Grief and Suffering

     As we enter into the moods of autumn
we often encounter some strong feelings
that relate to loss and suffering.  

The season changes to one of darker colors
after all the brilliant reds and oranges have faded away.
We are left with barren trees, piles of fallen leaves,
and cold north winds…
all getting our attention of the winter ahead.  

Firewood is cut and stacked, winter coats come out of the closets,
morning freezes turn anything colorful into the pall of death.
Harvest has left the fields bare with stubble.  

All these pictures awaken parts of our inner lives
which probably have been abandoned…
parts that have frozen, lost their luster, withered and died.  
We become mindful of unattended grief and suffering.  

     We suffer.  
At times, our suffering is extreme,
pushing us to the limits of what we believe we can, or should, endure--
someone dear to us dies,
a catastrophic illness robs us of vitality
or a natural disaster ruins the patterns of our normal lives.
Sometimes our suffering just drones along—
our careers stop far short of goals we have pursued,
marriages stagnate, friends betray us,
and we awake one morning to find we are no longer young.  
And so we suffer.  We feel the tones of autumn.  

     In our culture there is a myth that states
with enough effort we can achieve a state without suffering.  
We take pride in people who triumph over adversity.  
Suffering becomes a sign of “failure”.  
We search for a pain-free solution to life.  
We try to bypass pain.

I offer some ideas for you to ponder:

     Feelings of grief and suffering need our compassion and grace.  
We will always experience forms of suffering
as we live through illness, change, loss, and death.  
Being with the feelings we experience
rather than running from them or getting lost in them
leads us to a new relationship to the suffering.  

The more we fight or reject feelings of pain and suffering,
the more intense they become.  
By “sitting with them”
we allow the peace of God to rule in our hearts.  
The edge of the pain is relieved
and we find we can more easily live our daily lives.  

We bring these areas to the Lord in prayer
and allow Him to be with us in our suffering.  
The wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit enjoins us.  
The presence of God saturates us with love in the depths of our pain.
We feel relief.

The problems or suffering may not cease
but we have God’s presence
with us each hour of the day to carry us forward.  

Our attachment becomes less attached to the grief.  
We become carried by grace.  
God is always at work recreating—
allowing us to travel through an autumn
and a winter before springtime comes again.

     “There is a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:4);

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4);

Jesus has been sent
“to comfort all who mourn
and provide for those who grieve;
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:2-3).  

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