My husband and I were on our way home from a brief trip to a local state park on Monday when we stopped for lunch and heard the news about the bombings at the Boston marathon.
Immediately, my heart sunk. As I watched the images from Boston flit across the TV screen, I kept thinking, “This looks like something that happens elsewhere; Not something that happens here.”
Ironically, the trip my husband and I took to the state park was one prompted by our own grief. We snuck away to a state park because nature restores and renews us like few others things do. And it did... Until we saw the news and our nation's grief became palpable.
Having been mired in grief for weeks now myself, what I can tell you about grief is this:
- Grief is hard. Grief exhausts you – emotionally and physically. Grief drains you, leaving you raw and oftentimes unfocused.
- Grief is complicated. While grief may initially be prompted by one thing, oftentimes in the midst of grief, you come to realize you're grieving not just one, but many things. With regard to Boston, I find myself grieving over all that was lost: Lives, limbs, and even a sense of safety and security. I grieve the evil behind such atrocities. I grieve the sense of hopelessness that so often accompanies tragedy.
- Grief ebbs and flows. Some days grief is raw and very near the surface. Other days, it is just below the surface. On still other days, grief can seem a million miles away until one small thing reminds you of what was lost and your grief resurfaces. In so many ways, the journey through grief feels as though you take one very small step forward, toward healing, only to then take a dozen large steps backward. I'm learning that grace is necessary for accepting that this is normal and OK, not something for which we need to feel embarrassed or ashamed.
- No two people's grief is the same, even when we grieve the same thing. Our unique stories shape both what causes us to grieve as well as how we react to that grief. Despite this, grieving with others makes grief feel slightly less suffocating.
- There's no magic formula for overcoming grief. While praying and journaling may be helpful for some people, they may not be for others. As a result, during times of grief we must give ourselves – and others – permission to do whatever it is we need to do to process our grief and heal.
In the immediate aftermath of the Boston bombings, I've lost track of how many times I've heard well-meaning people confidently say things like, “God has a reason for this.”
While I certainly believe that our God is one who can, in fact, use all things for his glory no matter how horrendous they are, every time I've heard this – whether verbally or in written form – I've wanted to scream. Such sentiments make it sound as though God caused this, either deliberately or passively. Such sentiments don't help. Such sentiments aren't comforting.
And what we need right now is comfort.
That's why, in the midst of a grief that makes so much seem uncertain, I'm choosing to cling to the knowledge that our God is a God who is with us. I know this because Jesus – God incarnate – wept at the tomb of his good friend, Lazarus, despite knowing that just a short while later, he'd raise Lazarus from the dead.
In the same way, I believe that in the midst of my personal grief, Jesus has wept with me. I believe that in the midst of our national grief, Jesus is weeping with us... Even though he knows the ending to our stories.
And I believe this not because our country is a Christian one whom God in some way favors but instead because God is God. In the midst of grief and uncertainty, he's certain and that's enough.