We all have been through dark times; we all have experienced the death of someone we love. Four years ago, my father died of congestive heart failure as my sister and I held his hands in the ICU in a Gainesville, Georgia hospital. One year later my husband died of the same disease at the age of 62. For several years I experienced the stages of grief, which from time to time, circle back around. The stages of grief, according to most psychologists, are: Denial (avoidance, confusion, shock and fear), Anger (frustration, irritation, anxiety), Bargaining (struggling to find meaning, reaching out to others, telling one’s story), Depression (overwhelmed, helplessness, flight), and Acceptance (exploring options, new plan in place, moving on).
Jesus felt grief. In the Gospel of John there is an account of his good friend (and perhaps his cousin, as some biblical scholars suggest) Lazarus’ death. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, send for Jesus while their brother is ill. When Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead for three days. Jesus immediately went to the tomb where he was buried, and upon arriving, we are told that Jesus wept. (Chapter 11, verse 35) Jesus understands our grief because he felt the same grief. As the story unfolds, Jesus is able to bring forth new life for Lazarus, perhaps foreshadowing his own death and resurrection. While those who are dead do not often come back to life, we do believe in the power of Jesus to bring forth new life in the midst of death. That is the heart of our understanding of the resurrection and the center of our faith.
We, as a community, as a nation and as global citizens are experiencing grief. Every day we are kept apprised of the death totals as Covid19 marches onward. We are grieving, not just individually but collectively. We are experiencing all the stages of grief. As people of faith and disciples of Jesus Christ, our faith in the promise of new life creates a foundation upon which we can move through our grief. Healing will come. The wounds may always remain, but healing will happen. Life will probably not be the same as it was before this pandemic, but a new way of being and living will emerge.
These words from Henri Nouwen brought me comfort after the deaths of my father and my husband, and they continue to bring me comfort today. And I hope they will bring you comfort as well:
“There’s a time ‘to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance’ (Eccles. 3:4). But what I want to tell you is that these times are connected. Mourning and dancing are part of the same movement of grace. Somehow, in the midst of your mourning, the first steps of the dance take place. The cries that well up from your losses belong to the song of praise. Those who cannot grieve cannot be joyful. Those who have not been sad cannot be glad. Quiet often, right in the midst of your crying, your smile comes through your tears. And while you are in mourning, you already are working on the choreography of your dance. Your tears of grief have softened your spirit and opened up the possibility to say ‘Thanks.’ You can claim your unique journey as God’s way to mold your heart and bring you joy.”
We will be able to dance again – and together!
Reverend debbie osterhoudt
I am very excited to join in the ministry at Peace Presbyterian Church as interim pastor! I graduated from Vanderbilt University and received my Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA. Before serving at Peace Presbyterian, I served in Triangle area churches as pastor, associate pastor and interim pastor for 33 years. I have a passion for my ministry and study, travel, walking, sailing (which I learned from my father) and gardening.