Knowing that God has a purpose as we process our pain, could we discuss how to do it well? Please, as a conversation among Brothers and Sisters?
I invite us to ignore simplistic formulas here and to instead follow God’s guidance for the excessive stressors that have wounded us.
Definitions are indispensable to avoid painful miscommunication. Understanding pain has multiple facets including grief and lament. We define grief as the bodily, cognitive, spiritual, and emotional reactions a person may experience over an undefined and variable period of time in response to loss, separation, or change. We define lament as the process of expressing one’s grief through words, cries, or actions.
First: Find a Companion
A trained and faithful counselor or trauma-informed pastor is essential. You may notice that I have prompted you to find a trained companion. This is because I have seen so much damage done by the well-meaning but misinformed. If someone urges you to skip over or move on from Grief, despite their kind intentions they do not understand the path ahead of you. Please thank them, and step into a different relationship for this healing. You are looking for someone who is “healthy-enough,” mature, growing in humility and grace as well as experienced in grief and trained in this deepening process.
Those who journey with you in this healing are indeed like physical therapists or doctors who probe, press into, and identify sources of pain. “Does this hurt?” You may want them to stop but it is crucial that we find all the sore spots. We need someone who can patiently and consistently be with us as we discover sources of pain.
Second: Recognize and Name It
There is a Biblical mandate to take authority over creation; one of the ways in which we do this is naming. I cannot address pain until I stay with it long enough to both feel and identify it. This can be challenging and so the reliable, trained, and healthy-enough companion above is critical.
We must call out losses, failures, sin, and outright torment in our situations for what they are. Failing to do so creates unconscious agreement with them, thus reinforcing them. When we recognize and name them, we take authority over them and give ourselves capacity to do God’s business with them.
Naming these and other damaging behaviors for what they are honors God and His Law.
Avoiding, ignoring, or excusing them dishonors God and His roadmap for righteous living.
Third: Grieve It
Grief and Lament serve a purpose. Grief and Lament with a trained and faithful counselor or trauma-informed pastor are like cleansing a deep physical wound.
Grief and Lament do not follow a timeline nor a well-intentioned plan; they do not look a defined way from an outsider’s perspective. Work the grief until you know you are done. Your trained companion is still essential as they will help hold, guide, and protect you from bitterness, avoidance, as well as getting stuck in victimization. It is imperative to notice and express to both God and your companion feelings of “I am not okay.” Be still with them allowing lament to do its cleansing work. Grief and lament are precious gifts, a state of being in which we feel within ourselves the distance between what we are and what we were made to be. Do not rush to leave it behind.
Fourth: Whenever You’re Ready
How will I know I am done? You will know. If there is any question, grieve some more. There is no clean line, no clear ending, no one-size-fits-all. However, with time, imperceptibly at first, peace and a fullness will begin to settle within you.
After the death of my dearly loved earthly Dad I grieved deeply for about two years. One morning I woke up and thought of him. The deep ache of loss was gone. I still miss him years later, but the deep grief has given way to gratitude for him and his life.
Exiting the grieving process is slow – but it is also natural. It is not disrespectful, forgetful, or callous. It is instead a sign of health, maturity, and resilience. Just as lament is agreeing with God that “it shouldn’t be this way,” grieving fully and setting grief aside at its plenitude is agreeing with God that “it will not be this way forever.” When your eyes are clear, when your heart is still, when your branches are prepared once more to bear fruit – whenever you are ready – you will raise your head and find yourself restored.
“Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!” (Ps. 119:27-28 ESV)
 Adapted from Grief, Mourning, Ministry, and COVID-19, by Andrew Brown, 05/20/2020.
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