Thursday, February 23, 2012

Heart Laid Bare to God

In his book, Hope for the Brokenhearted, theologian John Luke Terveen writes about how U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt faced his grief following the death of his first wife. Roosevelt, the great politician who was never short on words, wrote in his diary the day of his wife’s death that, “All of the light has gone out of my life.” John Luke Terveen, Hope for the Brokenhearted, 61. And yet, after a short time of grieving, Roosevelt never mentioned his first wife again. Several years later, when a friend of Roosevelt’s also suffered loss, Roosevelt simply counseled the friend to “put it out of your mind and never mention it again.” Terveen, 61.

Rather than following Roosevelt’s example in grief, Terveen suggests that we follow the example of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah lays out his heart in brutal honesty to God as he laments the condition of Israel. At the time of Jeremiah’s “lament,” the nation of Israel has been subjected to the humiliation of the rule of the Babylonians, a nation that does not honor God. Throughout the book of Lamentations, it is clear that Jeremiah’s attitude is not that the Israelites should just “grin and bear it.” Rather than trying to minimize the pain, or “make the best of a bad situation,” Jeremiah calls the nation into a state of mourning. Jeremiah tells Israel to “…let your tears flow like a river day and night…” and “…pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord…” Lamentations 2:18-19.

Terveen, a theologian and a fellow grieving father, writes that Jeremiah wants us “…to learn the lessons of grief by remembering our sorrow with unflinching honesty within the embrace of an understanding Father God.” Terveen, 62. Thankfully, Lamentations shows that we and other grieving parents need not “stuff” our grief. It cannot be healthy for us, or honoring to Micah, to pretend that Micah never existed or that we should just simply “get over” our grief. Even when the newness of the tragedy has worn off for those around us, we still have an understanding Father who has not forgotten and can bring great comfort in the midst of our heartache.

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