowing that God grieves so deeply with us can be, must be, enough.


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Paul Graves The Spokesman-Review

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