Thursday, January 13, 2011

It ain't over till the ArchAngel sings

A note from Paul.

Years ago when I worked at a mission for the homeless, one of my regular guys attempted suicide. In the hospital with him that night, and trying to decipher what his reasons were for the attempt, we decided I would sit in on his meetings with his psychologist. One of the roots to confusion for him had been taking in what the psychologist was telling him, and then taking in what Christianity spoke to him. The two clashed in his mind. It became my Job to review the terms used by the medical, and the spiritual, and produce a harmony between the two.

I found myself again in this endeavor, when I reviewed the stages of grief. The five stages of grief according to psychologists are:

■  shock followed by initial denial;
■  denial replaced by anger, rage, envy, and resentment;
■  bargaining (with God);
■  depression;
■  ultimate acceptance

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
True psychology is a science. Science is basically the discovery of our world through observation and experimentation. There is nothing wrong with science and it can give us many keys to understanding our world. A very compassionate woman named Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, who worked extensively with the dying and their survivors, first recorded these “stages of grief” in her book, On Death and Dying, in 1969. They are a simple observation of the emotions and states of mind that people encounter, when faced with a loss of any kind.

Elisabeth herself did not remain in the realm of science. She expanded her studies deeply into spiritualism. Science can only go so far until it hits a wall, and can proceed no further. Like watching an old black and white movie, there comes a time when you look away and remember the world is really full of color, not just shades of grey. The emotions outlined above are only a record of observations. They can be helpful in knowing what we will face, but any good psych will tell you, they are not hard and fast rules.

True Christianity adds the color. While there are no “stages of grief” in the Bible, all of the emotions are there and quite real. That’s because Christianity enters the realms where science must stop. It brings answers to the demanding questions that only the heart can bring to the table.

The first addition of color which Christianity brings is the idea that we are not alone in our grief. If you look again at the list above you will see God mentioned, but not with any kind of actual faith. He’s just an idea, as if he was just a quirky mental reflex.

Christianity will agree that God is not a tool for us to control the world, or to avoid an honest dealing with reality. Yet there is a true saying; “there are no atheists in foxholes.” The heart speaks truth and it knows where it must turn, to God. When it’s someone else, we say it’s “the bargaining with God stage.” When it’s us, and the pain has cleared out all the intellectual garbage, it all very quickly turns to “please help me.”

That is a true problem with the “stages of grief” for anyone; it can tell you how a human reacts but in the end our hearts couldn’t give a damn. When the gut speaks, it puts up with zero foolishness. It speaks truth loud and clear, not facts; the heart cares not a bit about facts, it goes beyond them to what’s real.

When I buried a friend named Tommy, my heart, in midst of a beat, erupted. We were driving away from the grave site and from the back seat of the car, I turned wanting to crawl through the rear window with the cry in my throat “NO! We CAN’T leave him there!” In that instant I really wanted to dig him back up, I wanted him to be alive. The action would have been fruitless, but the desire is not unreasonable, in fact it is the only sane desire; to have a return to life.

As C.S. Lewis remarked, “There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don't really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man's life. I was happy before I ever met H. I've plenty of what are called "resources." People get over these things. Come, I shan't do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden job of red-hot memory and all this "commonsense" vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.”

Which brings us to that all desired “stage” of resignation, er, I mean acceptance. The Bible actually talks of two types of sorrow, one with hope and one without.

1Th 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

A Christian is not to sorrow as if there was not a good God who has plans. We do accept the things we cannot change, as the death of a loved one or another loss, and pick up and bear our cross. It is not however by abandoning God’s cry for restoration that rings from our hearts. He intends not only to bring a restoration, but to deliver one with a miraculous passion. That is what all the small and temporary miracles we read of and experience are a witness to. They are his promise of things to come, and why many times they are seen in the midst of loss, they are set beautifully “in spite of.”

There is in the book of Revelation two passages, one which states that God shall wipe from our eyes EVERY tear. That is our tender Father, on bended knee, remembering each of our woes that he stood by us in. Then there is also Jesus, the warrior, who intently and deliberately places each prayer ever uttered into an incense burner. He adds fire to them (can you feel the passion) swings it around like a weapon and casts it to the earth, ready to take vengeance for the cries of pain he has endured in his ears.

The promises he has given match the intensity of our loss’s, babies shall be held in once empty arms, cries of joy shall be heard as friends once again see each other, the faces of our loved ones no longer will be creased with constant pain, and yes, the dead shall be raised to life again.

With all the grief’s that have assaulted in the last month, past and present, there is still a voice deep in my heart to which I bend my knee in thanks:

Ro 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

photo credits:, Wikipedia.

1 comment:

  1. This touched me so deeply. My best friend's husband was killed by a drunk driver last October. Their loss was devastating, their pain tangible, but their faith has been beautiful to see. Death is different for Christians--for the dying and the surviving. Those who have relied on His word during life don't suddenly doubt Him at death.


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