Faithlife Sermons

Weep & Mourn: Grieving God's Way

Psalms for Every Season  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Good morning everyone. Last week we explored how God walks us through different seasons to mature our faith. We talked about how winter seasons, while unpleasant, are necessary for our growth in Christ as God kills the sin in our hearts and heals our wounded souls.
This morning our passage of Scripture is Ecclesiastes 3:4, “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” This encompasses aspects of winter and summer seasons; of pruning and harvest. Today, we’re going to focus on the first part of the poem, mourning and weeping, and then next week I’ll preach about laughing and dancing.
In the next couple weeks we’re going to see how God leads us through seasons of loss to prepare us for the harvest. That’s the key idea.
This morning we’re going to focus on the seasons of loss and explore how to grieve God’s way. Every family, every culture has a way of processing grief. On one side of the spectrum are the British, who are very reserved and don’t like to make a fuss. My family is this way. Right after my grandpa died, my grandma just bounced around the kitchen making food for everyone, she didn’t cry the funeral, and the family doesn’t really talk about him much.
On the other end of the spectrum you take Italian or Greek culture, where there is loud wailing and over-the-top expressions of grief. I read that it’s not uncommon in some cultures for loved ones to jump into the grave as the coffin is being lowered in. That’s the complete opposite of my family.
Every culture has a way of grieving. But the Bible models a process of grief that enlarges our souls and deepens our humanity. Godly grief enlarges our souls. I was Peter Schultes this week, who was Ag major in college, and he was telling me that there are certain kinds of seeds that won’t grow without a cold season. That winter is actually restorative to the soil and kills harmful insects that would otherwise eat up the crop. Our souls grow the same way. There are certain fruits of the Spirit that can only grow after going through a bitterly cold season. When we learn to grieve God’s way it actually enlarges our soul, it makes us more compassionate, patient, empathetic, and loving.
Our culture typically doesn’t grieve in a way that enlarges the soul. We typically handle grief in a way that diminishes our humanity. We shut down and refuse to actually feel. We numb ourselves with addictive behaviors. We overwork, overeat, watch too much TV, go on vacations, abuse alcohol, porn, and drugs. We pleasure our pain away, because we have resources to do so.
There is another way. It’s not overnight, not automatically, not in a way we can manage, but there is a way of grieving that will enlarge the soul. Of course the Psalms model this beautifully, but I also want to take a look at how Jesus processed his grief. Let’s look at four steps along the biblical process of grief.

The Biblical Process of Grief

1. We allow ourselves to feel grief.

We’re used to a K-Love style religion, a version of Christianity that is all positive, encouraging, family-friendly. We read passages like Philippians 4:4, “rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” and we think it means that we can’t experience any negative emotions. But nearly 2/3rds of the Psalms are laments, meaning they are prayers of anguish and suffering. Psalm 22 says, “O my God, I cry by day, but you don’t answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” In Psalm 42 David says, “my tears have been my food day and night.” He essentially says that I’m so depressed that the only thing I can eat are my tears. It is not a sin to feel sad or angry.
A few years ago I was visiting someone who’s spouse had just died and I asked them how they were doing and they said, “Oh, I’m great! God is good!” and I felt terrible, because they didn’t have a faith that was a big enough to handle negative emotions. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, he wept loudly. Even though he knew that in just a few moments, he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus deeply felt and expressed grief, even though he knew about the resurrection, even though he God was good.
I want to look at Mark 14:32-36. It’s the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and we’ll return to at each step. Because in this story, Jesus walked his disciples through the process of grief in the garden of Gethsemane. JAnd so like the disciples, we too are going to walk with Jesus through the garden of grief. It says,
“And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter, and James, and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.”
Jesus allowed himself to fully feel his grief. This is the first step towards growing through our grief. Instead of bottling it up, or pleasuring the pain away, we acknowledge our feelings and give ourselves permission to feel them.

2. We honestly direct our grief to God.

We pray honestly, with no religious baloney. The poet in Psalm 73 tells God, “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in the heart.” God, I am envious of how evil people have a great life, while the righteous suffer! How can you let them get away with this? Or how about Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” Hey God, are you even listening to me? Are you even there? Or Psalm 139, “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!” Lord, I am so angry I want you to kill them! Jealousy, depression, violent rage. These are all feelings that were directed to God in prayer, and that were recorded in Scripture for us to teach us how to pray.
God is not afraid of our feelings, he gave us feelings. Feelings are part of what makes us human. And talking to him about our feelings is part of what makes him our Father. Jesus taught us that God is our Father, and that we’re to have childlike faith. Well what are children like? They tell you everything they’re feeling. Kids throw fits. And good parents help children process those emotions, not repress them or stuff them away. Our God is a good Father. who can more than handle it.
Looking back at Jesus in Mark 14, it says, “going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” He says, “Daddy, Father, please no. I don’t want to do this.” Jesus, a member of the Trinity who had planned this moment since before the foundations of the world, was looking at it in his full humanity and saying, “I don’t want to this.” This is such a tender moment we get to see of Jesus, because we get to see him in his full humanity, and it shows us that part of being really, fully human is being deeply aware of our emotions and directing those emotions to God.

3. Endure patiently in the mystery.

We don’t always know why God allows the things he allows. One Friday, Mike Moore and I were reading Romans 8 together and he said, “I think God works all things together for good, but it might not always be for my good right now , it might be for someone else’s good. And we won’t see it on this side, we just have to trust that God is keeping his promise whether we see it or not.” And I think that really gets to the heart of it. Sometimes we’re grieved by things that there are no answers to, and we’ll never get a good answer in this life. But we’re still to trust God’s promises, and endure. At the end of the day, in the garden Jesus said “not my will but yours” and endured grief to it’s fullest. Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame for (or because) of the joy set before him. He knew that when he endured fully, there was something on the other side. And this leads into the last step of biblical grief....

4. Preaching the gospel to ourselves daily.

There really is a resurrection. Amen? God really will restore all things. Amen? God raised Jesus from the dead and that same Spirit lives in us, renewing our souls day by day. Jesus was able to say, not my will but yours, and endure the cross because he saw us all together at the wedding feast of the lamb, where “every tear is wiped away, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Jesus endured the horrible mystery of the cross, where he cried, “My God, where are you? Why have you forsaken me?” because he knew that beyond the dark mystery of suffering there is a good and gracious God who is “working all things together for the good of those who love him.”
Let’s pray.
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