Well, here we are. It’s March. In just a few weeks it will have been one year since Mark died. The emotional lead up to this has thrown me back to the rotten type of grief I felt the first month or two. That was an unexpected and very unwelcomed twist. But, typical of grief, no matter how many courageous steps I’ve taken forward, it has the ability to forcefully and suddenly shove me back a mile.
Now that March is here, literally everything is transporting my mind back to one year ago. The extreme buildup of genuine hope, the anticipation and brief realization of joy, the magnitude of our thanksgiving, followed by the devastating and shocking turn of events that led to sorrow and death. It’s too much to relive in my mind, and yet I can’t turn it off. Oh, man I wish I could just turn it off! The shows on TV, the weather, Ash Wednesday, making plans for Easter are all a mind magnet to one year ago.
Speaking of Easter, I know it is the ultimate. I know I should find immeasurable joy in the Resurrection, the undeserved forgiveness, and the sacrifice that was made for me, the gift of eternal life. I mean Easter is my reassurance that I’ll be reunited with my husband again. It’s my promise that I’ll be with my God and free from all of this one day. And yet, I feel stuck. I feel trapped in the sorrow of Friday, even though I know “Sunday’s a coming!” I just can’t feel Sunday right now. And I seriously want to feel Sunday!
So how can I get through/over this funk I’m in? What can I do so I can focus on Sunday instead of feeling shackled in the Friday?
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.”
These are David’s words as he’s hiding from King Saul. He’s hiding in a cave. He’s terrified and fearing for his life. He pleads with God to be merciful – he feels it so much that he says it twice. And then, he declares what he knows God can do. And later on in Psalm 57:9-11 he praises God. He basically thanks Him in advance because isn’t praising God the ultimate thanks?
“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.”
I love the raw, authentic honesty and the “tell it like it is” style of the Psalms. It’s heart on the sleeve Bible, and I love that. Martin Luther once said, the Psalms “teach us to speak with earnestness, to open the heart and pour out what lies on the bottom of it. They instruct us to speak earnestly amid storms and winds of every kind.”
This is why the Psalms are my favorite. It’s not only where I go to feel less alone with it all, but also, and probably more importantly, it’s where I go to refocus my heart back to praise and acknowledgement. First the sorrow and the pain, and then the regrouping and the strength part through praise. Or as my stranger that feels like a friend Glennon says, “First the pain, then the rising.”
I’m smack dab in the Friday part right now and am really trying hard to turn the corner to the praise, hope and joy of Sunday. But it’s really hard to be full of hope and joy when you’re feeling the opposite, no matter how much you want it.
Sometimes it feels like believing in God means I’m supposed to be joyful all the time. Yeah, except I’m not. I’m grateful for David’s way of keeping things real. He shows me that sadness and fear are kind of just part of it sometimes and that they don’t have to be barriers to praise.
The Psalms also feel like God’s permission, or at least His understanding about feeling ALL THE THINGS! I’m allowed to feel deep sorrow and gratitude, fear and praise, uncertainty and faith….at the same time! It’s not one or the other; it’s sometimes all of it together. It’s where I first go for comfort, then strength. Because when you’re grieving, you need comfort before you can get strong and carry on.
I also appreciate the way David cries out to God. Oh my gosh, I’ve done a lot of crying out to God the last few years. The Bible is thousands of years old and yet I crack it open today to Psalm 6 and it’s as if David peered into my soul and wrote what’s on my heart today. They are the ancient prayers of my modern day heart. They are the old songs that sing out today’s melody.
Psalm 6:3-9 (NIV)
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
Well, that was kind of sermony. Sorry. I think from now until after Easter I’m going to need a lot of extra grace. Hopefully my old self is waiting for me somewhere in April and then my sentences will go back to making more sense and I’ll be able to share more joy and encouragement instead. Because hold on everyone…Sunday really IS coming!