It is the business of a sinful world to turn our eyes away from Jesus – to the more pressing, familiar-seeming things around us: “a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past” (Lewis, The Screwtape Letters).
Our work, entertainment, and hobbies act as anesthetics. And like anesthetics, they block pain and pleasure – grief and joy – alike. We grow blind to the glory shining through cracks in a broken world.
This is why I say that grief is not the opposite of joy. The opposite of joy is despair. Grief is a sign of a heart alive, of red blood pumping oxygen to the part of our soul that longs to see the un-reflected face of Jesus.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace
It is strange, then, that I seem often to ask my children not to feel so deeply.
“Don’t cry – you can go to the store next time.”
“Balloons pop! That’s just what they do. Let’s be thankful it was attached to your body for the last 72 hours.”
“Let me see, big boy. Ok, it’s just a bump, not a real boo-boo. Shake it off!”
I want to equip my kids to deal with grief. They must learn to see beyond disappointment, to channel tears into a stream of prayer; to live through the pain, even with thankfulness.
But I pray that I never teach them to deny grief, to prefer an anesthetized heart. Because if we refuse to grieve for ourselves, for those who weep, for an entire world groaning for redemption, we refuse to be like Christ. We refuse to really live.
And here is the good news: Resurrection life and joy follow death and grief. Reconciliation and great love follow sorrow and great repentance. The blessings of the Kingdom are for the hungry, the poor in spirit, and for those who mourn.
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Kristen P says
Beautiful. May we all be, more and more, a people who groan for redemption.
Josiah Smith says
Thanks James.. that was what I needed.
James Witmer says
Kristen, thank you. And amen!
Josiah, I’m so glad. May our Father’s comfort find you and all who mourn.
Loren Eaton says
Good post, James. Regarding your impulse to shelter your kids from pain, I think it’s biblical to sympathize with those who mourn and thereby take away some of the sting. Honestly, though, I’d probably feel relief after 72 hours with that balloon.
Bravo, James! Thanks for making something that can appear to be so grandiose real in the everyday moments of parents. I appreciate your perspective on the world and your style as a writer.