Sometimes we just need permission to grieve. In the evangelical church today it is sometimes looked down upon to grieve since we know the reality of heaven. This is both unfortunate and unbiblical. Bereavement is Scripture is a reality and recognized as an important part of coming to grips with death. Far from stuffing his feelings, the Old Testament character David personally expressed his grief and agony over the death of his best friend, Jonathan.
The final chapter of the book of 1 Samuel is the account of a decisive battle in which the Philistines defeated the Israelites. As a result, both King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed. Jonathan and David were close – so close that their relationship was as if they were one soul, not two. So, to have his friend no longer with him was a great loss to David. The beginning of the book 2 Samuel tells us of David’s response to the news that his friend was gone: he lamented the loss. To lament means to have a deep and passionate expression of sorrow over a significant loss.
Here are a few observations about David’s lament (2 Samuel 1:17-27): it was not only personal, but was voiced publicly, meaning that others were invited to grieve along with him; it affirmed the tragedy of death and its deep impact upon us; it focused on remembering the positive characteristics of the deceased; and, it was verbalized with heartfelt thoughts and emotions.
Grief and lament is as individual as a fingerprint; there is not a fixed process to a person’s bereavement. Therefore we cannot pigeon-hole ourselves or someone else to fit a certain way of grieving. But no matter how we grieve, we must do it so that we come to a point of making sense how to live without the person’s presence and relationship. David was close to the Lord, and God’s presence was the most decisive factor in helping him move on to the demands of serving others as their new king.
There are times when we simply feel stuck. Not much seems to be happening and nothing apparently makes any difference. Oftentimes, at the root of such feelings, is some unrecognized and/or unresolved grief underneath. It causes us to respond to life as if we were moving in slow motion. There is no quick and easy solution to the reality of a loss; it must be acknowledged and worked-through with some attention and care. If not, it will inevitably lead to problems down the road, and end-up causing emotional breakdowns over the smallest of issues.
So, let’s take our cues from David. Let’s do the good work of lamenting losses and grieving significant changes of life. Otherwise, we will only run into each other in the church like uncaring zombies and avoid the truly important things which God has for us as his people.
May you know the comfort and grace of God today through his encouraging Word, his comforting Spirit, and his compassionate people as you do the good and important work of grieving your losses.