Good Grief

Recently, I was in a meeting with a group of folks and while the substance of the meeting had not gotten underway, suddenly one of the folks in attendance just loudly exclaimed, “Good grief!” Quickly, it was apparent what the problem was for the person. It had to do with something that a fellow worker was supposed to do for the meeting and had not carried out their responsibility. The person was just exasperated and said, “Good grief!”

While they knew, I knew, and you know that is just an expression that is sometimes used to announce that all is not well in our world, the expression has very little to do with the on-going daily experience of grief that we may have. While it does not take very long in life to begin to feel the effects of grief, it is very seldom that you ever have grief that feels, looks, or pretends to be good.

Bad grief seems to be the kind with which most of us are acquainted, for as a rule, grief is simply the stimulation of those bad emotions and feelings that we have within us. Most of the time, it is associated with some loss that we have experienced. It can be the loss of almost anything which can create a grief response. We do not think of it that way, but it is true. It can be the loss of a loved one or a friend. It can be the loss of your job or it can be the loss of self-esteem over an experience at your job. It can be the loss of a game or a promotion. It is hard to describe the grief that people go through when they have a house fire and lose everything that they have accumulated through the years. You can have an accident and severely damage your car and though you are alright, you will experience the grief that comes with the loss of a pile of metal.

Whatever the grief is that you may have in your life, oftentimes it just hangs on and sometimes it seems as though it will never leave. The tragic loss of a child, the painful process of a bitter divorce, the sinister acts that took place in a termination of a job, and many other events in life are laced with bitterness. It is hard to discard those feelings, to pull yourself together and to move forward. While we may say, “Good grief,” it is rarely good at all.

It seems to me that most of the time, it is just bad to the core. Why? Well, for one reason it is in a sense an unending grief because it is woven into our memory bank. The deeper the hurt and the more vivid the loss the more profound and maybe long-term is the grief. You can see that clearly in our national memory bank. It is hard to find someone who was alive at the time who doesn’t recall where they were and what was taking place when Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Kennedy was shot, 911 took place or Katrina struck our coastline. You cannot simply walk away from the deep moments of grief in your life because there are too many pieces of life that surround it that are hurting.

Another reality about grief is that it is unpredictable. What I mean by that is that you do not know when grief is going to re-enter your thought process and your feelings. Sometimes it seems as though you are getting everything back together and it is just a faint memory because you have moved on in your life. But suddenly with no warning at all a tsunami of grief components arrive at your heart’s door and stop you in your tracks. You thought you were getting better and you were, but grief has it owns timetable, its own behavior patterns, and its own shock system. Whether you like it or not and you probably will not, you have to deal with what comes.

That brings me to a third thing about grief and that is it is unmanageable. It is bad enough just having grief, but the fact that you cannot manage it makes it even worse. It comes, stirs up more pain and seems to hang around in its own will.

So what in the world are we supposed to do? Well, allow me to introduce you to our living Savior, Jesus Christ. He understands our grief dilemma. In fact, the scripture says, “He is a man of sorrows; and acquainted with grief,” (Isa. 53:3). He knows what the initial trauma and the ongoing wrestling with the pain and problems of grief feels like. Simply to know that somebody understands what you are going through is a source of encouragement.

Jesus certainly knows what you and I are feeling. The writer of Hebrews tells us that, “We do not have a high priest that cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He wrestled with our problems, and He knows what you are going through today. He is not just a Savior that feels our pain. He can come alongside of us, strengthen us, lift us up and empower us to go on even through our moments of grief. That is the remarkable thing about Jesus.

He told His own disciples that He was going away, but that He would not leave them without a comforter. He would send one who would be just like Him and would always be alongside of them. The Greek word the Bible uses is paraclete. He was talking about the ever present Holy Spirit who so lovingly and gently puts His strong arms around us, lifts us up and so powerfully enables us to continue. So many people have told me through the years of a moment in time when it just seemed like they did not think that they would be able to get up and face the situation, or go through the next day, or make a decision that was so charged with memories and emotions. But suddenly the strength of heaven was theirs. The grief, though present and clear, could not control the totality of their life. The Lord saw them through the moment.

He is available to me, and you can mark it down that He is available to you. Trust Him! While you may not see grief as good, you will find that God is good in the midst of your grief. When He shows up and lifts you up, you can pause and quietly say, “Good grief!” It really will be an experience with God.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer