Is it possible in the experience of grief that one touches the heart of God? This past weekend my spiritual dad and friend of the past 16 years passed away. The weight of grief is crushing. The sadness is profound. I’m left questioning not the existence of God but am finding it difficult to accept the world which He has “re-taken.” Two thousand years ago, Jesus proclaimed a simple message, “Repent (take a second look), the kingdom of heaven is near. Lost ground was about to be recaptured. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the good news of God’s kingdom in our midst was brought to reality. We now live under the rule of God, although it is an “already but not yet” reality. And here is where the tension lies. The Kingdom is already but not yet. All wrongs have not yet been righted. We live in what seems like a shadow of the fullness of this kingdom. We expect and experience healing and redemption yet still experience loss and chaos. The fullness of the kingdom is not yet. The “already” of the kingdom is still weighted with sin and death. Shared grief is a reality in the shadow.
I’m learning that living in the “already” kingdom is living with the experience of a broken heart. The experience of life in the “already” kingdom is not always characterized by power and authority. God doesn’t heal or save everyone nor does he stop the onslaught of sorrow. He may let our dear friend die and someone we deem less deserving live. He may heal a sinner and permit a saint to suffer. But what he did do and does do is stand in the midst of that sorrow and take on the experience of that sorrow through incarnation. I’m sure God is grieved when experiencing the reality of our existence. His heart breaks with ours. Jesus wept at the funeral of a friend and cried over an entire city when contemplating their future. He suffered at the hands of sorrow and grief in Gethsemane the night before his death. He was well acquainted with sorrow. Is it possible in our experience of grief that we enter the very heart of God and drink and shed his tears? Is it possible that through grief we are better able to stand in the midst of our experience and become an extension of the incarnation of Christ? As we take up our cross, does that mean that we purposefully engage a world that is guaranteed to produce the experience of a broken heart?
In Matthew 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I’ve never understood this until this past week. Life in the “already” kingdom is lived with a broken heart. Jesus calls us into the experience of this broken heart. Life in the kingdom is an experience of redemptive sorrow, grief, and sadness. If you are expecting only the “sunny side of life,” you will be disappointed. Does grief provide new lenses for seeing the world? Does grief allow us to touch the very heart of God and find comfort amidst the chaos? For we do not grieve alone. God grieves and “sheds tears” with us. Does our personal grief baptize us into the greater pool of human suffering and allow us to taste the experience of the Other? I think it is possible that grief prepares us to live in and amongst human suffering and can be the catalyst that transforms us into agents of hope. Perhaps in our grief, we are touched by Encounter and our hearts are enlarged with His hope.