Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jesus wept

"Chaplain Mike," who works with hospice and with grief support groups, writes about "The Grieving Process" at After discussing how grief affects those who have lost a loved one and how we respond to our own grief and to that of others, he closes with this:
.... Perhaps the most cruel words I have ever heard were spoken by a pastor to a grieving woman. She had lost her teen son. A couple of weeks later she came to worship and remained in the sanctuary after everyone else had left. There she sat in the pew and wept. The pastor came up the aisle, paused as he saw her crying and said, “Now Laura, remember your testimony.”

As if the only attitude that can testify to the Man of Sorrows is that of soaring with a smile over all our circumstances!

Christian groups that honor history, tradition, and liturgy have more resources to deal with the path of grief than those who don’t.
  • These groups tend to have a better theology of creation and the significance of life and vocation in this world. Evangelicals are often more world-denying and dualistic in their approach, which can lead to the kind of comment the pastor made above.
  • These groups tend to value the Psalms more highly and have spent centuries praying them, hearing them read in worship, singing them, and praying them. Evangelical and other a-historical expressions of the faith are unpracticed in words of lament.
  • These groups tend to have more depth with respect to pastoral theology, and so ministries of pastoral care and compassion ministries are valued more. Evangelicals value church growth and activism primarily, and so their view of the pastor is more of the preacher and CEO who inspires the church to go forth in mission.
  • These groups have more resources to commemorate life passages through liturgy and formal prayer. As Walter Brueggemann once wrote, there is a “formfulness” that we need in times of grief and sorrow. The chaos of our spirits quieted in the structure of familiar, formal words.
Read your Bible, pray, and get busy is, to say the least, an insufficient model for dealing with the chaos that comes to our lives through grief. And yet that is what many churches promote and many Christians lean on to get them through.
I think the absence of "formfulness," was what I missed most as the church dealt with my brother and me when our parents died. Structure and settled expectation are particularly important when a significant part of life becomes shaky.

Ask Chaplain Mike: The Grieving Process |

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