Long Days of Grief

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Grief With Hope

A Ministry to and with the Grieving

August 1998

by James Alexander

Death casts a long shadow that reaches into every crevice of life. The bright sunshine that awakens you each day no longer sends out rays of happiness. Even the playful shouts of the neighborhood children seem to be out of place in a world that has become darkened by death. At first, everyone rushed to help and comfort you, but a long loneliness has now settled over every aspect of your life. Even family members who grieve with you seem to be taken up by their own inner torments. Each day feels like a long tunnel of foreboding events that soon threaten more grief. You have entered into the long days of grief.

Jeremiah spoke of such days when he said, “He has led me and make me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely, He has turned His hand against me time and time again throughout the day…He has set me in dark places like the dead of long ago” (Lam. 3;2, 3, 6) These days bring the most difficult time for the grieving. Your comforters have all returned to the concerns of their own lives, and they seem to wonder why you have not returned to your “old normal self.” The questioning eyes around you seem to be waiting to see if you are going to break under it all. Some may even imply that you should now snap out of it. They seem to say, “Smile! Be happy! Act like a good Christian!” Soon you begin to wonder about yourself, “Am I losing it? Is my faith so weak that I cannot rise above it? Why does agonizing emotion grip my heart?”

Dear grieving one, do not let the attitudes of others plant doubt within you. These are the long days of grief. When you need to weep, weep. When you must sit in darkness, sit for a while. Grievers must grieve. You must grieve. You must not try to conform to the ways of those who have not yet learned the ways of grief. You must not idolize your grief, but it is equally wrong not to walk through these long days of grief. Keep walking for soon the darkness will begin to break.

The Breaking Light of Hope

As you trudge through these long days of grief, there will soon be a light of truth that comes to your mind. As the prophet Jeremiah walked his dark valley, he said, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lam. 3:21-24) This hope flows directly from Christ. He has broken through the darkness by his mighty victory on the cross. So even in the darkness, there will always be the breaking light of hope.

We now live in the last days. That time when the victory is won, but the full realization of it is not complete. So we must now go on for a little while waiting for grief’s darkness to be driven away by the power of Christ. To pretend that these are not days of long grief is to deceive yourself, but in going through these times of heaviness you will again and again be refreshed in the gospel hope bringing relief and joy. Those who do not understand these present days of darkness will soon face their own dark tunnels. Instead of anger toward them, let there be compassion. Let them know that even though you fall you will soon rise up and “mount on eagle’s wings. You will run and not be weary.” (Isa. 40:31)

Scripture for meditation: Lamentations 3:1-24

The Griever’s Question

Does this long loneliness mean that Christ has deserted me? The Lord promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) Jesus said to his own, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) So be assured that Christ never deserts his own. There are times, usually in grief or other hardships, when we lose a sense of his presence. During these lonely times when we do not feel his nearness, we must faithfully continue to seek Him and serve Him. We walk by faith, not by how we feel. When our Lord withdraws his felt-presence, our faith is refined, our character is proven, and hope grows strong. As you persevere in faithfulness, you will soon regain a sense of His blessing and His presence.

Being Dead They Still Speak

Elizabeth Prentiss lived in much suffering as an invalid, but even in her suffering she knew hope and joy in Christ. When two of her children died her once strong faith almost died. For weeks she lived in deep darkness of soul until the light of hope began to shine again. She expresses her grief in these words:

One child and two green graves are mine,

This is God’s gift to me;

A bleeding, fainting, broken heart,

This is my gift to Thee.

As hope began to revive, she penned the words of one of the great hymns:

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;

now Thee alone I seek, give what is best;

this all my prayer shall be: more love, O Christ, to Thee.

Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain;

sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,

when they can sing with me, more love, O Christ, to Thee.

– In memory of Matthew James Alexander by his father, James Julian Alexander

Grief with Hope is a ministry established by James Alexander in memory of his son Matthew James Alexander, who died in the crash of TWA Flight #800, July 1996. Grief with Hope ministers to and with the grieving through the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship.

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