October 13, 2014

Mourning with Those Who Mourn

This summer, I lost four people who were close to me. One was my mother. I am mourning. As therapist Jan Bentley said in an article on bereavement ministry, "Grieving is the price we pay for loving."

The process of mourning is very individual, but I identify with some of the generic grief symptoms listed online. Anxiety about losing another loved one. Check. Lack of energy. Check. Difficulty concentrating. Check. Questioning God's providence. Check. I need all the love and support of the body of Christ that I receive. Here are some things that others do for me while I am in mourning.

Praying unceasingly. Lately, I am prayed for in an unprecedented way, and I can feel it. Christians, even those I don't know personally, pray specifically and with faith for me and my family. My own prayers have been of the "groanings too deep for words" variety. But, the Holy Spirit has used this wordless weakness and the ongoing prayers of others to give me a deep sense of peace. Prayer is a real ministry to anxious mourners.

Supporting practically. Church people have sat with me in hospitals, cut my lawn, repaired my plumbing, made my meals, given me rides and bought me treats. Many of these deeds of mercy are things I normally could do for myself. But, when I feel like I can't put one foot in front of the other, God sends help to fill in the gap. Completed menial tasks encourage the drained and discouraged.

For those who want to do something but have no clue, I suggest that they think about how the bereaved has ministered to them in the past. We often show love in the way that we want to be loved. For example, if the grieving widow came to your loved one's funeral and signed the guest book, she would probably be touched if you did the same for her in her loss. Personally, I appreciate the woman who gives me food in a disposable container and tells me, "I don't need this back."

Thinking wisely. Other believers urge me not to make rash decisions when I am blinded by grief. They are willing to share their knowledge of the Bible and help me apply it to life as it is right now. What I need are clear directions, based on biblical wisdom, and not "on the one hand, on the other hand" ambiguity. Wise advice cuts through the fog of grief.

Living hopefully. Some caregivers' information I saw recently said, "It is impossible to go back; it is hard to go forward." When I am feeling like this, my Christian friends help me see my situation from God's eternal perspective, which gives me hope. They model for me how I can trust in God's goodness for the future. Hearing God's truth leads the bereaved to "the rock that is higher than I."

Note: The inscription on the 1814 tombstone depicted above reads, in part:
The grave is now my home,
But soon I hope to rise,
Mortals behold my tomb,
Keep death before your eyes.

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