Walk Your Grief!

During a recent sermon on grief, our pastor mentioned something that I have been thinking about lately. He said, "Many of us grieve over an accumulation of losses in our lives." This past year, Monique and I have lost several of our Texas friends. Another precious one passed a couple of weeks ago. This is number four by my count. Each of these friends has left an indelible influence on our lives. As the pastor observed, I feel like there has been a heavy accumulation of grief and loss in the last couple of years. We knew this was bound to occur. After all, we are getting older, too! But, the frequency of loss over a relatively short duration of time has been surprising. 

In my personal reflections, I took to the computer keyboard to make a list of some of the specific losses. At the top, I thought of the loss of my mother who passed two years ago on July 17th. Then, there was the grief over a church conflict in March 2019. Added to this was the diagnosis of prostate cancer in May. 

Since March of 2020, we all have felt the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Though unrelated to the virus, there have also been a couple of close friends who are desperately ill. While we are rejoicing in a new faith community God led us to join in March, this adjustment to a new tradition and friends meant that we have officially turned the corner on what had been familiar for so many years. There is grief in all of this! In short, the considerable accumulation of these multiple losses has been weighty and stressful.

Our losses are not unique. Many deal with similar grieving experiences that stretch our faith and put us once again in dependence upon the grace of God. I was reminded recently about a little, but notable work on managing grief by John Claypool. Several years ago, he preached a series of sermons during a difficult and painful experience of grief over the tragic illness of his eight-year-old daughter, Laura Lue. She contracted and later succumbed to acute leukemia. These sermons became a best-selling book on the subject of grief: Tracks of a Fellow Struggler.

In relating the feelings of helplessness during his daughter's suffering, Dr. Claypool referenced a familiar text of Scripture, Isaiah 40. This prophetic word of hope and encouragement to the Jewish exiles during the Babylonian captivity ends with an often memorized refrain that sounds like a sequence of hope: "They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31). Soar... run... walk! Claypool suggests that the order of this hopeful affirmation is not by accident although it seems counter-intuitive. 

"I think the writer knew what he was doing when he set down the promises as he did, for in the dark stretches of life, the most difficult discipline... consists of 'keeping on keeping on' when events have slowed you to a walk, when it seems that in spite of everything you are going to crumple under the load and faint away.... Because down there at the bottom - this promise of Isaiah came true! I was given the gift of patience, the gift of enduring. I was given the strength 'to walk and not faint'" (pp.53-54, 1974 edition). 

When we are about to cave under the weight of our grief, God slows us down to a walk. It is while we are "walking our grief" that God gives us just enough strength to "hang in there!" Paul received the assurance of sufficient grace for his moment of need (2 Corinthians 12:9). God does not bring it by the truck loads days in advance! But He does dispense His grace, His ever sufficient grace, just at the moment we need it! Amazing, isn't it?! 

Let's "walk on" and trust that patient endurance and strength will come our way!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor, 
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com

[Photo credit: Aris Suwanmalee, Shutterstock.com]





Comments

  1. "Walking our grief" is a beautiful and helpful image. Yes, I do think that grief is something like a heavy sack of sand that can only be dissipated by walking. Even the jostling of slow steps causes the sand to slowly sift out of the bottom until it eventually has emptied. Imagine then that this sand provides traction for others who walk behind you when the land ices up! Also, your use of the scriptures from Isaiah reminded me of this beautiful video of an eagle that carries a camera over the Grand Canyon and surrounding spaces. The fact that this was used as part of Navajo Healing song is significant to me. Good writing Mike!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dan! I love the image of the sand of our grieving giving traction to others!! You make me a better writer, friend!

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