David and Bathsheba. (II Samuel 11-12, Selected Verses, NIV)
“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. …Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died. When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
The Lord sent Nathan to David—-to rebuke him. Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.” After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
The first time I really experienced the loss of someone I loved I was in the fifth grade; my sister bolted into my bedroom early in the morning, and cried out, “Uncle Murdock is dead”. I’ll never forget that feeling. Disbelief, shock, the ugliness of death, and not knowing what to do and what to make of such a loss. We all sobbed and shook our heads in disbelief. He was a jovial, happy, fun-to-be-with uncle, and now he was gone forever.
Losing someone you love feels like being intoxicated—you’re brain does not work just right. This past week our new dachshund puppy bit an electrical cord and had a seizure. I rushed him to the animal hospital, but was told that it was probably too late. And so as I experienced the intoxication of loss as I was waiting for the little puppy to die… I could not find my wallet, read a document that I had to sign, or even recall my mobile phone number. I was numb. “Death creates sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take fully understand what anyone says.” C.S. Lewis You dread the moments when return to the house and it is empty. You think, “If only we could talk one more time…”
With loss, or the imminent threat of loss, we realize how precious life, love, companionship, sharing a laugh and just being together is. Those precious notions are by-and-large absent from our everyday thoughts as we pursue our careers, or as we compete, fight, haggle, complain, whine and find excuses for not living with those we love, abundantly, deliberately and with extravagant love. But faced with the death of someone we love, or even the love of a pet, such as I faced this past Monday, dramatic changes in our agenda, appointments and business deadlines take place. Suddenly we are overwhelmed with the thoughts of the one we love.
Why do we cry when we lose someone close to us or as we anticipate that loss? Because we can’t fix it and we know that that loss cannot be replaced. But I believe that our tears move God——the Bible records it. Do you weep before the Lord? Something happens when we cry out to Him…just ask King Hezekiah. He was about to die, turned his face to the wall and wept bitter tears——and God relented and healed him. (II Kings 20:2, NIV). Tears are an expression of our utter frailty and inability to fix or bring about the result we want or stop something from happening. We cry because our hearts are broken——and we know that this is not the way life is supposed to be! Death stinks. “The death of a one you love is an amputation.” (C.S. Lewis)
The greatest benefit to my grief is that I get serious with God. I don’t simply blather out some pious epiphanies, I cry out to God and tell Him the truth. I become the child running to my Father telling Him, “IT hurts, please help it not to hurt!” I take on the proper role of a child and not some pompous sage. Grieving reduces us to this existential truth: we’re mortal and really can’t take care of ourselves let alone the things or ones we love. We live in a hostile environment where any number of things can snuff out a life in an instant. Indeed, all around us are parasites, germs, bacteria and viruses that are not seeking to make our lives long and abundant, but shorter and miserable. But do not forget: “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed). There are some things we can rejoice about in our grieving. There are things we can learn and hold on to!
So…are you hurting now? Are you grieving now? Cry out to God. He knows about loss. He knows about a broken heart. He knows about love. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:8, NIV. Grieving can pull us closer to our Maker than a blessed, grief free life ever could.
One of the first blessings of grief is this: grieving leads us to cry out in pain—and God hears us… as do those that love us. I was surprised at the friends that called me throughout the three days that Abraham’ life was in the balance. It brought me closer to them. In fact, grieving together sometimes pulls even people that were not close into intimate friendships for life. We offer some pretty unconvincing prayers, I suppose, as we intercede for others or pray about starving faceless people in Africa, but when the pain is real, close and visceral, we find ourselves begging God to intervene and bring about what we cannot. It’s a humbling, helpless place in which we find ourselves when we beg Him to hear us and perform a miracle. I begged God, through my choking tears, to let our little dog live. I reminded Him that we had just lost another pet just a few weeks earlier and that it was a very painful loss. So I pleaded—I begged Him—-I humbly asked Him to astound the vet and increase my faith. I appealed to God, as only one that loves a dachshund can, to spare this little puppy……and He did.
The next positive thing I notice in my own life when I am faced with grief or the fear of losing a loved one is how quickly I reschedule my priorities and reorganize my life. David did nothing but pray and fast as he prayed for his baby. Perhaps if he had been praying and fasting while his army was out fighting for him instead of watching Bathsheba bathing none of his sorrow would have come about. Maybe if he had prayed and fasted when he heard that she was pregnant, rather than scheming on how to make it appear that Uriah was the father and, worse, organizing how to get Uriah killed, he would have found himself mourning later. Maybe we should be praying and fasting more about the stupid things we are about to do so that we don’t find ourselves crying, praying and fasting later.
As we mourn we discover what’s important and essential and what is the fluff, stuff and fillers of life. The broken heart is excruciating, but the cleansing of my imagination, day dreams, and worries is a blessing! So often my heart is choked by the unessential, non-consequential matters of sustaining and expanding my existence that the truly beautiful, meaningful and heartfelt segments of life are lost. Grieving gives us a “re-set” to life! Have you grieved this past year? I hurt with you, but I pray that somehow you are closer to Him, your Creator, than you were. I hope that you are perhaps a bit more aware of how blessed you were to have had one to love—even if they are gone. And I hope that you are now living a bit more in anticipation of being united again with the one you… love in an eternal place where there are no tears, no sorrow and no grieving.
Many of us here are grieving today because we’ve lost the people that we have loved for years. You loved that parent, spouse, child or friend selflessly.. and stood by him or her through thick, and then courageously said good-bye. Someone telling you to “get over it” and get back to normal comes from folks that are heartless or don’t understand grief. “To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; but after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too.” (C.S. Lewis). Those that have lost someone they love are, at best learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps one day they shall be given a prosthesis or artificial leg. But that leg will never be replaced while on this earth.
But the near loss of someone, or something, that we love sometimes also calls us to needed change. I appreciate that silly little dachshund puppy not because he is the perfect pet, but because I almost lost him. He now means far more to me than I mean to him—-and that’s the foundation of God’s love, i.e. loving someone more than they presently, or perhaps ever, are able to love you back. We think are properly loving and showing that love to someone, or a pet, until we almost lose them or they are gone for good, then we realize how much better we could have loved.
The near loss of one I have loved, and even the loss of those we have loved, can make us
ready to love, profoundly, the ones we still have more completely. That’s what happened to David. He mourned, grieved, prayed and fasted. And then he left the matter with God. He knew that the child was in heaven and that he would see the child again. So he comforted Bathsheba and they had another son—-the most wonderful son they could have hoped for, and named him Solomon——truly a blessed boy.
I hate death and all the things that bring about death. But the grieving associated with death does help us see those we love differently when we are about to lose them….it helps us reform our ways…and there is an unspeakable joy that will soon be ours when we have something or someone we thought was lost restored to us. Many of you reading this right now that have lost your husband, wife, brother, sister, child, relative, mother, or father——listen to these words if nothing else this morning: An unspeakable joy is coming… and all the more potent because you’re trusting in God and waiting in hope. You will soon be dumbstruck and tongue-tied with the unrestrained celebrating that will accompany your great reunion with the one you loved!