We see in today's text the devastating power of grief. First, the writer's eyes, soul, and body, strength, and bones are all battered by the pain. Second, the neighbors, friends, and family avoid the sufferer. Grief can do that to someone. It is tempting to avoid grieving people. In my seminary education, I read about grief. As a parish pastor for 16 years, I dealt with death and grief regularly. But it was not until my wife, Lynne, died of stomach cancer about two years ago that I really discovered the devastating power of grief. Several months after her death, I attended a grief support group. The co-leader described her grief experience after the sudden death of her husband. She was hospitalized with no known symptoms that could be diagnosed. Finally, the physician said her condition was caused by "broken heart syndrome." That is the power of grief.
There are many causes and experiences of grief, caused by death, broken relationships, or failure. How good it is to hear the bold confidence of the psalmist saying "my times are in your hand...save me in your steadfast love." When we are devastated by the power of grief, we throw ourselves into the arms of a loving and faithful God, whose steadfast love will sustain and heal, no matter what. That is what sustained and sustains me and it will for you.
Gracious God, if we have not experienced the devastating power of grief, some day we will. Thank you for your unfailing love now and we claim it for the future, no matter what. Amen.
Psalm 31:9-16 (NRSV)
9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—terror all around!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God."
15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.