Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good Grief

I found something interesting in 2 Samuel 1.  The entire chapter is basically an account of how David dealt with the death of Saul and Jonathan.  We actually see him expressing his grief in two parts.  In verse 11 we see his and his men’s initial reaction upon hearing of their death.  They tore their clothes, mourned, wept and fasted.  We can all relate to our initial response to hearing that someone we love has passed away.  There is an overwhelming emotional response which is normal. 
The problem with such spontaneous grief is that thoughts and words often come based more on emotion than thoughtful consideration of the Word of God.  The same thing can be said when the Lord sends any kind of calamity upon us suddenly.  It sometimes takes some time before we are able to carefully meditate through biblical truth so that we might deal with such situations in a God-honoring way.  I think this is to be expected to varying degrees with anyone.  But there is something else here that brings some resolution to the initial sorrow.
In verse 17 we learn that at some point after this (many of the accounts in this book are not necessarily in chronological order so a considerable amount of time could have passed) David writes a formal Lamentation that was to be used to instruct the children of God.  . A lament is a formal expression of grief and sorrow as opposed to spontaneous outpouring of emotions.  It was written when David had time to think about what had happened and consider it in light of the Word of God.  And so I think there is something good for us to consider in his example.
First of all, like we learn in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to mourn and a time not to mourn, so emotional sorrow is normal.  But the book goes on to say that it is better to be in the house of sorrow rather than the house of mirth;. Ecc 7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.   We know that being forced to face our mortality and consider eternity is more profitable than being amused so that we don’t have to consider what is truly important.
Next, there is something about a lament that is profitable in that it is done later when words can be carefully chosen so others can be instructed. The intensity of emotion and sorrow unites with the discipline of one’s mind as it meditates on truth and we are given insight into how a child of God deals with grief. It is coherent, careful and honed to express the experience for others to see.  This allows our experience of sorrow to be more than just a coping mechanism but a way to serve God’s people and give praise and honor to the Lord.  Perhaps we are being instructed here that it is the duty of all saints to get to a point where they can use such things as a way to help others and glorify the Lord. Why not write down a lament and offer it up to God and if so led offer it up to others as well? We know that difficult times aren’t miraculously healed by God after a short time. It takes time to reflect on truth. A lament assumes that grief is ongoing and invites us to enter into the process.
To me this is what it means to be more than conquerors.  Being made new creatures in Christ means that we don’t just cope with life but that we reign over it; we use even the hard times as a way to serve; we aren’t overcome by them.  We can bring others into the house of mourning for a while that they might consider their souls.

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