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Theology of Grief III

I am incredibly blessed by your comments. Thank you very much for your wisdom and concern.

The author of Ecclesiastes writes, "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart " (7:2). Two verses later, he says something similar: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure."

Most of us believe this to be true (at least in an abstract sort of way). At funerals, people are often more open to thinking of significant issues and eternal things.  Gravesides, nursing homes and hospitals confront us with questions regarding the ultimate meaning and purpose of human life. Certainly, this has to be part of what the writer of Ecclesiastes means. It seems obvious that when we consider the end of our lives it (should) effect how we live today. But I have wondered if there isn't more to it than this. 

Is there something else about mourning that contributes to wisdom? Does it go beyond simply forcing us to "live in light of eternity?" 

 What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts? 

Mike 

 

 

Comments

We got ours in the mail on Tuesday... I thought it wasn't coming out until January!

Oops that comment was meant for the previous post.

Ecclesiastes 1:18:
For in much wisdom [is] much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

I was thinking last night how I've been going through the stages of grief. As if someone has died - bargaining, denial, anger, depression...and thought carefully about what exactly it was I grieved. I believe it was the "loss" of MY image of God, or rather the death of the mini-god that I had made myself out to be. The god I knew died. The real God tore my images of him to pieces. I am getting to know the real God, the Alpha, the Omega, the I AM, now and I am grieving the loss of a god that I imagined would heal all my hurt if I just had enough faith. If I just prayed long enough. If I just worked hard enough. For a perfectionist, that kind of god was perfect for me because I could hold to the illusion that I could control the outcome of anything if I just applied myself enough. I was the god in my life, using God's power and love as a puppet, as if I were the puppet master, angrily frustrated that the puppet wasn't doing as I was directing.

Now, seeing that God may use tragedy, may allow or even cause pain to magnify His name has been a hard pill to swallow. The mourning has allowed the wisdom though. The mourning of the situation we find ourselves in with our daughter has caused me to watch my mini-god be torn to shreds while I watch the real God reveal Himself in new pieces of every day.

This is the wisdom God is giving me through the mourning. I imagine for everyone, the lesson and wisdom is shades different, depending on where they are and what God wants for them in the season and time of mourning (and in the times that follow).

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Hi Mike: Not sure if you read the following piece that I posted a couple of months ago. Thought it might add something to the conversation.

http://www.conversantlife.com/life-with-god/stages-of-grief

Mike,
My husband and I attended Rock Harbor's Christmas Eve service and my heart went out to you when you began talking about Seth. I teach special needs jr. highers.... they are very special people...so loved by God and others......with working with their parents I have seen the families go through the grieving process of what their children may never be able to do.....but there is SO much these kids can do.....people are drawn to them.....they light up a room....and God's message can be told by them in a way no one else can tell it. Our families prayers are with you. Seth brings a message of HOPE to this world in a way no one else can....hold onto that.

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I’ll warn you at the beginning, this may just be a lot of fluff and is not meant to ‘enlighten’ any wisdom – that I would be fool enough to presume to have – for grieving well. But you did ask for my thoughts on what is trying to be conveyed by Koheleth right? Haha, so here’s two cents for you big guy.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting; for that is the end of every man, and a living one should take it to heart.” (JPS)

G.K. Chesterton (always a good place to start, haha) to open his chapter on The Maniac wrote something along the lines of, “Thoroughly worldly people never understand even the world. They rely on a few cynical maxims which aren’t true.” He goes on to remark how the modern masters of science are much impressed with the need for beginning all inquiry with a fact and how ancient religious thinkers have also been impressed with that method; the fact they began with is sin. Sin seems to Chesterton, the most obvious thing to begin with. “Whether or not man could be washed in miraculous waters, he wanted washing.” He speaks lowly of theologians like R.J. Campbell who admit divine sinlessness (which they can’t see in their dreams) but who essentially deny human sin (which they can see in the street). He suggests that the strongest saints and skeptics begin with sin.

For Koheleth – as is evident all throughout Eccl. – he seems to be saying something like: look, there is something deeply, deeply wrong with this world. This is not heaven. And that, if truly perceived, should generate deep mourning within us. There are many who ignore this blatantly obvious fact and there needs to be a shattering of the illusion that everything’s okay the way it is. In v.2 he seems to be saying, it’s better to go to a place that is more aware of the way things are than to a place that foolishly tries to ignore it. Ignorance may be bliss for a time, but that doesn’t make it right or sustaining, so go to the house of mourning and “take it to heart,” ponder it, consider what you feel, consider the pain, the brokenness and enter into it. Consider the simple reality that this world is not how it should be.

to add on to the above post, I find this relevant as a response to this recognition that "there is something deeply, deeply wrong..."

"The Cry to God as 'Father' in the New Testament is not a calm acknowledgment of a universal truth about God's abstract fatherhood.

It is the Child's cry out of a nightmare.

It is the cry of outrage, fear, shrinking away, when faced with the horror of the 'world' - yet not simply or exclusively protest, but trust as well.

'Abba Father'
all things are possible
to Thee..."
- Rowan Williams

Grieving, but more specifically, losing something that was an assumed part of your life (in this case, "losing" the expectation that your child would be born a healthy, happy, non-Down syndrome baby) forces you to fully confront that God is in control. You do not control things around you, period. No matter how hard you try, how good you are, how humble you are before the Lord, you are not in control. It is a lesson that many people learn, some earlier than others, but many people do not. Those of us that learn it seem to live a little differently than those that don't.

That being said, everything is relative, so your "loss" may be a Down syndrome baby, someone else's "loss" may be the death of a loved one, and someone else's the loss of the ability to play their favorite sport. Whatever the loss that leads to grief, it is very humbling and puts into perspective this life we live here on Earth relative to our God in Heaven.

We'll keep praying for you and your family Mike.

Your honesty and openness is refreshing. I don’t think my comments will answer your question. Maybe it will be another stone to add to the wall.

I am not the type of guy who wakes up in the morning and prays, “God let me suffer for you today. Yes Lord, please bring it on!” Yet the times our family has gone through periods of suffering God has taken us through them and for a brief period allows us to take rest. So I try to set up memorials/ markers, but I can only seem to do this when I come through the other side of suffering. It is so difficult when I am in the throws of things; my range of emotions is as far as the east is from the west. When I consider what others have gone through and are going through I am humbled by their experiences.

In the past I have been too quick to intellectualize my afflictions; and this old habit likes to hang around. I don’t think it is not enough to tell people God will take them through tough times. When hurting people are reaching out they want our heart, they want us to hold out a hand.

Often I have found comfort in the Psalms. I think Spurgeon makes some good point in his comments on Psalm 119:71 (It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes).

“…but for the truth to be learned by adversity is good for the humble. Very little is to be learned without affliction. If we would be scholars we must be sufferers. As the Latins say, Experientia docet, experience teaches. There is no royal road to learning the royal statutes; God's commands are best read by eyes wet with tears.”

This is something that is deeper than reality itself. I do agree with your thoughts on this. It is sad but very true. ipad keyboard case

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I will read that part.

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About
husband to Justina; father to Nathan, Hannah and Seth; pastor and teacher living in Southern California; author of 4 books, the latest of which just was released and is called 'Why The Bible Matters.'


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