Walking in Grief

Three days after Jesus was crucified, two disciples are walking the road to Emmaus. Why? I think perhaps they’re walking because it’s the only thing they know to do. I think they’re heading for the familiar – going home. They’re disciples of Jesus. They’ve followed Him, worked with Him, witnessed the miracles He has performed, and learned from Him. This has become who they are, defined their reality – and suddenly, their reality is gone. They have lost not only their teacher and friend, but the very thing that gave their lives form and purpose. Beyond that, their very own chief priests and leaders are the ones who facilitated the loss, which means they don’t even have the comfort of a coherent cultural identity. And then there is the loss of their hope for Israel’s salvation. So they’re just trying to keep moving, step by step, toward some recognizable existence.

They are also talking to each other about what has happened. In my mind, the conversation involves the shell-shocked, somewhat-numb, slightly-disbelieving tone that seeks external affirmation. After all, there is some comfort to be found in the common ground of shared sorrow.

Then Jesus, in the guise of a stranger, comes along and calls them foolish. I don’t think Jesus was trying to insult them. Rather, He was communicating to them that this struggle, this mess, this pain has a purpose. I don’t mean to suggest that we should be looking for fulfilled prophecies as we deal with challenges, or that God sends pain in order to teach us lessons. Rather, God can use sorrow toward transformation.

We often naturally approach grief as these disciples did. We gravitate to the familiar, attempt to get through each moment as it comes, talk through what has happened, and put words to our loss. And we feel sad. Beyond that, we sometimes feel angry, tense, frustrated, bitter… sometimes all of these at once. All of that is ok. Grief changes us, and it hurts. The good news is Jesus shows up to meet us there, and He can help us find the promises inherent in the process.

Grief is the inevitable result when human beings are pulled out of circumstances with which they are familiar and — at least mostly — comfortable, and thrust into a changed existence. Grief has been examined using many terms: work, tasks, a journey, stages, being stuck, a passage, endless, finite, normal, complicated, resolved, a path, closure, and a process. All are appropriate, to an extent, and yet none of them expresses the true uniqueness of the experience of the individual griever. In fact, the experience one has as a result of loss is how I would define grief. And grief comes to everyone. What I have learned through my own experiences with grief is to lean into it. Walk with it, live in it, allow it to do its work in you. Without the pain of death, there is no resurrection.


Subscribe to the SMBC Blog