Good Grief

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by: Chris Kaufman

03/11/2021

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In 2018, pop band Bastille released one of their most popular songs to date, titled Good Grief. If you were to google the lyrics and read them you'd get the impression it was a sad song. Not without a reason either as the lyrics say:

"What's gonna be left of the world if you're not in it"

and

"Every minuite of every hour, I'll miss you, I'll miss you, I'll miss you more"

The song is about the singer losing someone he holds dear to death. There's just one oddity about it, the song doesn't sound sad. It's essintially a dance pop song, and it's super catchy. In 2018 you were far more likely to hear the song in a club than in any other setting. If you weren't paying attention to what the singer was saying, you'd never know the song holds such sorrow. 

I think this song is a good reflection of how we often deal with grief. We hide it behind fake smiles and plattitudes for fear of seeming weak. Often, no one would know that we are experiencing grief because we won't show it. Ever have someone ask you how your day is going and reply with "good" when that statement couldn't be further from the truth. I get it, usually when someone asks me that question, no matter how I'm feeling, I reply with "I can't complain". Almost always I am met with the reply, "nobody would listen if you did, right?".

Maybe that's why we don't show our grief. At our core, we believe that if we did, nobody would listen. It can't be a coincidence that everyone's most common response is the same unless we actually believe it. But our tendencies to shove our grief deep down and let no one see it, isn't Biblical. 

Maybe the best example for us to follow is that of Jesus. Crazy right? In John 11 we see a scene you've probably read before, the death of Lazarus. For context, Jesus gets word that his friend in Bethany is sick and going to die. Jesus decides to wait to go visit his friend and as a result Lazarus dies. Jesus then heads to his families house and this scene happens.

"When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to cry. The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”" -John 11:32-37

Who can blame Mary here? Who hasn't been in Mary's shoes and thought, well, if God had just awnsered my prayers then maybe my loved one wouldn't have died. It's not just Mary though, some of the Jews gathered there have the same thought; if this "God" is so powerful that he can heal the blind why didn't he save his friend. These are good questions, and we should feel the space to ask those questions.

But notice that Jesus doesn't attempt to justify what happened or to give a feel good pep talk to Mary or the others. Instead, He cries. He is so overwhelmed with the grief of Mary and those around Him that He doesn't attempt to fix it, He joins in with them. 

Now if you know the story, you know it ends well. Jesus goes to the tomb and calls out to Lazarus who rises from the dead, and everything is happy. It's a good sitcom ending where everything is set right. So does that undercut the emotion of Jesus' grief? I don't think so. 

For a moment, the God of the universe, the Divine King of glory to whom angels bow and demons flee, had His heart moved by the grief of human beings. If this is the case, why do we believe that our greif isn't worth expressing. That our grief is something that should be hidden from God and others. No, we should express our grief and experience the grief of others, no matter how painful it may be. 

And the ending of the story of Lazarus should bring us some comfort, because we know it's reflective of the final ending. Goodbye isn't final. The dead will rise and all things will be made new again. But while we wait, let us feel our grief together. If we can't do that in the church then where can we do it? Perhaps there is such a thing as good grief, and maybe this one line from the TV show WandaVision holds a more powerful truth than all our pladittudes; "What is grief, if not love perserving?"

In 2018, pop band Bastille released one of their most popular songs to date, titled Good Grief. If you were to google the lyrics and read them you'd get the impression it was a sad song. Not without a reason either as the lyrics say:

"What's gonna be left of the world if you're not in it"

and

"Every minuite of every hour, I'll miss you, I'll miss you, I'll miss you more"

The song is about the singer losing someone he holds dear to death. There's just one oddity about it, the song doesn't sound sad. It's essintially a dance pop song, and it's super catchy. In 2018 you were far more likely to hear the song in a club than in any other setting. If you weren't paying attention to what the singer was saying, you'd never know the song holds such sorrow. 

I think this song is a good reflection of how we often deal with grief. We hide it behind fake smiles and plattitudes for fear of seeming weak. Often, no one would know that we are experiencing grief because we won't show it. Ever have someone ask you how your day is going and reply with "good" when that statement couldn't be further from the truth. I get it, usually when someone asks me that question, no matter how I'm feeling, I reply with "I can't complain". Almost always I am met with the reply, "nobody would listen if you did, right?".

Maybe that's why we don't show our grief. At our core, we believe that if we did, nobody would listen. It can't be a coincidence that everyone's most common response is the same unless we actually believe it. But our tendencies to shove our grief deep down and let no one see it, isn't Biblical. 

Maybe the best example for us to follow is that of Jesus. Crazy right? In John 11 we see a scene you've probably read before, the death of Lazarus. For context, Jesus gets word that his friend in Bethany is sick and going to die. Jesus decides to wait to go visit his friend and as a result Lazarus dies. Jesus then heads to his families house and this scene happens.

"When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to cry. The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”" -John 11:32-37

Who can blame Mary here? Who hasn't been in Mary's shoes and thought, well, if God had just awnsered my prayers then maybe my loved one wouldn't have died. It's not just Mary though, some of the Jews gathered there have the same thought; if this "God" is so powerful that he can heal the blind why didn't he save his friend. These are good questions, and we should feel the space to ask those questions.

But notice that Jesus doesn't attempt to justify what happened or to give a feel good pep talk to Mary or the others. Instead, He cries. He is so overwhelmed with the grief of Mary and those around Him that He doesn't attempt to fix it, He joins in with them. 

Now if you know the story, you know it ends well. Jesus goes to the tomb and calls out to Lazarus who rises from the dead, and everything is happy. It's a good sitcom ending where everything is set right. So does that undercut the emotion of Jesus' grief? I don't think so. 

For a moment, the God of the universe, the Divine King of glory to whom angels bow and demons flee, had His heart moved by the grief of human beings. If this is the case, why do we believe that our greif isn't worth expressing. That our grief is something that should be hidden from God and others. No, we should express our grief and experience the grief of others, no matter how painful it may be. 

And the ending of the story of Lazarus should bring us some comfort, because we know it's reflective of the final ending. Goodbye isn't final. The dead will rise and all things will be made new again. But while we wait, let us feel our grief together. If we can't do that in the church then where can we do it? Perhaps there is such a thing as good grief, and maybe this one line from the TV show WandaVision holds a more powerful truth than all our pladittudes; "What is grief, if not love perserving?"

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3 Comments on this post:

Arleta

Thankyou. Sharing grief with our friends and family- another way of showing love, absolutely.

Donna Kellmer

Thank you, Pastor Chris.

Pam

Well done Chris.