Friday, November 24, 2017

On Grief--or, What I'm Thankful For

I've always believed the human heart is not really equipped for grief. Why should we be? We were not created to experience death. Like the tiger's fangs, or the musk-ox's heavy coat, the way we manage loss is an adaptation to a world wounded by sin. It is unnatural. We weren't supposed to need these skills, and they aren't as good as we need anyhow.

Tonight I am grieving. Thanksgiving ended early with a phone call telling me I've lost a friend. She was young, and strong, and I don't know how to process the news. We like to snark about the early ending to Thanksgiving. We leave the table where we all talked about how happy we are for our blessings so we can (some of us, at least) hurry out to buy new stuff on sale. But I would rather have lost my thankful heart to commercialism this year, instead of to grief.

The friend who called with the news insisted I go to a private room before she would talk. And when she told me, I sat in the dark cradling the phone while we sobbed together. I'm not sure how we finally managed to hang up. My ten-year-old found me there, and hugged me and I cried into her hair until I had to find a tissue for my runny nose.  And then I cried into the tissue. Finally, I had to pull it together long enough to get my younger children bathed and put to bed. And all the while I wrestled with whether I could believe it. Was there any hope that it wasn't real?

So tonight here I am.  It's still Thanksgiving, and I finally know what I'm thankful for. Hours ago, we all sat around a table, and we went through the alphabet, taking turns naming something to be grateful for. I wracked my brain, and I came up with answers like "coffee" and "yellow." It was the luck of the alphabet, and I can't say I managed a lot of thankfulness for them.

I have now.

This year, I'm thankful to be an Adventist. I believe in a real resurrection. I believe in a God who's coming in person to break us out of this prison. The One with the answers is finally going to put the questions to rest. I believe in the Destination.

We have hope.

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. . . . For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. . . Therefore encourage one another with these words."
                                                                                                            I Thessalonians 4:13-18

We have hope. We say it. We sing about it. And it's so far off yet, that I can't touch it.

But I am an Adventist. We grieve, and we hope. And we sometimes say stupid things to one another because we're trying to hold the grief and the hope in the same hand, and they get garbled. Sometimes we think the promise should be enough, that it can somehow make us into creatures able to manage death.

Theology can't fix grief. Faith can't. The only real solution is the Advent. We can't really be comforted. But we will be rescued.

This blog is for my friends who are grieving. I know the hope doesn't change your loss. It doesn't make it less, or less important. But I hope you will hold them both in the same hand anyway. I don't have the answer, but there is an Answer. The Blessed Hope can't fix us, but it's the only link we have to the Blessed Reality that someday will.

We are not made to carry this burden. I don't know how we will. I'm not even sure how to get to sleep tonight. I will, of course. I'll grow the fangs, or the thick fur coat. Just like we all do. I can, because I have the one thing I need--I know it's not forever.

Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Laura, this was beautiful - and as I am sure you can imagine, it speaks aloud the hearts of so many of us who share in this loss. Thank you for having the courage amidst the grief to share these words. We love you, grieve her loss with you, and share with you this hope of our triumphant rescue and reunion.

  2. so beautifully said. one can only understand the depths of such grief by experiencing it ... and the hope of tomorrows... through the pains and tears of today. my heart aches. thank you for sharing yours.

  3. Eleven years ago my wife and I woke at 1 am to find our 28 year old son in his bed face down from a seizure and not breathing. I did CPR for 30 minutes till the ambulance came and could not revive him. My son's memorial service was the most hopeful I'd ever seen. We were surrounded by friends and family, all of whom spoke reassurance of a soon-coming Christ and a reunion to come.

    The grief still overtook my wife and triggered a latent mental disorder that runs in her family. The resultant depression has nearly killed her numerous times and changed our lives. We look forward to meeting him at the Resurrection, of course, but we miss him terribly in the meantime. I imagine that we are riding a train toward that moment in time where he is waiting for us up ahead at the last trump. It makes it easier for me to think we are day by day drawing closer to when we shall see him again rather than to think about each day being farther from when we last saw him.

    We are not, as you say, made to die. It is nothing natural or normal for creatures meant to live eternally. Age and death are foreign to us. We know we are not supposed to die, much less outlive our children. We grieve for even the loss of a day in their company. It is not right knowing they are not in the world with us. It never will be right until Jesus makes all things right when He comes again. It gives me hope in the midst of the greatest despair and have had more than my share of tragedy. Remember, the closer you try to draw to Christ, the more the devil hates you and the harder he tries to bring you down. With Christ, the devil has no chance of claiming you for his own.