“The righteous call to the LORD, and he listens;
he rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is near
to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.”
We can all relate to feelings of sadness and grief as we experience loss and disappointment in our lives. Maybe you can relate to a Veteran we’ll call “Chad.” Chad came to my office and stated, “It has been months, but I am still grieving the death of my buddies in Iraq. Their lives were cut short. I’ll never joke around with them again, and I’m left to go on in a sad slump of grief.” Chad further expressed sadness over the fact that he did not know how to express his grief, and really didn’t feel like anyone wanted to hear about his feelings of deep sadness. He stated, “I’m a Marine. I’m not emotional. I shouldn’t feel at all. I should just get over it… whatever ‘it’ is.”
Or maybe you can relate to the wife we’ll call “Laura,” who called me crying and stated, “My husband is home, but he is emotionally dead. I’m not sure who walked back into our home. The man I fell in love with is gone, and there is an unfamiliar person who has entered our home. How can I grieve the loss of someone who is physically in my presence, but emotionally miles away?” Perhaps you have wondered if God cares about our sadness over the loss of someone still physically present, but emotionally absent from us. Maybe you are uncertain how to cry out about this grief, and wonder if the sadness you are feeling will ever end.
Then there is the Veteran we’ll name “Sara” who stated, “My life was full of sadness. I accepted physical abuse as a child, sexual abuse in the service, and then more physical abuse from my first husband, as part of my sad life story. Then a year ago, I met the love of my life. We have been happily married for three months and I never thought life could be so wonderful. Yet, now I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I’ve cried so much in my life that I do not think I have tears left to cry now.”
Or maybe you can understand the Veteran we’ll refer to as “Tom.” Tom sat down in my office and stated, “It’s been forty years of carrying around a junky heart overflowing with tragic loss and pain. Don’t think I know how to cry. Not sure I want to. How do I begin to grieve the layers of suppressed sadness?”
And so, for all the Chads, Lauras, Saras, and Toms, we affirm that real men and women cry, feel, hurt, and need to know that there is a God who cares for each of us and knows us by name. In this booklet, we’ll ponder if God hears our cries of sadness, describe how we can honestly express our grief to God, and reflect on whether our sadness ever ends.
Chapter 1: Does God Hear Our Cries of Sadness and Grief?
“I waited patiently for the LORD’s help; then he listened to me
and heard my cry. He set me safely on a rock and made me secure.”
When we are hurting or grieving a significant loss, we may wonder if God is listening. We may want to pound our fists and scream, “Do you hear my cries?” Laura initially felt that no one (including God) might understand why she cried herself to sleep every night. Perhaps you can relate to the painful losses expressed by Laura in the below dialogue.
With a weary sigh, Laura hung her head and stated, “I cry all the time. The sadness never goes away. No one would understand why I cry. I’m not sure why I’m so sad.”
“Why do you believe no one would understand your sorrow?”
With a mixture of tension and frustration, Laura replied, “Well, I should be thankful that my husband returned home safely from Iraq. When Andy was deployed, I prayed to God every day. I pleaded with God and would daily say, ‘Please, please God, bring Andy home safe. Please do not let him die.’ Well, Andy came home and he is physically healthy.”
“Yet your heart is grieving some type of loss in terms of your relationship with Andy.”
“Oh, yes. Nothing is the same. Everything is different. I knew that there would be a time of readjustment for both of us. I’ve heard how war changes people. We were apart for months, so I was prepared for there to be some tension in terms of our relationship. However, I never imagined that I’d find myself living with a completely emotionally absent man.”
“So, you are grieving the loss of the man with whom you fell in love and married?”
“My husband used to be so very caring. I’ll admit that he captured my heart with his devoted attentiveness to my needs. Now, he is oblivious to my feelings. In fact, he is an emotional zombie with a totally flat affect.”
Laura truly felt deep grief over the loss of the intimate sharing she had once experienced with her husband. Pauline Boss in her book, Ambiguous Loss: Learning To Live With Unresolved Grief (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999) describes ambiguous loss as a situation where a loved one is physically absent, but perceived as psychologically present, or a situation where a loved one is physically present, but perceived as psychologically absent. In the situation with Laura and her husband, Laura’s husband was physically present, but psychologically and emotionally he had not returned home from Iraq.
The Scriptures affirm that God hears our cries, cares about what makes us hurt, and understands us and our situations even better than we do. We can find comfort in the truth that God will never dismiss our grief as insignificant.
Readings from the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures
God listens to us and answers us.
I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me;
he freed me from all my fears.
