Bring your grief to Jesus

In two days we will observe the 20-year anniversary of Sept. 11. Anyone who was old enough to understand the gravity of the moment can tell you where they were when they heard the tragic news.

It's burned into our brains. It was instant anxiety. It was fear and fury mixed in a moment. We cried for the 3,000 dead and their stunned families.

We feared the potential of more attacks. We were overwhelmed with the work that moving forward would demand of us as a nation. Our sense of loss was immense.

As time marched on, we were left with the reality of our wounded emotions and the obvious need to process them. Grief - we had no choice but to grieve.

However, as one wades through such a valley of darkness it becomes clear that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with grief.

I've seen what I call a "worldly reaction" to grief; a coping mechanism that does more harm than good.

This reactionary coping strategy can be described in the following string of phrases: Bury your feelings; replace your losses; grieve alone; let time heal; live with regret; never trust again.

I call them reactionary because they are an attempt at self-protection. A myriad of counselors have warned that such an approach is unhealthy and does not result in healing, but actually delays it.

These empty attempts at escaping pain leave people seeking relief in all the wrong places; work, food, shopping, alcohol, sex, drugs, etc.

God's approach to grief is the opposite of what I have described above. God says, "I don't want you to be alone on this journey. Take my hand and walk with me, as we walk through the valley of the shadow of heartache and tragedy, I want you to feel your feelings, review your loss, grieve in community, express your regrets, learn to forgive and accept forgiveness.

"Time will not heal, but the Holy Spirit brings healing and joy. He's called the comforter and counselor."

1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."

This particular verse indicates the fact there are different ways to grieve a loss. The text also tells us that the biblical approach to grieving is a hope-full approach, and others are devoid of such hope.

God is our creator. He designed us; body, soul and spirit. He knows what we need and how we can find healing for our damaged emotions.

Embrace your feelings, don't stuff them. Review your loss; don't just replace your loss. Grieve in community with people who care about you and can counsel you as they walk with you.

Express your regrets don't just live with them as if they are a ball and chain, assuming that you can never escape their grasp. Learn to talk with and forgive others, seeking reconciliation and move forward in relationships.

Finally, know that the Holy Spirit is the great healer, not time.

There you have it. Two approaches to grief management - society's approach and God's approach. They're distinctly different and lead to distinctly different outcomes.

You've got to make a choice about how you approach grief. I believe that this is the difference between whether you find joy and peace after a loss or get stuck in the pain of grief.

Bring your grief to Jesus, who gives us an invitation to life, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

He who was so deeply acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53) who knows better than anyone how tragic the world truly is, does not turn away when the darkness descends upon our minds and hearts.

The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Rev. John Friedlund serves Grace E.C. Church in Ninevah and replies can be sent to johnfriedlund@gmail.com.

Heavenly Father, it is with sincere hearts that we thank You for who You are and all You have given to us, by Your grace.