There is much in the world to grieve. Even in my short time at St. Peter’s as rector, I’ve already presided at two memorial services, with another funeral scheduled later this month. I’ve talked and prayed with many who are grieving and who are afraid. Many loved ones are just now beginning to feel these losses and process their grief. We also continue to grieve the losses of this perpetual pandemic: re-placed restrictions, more people with COVID-19, more anger and bitterness in our nation, and more lives being lost unnecessarily.
And of course, as a global community, we are grieving. We are grieving the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, with thousands seeking refuge from a country changing around them. We are grieving yet another earthquake in Haiti, with a subsequent tropical storm thwarting the rescue efforts. We are grieving the countless ways our planet is reeling under the impact of our poor stewardship. I’ll stop there, but there is so much more we could name. It feels overwhelming, especially when we take it all at once.
What has happened to us, what is happening to our fellow humans–these are not good things. They are painful and bring profound loss. But the grieving of it–that is good. It is right and appropriate to grieve. My encouragement for us all in this time is to permit and create space for grief. I often think about this quote from the late Henri Nouwen, whose writings helped me in my own times of deep loss:
“I am beginning to see that much of praying is grieving. This grief is so deep not just because the human sin is so great, but also–and more so– because the divine love is so boundless.”
My prayers this week have been laden with grief as I consider the depths of our brokenness, my own included. But this quote gives me permission to pray, to grieve. We all grieve in our own ways and we all cycle through the stages at different times, sometimes moment by moment. Take that grief to God in prayer, whether it is expressed as anger, as despair, as denial, as bargaining, or even as numbness. Take note of the Psalms appointed this week for the daily offices (you can pray the office online here)
and see where your feelings and that of the psalmists connect. Think of how others may be praying these words who are grieving right now. Perhaps consider praying the Great Litany(p. 148ff in the BCP)
in your own time of prayer, or with a friend. These are ways to be with God in prayer and to become more united to God’s loving and compassionate heart, as one who also grieves for this world made from love.I leave you again with Henri Nouwen:
“It might sound strange to consider grief a way to compassion. But it is. Grief asks me to allow the sins of the world–my own included– to pierce my heart and make me shed tears, many tears, for them. There is no compassion without many tears…When I consider the immense waywardness of God’s children, our lust, our greed, our violence, our anger, our resentment, and when I look at them through the eyes of God’s heart, I cannot but weep and cry out in grief. This grieving is praying.”