Grief and Hope

porch chairs“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I remember you…By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”   (Psalm 42:5,6 and 8)

The psalmist is either grieving or depressed.  We all know it is not easy to choose hopeful feelings during times such as these.  The psalmist gravitates between hope and grief throughout Psalm 42.  In verse 8, “By day” can be interpreted as “in the days to come.”  This indicates there is a hope for better days to follow the current difficult days.  The psalmist claims the days to come can be better because of “the Lord’s steadfast love.”  “And at night his song is with me” appears to say even in dark times one can praise God.  The last part of this verse says, “a prayer to the God of my life.”  One can make their life a prayer by inviting God’s presence in both grief and hope.  According to the “Life with God” Bible, prayer is defined as a spiritual practice: “an interactive conversation with God about what we and God are thinking and doing together.”  Prayer is being ourselves with God and allowing God to speak to us even when we don’t feel like listening or talking.

The following piece creatively illustrates the conflictual relationship we can encounter between grief and hope:

Grief Meets Hope

Grief and hope try to be friends, but it isn’t easy.  Grief pulls back, gets scared, loses its mind in the past.  Hope moves forward quickly, not even imagining all the trouble that might lie in wait up ahead.  Hope is full of energy.  Hope wants to branch out, try something new, get out and get going. 

Grief takes a big long nap and is grateful for the quiet.  Grief needs to lose weight and feels too heavy to get up and start all over again.  Grief holds on tight to what is known.  Grief demands an accounting of all that’s been lost for fear that it will disappear altogether. 

Hope says, “Fine, let it come along for the ride.  There’s plenty of room.  All are welcome here.”

Grief wants very badly to believe that Hope can be trusted.  Can they really co-exist?  If they get together, will they be betraying anyone else?

Hope sings, voices echoing into the future, moving with confidence into unknown territory.  Grief mutters in the background.  Grief is simply exhausted and needs something to lean on.

“Lean on me,” says Hope.  I will always be outside your door and if you let me I will help you.  It’s what I’m here to do.”

Grief rests her head on the pillow and pulls the covers up under her chin.  She closes her eyes, invigorated by the darkness.  She could stay here forever imagining how it used to be, how it could have been, how everything is alien now. 

Hope sits on the screened front porch basking in the filtered warm sun, holding a cup of tea.  Grief lumbers in, squints uncomfortably in the light, but takes a seat anyway.

“This feels like a good beginning for us,” says Grief.

“No hurry,” says Hope.  “We can get up whenever you’re ready to go.”

(By Jill Schacter – aheartbreakdiary.blogspot.com)

We live into peace when we understand hope is not forced, but comes willingly and gently; as does God.

Jody Slaughter, MDiv is a Pastoral Counselor, Aslan Institute and a Lay Minister at Prince of Peace.

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