Re-Issue of “Grief – The Expression of Pain”
(April 11, 2017)
In the summer of 2012 a deranged individual shot up a movie theater in Aurora, CO and it prompted me to write a weblog on grief and pain. This week we have seen yet another tragic set of events at a school in California. My own heart is broken right now after losing my youngest son only 2 short months ago. I found it amazing to go back and read my own words and, even though I believed every word I wrote 5 years ago, those same words have so much more sharpness and depth than before.
Allen Raynor Weblog: Grief – The Expression of Pain
(July 24, 2012)
Once again people are left asking why after James Holmes went on a shooting spree at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater early Friday morning. Heinous acts like these have become all too common in recent years. The local media in Denver have naturally been comparing this tragedy to the Columbine High School shooting rampage in 1999, which took place in nearby Littleton.
Many people have been affected directly by this tragedy while others have been affected more indirectly. I did not know anyone shot or killed personally, but I must admit seeing the pictures of 6 year old Veronica Moser-Sulivan on newscasts has brought tears to my eyes. As a father, a pastor, and as a human being I cannot help but be touched. We are all affected in some way. We are left with seemingly more questions than answers. How do we make sense of this “senseless” outpouring of evil?
Grief is a natural process that we have to go through when tragedy strikes our lives. Sometimes we can see it coming, other times it totally blind-sides us. H. Norman Wright says of grief, “It has been labeled everything from intense mental anguish to acute sorrow to deep remorse.” (Experiencing Grief) Ken Gire in his 2001 book The Weathering Grace of God compares grief to the description of the Dust Bowl in John Steinbeck’s great novel, The Grapes of Wrath. He writes, “Steinbeck’s description of the Dust Bowl is what the weather of the heart is sometimes like for someone who has endured a great loss. A steady wind blows over you, opposes you, oppresses you. The wind grows stronger, whisking away what little soil surrounds the few rootlets of spiritual life you have left.”
There are a lot of unanswered questions right now for a lot of surviving victims and family members of those affected. Trying to comfort such sorrow is an overwhelming task. You can look into the tear filled eyes of these people and know that from the very depths of their souls they just want to understand why their loved one was taken away. In the Old Testament, Job desired desperately to understand why he suffered as he did, but it was not revealed to him. God basically expected him to rely on faith, but not a blind, uninformed, or an empty sort of faith which is no faith at all. But instead a faith that called to mind God’s past “faithfulness” to Job. Ken Gire goes on to pose the questions, ‘“What can I do to grow through this experience?’ And ‘How will my life be stronger now?’ Faith is involved in this process. On one hand you will ask why and on the other hand say, ‘I will learn to live by faith.’ Faith is many things. It is not knowing the answer to the why, and being willing to wait for an answer. Eventually you may say, ‘I really don’t need the answer in order to go on.’ Some say not knowing makes recovery difficult, but could it be that knowing could make it even more difficult? We hope an explanation will lessen the hurt. It won’t. Job asked and asked and asked again, but the silence of God was loud.”
Consider the prophet Habakkuk who cried out and asked God why, but the silence of God again was loud. Even though Habakkuk never received an answer from God he did come to a place of acceptance. In Hab. 3:17-18 we read, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” That is quite a testimony from one who has gone through so much hurt. The human spirit is, without question, resilient. We are capable of more than we realize we are capable of when in the midst of great pain and distress.
Over time we slowly learn to not think about the tragedy or loss quite as much. It happens so gradually we do not even realize that it is happening. The great scientist, mathematician, and theologian of the 17th Century, Blaise Pascal, wrote “Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance, men have decided in order to be happy, not to think about such things.” (Pensees) Indeed mankind has trained himself to not think about the reality which exists all around him all the time. Mankind has many amusements and occasionally, and with great difficulty and discomfort, he is brought back to reality of living in the broken world that is described on every page of the Bible in sharp detail. The good news for those directly affected by the Aurora theater shooting and all of mankind is that right along with the description of lostness, brokenness, and hopelessness in God’s Word is the truth that God can find what is lost, fix what is broken, and restore hope where once there was none! That is the Gospel message. The message of true hope!
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor