Part Three in a series on “How to minister.” Continued from How to minister: Imitating Jesus
Something about grief is intensely personal. It is your loss, your pain; they are your tears. Some of us are so overwhelmed by our grief that we retreat over the moat surrounding our lives, pull up the drawbridge, and live in some isolated place inside where no one can touch us.
In general, non-expressive people struggle more with grief. The ancient Hebrews helped those who were grieving by giving ritual expressions to those who had suffered loss. Feel like all your joy has been burned up? Throw ashes on yourself to represent it. Feel like you’re raw and numb at the same time? Go poke some holes in a burlap sack and then wear it as an outward signal of what’s going on inside you.
One option for those who are mourning is to, as Sting sings, “Make a stone of your heart.”
But that is no way to live.
Recently, my friend Rob Finney met a woman coming out of the bookstore who had bought $500 worth of books on suffering. She’d been thru a horrible divorce and couldn’t live with the pain. She sat right in front of me at the institutional church service we attended. As it happened, a lady gave a testimony about the pain of her divorce, touching something inside the woman in front of me. She let down her drawbridge and came out of her isolation. When the Pastor gave an altar call, she went to the front to be prayed for.
This woman didn’t need another book on the psycho-dynamics of exposed nerve endings. She needed to feel the touch of skin. She needed to know that others had walked thru her dark valley and survived. She needed a reason to hope again.
Continued in Mourning with those who mourn (cont.)