“And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son.” 2 Samuel 1:17
Have you ever been unexpectedly hit and upended by an ocean’s wave? I have enjoyed swimming and playing in the Atlantic Ocean on many occasions. I have also been hit by an errant wave which I did not anticipate. Immediately, I was knocked down and lost my balance. Even as I tried to get up on my feet, another wave would come and again upend me until I was able to get my bearings, get up and move closer to shore.
It’s amazing that when a wave hits you it also results in a loss of your strength and energy. As I would return to shore following my ‘wave adventure” I noticed how weak I had become. I was in need of some rest on the beach.
Grief and grieving is a lot like being hit and knocked down by a wave of water. You begin to think you’re balanced and all is well and then you are knocked down by an unexpected encounter with someone or by a comment made by someone. Suddenly, you are hit by a wave of emotion that you did not see coming. You become vulnerable and emotional. You’re not sure what to do next except flee to a secluded place to find rest.
As one author writes, “Grief doesn’t come and go in an orderly, confined time frame. Just when we think the pangs of anguish have stolen their last breath, another wave sweeps in and we are forced to revisit the memories, the pain, the fear. Sometimes we try to resist the demands of grieving. We long to avoid this fierce, yet holy pilgrimage. We fight against the currents, terrified of being overwhelmed, of being discovered, of becoming lost in our brokenness.”
David, for example, was grieved to hear of the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan, David’s best friend. The news hit him like an ocean wave. 2 Samuel 1:17-27 presents David’s grief for Saul and Jonathan. David’s poem reveals the heart-wrenching sadness that he felt when he learned of their deaths.
As one commentator explains, “Lament is a common biblical genre, and its presence in Scripture indicates the appropriate role of sadness in the believer’s life. Death is not something we approach stoically; it is not in God’s original intent for creation, and it is something that should be mourned deeply. In fact, even the natural world itself looks forward to the day when death will be no more (Rom. 8:18–25). The loss of family and friends is understandably painful and, as Matthew Henry comments, “the more we love the more we grieve.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “When we speak of grief, we speak about an emotion of which the Scriptures are profoundly aware. We speak of an emotion that was most poignantly manifested in the life and the experience of our Lord Himself. Jesus was described as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. His acquaintanceship with grief was not merely a sympathetic or empathetic awareness of other people’s pain. Rather, His experience of grief was a pain that He felt within Himself. To be sure, His pain was the result of His perception, not of His own shortcomings, but of the great evils that plague this world. We think of Jesus coming to the holy city, the city that He visited as a boy, the city that incorporated all of the promises that God had made to His people Israel, the city that was Zion’s holy hill. He came to that city, the city of promise, at a time when its corruption had reached its highest point. The nadir of unbelief was encrusted around the city of Jerusalem. When Jesus observed this city, He cried out in a lament, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets…. How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” It’s the grief that Jesus experienced when He noticed those women weeping for Him as He was moved, pushed, and shoved towards the cross at Golgotha. He said to these bystanders, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). Our Lord’s grief was rooted and grounded in His compassion for a fallen world.”
How do we process our grief? Like David, some may compose a song like Elton John did upon the occasion of Princess Diana’s funeral. Goodbye English Rose was his way of dealing with his grief resulting from her tragic death. The song provided a catharsis for the deceased princess’ many mourners.
Others may write a book. C. S. Lewis did so. His work, aptly entitled A Grief Observed, were his reflections on the experience of grief following the death of his wife, Joy Davidman, in 1960.
Still others may not process their grief at all. This is tragic because it often results in a crippling bitterness which grips the individual’s soul like an iron vice refusing to release itself. How often I have witnessed this in the lives of people I have known and shepherded. Their debilitating bitterness eclipsed any initial grief they may have had rendering them incapable of functioning in a productive manner.
Ultimately, we must turn to the Lord and the Word of God to find help in our time of need and grief. It is to this that we will consider when next we meet.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!