Grief is a strange thing. It can overcome us in a single moment; or it can hit us years after an event. Sometimes we shut it down in a self-protective manner; sometimes we remain in the middle of it for a little too long. No matter who or where we are, grief will touch our lives—and our hearts—at some point.
The SATS symposium on mourning women in the book of Jeremiah draws attention to the need to give voice to this grief. To lament is to “express passionate grief,” (Oxford Dictionaries, online) and it serves an important purpose in a community, but also for the Lord. Lamentation gives voice to the unspeakable, provides a narrative for the loss or the event, embodies God’s own voice and sorrow, and provides a baseline for testimony and future resilience.
The video can be viewed here.
Expressing emotion may feel uncomfortable to many, but it’s a healthy part of being human. You see, the thing about shying away from feeling or expressing the challenging emotions means we, in turn, don’t fully experience the good ones. I spent too long in a field where, because of the daily emotional challenge, I had to learn to build walls around my heart. To feel everything was overwhelming, so emotional regulation—even detachment—was a necessary protective mechanism.
But we weren’t made to live like that, and I know I don’t want to. I’d rather feel fully—cry, even—when enjoying a beautiful piece of music or a joyful event. Our souls are stirred in those moments in a way that I admit escapes my understanding; but perhaps it’s a function of an immortal soul living (temporarily) in an earthly body.
Let’s not forget that Jesus was fully God, but also fully man. The New Testament gives us many examples of our savior experiencing and expressing different emotions:
- Anger at the misuse of God’s house:
“In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:14–16 NIV)
- Joy at the work of the seventy-two he sent out in his name:
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Luke 10:21 NIV)
- Sadness at the death of Lazarus:
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.” (John 11:33–35 NIV)
- Compassion for all those in need:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt 9:36 NIV)
The best thing we can do is name our emotions and give them over to Jesus on a daily basis—something John Eldredge calls “benevolent detachment.” Notice they must first be named or defined before we can give them over to him, and in this, we women have an important part to play.
The women in Jeremiah are described as wise and skillful in giving voice to grief. They are called to lead the community through their expression of grief. And Rachel stands out in Chapter 31: She refuses to be comforted and this reminds us of the heart of our Father God for his people. He meets Rachel right there, in the middle of her grief, adds his own lament to hers, and moves beyond it to words of comfort.
Sometimes our sorrow can only be understood and soothed by God himself. Remember, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV) Don’t be afraid to call out to him—he is our lifeline; comforter; our source of strength. But also our source of hope and joy.
Short Bio: Carrie Milton is a veterinarian and language practitioner. After completing her Bachelor of Veterinary Science and working with a variety of animals for a number of years, she reawakened her love for the written word. Accredited by the Professional Editors’ Guild, she has tried her hand at everything from theses to fiction