“He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.” Luke 4:18
Jesus came to earth to heal broken hearts. The hope and promise within this verse is that a heart can mend.
Apostle Paul’s comforting words extend that promise to encompass more than my broken heart: “He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. 4 He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble.” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4 Common English Bible)
Frankly, I’ve been resisting the second part of this verse. For a long time I said to myself that I didn’t want to help other people with dealing with grief. It’s taken me 10 years to allow God’s hand to work within me. Monday’s blog discussed the good work that God puts within us; as a follower of Jesus I’ve used the gift of teaching to teach Bible classes to all ages of children and adults. Through God’s grace I’ve presented workshops to other teachers, edited newsletters, led women’s ministries, developed Bible classes for children with disabilities, written Bible school curriculum, as well as written dramas of Bible stories. Throughout my teaching career I always felt that my students were my main ministry – guiding them to be their best and treating each other with respect. In my opinion, it was a pretty full life of service.
He just waited, held me through my tears, guided me to helpful books, listened to my lament, led me to dear friends and family, and kept waiting.
Back in 1983 my father was dying at the young age of 56. My editor asked me to write a children’s book on death, so I researched and read and discovered Helen Kubler-Ross. She pioneered work on understanding grief and dying. Her book, On Death and Dying, published in 1969, became a classic text outlining five stages of grief. Reading this book as my father slowly let go of this world and died on his own terms gave me insight on grief as never before. I still have a copy of her book on my bookshelf today.
But I needed more than her book – this grief over the death of our only child was wrenching. How in the world could I navigate through these treacherous waters without being sucked under?
One of the best books I read in those first days was Mourning Into Dancing by Walter Wangerin, Jr. He says, “Grief is the grace of God within us.” Then he adds, “Grief is itself the knitting of wounded souls . . .” I think that is how God heals us – by putting a wounded soul back together; never again will the soul be the same, but still mended.
Today we will look at the first stage of grief according to Wangerin.
Act 1: Shock
This definition makes so much sense to me: Shock is the difference between knowing and not knowing. Shock is merciful; it is a way to marshal our emotional forces for a time when we are strong enough to cope. He says that some of the first actions of grief may not even look like grief. Some people may be passive, letting others make decisions, even sleeping more than usual. In the Jewish tradition, practiced even today, the griever has family and friends with them for 30 days. I think I would have felt claustrophobic, but I see the value also. The griever is most vulnerable then and needs protection. Some grievers may keep themselves busy with distracting activity, even to the point of exhaustion. Shock can be comforting and may last a long time.
My Journal entry, May 20, 2002
Join me here next Friday to continue with Wangerin’s stages of grief.
Counting joy that I am able to share my journey in ways I could not imagine.