For millions of people around the world, this is a very important week. It’s the most holy week of the Christian calendar, but this week for Christians, is clouded by grief. For millions of others who do not share the Christian faith, there are lots of questions. In my 30 years of both pastoral and chaplaincy ministries, I’ve always been asked about how such a heavy week of reflecting on death can be so important and yet not depressing. It was hard for me to grasp as a child, too.
Regardless of your faith or if you don’t have a faith, there’s a point I want to make, if you would bear with me, using the Christian faith in light of grief. Last month I wrote about this topic and promised a follow up Chat. I’ve thought a lot about this as I don’t like being redundant nor simply filling paper with words. Grief can be such a very heavy burden to carry. I’ve worked with many recently who are just weighted down with the loss of a spouse, friend, or significant other. They wonder if they will ever crawl out from underneath the dark cloud of grief.
This brings me to my point of using the life of Jesus as an example. The New Testament book of Hebrews says this about how Jesus was able to endure such great suffering and grief. The verse simply says, “For the joy set before him…he endured the cross.” Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus is recorded as going through great agony in a garden – so emotionally and physically disrupting that the capillaries of his veins burst causing small amounts of blood to mix with his sweat; this was the huge weight of his burden. All of us carry burdens, some so heavy we wonder if we’ll ever be able to stand again.
Grief can be like this, too. But the thing propelling Jesus through agony, torture and death is the same thing that can move us through such great hardship – finding joy in the distance. I often say to my first responders, “Where the mind goes, the body follows.” My wife and I moved through a very dark time of her health by focusing our minds on that which was positive, true, noble, and praise worthy. We found a distant joy and we set it as our compass bearing. When our minds would wander, we came back to those things of joy, even if they were small, and reset our heading.
As I wrap up my Chat’s and my time with Meals on Wheels, I pray you may find joy, even if it’s small and in the distance, to focus on and set your road map towards. And no matter how heavy the grief may be, I pray joy would move you through to endurance.
Rev. Peter Keady, CC, CCISM
Chaplain, Meals on Wheels of the Greater Lehigh Valley