‘Asking where You are Lord, wondering where you’ve been Is like standing in a hurricane trying to find the wind’, wrote Christy Nockels in ‘Already all I need’.
When the hurricane we are standing in is the whirlwind that our grief creates inside us and we begin to wonder if God even exists, or much worse, if He has left us too, perhaps that is all just a part of the nature of true grief. Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ wasn’t answered while he was on the cross, but afterwards, in the joy waiting on the other side of grief.
This third of three brief posts on the theme of grief is taken from C S Lewis in his book A Grief Observed.
‘Why has no one told me these things? How easily I might have misjudged another man in the same situation? I might have said, ‘He’s got over it. He’s forgotten his wife,’ when the truth was, ‘He remembers her better because he has partly got over it.’
Such was the fact. And I believe I can make sense out of it. You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears. You can’t, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway, you can’t get the best out of it. ‘Now! Let’s have a real good talk’ reduces everyone to silence. ‘I must get a good sleep tonight’ ushers in hours of wakefulness. Delicious drinks are wasted on a really ravenous thirst. Is it similarly the very intensity of the longing that draws the iron curtain, that makes us feel we are staring into a vacuum when we think about our dead? ‘Them as asks’ (at any rate ‘as asks too importunately’) don’t get. Perhaps can’t.
And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.’
From C S Lewis in A Grief Observed
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve
as others do who have no hope. 1 Thess 4:13 ESV
Paul knew that we Christians are not exempt from grief.
After affirming our hope in Christ; that we will surely be reunited with all the others who know Christ too, he reminds us that we are able to comfort one another in our grief until then, so he concludes in 1 Thess 4:18:
‘Therefore encourage one another with these words.’
That isn’t to say that grief won’t be a struggle. Otherwise, why would we need comfort?
This second brief post on the theme of grief comes from C S Lewis who shares his own struggle through grief to faith after the death of his wife, in his book A Grief Observed.
‘No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.
There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called ‘resources.’ People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘common sense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.’
From C S Lewis in A Grief Observed
‘But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?’, C S Lewis asked in his personal account of loss, A Grief Observed.
Not knowing all the answers did not keep Lewis from offering comfort to a grieving friend; knowing Christ kept him from a more hurtful silence.This first of three brief posts on the theme of grief comes from a letter he wrote a friend. Later posts will come from Lewis’s book.
To Sir Henry Willink, whose wife had just died:
3 December 1959
‘I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt one, those who keep silence hurt more. They help to increase the sense of general isolation which makes a sort of fringe to the sorrow itself. You know what cogent reason I have to feel with you: but I can feel for you too. I know that what you are facing must be worse than what I must shortly face myself, because your happiness has lasted so much longer and is therefore so much more intertwined with your whole life. As Scott said in like case, ‘What am I to do with that daily portion of my thoughts which has for so many years been hers?’
‘People talk as if grief were just a feeling—as if it weren’t the continually renewed shock of setting out again and again on familiar roads and being brought up short by the grim frontier post that now blocks them. I, to be sure, believe there is something beyond it: but the moment one tries to use that as a consolation (that is not its function) the belief crumbles. It is quite useless knocking at the door of Heaven for earthly comfort: it’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.
From The Collected Letters of C.S.Lewis, Volume III
We might begin to chase perfection out of pride or fear or our need to please our parents but when perfection Himself (was it Him we were chasing, or was it something else?) meets us we see that we were never in the race. Then he says, ‘Follow me,’ and the chase becomes something else altogether. This third brief post on perfection comes from Oswald Chambers.
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect…” Phil 3:12
‘Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship to God which shows itself amid the irrelevancies of human life. When you obey the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that strikes you is the (seeming) irrelevancy of the things you have to do, and the next thing that strikes you is the fact that other people seem to be living perfectly consistent lives. Such lives are apt to leave you with the idea that God is unnecessary, (that) by human effort and devotion we can reach the standard God wants. In a fallen world this can never be done. I am called to live in perfect relationship to God so that my life produces a longing after God in other lives, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God is not after perfecting me to be a specimen in His show-room; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He likes.’
From My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers December 2nd
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:10 and 12 ESV
This second of three brief posts on the theme of perfection comes from C S Lewis.
‘I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one’s eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people’s eyes can see further than mine.’ C S Lewis in Mere Christianity