To regard grief as somehow unworthy of a Christian who believes in the resurrection is to forget the example of Christ who was so often “moved with compassion,” who wept at his loss of Lazarus and prayed the longer in his agony. We cannot short-circuit human processes”.
Maria Boudling, Prayer: Our Journey Home
I recently saw this quote when reading a chaplain’s reflection upon the death of his wife. He struggled to find words that would express what he was feeling, as much as we struggle to find words we think would be comforting to those grieving. He found some relief in the fact that his wife’s physical suffering was over however, as he says, “No amount of joy over Caryl’s betterment removes that cold reality [that I am now alone]”.
Too often we deny our feelings (or encourage others to deny theirs) because some feelings, let’s face it, just don’t feel good. Grief does not feel good. Seeing someone sad or angry does not feel good. I often hear people tell their loved ones they must stop crying or should be rejoicing for the dead because they are now with God. I imagine many of us would like to say what M’lynn says to Annelle in Steel Magnolias when her daughter died and Annelle suggested that she rejoice that her daughter was ‘with her King’, “Well you go on ahead. I’m sorry if I don’t feel like it.”
We also have those who are trying to embrace positive thinking and who emphasize one’s ability to affect their environment with their thoughts. Unfortunately this can have the same effect. When we deny our feelings we often misappropriate our emotions onto other issues where we ‘take it out on others’. Or we might bottle these feelings up and, in turn, find it very difficult to maintain/engage in close relationships where one has to be intimately in tune with themselves to do so with others.
My least favorite emotion is anger. Having seen it used and abused in my family, I avoid it like the plague. I feared that being angry was not a nice thing to do. I take being nice to the extreme so much that I even found a career where I can go around and be nice to people!
These things combined have made accessing my feelings of anger even harder. As Richard Gere said to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “It cost me ten thousand dollars in therapy to say that sentence: “I was very angry with him.” I haven’t gotten to the $10,000 mark, but I am definitely dealing with feelings that won’t disappear no matter how much I try to hide them away. It may sound cliche, but we have to go through things to truly get over them. There is no short cut and there isn’t enough positive energy in the world to make those feelings go away if we haven’t first acknowledged them and dealt with them.
So, I take courage from Jesus, who turned over tables in the temple, and who wept bitterly in the garden. If he felt these feelings and was without sin, then they can’t be sinful for us to feel either (that is, depending on how we express them). Just another way that Jesus acted counter culturally. Just another way that he lights the way for us and, of all of the things a God could do, teaches us how to be human.