“My friend died and I’m having a hard time.” “My wife just had a miscarriage.” “Today is the one-year anniversary of my father’s passing.” I hear about death a lot. Grief makes people vulnerable. In the wake of loss, we are broken and we are broken open. This allows us to accept compassion from others more readily and, for some, to seek spiritual comfort in organized religion. So it’s no surprise when someone who stops for a blessing ends up telling me about the loss of a loved one, often with a shaky voice and teary eyes. We pray, we lament, we name the sting of death for those left behind, even if death has no sting for those now in heaven. (1 Cor. 15:55). A clergy colleague once told me she lost her son to suicide when he was a teenager. It had been many years since his death, and she explained her experience of loss, grief, and resurrection in terms similar to these: When we go though the death of a loved one, our hearts are stretched. Our hearts need more room to accommodate the pain of loss. The answer is not for the pain to displace other things in our hearts, like faith or hope. The answer is for our hearts to grow bigger. Then when the pain lessens, bit by bit, the space it occupied remains. The heart has increased capacity and can be filled with other things - more peace, more joy, more love, more fruit of the Holy Spirit. This has been my experience with many types of loss - loss of a dream, loss of a relationship, loss of an overly simplistic understanding of God, and yes, loss of a loved one. When the depths of our pain meet the depths of God’s unwavering love, we may cry tears of grief and gratitude and joy and sorrow all mixed together. And we can receive even more of God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 5:5).
The Good News of God in Christ includes that sacred mix of emotions. The same mix that comes up on Good Friday. Maybe that’s what makes Good Friday “good.” And maybe that’s what keeps the hope of Easter alive.