A pastor friend of mine shared over dinner that, a number of years ago, his son had committed suicide. He talked openly his loss and the way it had changed him. He recommended Grieving a Suicide, by Albert Y. Hsu where Hsu talks about his father’s suicide and that of many others – Christian and non-Christians. While I have written about a theology of grief and loss, God used this book to enlarge my own heart and challenge me to enter into this very different world. Approximately a million people around the world kill themselves each year. Every suicide leaves behind at least six survivors, sometimes ten or more. Their level of stress is ranked by the APA as “catastrophic — equivalent to that of a concentration camp experience.” A spirituality of suffering, grief, and loss is untidy – bottomless. I found, however, this quote by Walter Wangerin a helpful summary of Hsu’s reflections::. Read more.
The painful images of the funerals of the children from Sandy Hook elementary school is an invitation from God for us to learn to lament. David not only sang this lamentation; he ordered the people to learn it, memorize it and inhabit it as their experience. After the terrible, tragic deaths of Saul and Jonathan, we read: David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow: “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen!…Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon….O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul …How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights. 2 Samuel 1:17-20; 24-25 Eugene Peterson says it well: “Pain isn’t the worst thing… Death isn’t the worst thing. The worst thing is failing to deal with. Read more.
“Unspeakable horror” is the best phrase to capture the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. 26 people killed, 20 of whom were only 6-7 years old. There are no words to say. We pray for the victims, their families, the shooter’s family, and all those affected. We grieve with them. We join the three friends of Job as they arrive after innocent Job suffers his unspeakable horrors and longs to die. Scripture tells us that his friends “began to weep aloud…Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:12-13). God invites us to be silent before this massacre, acknowledging the severe limits of our understanding. Our God is good. He is alive on the earth hidden amidst all of history’s unspeakable horrors. Let us remember the three friends got themselves. Read more.
What might it mean for the leadership of a church or ministry to embrace the lamenting of loss as part of her life together? What might it mean for your life or mine? I have spent the last two weeks absorbed in the book of Lamentations, reading, meditating, pondering, and praying the words of Jeremiah as my own. The exercise was transformative and, yes, quite painful. What is most interesting is that in I have written chapters on grief and loss in two different books. Yet I felt like I was approaching the theme for the first time. What did God show me anew? 1. Both the love of God and suffering are foundational paths to genuine transformation. Suffering opens us up uniquely to God, ourselves and others, forcing us to slow down and reflect. I have missed transforming moments from God, both personally and for New Life, because of my unwillingness to remain. Read more.