A week ago I led a 3-hour morning seminar on grief for about 100 people. In light of all the emotions so many people are feeling about the COVID-19 pandemic, and so many related losses people have experienced, the folks at WBGL Christian radio station (91.7FM here in Champaign, IL) invited me to come and lead a seminar I call “Grieving in a forward Direction.” (If you want to have my handout, message me and I’ll send you a copy)
Grieving is not only part of life, it also is a vital part of Christian discipleship. Jesus was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). In the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus’ first dictums is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
To be human is to grieve. To be a disciple of Jesus is to grieve. To always be “just fine,” is to bury your head in the sand and live in the land of numb.
At the seminar I met and talked with people who, because of COVID, are grieving what feels to them like a lost year. I met people who have lost loved ones, lost a marriage, lost income, lost a dream, lost their health and lost a pet. Indeed, grief is universal. A lot of those who attended are asking what I think is the greatest theological question ever: “What in the Sam Hill is going on down here anyway, God?“
Fifty years ago with campus protests raging across America and the Vietnam war showing no signs of ending, Marvin Gaye (one of the great Motown artists of the 1970s) released the song “What’s going on?“
Leonard Pitts, one of my favorite newspaper columnists, last week reflected on Gaye’s poignant song and the sheer exhaustion so many people are feeling because of the pandemic.
Here is Gaye singing his great tune in a video that makes very clear the questions we are asking in 2021 are the same urgent questions Marvin Gaye asked in 1971. “What’s going on?” could indeed be the soundtrack for my seminar on grief.
Listen to Marvin Gaye’s tune as he says: “Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying.” “Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying.” “What’s going on?” The questions the Motown singer posed 50 years ago still are the questions today that make lots of us throw our hands in the air and ask, “What in the Sam Hill is going on down here anyway?”