In the undercurrents of our narratives and clichés is a cultural conspiracy designed to convince us that we are in control of our lives.
That if we work hard enough, we can guarantee our success.
That if we dream big enough, anything is possible.
That if we serve God and play by the rules, life will progress the way we expect.
That if we pray loud and long, God will be obligated to grant what we’ve requested, at the time and in the way we envision.
That we are invincible.
Death has a way of shattering those illusions.
Burial challenges us to relinquish control to the One who holds the world and our lives in His hands.
The pain of the pandemic has ached in both the loss of life, and the loss of our way of life. It’s a pain I know intimately, having walked through the death of a parent and grandparent, a child, a marriage, and the end of several other relationships and paths in my ministry and career over the last few years.
I’ve learned from all of those experiences that grief ebbs and flows through stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Acceptance is not necessarily the happy ending. It doesn’t mean that you’ve “moved on” from the grief; in fact, it’s about refusing to run away or resist it. Acceptance is developing the resolve to sit right in the middle of pain and allow it to transform you.
Job, blameless and upright and described as the greatest man in his region, survived the loss of his children, his wife, his wealth, and his health. He walked through all five stages of grief, repenting in dust and ashes, and he was transformed in the moment he accepted that God’s plans and purposes were greater than his pain.
David faced the impending death of his child as a consequence for his sin. He fasted day and night for a full week, lying on the ground and pleading for God to spare his son’s life. When the child died, David washed himself, and he worshiped. He accepted that he couldn’t bring his child back and focused instead on consoling and comforting those who remained.
Burial is a supernatural act of surrender. It is a grateful remembrance and a righteous commitment to hope, a painful release of what has been even without a vision of what will come to be.
In a world that encourages us to hold on, to fight harder, to never give up, I pray that our grief teaches us that everything about this life is temporary. In our endings, may we trust the God who writes our beginnings and makes all things beautiful, in His time.
May we embrace the holiness in letting go.
Ashes to ashes.
Dust to dust.
Job 1: 20-22
At the news that he had lost his wealth and would have to bury his servants and children, Job worshipped. What emotions do you think Job was experiencing at the time, and why do you think Job worshipped? What is your typical response to loss in your life?
2 Samuel 12:15-23
This passage can be theologically difficult. David fasted, sought mercy, and prayed, but the Lord did not spare his child. What do David’s actions and replies to his servants teach us about responding to losses and moving through the stages of grief?
Psalm 26: 3-4
Perfect peace is a promise to those who keep their focus on God, even in grief and loss. Check your perspective: What has held priority in your thoughts and emotions in this season? Do you feel anchored to the rock, or tossed by the winds? Is there anything keeping you from fully trusting God in all things?
I Peter 5: 6-11
What phrases in this passage reflect an invitation to surrender? What promises does the passage offer to those willing to endure suffering and remain steadfast in faith?
Isaiah 43: 18-19; Luke 6:21
A large part of any grief process is adjusting to a “new normal”, negotiating what to carry from the past and how to look ahead to new beginnings. As you reflect on the passages, make a list of things God may be calling you to release and bury, and a list of things you want to sprout and grow in your next season.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-5
Spend time in prayer today for those in your life who are dealing with grief, loss, and painful transitions. As you are led, reach out to offer a listening ear, practical support, or a word of love and encouragement.
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV)