Grief -- the experiential, emotional fruit of the bereavement event -- is, as we have seen, a state of desolation and isolation, of alternating apathy and agony, of inner emptiness and exhaustion. How may such a condition be sanctified -- that is, managed, lived with, and lived through in a way that honors God? No Puritan to my knowledge addresses the question in this form, but the Puritan answer would be this:
Starting from where you are, do what you can (it may not be much at first) to move toward the thanksgiving, submission, and patience of which we have just heard.
Do not let your grief loosen your grip on the goodness and grace of your loving Lord.
Cry (for there is nothing biblical or Christian, or indeed human, about the stiff upper lip).
Tell God your sadness (several of the psalms, though not written about bereavement, will supply words for the purpose).
Pray as you can, and don't pray as you can't. (That bit of wisdom is not original to me, nor was it distilled in a grief-counseling context, but it is very apropos here).
Avoid well-wishers who think they can cheer you up, but thank God for any who are content to be with you and do things for you without talking at you.
Talk to yourself (or, like Richard, write) about the loved one you lost.
Do not try to hurry your way out of the inner weakness you feel; grieving takes time.
Look to God as thankfully, submissively, and patiently as you can (and he will understand if you have to tell him that you cannot really do this yet).
Feel, acknowledge, and face, consciously and from your heart, all the feelings that you find in yourself at present, and the day will come when you find yourself able, consciously and from your heart, to live to God daily in thanksgiving, submission, and patient hope once again -- as did Richard, and [C.S.] Lewis, and millions more.
Grieving properly leads back to thinking properly, living properly, and praising properly. God sees to that! "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matt. 5:4).
Saturday, March 19, 2011
How Grief May Be Sanctified
J.I. Packer, A Grief Observed: Through Sorrow to Eternal Hope, Including Richard Baxter's Timeless Memoir of His Wife's Life and Death, pp. 168-169: