Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress,
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
My life is consumed with anguish
and my years with groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Psalm 31: 8-9
This text is a gripping and painful description of grief. It is a grief that goes on and on, a grief that consumes, a grief that wears one down physically and spiritually. We cannot live in this world without experiencing this kind of grief. To live is to suffer loss and the threat of loss. The question is, how do we live with loss? What do we do with our grief?
For too many people grief is something shameful, weak and unacceptable. It is, therefore, something denied and minimized. We talk about how we need to “get over it” and “move on.” This may look brave and even strong. But it is not. The truth is that this kind of response to our losses is an attempt to avoid the pain of grief. It turns out that this way of navigating the pain of grief comes at a great price. It requires us to close and harden our hearts, rather than courageously opening our hearts to the reality of our grief and to the tender love and longing that are the heart of our loss.
We close our hearts to grief for many reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is not that we are trying to avoid suffering, but that we cannot bear such suffering alone. We need the love and comfort of others and of God in order to find the strength and courage needed to truly, honestly grieve.
We can find this kind of strength and comfort in God. Our prayers of grief are welcomed, even blessed, by God. Jesus began the Sermon of the Mount with this blessing: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 ) And Paul wrote from personal experience that God is the God of all comfort and the Father of all compassion to whom we can always turn. (II Corinthians 1: 3-4).
Sometimes prayer is the expression of grief. Our full, terrible, aching grief. Poured out to God as if God cares about our loss, our pain and our need for comfort. To grieve in this way is to be honest, humble, courageous. Most important of all, to grieve in this way is to open our hearts, rather than close them. To grieve in this way is to open our hearts in love. It is to express our love for what has been lost.
Grief is a terrible, yet beautiful thing. It is beautiful because to grieve is to let ourselves express our love with our whole body, heart and soul. When we pour our grief out in prayer we are pouring out our selves to God. We are promised that we will be met with God’s healing love and comfort.
God, I am heavy with grief.
My mind is dark.
My body weighed down.
My heart is shredded.
It is hard to face the day.
Nothing seems to matter.
I need Your comfort.
I need You to hold me.
I need You to lift the crushing weight of this sorrow.
Have mercy on me.
What losses have you suffered recently or in the past?
Write a prayer of grief about your loss. (The loss may be a person, a dream, an opportunity. It may be the loss of a parent’s love you never had but always needed.)
Pour out your heart to God. Invite God to comfort you.