My very favorite aunt died this morning.
It is so painful, but I had to “get to work” for my first meeting of the day. I allowed myself some tears and then off I went.
Yep, that is what we do when we are in ministry.
I can put this grieving off temporarily. I cannot, however, put it off indefinitely.
When I was working in a Level One Trauma hospital, I noticed those who put off grief for too long became disillusioned, anxious, bitter, depressed. Many eventually left the work they had once felt so called to because “I just can’t take it anymore.” Some gave way to debilitating illnesses, both mental and physical, or painful relational struggles.
I determined then that this would not be me. I created rituals for myself. I stopped showering in the tiny Chaplain on-call room. Instead, I drove home. On the drive home I would pray, cry, call out to God, and process the work of the day (or night, or both). When I arrived home, I would put all my clothes in the hamper and take a long shower. I would imagine the Lord providing the water to wash away the pain, grief, etc., along with the hospital smell. Once I walked out of the shower, I was ready to live.
I am not yet ready to live today but I am ready to grieve.
I know that our Lord has provided for grief. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). The Greek word there is rich with meaning and noticeably clear that it was not merely sadness but a hearty expression with tears .
When I once would not allow myself to grieve, I sometimes wonder what I was trying to prove. I do not have to wonder where all the pain went. The pain entered my soul, body, mind and did some damage. It has been a long journey to heal enough to allow God’s provision of grief and mourning to do the work He designed in me. I am grateful.
And I know that the things I loved most about my aunt, like kindness and laughter, will remain when grief and mourning have done God’s work in me.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thess. 4:13-14 NIV)
 Danker, Frederick William, ed. A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND OTHER EARLY CHRISTIAN LITERATURE, Third Edition 1716 δακρύω • δακρύω fut. 3 sg. δακρύσει Sir 12:16; 1 aor. ἐδάκρυσα (Hom. et al., grave ins Sb 373, 2; 4; 6178, 2; LXX; TestAbr AB; TestNapht 7:4; TestJos 8:1; Jos., Ant. 9, 9, Vi. 210) to shed tears, weep ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jesus burst into tears J 11:35 (as Diod. S. 17, 66, 4; 27, 6, 1; Appian, Samn. 4 §13 ὁ πρεσβύτης ἐδάκρυσε).
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