Finding the “comfort of the Holy Spirit” in deep and painful grief

The Comforter

Someone who has experienced the painful loss of someone dearly loved needs today’s post in “Coffee with the Lord!”

I am reading a deeply moving and powerful book written by Darlene Deibler Rose entitled EVIDENCE NOT SEEN.  It is the story of her hardships as a pioneer missionary with her husband, Russell, their separation because of the Japanese occupation of New Guinea in World War II, and her experiences as a POW in a Japanese internment camp.  Yesterday I read the account of the day she received the stunning news of Russell’s death months earlier in another prison camp…

“Roll call in the prison camp and our devotions were over, the women moved back to their beds.  They whispered or spoke in muted voices; even passers-by talked softly.  I said goodnight and climbed up to my rack.  When I stretched out face down on my mat, I wanted nothing so much as a shoulder on which to put my aching head, and to sob until the fountain of my tears ran dry.  I felt vulnerable and young, desperately needing the strong, comforting arm of the Shepherd.  Who can bruise and make whole again?  Who can break, then restore that which is shattered to a thing of beauty?

“Suddenly my Lord was there, standing in the cathedral of my heart, and from His Word written upon the scroll of my memory, He began to read, ‘He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted…to comfort all that mourn…to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’ (Isaiah 61:1-3)

“From force of habit, I ‘spread it out before the Lord!’ Never once did He interrupt while I told Him everything about the past, the present, the timing, what I was feeling – or not feeling – how the future looked and the oppressive feeling of aloneness that overwhelmed me.  I waited to hear what my Lord would say, and silence answered me!  How unusually quiet it was in the barracks that night!  Then, like seeing clearly for the first time what the Artist had in mind, I understood – these people shared by grief!  By their very quietness they were saying, ‘We’re thinking of you and praying for you in your time of sorrow.’  Their words of sympathy, their tears, the warm pressure of their handclasps were the delicate shadings of empathy mingled with the warm hues of love to create upon the canvas of my heart a beautiful picture of friendship. ‘Thank you, Father, for these, my friends!  Thank you so much for these beautiful people, who are so very dear to me!  Let my grief be mine alone.  Anoint my countenance with the oil of joy, that none may ever feel embarrassed to laugh in my presence.  May no joke or sharing of the ridiculous be stifled because I am there.  Wrap me in the garment of praise, that I may not burden others with the heaviness of my grief.’

“Experientially, I was learning to understand the comfort of the Holy Spirit!  Sometime during the dark hours I slept.  The sword of sorrow had pierced deep within me, but He had bathed the sword in oil!”

(From EVIDENCE NOT SEEN, Darlene Deibler Rose, Harper and Row, 1988

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