I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
(Lamentations 3:19-24, The Message)
For a few months now, I have been very aware of death. My grief has been collateral. I grieve with friends who have lost friends, or friends who have lost husbands, or with strangers who have lost loved ones. I absorb this pain regularly. Sadness accompanies me, and I think I am not alone.
Perhaps you have experienced death more personally, or like me you know of those who have died, and it’s hard to process all this loss.
I resist death. I fight transitions. The changing of seasons often bring with them a slight lament of the shift from one to another. Spring often comes packaged with all kinds of strings attached. As if, this one season can erase all the griefs past. Yes, it is a harbinger of hope, yet it cannot erase the melancholy. I heard a warning in my heart this past week, as I was so relieved to say it was Spring, rather than winter.
Warning: Spring cannot cure sadness.
My soul answers, but what can? And as Spring unfolds, with a faint hint of winter chill in it’s grip, I want to light a fire, and be warm. I grab some newspaper and crumple it up. Some twigs, fallen from a Spring thunderstorm and matches. As the flames ingest the newspaper, I notice the word “obituaries.” This desire to start a fire, inadvertently gave voice to lament. I was burning “death,” and it felt good. Good riddance, death. I hate you!
A few days later, and more news of death. How can this keep happening? But it does, death does not relent.
Then a new whisper in my heart; receive death.
What?! Death is part of this journey. You cannot escape it. But you can lament it. And you can be with it, and see its other aspects. Such as the natural cycle of death and life, we witness within the seasons. “Unless a wheat grain falls on earth and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” (Jesus, John 12: 24)
And as I contemplate this saying of Jesus, I think of his own life that ended in death, and that I mull over each year during Lent.
I choose to stay with his death through this season, I don’t jump to the end. For forty days, I read devotions that mention his death, and how I need to die in ways that I don’t want to or can’t even fathom in my own strength.
Then I read another comment on this season of his life:
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard…” (Hebrews 5:7)
He was heard. That both comforts and baffles me. He was heard, and yet he still died. He agonized and asked God to save him, to take away the anguish. And God heard him. And God answered. It comforts me to know that God heard. God hears me. God answers me. I don’t always like or want the answers that come to me.
So I lament, and ask God to relent, to ease up. To comfort my friends who are grieving, to take away some of the sting, to give them space to weep and cry and swear and scream and ask that the intensity of the pain be softened.
I leave you with a haiku, which as I read it aloud, I hear a growl in my voice, because I want to believe the last line, but anger seethes below it all.
Lament, O my soul,
Grieve, cry, weep, rip this heart out.
Joy will come again.