The Importance of Lament – Part 2

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Jesus, Matt. 5:4

Like so many people, I have been deeply affected upon hearing the story of Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, committing suicide. Rick Warren, in such an open and vulnerable way, shared an e-mail where he spoke about his brokenness. It was painful to read because death is always painful. I am reminded of a scene in Lord of the Rings (Two Towers) when King Theoden is at his son’s grave site and says “no parent should have to bury their child.” It is a reminder of the unspeakable anguish of what a parent feels when they lose a child.

In our culture, there is such a stigma about mental illness and suicide. These are the taboo topics that many in evangelical circles, or religious circles in general, don’t want to talk about. However, the more people don’t talk about it, the more people are forced to bear the pain alone. Losing a child is difficult (and that’s an understatement) but to heap feelings of shame and guilt on top of that doesn’t help. When someone dies from a terminal disease, we don’t deem their death as weakness or something that we must hide from others. Just because the illness happens in the brain does not make it less of an illness. I really hope and pray that our reaction to anyone’s death is one full of compassion and grief instead of sanctimonious platitudes of self-righteousness bereft of love and grace.

Death is devastating. As a Christian, it is but another reminder of the broken, fallen world that we live in. Death was not part of the original plan. It came as a result of sin. And so when we see it, our minds and our hearts are jolted back to the reality that the system is broken. While we long and yearn to see the day when there shall be no more death, that glorious day when God shall wipe away every tear from our eyes, we do not live in that dream just yet. Instead, we are thrust into living a nightmare that we cannot wake up from. And in this horrible place, we can do nothing but mourn. Mourn for the death of our loved one. Mourn for the sins of the world. Mourn for the life that is no more. Mourn for our broken dreams and shattered lives.

When we are humble enough to be honest with ourselves and with God, when we throw away our masks and in absolute nakedness present our whole selves to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Bible says that He will comfort us. He will give us consolation. He will give us a peace which passes all understanding. We cannot forget that the Lover of our soul experienced the touch of death Himself. He knows Death rather intimately. But He also knows that Death will ultimately be swallowed up by His victory. On that day, we shall rejoice more fully. However, today, when the promise of life looks bleak, He is there to hold our hands and weep with us. The tears shall pour forth. The confusion will remain.  And He will lovingly and graciously wrap His arms around us, and give us rest.

I hope and pray that we, as members of His body, would continue to lift up Rick Warren’s family in prayer. May He use us to be vessels of love, grace, and encouragement during such a time as this.

The importance of lament

Image

“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” – Jeremiah 31:15

These words definitely hit me like a ton of bricks. These last couple of days, my heart has been breaking and grieving. Hearing about the senseless killings that happened in Newtown, Connecticut makes me want to weep. I think of people going to the shopping malls and trying to figure out that special gift that would make their kid smile and knowing that this Christmas, this would not be happening. Nor the year after that. Nor the year after that as well. We, as a society, strongly believe that children should bury their parents and not the other way around. If anything, it is what makes this tragedy that more heartbreaking. Lives snuffed out before their prime.

In light of such tragedy, I think it is only normal for us to ask the question of “why?” Why did this happen? How could an “all-loving” God allow this to happen? And when we do, we follow a long list of Biblical characters who in their pain cried out to God. In their confusion, they raised their voices, tinged with anger, shouting for vengeance for the injustice done to them. To lament is to acknowledge our present reality. To lament is to acknowledge our grief. To lament is to be human. When a loved one is taken away from us, especially in such a horrible and heinous manner, how can we not pour forth tears?

I know that there are some Christians who think that grieving is inappropriate. After all, they’re going to heaven. We should instead rejoice because now the person is in the presence of God. While that reality is true, it does not negate the reality that we who are left behind have to face. We have to face the reality that the person is not going to come back. And that reality can definitely seem unbearable. Because it is. But as a Christian, the one thing that the Scripture says is that we don’t have to “grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13) It never says that we should not grieve. It says we should not grieve as if we have no hope. And our hope lies in the fact that the death we will experience in this life is now but a shadow of death because of what Jesus has done for us. Paul says that “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thess. 4:14). In the face of such a devastating reality, the reality of the hope we have in Jesus can give us hope.

As Christians, we are called to “weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15) When Jesus came to this earth, he saw and felt the same evil realities that we live through. And when Jesus came face-to-face with the death of Lazarus, his beloved friend, the Scriptures say something that is so heart-wrenching and profound: Jesus wept. (John 11:35) Even though he will raise Lazarus back from the dead in the next following verses, he still lived in his present reality that involved his beloved friend being gone from this life. When faced with the horrific nature of the cross, the Man of Sorrows himself cried out to the heavens in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends who have lost loved ones. My heart is shattered by the lives snuffed out by such a despicable crime against humanity. I pray that our Father in heaven will grant you comfort and peace which passes all understanding. I pray that the Prince of Peace shower you who mourn with his kindness and love. I pray that the Holy Spirit will give you solace in your time of grief.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.