Brent Strawn was on CNN yesterday talking about the Bible’s view on how to deal with grief. Last year I attended the Earle Lectures on Biblical Literature with Brent Strawn from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Strawn is an Old Testament scholar and the lectures were amazing. I got to meet him and talk with him a little bit. I think his take here could be really helpful to anyone who is struggling right now. (BTW – if you want to read about the lectures, I posted a few notes & thoughts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
In the interview Strawn points to the psalms as perhaps the most articulate set of texts about grief, suffering, and how to work through it.
“These psalms show that people who are religious feel the full emotional weight that is associated with tragedy, and they pray in that tragedy because they need help. The prayers also show that those prayers frequently help – that the psalms end frequently in hope and confidence, affirming that God hasn’t despised or detested the suffering of those who suffer but actually listened to them and attended to them and helped them.”
On the question of how or why tragedy and evil can happen Strawn says,
“All religions try to deal with the problem of suffering and evil one way or the other, but I think that the Bible holds precious several convictions. One is that God is with us when we suffer. Another is that God really knows our suffering, listens to it, sees it, even experiences it and that somehow will help us through it – maybe precisely through these tools of prayer and texts like the psalms. But there are two other things I think the Bible is helpful on at this point. One is the Bible contains the hope that one day God will set the world straight, and its exactly events like this that lead to that conviction and hope that we all need and want to live in a world where none of this happens again. And the other thing the bible says is that in the meantime we have a lot of work to do to help God set the world straight. And that work includes comforting those who mourn, and also doing whatever we can to contain violence and restrict it, and restrict evil so that none of us have to mourn like we are right now.”
I recommend taking a couple of minutes to watch this clip & then to read a psalm or two – I would recommend Psalm 31, 50, 139, or 23.
[scroll down for the video]