BRADY COLUMN: The price tag we pay for the risk of love-grief

Published 9:30 am Thursday, January 27, 2022

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John Morley, the English statesman and man of letters, in an address made in Edinburgh in 1887, said, “The great business of life is to be, to do, to do without and to depart.” Today, I want to focus on just one of these notable areas of life — “to do without.” Specifically, I’m referring to grief.  It’s a sober subject, of course, and yet as Tennyson put it, “Never morning wore to evening, but some heart did break.” 

So, in searching for light upon our darkness, we go back to some familiar words of Jesus. In John’s Gospel, Jesus states, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer (courage), I have overcome the world” (16:33). So, in the full knowledge and faith of Jesus’ words, I want to focus on some practical ways we can deal with our grief.

1) We can refrain from brooding! Though I have lost my parents, other family members and a number of friends to death, this does not qualify me as an authority on grief. But this I surely believe! We can cultivate our grief by brooding on it, and it will master our lives.  When David received word that his son Absalom was dead, he went to his room to grieve. The solders of David had defeated the enemy, and Absalom had been killed in the process.

The writer of ll Samuel expressed it this way, “So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people heard that day, the king is grieving for his son(19:2). Finally, it was Joab who came to David, and encouraged him to stop brooding over his deep sorrow.

The people had recognized that David could not effectively serve them as their king, as long as he was immobilized by his grief.

2) We can keep tending to our spiritual disciplines! When the phone call came with the heavy news that my father had died, for several days I didn’t want to have a quiet time. But I did it anyway and that was a very definite source of strength.

3) We can stay involved in fellowship with others! If we are effectively dealing with our grief we will undoubtedly become more sensitive to the needs of others. A distinguished American actress, Helen Hayes, enjoyed fantastic success until her heart was broken by the death of her daughter. Out of that anguish she wrote: “Before I had been concerned primarily with myself and my family, unaware in the human spirit of the need of people for one another. But now I knew that I, too, had to be a living part of God’s world of people.”

4) We can remember that the world does not stop at the death of a loved one! Neither must we! Of course, there is loneliness; there is grief. Our patten of living has been interrupted. To sorrow, however, does not mean that we stop living. Life goes on, and we go on with it.

5) We can dedicate our sorrow to greater loving! The late Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton, noted Methodist minister, shared that he would always remember something his sister said. After recently losing a nine-year old son to death, his sister remarked, “God has entrusted me with a great sorrow.” If we arrive at that understanding, we will live not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones and Jesus as well.

6) We can trust God! There’s a story of a German pastor and Bishop who manifested great spiritual power and courage by standing up to Hitler and the Nazi regime. Someone later asked, “What was the explanation of the great power in that Bishop’s life?”  The answer was found in a sentence in the Bishop’s own book. That sentence reads: “I sometimes told my confirmands that they must retain at lest three words of the instructions. If they forgot everything else, those three words they must remember-at every opportunity I would say to them, over and over: ‘GOD IS PRESENT.’”  That’s it! God is present in our sorrow. Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation (grief); but be of good cheer (courage), I have overcome the world.”