Ministering to the Grieving
These past few weeks have proved a trying time. Part of a pastor’s ministry is to minister to the sick and grieving. There have been many grieving people recently. I also work with friends of the grieving and they often ask what a good ministry to the hurting would be. I’ll opine on this subject a bit today but much more could and should be said.
Grief occurs naturally. It is the body’s way of expressing emotional and mental pain. It is also an emotion God expresses in various places throughout the Bible. Grief is not evil but it can be an avenue to its evil substitute, despair. Grief care requires sensitivity, hopefulness, and self-control. Lack any of these in sufficient maturity and the better choice is to keep one’s mouth closed. Many grieving people have experienced further pain and isolation due to the faulty and erroneous statements from otherwise well-meaning people.
First, grief is an expression of love. Grief varies from relationship to relationship just as all expressions of love vary from relationship to relationship. Grief ministry, rightly expressed, is hopeful in that it expresses the value of the relationship lost and the ongoing affection still available to the survivor through other relationships. Affirming one’s love for the grieved gives him or her cause to avoid despair because of a love relationship they can maintain with the living. They can find hope for life through promise of ongoing relationships with others they love.
Secondly, grief care is sensitive just as love is sensitive. Being a pastor I know this truth firsthand. God does care for those who grieve. Sometimes, however, expounding theology can be insensitive. Prayers for comfort, wisdom, and endurance are best. These three qualities look forward implicitly and deal sensitively with the questions of “why” that are sure to surface. God is faithful to explain his cause but does so gently among his people.
Finally grief counsel is self-controlled just as love is self-controlled. People respond differently based on the quality of the love they shared with the person. In all losses, however, the goal of one’s grief ministry is to restore the perspective of the grieved. Here, self-control plays a crucial role in helping the comforter select words and timing well. One ought not speak about better days in the future nor about the “better-off” circumstance of the dead. Good grief ministry avoids platitudes.
-Continued next week-