So this popped up in my facebook feed.
And I just thought, “No.”
When life gives you one reason to cry . . . cry.
When life gives you one hundred reasons to cry . . . cry and find someone who will cry with you.
When life crushes you, when the power and the depth of the anguish threatens to overwhelm you as it crashes over you wave after wave, fight back with tears. Tears and cries and even screams if necessary.
But not with a forced smile. Not with some fake attempt to “count your blessings” (as if six living children makes up the balance sheet for one who went to heaven far too soon).
Because the continual message that a smile equals strength and tears are a sign of weakness is false. And destructive.
It’s designed to make others feel better about your pain. But it doesn’t help you.
As a Christian, grieving the loss of a child, it surprised me how quickly the body of Christ lost its patience with grief. Less than two weeks after my son’s death, a Christian man told me it was time to stop grieving. That he was in a better place and that if I believed that, I should rejoice. Grief was a lack of faith.
Less than three months later, someone from church asked me how I was and when I said not so good, she wanted to know why. I stumbled over the words because I didn’t really know her and what was obvious and inescapable in my world wasn’t in hers. Nor should it be. And I never like putting people in the position of feeling like they need to apologize for an innocent enough question that bore no malice. So I just said I had been thinking about Tiggy a lot.
“That’s still bothering you?”
Said in such an incredulous tone. It stung. Three months after he died, I almost gave up on going to church. Because right there in that moment, I couldn’t see all the love and support and one comment almost overshadowed it all.
But I went home and cried.
It seems to me the Christian church should understand suffering. That strength is not in a smile, but in vulnerability. That joy is a promise we cling to, but it is a very different thing from happiness.
Because Christ Himself went to the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion and sweated tears of blood, pleading for this cup to be taken from Him. And when His disciples, His closest friends, could not stay awake, He didn’t count his blessings and put on a happy face. He didn’t talk about His miracles, His ministry, that He would rise again in three days or even that His kingdom was about to conquer death itself.
No. He said,”Can’t you even watch with me for an hour?”
Because I believe this is what we are all called to do for one another. Just sit. Listen. Show love. Show mercy. And let the tears flow.
Because weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
And blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
And God himself will turn their mourning into joy. (Jeremiah 31:13)
And while the world constantly presses in, telling the hurting and the grieving to “just smile through it,” I think it is good to remember that His Word tells us that is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting. (Ecclesiastes 7:2)
Because grief gives you a glimpse of the state of a fallen world. It reminds you that this is not our home. It draws your attention away from yourself and toward Him. And only then can He give you beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)
Updated to add:
My husband wrote a free e-book about our journey and finding hope in Christ. If you are interested, you can download a copy here: Where Joy and Sorrow Meet.