The Courtroom of Grief

I’m okay, but it—the tragedy and loss—is still not okay! We sit in the middle of the flurry of emotions, like we are on the spinner in the game of life! Happy, sad, and mad, guilt, shame, and blame attack our souls daily with no warning or preparation on how to process through them.

Rick Warren says that there are Six Stages to Grief:

  1. Shock: when your world falls apart
  2. Sorrow: when your heart is breaking
  3. Struggle: when you don’t understand
  4. Surrender: how to experience peace
  5. Sanctification: how God turns bad to good
  6. Service: how to use your pain for good

During the Struggle Phase, it’s almost like you subpoena yourself to the courtroom. Death, loss, and pain destine us to become lawyers in our own hearts. There must be a purpose, a reason (and a good one at that) and a guilty party, doesn’t there? God knows how long each life will last and we do not (Psalm 139:6, Job 14:6). This realization induces many reactions causing us to invite even God into the courtroom where His sovereignty is tested and tried against our brokenness.

Because of my personal experience with the death of my husband by suicide, I found myself dragging lots of people into the courtroom of my heart. First my late husband, then myself, the clergy, my husband’s closest friends, the adulteress woman (yes, the plot thickens), and former counselors. Because of his sin struggle with lust, I also found myself digging up the roots of the family tree bringing to the stand witnesses and anyone who might be guilty of his death—his parents, siblings, grandparents, childhood friends—people I have never even met. This all takes place against a spiritual backdrop of good vs. evil, our choices, and God’s will for our lives.

Ahhhhh! This case could go on forever and ever (and will if we don’t allow closure). Sadly, the outcome remains the same. Questions tormented me, will life exist apart from my one-flesh marriage union? Was his sin worse than mine or anyone else? Perhaps I’m the criminal—the one to blame!? Does disobedience negate our trust in God? Did God make an example out of his life? If the cause of death had been different, would his eternity be clear? Did his sin alter his destiny? May it never be, Romans 8:38-39 says,

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

All kinds of losses can take us to court. Regardless of the verdict for those we involved in the case, forgiveness must be granted to others as well as to yourself. Without forgiveness you will be trapped in the prison of bitterness whether guilty or not.  2 Corinthians puts it this way, “What I have forgiven, if there was anything to forgive, I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”

Forgiveness is not an option or even a choice—it IS life!

Jesus modeled the secret to forgiveness on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!” We must release the ability to forgive to God. Through this surrender He imparts forgiveness through us. The people in our courtrooms may or may not be guilty but that verdict doesn’t really matter. Losses and deaths are considered rubbish compared to knowing Jesus and the life that will come. Surrendering to the reality that I cannot resurrect my husband from the grave is a critical outcome of the trial. Perhaps forgiveness brings the simple peace that this is for my good and God’s glory!

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered. . . we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.

Suffering introduces a new and necessary dependence on God.

With hope, there is life after death. Hope does not disappoint, Romans 5:3-5 says, “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.