Chapter 2: How do I honestly express my sadness and grief to God?
When our hearts are filled with deep sadness and grief, we may wonder how to approach God with our deepest hurts. We may question if we can genuinely tell God how we feel. Or like Chad and Tom mentioned in the introduction to this booklet, we may not even know how to grieve. Perhaps like Chad, you’ve been the tough and resilient Marine. Maybe the following questions which Chad expressed about grief are also your questions.
As we walked around the VA Medical Center campus, Chad anxiously expressed, “I can’t be emotional. I shouldn’t be upset. I should just get over this loss and move on in life.”
“Is that what you feel is expected of you? That you are not to take time to grieve?”
“Yeah. People die in combat. Death is part of war. It is part of the package.”
“So do you believe that not grieving the deaths of your comrades is also your duty?”
“I do not know how to grieve, or what to grieve first. I should have been the one to die. I knew that each of my buddies had wives waiting for them at home, so I pushed them all ahead of me into the bunker. I was trying to ensure their safety before mine.” Chad’s voice began to quiver here and tears began swelling in his eyes as we sat in silence. Between tearful sobs, Chad spoke, “The bunker… it exploded before my eyes. As my last buddy hit the threshold of that bunker… tormenting panic pierced my soul when I witnessed my closest buddies vaporized before my eyes.”
Chad continued to share of how he blamed himself for not dying with his friends. He grieved the loss of their lives and also mourned no longer having their close companionship. He grieved that he would never be able to laugh and pal around with them again. Being that all of his buddies who died were married, he also was deeply saddened by the fact that he came home to no special significant other. He questioned why he would survive when he had no one special waiting for him at home.
Chad had suppressed his feelings of grief for months, but finally was unable to pretend that he was doing “ok.” Being that Chad had lost his closest buddies in Iraq, he initially did not think God cared for him either. Gradually, Chad began to welcome the concept of God as a best friend with whom he could openly and honestly pour out his deep hurts. Maybe, like Chad, you also have refused to allow yourself to cry, to feel the deep pain of loss, and to mourn. For each of us, God desires to be that genuine friend with whom we can sincerely unload our heavy burdens.
Similar to Chad, you may not know how to begin to mourn. When there are no words to express the intense sorrow which plagues your soul, take comfort in knowing that there is a God who holds us and understands our wordless cries.
Readings from the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures
After the death of her husband and two sons in the land of Moab, Naomi believed that God had turned against her. She decided to leave Moab and return to Bethlehem in Judah. Naomi and her daughter in-law, Ruth, arrived safely in Bethlehem.
When they arrived, the whole town became excited, and the women there exclaimed, “Is this really Naomi?”
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she answered; “call me Marah, because Almighty God has made my life bitter. When I left here, I had plenty, but the LORD has brought me back without a thing. Why call me Naomi when the LORD Almighty has condemned me and sent me trouble?”
God will plead for us as a friend. In his suffering, Job pleaded with God to help.
God will guide us and direct us.
Answer me now, LORD!
I have lost all hope.
Don’t hide yourself from me,
or I will be among those who go
down to the world of the dead.
Remind me each morning of your constant love,
for I put my trust in you.
My prayers go up to you;
show me the way I should go.
I go to you for protection, LORD;
rescue me from my enemies.
You are my God; teach me to do your will.
Be good to me, and guide me on a safe path.
God is always near to us. The LORD says,
“I am the high and holy God, who lives forever.
I live in a high and holy place,
but I also live with people who are humble and repentant,
so that I can restore their confidence and hope.”
God responds to our tears of sadness.
My eyes flow with rivers of tears
at the destruction of my people.
“My tears will pour out
in a ceaseless stream
Until the LORD looks down
from heaven and sees us.
Readings from the New Testament
The apostle Paul reminds us that we can approach God with full confidence.
In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence.
God can be trusted. The author of the second letter to Timothy writes:
I am still full of confidence, because I know whom I have trusted, and I am sure that he is able to keep safe until that Day what he has entrusted to me.
2 Timothy 1.12b
God understands our weaknesses.
Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God – Jesus, the Son of God. Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
The author of Hebrews also reminds us that Jesus prayed with cries and tears to God.
In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him. But even though he was God’s Son, he learned through his sufferings to be obedient. Hebrews 5.7,8
Thoughts for Reflection
- When you are grieving, do you find it easy or difficult to express your grief honestly and openly to God? Explain your answer in writing or to a trusted friend.
- Write or share what prevents you from honestly and genuinely talking to God about your deepest hurts.
- Trusting that God cares about the cries of your heart, write a lament to God about some of those deep hurts.
Dear God, can I really tell you what I’m feeling? Can I beat my chest, pound my fists, stamp my feet, and scream at you, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
I’m really hurting. I’m grieving great losses. And at times, I’m really angry with you, God. Often, I do not even know how to express my deep sadness and grief. When I am overcome with grief, how do I begin to mourn? When I am afraid that if I start to cry, I may never stop crying and when I do not know how to grieve… may you intercede on my behalf.
In your caring name. Amen.