The oppressed look to him and are glad;
they will never be disappointed.
The helpless call to him, and he answers;
he saves them from all their troubles.
His angel guards those who honor the LORD
and rescues them from danger.
The righteous call to the LORD, and he listens;
he rescues them from all their troubles.
The LORD is near to those who are discouraged;
he saves those who have lost all hope.
God rescues us and is merciful to us.
I waited patiently for the LORD’s help;
then he listened to me and heard my cry.
He pulled me out of a dangerous pit,
out of the deadly quicksand.
He set me safely on a rock and made me secure.
He taught me to sing a new song,
a song of praise to our God.
Many who see this will take warning
and will put their trust in the LORD.
Happy are those who trust the LORD,
who do not turn to idols
or join those who worship false gods.
You have done many things for us, O LORD our God;
there is no one like you!
You have made many wonderful plans for us.
I could never speak of them all –
their number is so great!
LORD, I know you will never stop
being merciful to me.
Your love and loyalty will always keep me safe.
I am surrounded by many troubles –
too many to count!
My sins have caught up with me,
and I can no longer see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and I have lost my courage.
Save me, LORD! Help me now!
May those who try to kill me
be completely defeated and confused.
May those who are happy because
of my troubles
be turned back and disgraced.
May those who make fun of me
be dismayed by their defeat.
May all who come to you be glad and joyful.
May all who are thankful for your
salvation always say,
“How great is the LORD!”
I am weak and poor, O Lord,
but you have not forgotten me.
You are my savior and my God – hurry to my aid!
Like the psalmist, we can honestly express our feelings to God.
LORD God, my savior, I cry out all day,
and at night I come before you.
Hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help!
So many troubles have fallen on me
that I am close to death.
I am like all others who are about to die;
all my strength is gone.
I am abandoned among the dead;
I am like the slain lying in their graves,
those you have forgotten completely,
who are beyond your help.
You have thrown me into the depths of the tomb,
into the darkest and deepest pit.
Your anger lies heavy on me,
and I am crushed beneath its waves.
You have caused my friends to abandon me;
you have made me repulsive to them.
I am closed in and cannot escape;
my eyes are weak from suffering.
LORD, every day I call to you
and lift my hands to you in prayer.
Do you perform miracles for the dead?
Do they rise up and praise you?
Is your constant love spoken of in the grave
or your faithfulness in the place
Are your miracles seen in that
place of darkness
or your goodness in the land of
LORD, I call to you for help;
every morning I pray to you.
Why do you reject me, LORD?
Why do you turn away from me?
Ever since I was young,
I have suffered and been near death;
I am worn out from the burden
of your punishments.
Your furious anger crushes me;
your terrible attacks destroy me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they close in on me from every side.
You have made even my closest friends abandon me,
and darkness is my only companion.
Readings from the New Testament
God is a loving Heavenly Father who desires to bless us.
“Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find;
knock, and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks
will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock.
Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone
when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake
when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are,
you know how to give good things to your children.
How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give
good things to those who ask him!”
God will have mercy upon us.
They came to Jericho, and as Jesus was leaving with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”
Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up!” they said. “Get up, he is calling you.”
So he threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
“Teacher,” the blind man answered, “I want to see again.”
“Go,” Jesus told him, “your faith has made you well.”
At once he was able to see and followed Jesus on the road.
God gives us his peace and assures us of his loving-care.
“Do not be worried and upset,” Jesus told them. “Believe in God
and believe also in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house,
and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this
if it were not so. And after I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be
where I am. You know the way that leads to the place
where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going;
so how can we know the way to get there?”
Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life;
no one goes to the Father except by me. Now that you have known me”,
he said to them, “you will know my Father also, and from now on
you do know him and you have seen him.”
“I have told you this while I am still with you. The Helper, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything
and make you remember all that I have told you.
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you.
I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset;
do not be afraid.”
Thoughts for Reflection
- Do you ever question if God hears your cries of sadness? Write or share about your questioning.
- If you wonder if God is listening, write or share how you feel when your cries seem to go unnoticed.
- What would encourage you to more boldly cry out to God and to believe that God is hearing your deep cries?
Dear Lord, sometimes I feel like you are not listening to me. I feel that you have turned a deaf ear to my cries. I feel like my prayers go unnoticed. Or worse yet, I even fear that you are not concerned. My doubts creep into my life and I am afraid that you do not care about my weeping.
Do you realize that I am in a pit of grief? Help me to believe that you are listening to me, and that you do care about me. Help me to trust you even when I do not feel you with me.
In your loving name. Amen.
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