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How to minister: Learning to grieve

Part Six in a series on “How to minister.” Continued from How to Minister: Touching Jesus the leper  In our hypersensitive victim culture, we don’t need any more pity parties. But part of the reason we wallow in our loss is that we don’t know how to do the hard work of grieving. A wee…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Part Six in a series on “How to minister.” Continued from How to Minister: Touching Jesus the leper

 In our hypersensitive victim culture, we don’t need any more pity parties. But part of the reason we wallow in our loss is that we don’t know how to do the hard work of grieving.

A week ago I was with a friend who had what he thought was a relatively happy life until one day last year, his wife showed up and without any real explanation announced, “I want a divorce.”

Shortly thereafter, my friend lost everything in life that mattered. He didn’t find out until it was too late that she was simultaneously having an affair with her lawyer. Now, he gets to see their two children on Thursday evening and weekends. Though months have passed, he’s still in a state of shock.

My friend Ron Walborn says we all need to write a grief journal. He suggests journaling about our losses and how we feel about them. It’s a biblical concept. The book of Lamentations is a grief journal. Jeremiah has lost everything and pours his tears out on paper, journaling thoughts like this one: “The Lord is like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel.”

This isn’t blasphemy. This is the kind of healthy grieving more of us need to do. God encourages it – the alternative is to allow our grief to go un-expressed, festering into bitterness and even hate. To be human means to suffer loss. We lose our grandparents, and eventually our parents. All of us lose our youth and with it our taut skin and vigor. Many of us lose our dreams. Our friends fall away. Some of us make wrong choices and lose our integrity. Others suffer catastrophic loss when a child dies.

To be human is to have your source of joy and hope robbed from you. We have a sworn enemy who lives to see that happen and who always looks for a “twofer,” tempting us to live in a prison of bitterness after he’s stolen our joy.

Dear reader, it is not fair that your mother and father treated you as they did. They were probably oblivious to the hurt they caused you – you may never get the apology you deserve. But it is time to move on. It’s time to pick up the “Get out of jail free” card and redeem it. Jesus came to set the captives free and sometimes he uses something as simple as a grief journal to do it.

If there’s a part of you that you’ve walled off from feeling anymore, it may be time to tear down those walls and feel again. Get a journal and take some time to write your own small book of lamentations. Show the truth of your loss and how you feel about it to the light of day. It’s only as we do this that God can turn our mourning into dancing.

Read the beginning of this blog series: How to Minister to Others

Comments (7)

  • Awesome Seth. I am leading my 8th Spiritual Formation Class through this process right now. You can’t believe how much resistance there is to grieving among evangelicals. Denial and anger have become their drugs of choice. God deliver us from our blindness.

  • Thanks for the blog… it was a good reminder, like a slap in the face. YEs, grieve and move on!! It is amazing that it can be so difficult to do. I have never heard that about Lamentations… like it being a grief journal… good stuff.
    Thanks

  • The only problem with this is we sometimes dont realize the depths to which trauma can effect us. So we deal with what were able to as it surfaces.The real challenge is see this through in one sitting wether it takes a day or a month.Time doesnt matter rather that were commited purging ourselves of the poison of undealt with emotions!!!

  • Amen… Grief is a lost art. Over this past year, personal grief and “comforting those who mourn” have been more present for me than any previous year, and it has been a growth process. Journaling, crying out to Him, and celebrating what still IS have been so helpful. Good thoughts, as usual. Thanks, Seth.

  • it can be very heartbreaking and devastating to anyone. i know how it feels because i have passed that terrain before, but i would urge your friend not to lament over an unfaithful woman. it is good riddance to bad rubbish.save your tears for someone truly dear and worthwhile. dont get bitter but get better, rejoicing and thanking the Lord for everything. He would heal your wounds and give you a better companion.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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