Where to Take Your Grief

by Meredith Storrs
Between the SBC report and Robb Elementary this week, it feels surreal to be safely sitting on my couch watching Beauty and the Beast with my nine-year-old daughter. She’s home sick with a cold, not Covid. Not Covid, a caveat I find myself offering now, which is both a praise and a nod to the suffering of this present age. She shields her eyes from the fright of Belle’s father discovered intruding by the Beast, and all I can think about is how innocent she still seems. She’s not been on Twitter this week. She hasn’t read any of the news reports. I marvel that my tiny child has made it so many years hearing nothing of sexual abuse nor elementary school shootings. By the time I was her age, I had already experienced evils that she doesn’t even know exist.

Where do we take our grief when it runs this deep? I am usually a woman of so many words. I am finding so very few today. Instead, I flipped through the pages of the Psalms, hunting for songs of lament that might capture the anguish just right. How long, Lord? Will you forget [us] forever? I joined in the mourning of King David, his words hanging about my fragile frame like ill-fitted clothes. If I wanted words, the internet had plenty. But what I really wanted was presence not poetry.

Sometimes we take our grief to the Psalms or to the recorded prayers of faithful Christians past, reciting their wise words over our heavy hearts until the truth melts in. Today I found solace in the family. I thought about the man who built his house on a rock and how the waves sounded as they crashed against his walls. I listened for the wailing of mothers whose baby boys were thrown into the Nile and those whose innocents were slaughtered years later in Bethlehem. I remembered the abused woman in Judges and Tamar and Bathsheba. I wondered what Joseph thought when his brothers left him beaten at the bottom of the pit and how their faces might have looked, set against him, as the slave traders carted Joseph away. I wondered which images of his playing children impressed upon Job’s eyelids as he closed them to sleep on the night when tragedy struck. And I thought about Jerusalem, and why wouldn’t she allow Jesus to gather her under his wing like a mother hen? Are we, too, not willing?

Grief is scattered on page after page of our Bibles, yet we rarely read it that way. We summarize and rush to the end where God brings down fire or raises dead to new life. We scour the pages of these tragedies looking for hints of Messiah. In Moses’s delivery, we remember Jesus delivering us from the slavery of death. Joseph’s provision for his family looks like God’s provision in miniature. Ruth the bride of Boaz foreshadows a church redeemed by Christ. David’s failures make us long for a true and better King. Because we know that the Bible is a redemption story, we prefer to skim the hard parts and settle deep into cozy armchairs with a steaming cup of coffee to bask in forgiveness, faith, and triumph over sin. Yes, it is good to delight in the glory of the Lord. But on our darkest days, we should remember that joy comes in the morning only after weeping in the night.

Mr. Rogers famously encouraged us to “look for the helpers” in a time of crisis. His words remind me of the one called Helper in Scripture—the Holy Spirit who comes to our aid in battle. Where we see helpers, we should recognize glimpses of God’s common grace and the evidence of fruit in Spirit-filled believers who lay down their life—their time, rights, money, desires, and more—for the sake of others.

So where do we take our grief? Where do we go when tragedy is scattered on page after page of our newsfeed? Sometimes we need words for dry mouths, but sometimes it’s better to sit in a story. The Bible gives us both and more. God’s story invites us to lament and wail with the ancients in deep tragedies that often mirror our own. And just like them, to continue waiting expectantly for Jesus to show up.

This morning I sat in a circle of elementary school teachers as they processed their grief and discussed how to support one another and their students. This conversation among my colleagues shouldn’t be necessary, and yet it connects us all the way back to the Garden of Eden and forward until Heaven comes down. We are not alone in our mourning but surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Our laments find their echoes all over Scripture, and there they also find rest.
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