Devotion: Grieving

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;

Psalm 6:2-7

Like a “stress test,” this season of quarantining, social distancing and sheltering in place has caused a lot of the inner issues that we keep bottled up to sprout into our lives. Whether it is frustration, anger, a compulsive need to “do something,” flat marriages, depression or conspiracy theories, the things we are not proud of are becoming apparent. Like a doctor hooking us up to a treadmill to force our bodies to undergo stress in order to reveal what health concerns we may have, perhaps God is using this as a way to force us to transform our hearts. At the core of any transformation, however, is change, and…

All change is loss.

When things change, we lose and let go of things. So it is natural to expect that change will cause us to go through the patterns of grief.

In conversation with folks over the past few weeks, it seems like many of us are experiencing grief as we experience these dramatic changes. I have noticed within my own heart that this coronavirus has caused me to go through the classic stages of grief.

Denial: Overloaded with the statistics, I have become numb to the numbers. Granted I am a religion major and art minor, so I have always been numb to numbers. I have realized, though, that 100,000 people, .1% of the population, means exponential growth patterns are very easy to deny. I do not think the full ramifications will land until I experience a 1-degree of separation from someone hospitalized with this virus.

Anger: Another classic response to grief is distorted anger. It is anger misdirected or disproportionate. For me, my modus operation of displaying anger is through sarcasm. In the greek, sarcasm literally means “the tearing of flesh.” It is the humor of the angry.

Bargaining: I have made some deals in the midst of this…I will socially distance, so long as we can still have Easter services (looks like that is not gonna happen). I will wash my hands, if I can still touch my face. I will keep away from people, so long as I can still run with my neighbor.

Depression: The first two weeks, it felt like this was a fun adventure for our family to try a different rhythm of life. Then week three landed, and suddenly a flatness emerged in my spirit. The excitement has waned and the walls have closed in. There is a sense of sadness that this will never end. I began to overlook the number one rule I had learned from five years of working out of the house, and our one year of homeschooling–every morning you have to shower, shave, put on work clothes, “commute” to your office space and take a lunch break.

Acceptance: The average time Americans tend to allow someone to grieve is 2.5 weeks. When someone dies, we allow them the space to grieve for 17 days, but after that we place this subtle pressure on them to “move on” and get back to work. We worry that if they wallow in the grief any longer then they will be trapped forever. Therefore, we fail to share stories about the person who has died. We fear that if we bring up the dead to their spouse we will reopen old wounds. We think that tears are weakness and not methods of healing. As a result, our culture has been horrible at allowing people to fully process death and grief. We have passed the seventeenth day mark of social distancing, and while many of us are ready to move on, the reality is–we cannot. The reality is that no one knows how long this will last. There is no expert out there with the answer. We can, however, share stories of how we are coping, we can call friends and ask them how they are doing, and it is okay to cry and lament.

The challenge we face in our current situation is that grief is meant to be shared.

From this emerges what Scott Berinato describes as the sixth stage of grief: finding meaning.

We can find meaning in this by seeing this season as a stress test through which God wants to reveal something about us. It reveals something about ourselves and our culture. It helps us understand how we utilize the only resource we have: time.

So, what stage of grief are you in? What parts of your life are starting to come to the surface? Who is someone you can call to share this with?

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