Monday, June 30, 2008

A Grief Mostly Observed

One of the most difficult things in life is to observe the grief of someone you care for—and discipline yourself to do nothing. Every impulse of love electrifies us into action, because we’re afraid inaction will be confused with uncaring. I’m not suggesting that doing nothing is a virtue in most cases. I do assert that resisting giving easy answers and waiting for God's Spirit to allow your heart to be broken is truly comforting in the life of the grieving.

I have a great many friends who, in my hour of loss, moved to action. I deeply appreciate the practical love expressed to me and my children. But I’ve also come to appreciate the most thoughtful ones who acted not out of impulse but in deliberate caring. The word care has it's root in the Gothic word "kara" which means "lament." To care is first and foremost a word which means to grieve with, express sorrow and cry. To care is to come alongside the grieving and do little more than weep with those who weep.

What appears to be doing nothing is, in fact, one of the deepest acts of love a human can express. Jesus modeled this for us with Mary and Martha at the loss of their brother Lazarus. Yes, the grieving need practical ministry, but they also need stronghearted people who can just weep with them without giving in to the temptation to offer answers for that which the soul cannot grasp. Job's friends did well for the first week or so of Job's prolonged and confusing suffering. Then they all three gave in to their darkest nature and began to argue with this hurting man—proving their own arrogance.

The reason we offer answers to the unanswerable questions of suffering sometimes comes from our own need to be in control. When we bring "care" to our hurting friends like professionals and not broken-hearted friends, it places us in a powerful position over them. We seek to cure them, when, if we’re honest, we don’t posses the cure. This is why, for the grieving, the "comfort" so many bring instead offends and often curses.

I admit it’s a dangerous thing to get near the brokenhearted and the crushed. I find great comfort that the Lord is not afraid to draw near. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” It’s in drawing near and weeping that we bring an inexpressible comfort which the grieving learn to appreciate later and never forget. Don’t be afraid to be silent in the face of a friend's loss. Life can be inexpressibly hard, and there are tragic events that take your breath away and leave you speechless. Be careful and be willing to offer nothing but yourself, your tears and your willingness to let your heart be broken with your friend. You will find the undying gratitude of the grieving and yourself becoming more like Christ.

Ed Litton

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ed, we want you to know that we continue to lift you and your children before the throne of Grace...I can only begin to imagine the depth of your loss...remembering you and Tammy when we were all at FBE, Euless together, a million lifetimes ago causes me to sit and reflect on the life and how truly short our days are...know that you are loved and prayed for by so many!

Brooke Love said...

Pastor Ed, Thank you for being such a wonderful pastor. God has blessed us so much! It has stretched us to go through this journey with you. As you know, the week after Tammy passed away, my best friend passed away. This has been a year of healing, and being so thankful for God's grace. You have been an amazing instrument in demonstrating giving God the glory in every aspect of our lives. This blog is so appreciated in that many of us don't know what to do or say when someone is experiencing a tragic loss. Thank you for confirming that we should give of ourselves. We love you! Brooke Love

Christie Lynch said...

Ed,
You don't know me but I lost my husband, Tate Lynch, in October 2007. He was a police officer and died in a SWAT training accident. There is a legacy website for him that someone posted condolences to me and the link to your blog. I have read it for several months now. I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am for the loss of your wife. Your writing about your grief has helped me stay strong in my faith and to validate many feelings that I have that I have a hard time putting into words. Thank you for your obvious strength in the Lord and your willingness to share with others.
Christie Lynch, Casa Grande, AZ

Sonny said...

Pastor, I saw such strength to draw upon the day I saw you at FBCW. I was so honored to have met you and your blog is a great source of wisdom. Thanks Pastor for concrete evidence of Phil 4:13!

Anonymous said...

Pastor Ed, I love you so much. Thank you for your blogs and for the wisdom that comes from them. I am amazed and overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for praying with me Sunday. As we seek God's will in our life, I am encouraged to just stand and do what Jesus says to do.

MessickMom said...

Pastor,You have exhibited just what you have talked about in this blog to our family. When we were grieving over Victoria being born with Down Syndrome or the fear of possibly losing her to heart failure, you didn't try to offer suggestions or answers. You were just "there" with us and you cried with us at times. Knowing that your heart hurt with ours was something that meant so much to us. We didn't need words of comfort. We just needed someone to hug us and love on us. We needed someone who would cry with us and even say, "I don't know what to say." Thank you for being a great friend to us and our children. Thank you for saying that you want to walk this journey with us and for offering so many prayers up for Victoria. We love and treasure you. The Messicks

Shannon Holmes said...

As I sat at the 33 Miles concert I couldn't help but think of Tammy when they were singing "One Life" . "When all was said and done" what a faithful life she lived. She is such an encouragement to me as a minister's wife and as a woman. I never had the opportunity to get to know her, but listening to all the stories about her, I felt like I knew her alittle. I think about her all the time and I still have a hard time that she's gone. It's not for me to understand. Seeing your faithfulness has helped my faith to stay strong. Thank you! Praying for you always!
Shannon Holmes

Tony Simoncini said...

Pastor Ed,

Thank you again for a glimpse into your heart, and sharing something of a “timeless truth” in this blog.

Its funny, I'm actually in the middle of writing something along these lines myself so I hope its okay if I share a few things.

In my darkest hours not quite 1 year ago, many people wanted to say things that would offer comfort, acceptance, and peace in my loss. Words seemed to fall short where crisis and grief abound. After losing a child only 3 months old, what words can heal? The answer is none! No words can make it better, no insight will make the pain go away, and the truth is many of the words actually made it worse. People trying to explain why God let it happen, or why he allowed it, or why God would let Satan do such a terrible thing, etc. Many of the words not only fell short, but they cut like a knife! But I can honestly say that the people who just came by to hug me and BE with me; were the most effective.

The Jews do something in a time of grief called sitting Shiva. Shiva is the Hebrew word for seven, and it is a weeklong period of grief and morning. There are so many fascinating things about Sitting Shiva, but what is most interesting and relevant to your blog is that traditionally no greetings are exchanged and the visitors wait for the mourners to initiate the conversation! In other words, the visitors just sit around, and hang out with their family and friends as a simple sign saying, “I love you and you’re not in this alone!” All of this without a single word at times. The Jews consider sitting Shiva or visiting those who mourn letting them know they care a mitzvah…a commandment by God of good deeds towards others!

Thanks again,
Tony

Anonymous said...

Ed,
I got an e-mail from FBNM. I think it was an accident from an old mailing list.

I am so sorry for your loss of Tammy and the suffering you and your children have gone through. I see Tammy all the time in women who resemble her and it brings me to tears.

I have been numb to everything for many years now. Your last two blogs give me hope this will pass one day. As in your last post, I feel like Hagar and just have to trust my passionate love of God will spring to life again as He has seen all our affliction and shows up for all His Saints.

You have been much prayed for by me for years.