"My sight is blurred because of my tears. My body and soul are withering away."
In Psalm 31, David was pursued by enemies and abandoned by friends; he finally broke down in despairing prayer to God. "I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Misery has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within."
While we may not relate to his situation, we certainly can relate to David's feelings. Grief is never a welcome visitor; it arrives unannounced and stays far longer than we expect. It drains us emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.
According to work based on the findings of author Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, we experience "stages" of grief, particularly when facing death or when someone we love has passed away. First, we feel shock and denial: "This isn't really happening!"
Next, feelings of anger and protest begin to emerge, followed by a tendency to "bargain" with oneself or with God. "If I become a better person." Finally, the grieving individual may slip into times of depression upon realizing that the tragedy is irreversible, and that no further effort will bring back what was lost.
At this point, we must somehow discover how to pick up our lives and being moving forward with resolve. Certainly we won't forget about the cause of our grief, nor may we ever fully overcome the feelings of sorrow. However, we can learn how to integrate these feelings into our lives and move on in faith toward the future. And that is the challenge that David faced in Psalm 31.
How did he do it?
Any reader of the Psalms knows that there are prayers written in anger, sorrow, pain, and regret. There are emotional outbursts and even petitions for revenge. But at the end of the day, David always realizes that he can still, and indeed he must, worship God.
He always returns to that anchor; to the fact there is someone far more important and far more powerful than himself, someone worthy of love, devotion, and praise. In his darkest hours, this was all he had to depend on.
There may never be answers to all our questions; why God would allow a tragedy to occur, what we could have done differently, etc. The difference for Christians is not in how they feel about tragedy and pain. The difference is that at the end of the day they can still look to God with joy and know that through any trial, any loss, or any adversity, he'll be with them.
Christians know that God's justice will ultimately prevail on earth, and that one day the source of evil and death will be crushed. They know they never need be alone. They know that amidst this ugly and hurtful world, there is beauty worth praising; there is a God that gives us cause to rejoice.
I like what David said next in his prayer, "But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, 'You are my God!'.So be strong and take courage, all you who put your hope in the LORD!"
Take heart that no matter how dark things become, there is always a bright light above to which we can look and say with confidence, "You are truly good. You make life worth living, and you, Lord, are worthy of my worship."
"All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles..." (2 Cor. 1:3-4, all references NLT).
May we accept his comfort, and may we have courage to share it with others who are "dying from grief."
This column was originally written by Dan for the Marco Island Sun Times.