That same summer the director of a new residential treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction came to my church committee with a request. Would we participate with some others in providing an encouraging Sunday message for the residents of his facility? I was delighted with the opportunity.
My family would be satisfied that I had somewhere to tell my story where they would not feel embarrassed. And I would have a monthly opportunity to interact with people who wanted a new beginning. I was eager to see if they would respond positively to my ideas and my story.
And they did. For 32 years they have continued as I have been taking meditations to Haven House and telling my story as well.
My first message was entitled “Good Grief!” (summary follows)
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
Job 17:7 says “My eye has grown dim from grief, and all my members are like a shadow.”
II Corinthians 7:9-10 says “. . . I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief… For godly grief produced a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret. . . .”
Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus, wept over his inability to win Jerusalem to the kingdom of God, and grieved over his own impending death. More than anything, the grief of Jesus points to our own basic need to grieve over ourselves. I invite you to consider using this time in your life to do some proper grieving over yourself—some Good Grief.
Grief may be the most important emotion in our lives. It certainly damages us if we do not pay attention to it. Stages of grief can include anger, guilt, remorse, and feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and despair. Often we get stuck in the guilt. Guilt which produces tapes that keep playing over and over, telling what we did and didn’t do that we are ashamed of.
And the loneliness. And the despair. I urge you to allow yourselves to go beyond the guilt and loneliness to let your grief go even deeper than you have let it go until now. Our natural reaction to negative emotions is to try to ignore them or push them down or run away from them. You have already acknowledged that your response has been to try to escape.
My experience convinces me that the only way we can get through with our grief is to turn and face it—to actually give it permission to let it take whatever expression it chooses to take, whatever form it needs to take to work itself out in us and heal us. A written dialogue with what it eating away at us is what is needed to learn that something deep inside can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Grief is an emotion that cannot be denied if it ever is to disappear. The sadness must be permitted, experienced to the fullest. We must shed all the tears that have been bottled up inside of us in order for all the guilt to be washed away and joy emerge.
Someone has defined laughter as the soul’s most perfect prayer. After our painful, paralyzing time of mourning, authentic laughter will return and with it a special kind of joy. Look at what happened to Jesus as a result of his tears. He was able to raise Lazarus from the dead. In his death the old body died and a new personality was born. Not only the Jerusalem he wept over but people all over the world have followed him as disciples. The same kind of amazing power will happen in our own lives.
I urge you to get on with your grief work.