He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… Isaiah 53:3
This is taken from A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. It is a raw and honest diary of a man who is grappling with his faith in a good God in the face of a devastating tragedy. Lewis compares it to having a limb amputated. You learn to live again, but you forever have a prosthetic with phantom pains and reduced mobility.
Grief is something I have thought about a lot through the years. I have been the direct recipient of the smothering weight of grief and I have been on the sidelines, a quiet witness to another’s pain. Had you asked me a few years ago, I would have said that as a Christian, to live with eternity in mind removes the finality-the sting of grief. This was oversimplified.
Found in the Gospels is a confounding little scripture, John 11:35. “Jesus wept.” Christ, who simultaneously inhabited time and eternity, the Word made flesh who was slain from the foundations of the world, wept for a friend. If there ever was a man who understood eternity and the brevity of life and death in eternity’s scope, it was God incarnate. Yet when faced with the death of His friend, Lazarus, he wept. He wept knowing that he would raise Lazarus from the dead in a matter of moments. This was not some theatrical production, a bit of divine pandering to the wretched creation. This was grief. Christ truly inhabiting the finite, the human.
This is not an in-depth study into the nature of God and it really cannot be because I do not understand God. I do not understand the complexity of the Trinity or how He was both God the Father and God the Son, the human and the divine. The wonders of atonement at all but a surface level are a mystery to me. But I know one thing. He wept. He is acquainted with our griefs and He is a man of sorrow. Somewhere in the push for prosperity and blessings and middle-class success in the western church, we have lost sight of “blessed are they that mourn.”
What is truly remarkable about Lewis’s book is that it is not a treatise on grief. It is not a self-help book to help you through the stages. It is a modern retelling of an ancient art, the lamentation. It is a mirror, an image of yourself at your lowest. It is a journey of a man wrestling with invisible wounds and a faith that is shaken by loss. A man who wept. It shows us that it is okay to grieve, to question, to weep, and in the end to cast our cares on a God who wept; a God who knew the end and the final outcome and still felt the temporal pain of humanity.
I suppose we could ask why and we can, but I suspect that no one will know why on this side of the glass. I do know that He knows our sorrows and our grief and even at our lowest, we can trust that there is a purpose and a plan. Lewis’s conclusion was simple. God did not allow him the grief to test or show the quality of his faith. God already knew that. He allowed it so that Lewis would see his faith was “a house of cards.” Lewis summed up his Job-like one-sided questioning with this maxim on our grasp of eternity:
“Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.”
The beauty is, even so, He invites us to come and through His Spirit, he guides us in what to ask. He makes intercession for us because in our grief, we do not know what to ask. We can rest in the knowledge that the one who intercedes for us, understands us.