I received an email telling me that the horrific story I had listened to on the morning news had happened to a family I knew. I had been praying for the people involved, not knowing one of them was a woman I teach in Bible study.
Sometimes evil has a face.
My friend’s family was impacted by evil personified. Her niece, a twenty-two-year-old woman who had recently graduated from college, was kidnapped, robbed, attacked, and then violently murdered. The attack was recorded on a nearby camera, and it was truly horrific.
My friend’s grief is compounded by the darkness that surrounds her niece’s death.
Thankfully, the man was quickly arrested. A jury might allow him to live, but I can’t imagine he will ever be set free.
Sometimes grief has no one to blame.
That night, the first story in the news was my friend’s nightmare, and the last story of the evening was about a different kind of nightmare.
Babe Laufenberg is a favorite sports broadcaster here in Dallas. His son had hoped to play football in college this fall. Instead, the news ended with a report that Luke Laufenberg, aged twenty-one, had died of cancer.
The entire sports broadcast was devoted to what a fine young man he had been and what a hero he was to the people who knew him. Jason Garrett, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, could barely complete his interview. He was grieving for his friends.
Sometimes grief is the result of living in this imperfect world. Bad things happen, indiscriminately, and no one is to blame.
We want heaven’s promises now—but this world will never be heaven.
Is there really help for the horrible?
It was one day and two incredibly sad stories. Two young people, two families, and crowds of people who wish they had words to help.
What can we say or do when people experience their worst moments of life?
Are there words for the impossible moments of grief that life inevitably brings?
Every life is different, but no life is spared loss.
What can we say, do, and offer that will help in the worst moments of grief?
I’m not a trained psychologist, but I have shared the journey of grief with a lot of people throughout our years of ministry. There are some powerful verses from the Psalms that I believe apply to moments of grief.
Words—even the truth of Scripture—don’t end our grief, but they can offer some help we need for it. God provided us these Psalms. There is truth he wants us to know and give to others.
God is near.
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Many grieving people talk about feeling numb. That numbness feels wrong or worrisome to most of them, but what if that numbness is a gift of God’s presence?
We use anesthesia to keep a person from fully experiencing pain. Everyone has different experiences, but almost all experience the numbness.
I’ve often wondered if that was God’s nearness to them in their pain. What if God’s Presence, his nearness, grants a numbness that is simply his blessing for the crushed spirit?
Anesthesia is only for a limited time. Eventually, there is the pain involved in getting to our feet.
God is there for that as well.
God won’t let you fall.
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
Some translations say, “He will never let the righteous fall.”
When the world has moved forward, people remain in their grief. It hurts to walk again. Rehab is hard. People know they need to try because professionals, friends, and loved ones tell them to try.
But no one else has to feel the pain and loneliness of the grieving person’s steps.
I think God would say, “Here is my arm. Grab on. It’s just us now, and this will hurt, but I won’t let you fall.”
God guides us through the tunnels of this life, and some are incredibly long, dark, and lonely. But, the only failure is letting go of the arm that knows the way through the darkness.
Grief is a tunnel, not a cave. As surely as there was a beginning, there is an end. You will emerge in a new place, but you will always know it is the place God brought you.
There will be joy.
Psalm 30:5 says, “His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Grieving people will never feel “happy” about their loss. The psalmist doesn’t say they will. It’s joy that comes in the morning.
This psalm was written about God’s anger not lasting, but the rest of the psalm offers great truth about God’s help. What does this psalm teach us about the Creator of the universe and the way he cares for his people? What does this psalm teach about God’s care for the grieving?
God’s favor lasts for a lifetime.
He will continue to show his favor, even as the grief subsides and invariably returns again.
God’s gift to the grieving person isn’t about happy circumstances. It is something greater and more complete. Joy is the incomprehensible peace and contentment that transcends our happiness—and our grief.
The night may be longer than you would wish, but morning will come. It always does. There will be joy in the morning.
Even when God is barely enough—He is still enough.
When God calls you to minister to a person who is grieving, it is important to realize that he doesn’t want you to minister. He wants to minister through you.
The reason you have no words is that you have no words. Only God has those words. You don’t know what to say, and it might be best to remain still until you have prayed and asked God to speak through you.
And, often, it is just about bringing his Holy Presence into the room.
If you are a Christian, Jesus enters the room with you. That’s why so many grieving people will say, “I don’t remember what you said . . . I just know you were there.”
Your words might not matter, but allowing Jesus to minister through you will matter—eternally.
Again, we don’t choose that job; we just obey if he chooses us. Every Christian should pray.
God honors the prayers of his people and there are two families that need prayer. So, together we pray:
Holy Father, bring people to these families who will bring you into the room. And God, if it is one of us, may we be your hands and your love and speak only your words—through the power of your Spirit and for the glory of Christ. It’s in his name we pray, amen.