A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! {10} For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away. (Psa 31:9-10)

  1. Introduction
    1. It would be wonderful if our lives were happy all the time, but the fact is that they are not. For many different reasons we are, from time to time, burdened with grief.
    2. Today we are going to look at grief to see what it is, how it effects us, and what we can do when we are grieving to move out of that state as quickly as possible.
    3. First, let us look at some definitions:
      1. Grieved = annoyed. He was grieved when he discovered that he had been cheated.
      2. Grief = indignation
        1. AC 1492 The case herein is like that of little children who when they love something their parents see to be hurtful to them, and it is taken away from them, are thereby grieved.
      3. Grievous = serious, painful, usually in relation to the Lord’s temptations.
      4. Love that cannot reach out to the one (or thing) loved
      5. The Lord grieves for us when we put up barriers to keep Him out
  2. Lots of things to grieve about
    1. We grieve when the marriage covenant is broken.
    2. We grieve when the people we love die.
    3. We grieve from the effects of diseases on our own states when we are in pain and lack energy to do the things we love to do, and also the anger and grief we feel when someone we love is suffering.
  3. Sometimes we think that because of our doctrines, we should not grieve.
    1. The Doctrine of the Divine Providence
      1. AC 2447:2 All order is from Jehovah, that is, from the Lord, and according to this order are all things directed by Him both in general and in particular, but in many different ways, to wit, from Will, from Good-pleasure, from Leave, and from Permission.
    2. And then when we do grieve, we end up feeling guilty, too!
  4. To grieve at heart is to love.
    1. The elements of Love (TCR 43)
      1. To love someone other than yourself
      2. To desire to be conjoined with the one who is loved
      3. To desire to make that one happy from yourself
    2. For us to feel the delights that come from love, these three aspects must be in place. When they are broken by death, disease, or anger, our love cannot go out and be returned, so we feel grief.
    3. The Lord feels grief when His love is rejected, when people turn away from Him to disorder.
      1. AC 586a And it repented Jehovah that He made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. That He “repented,” signifies mercy; that He “grieved at the heart,” has a like signification to “repent” has reference to wisdom; to “grieve at the heart” to love.
      2. AC 2248 “wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” signifies the Lord’s grief from love toward the human race, and His intercession, urging that possibly there might be what is good joined to them, although they were evil.
  5. The Spiritual do not grieve over external matters which are of no eternal value
    1. AC 2689:2 It is known that all anxiety and grief arise from being deprived of the things with which we are affected, or which we love. They who are affected only with corporeal and worldly things, or who love such things only, grieve when they are deprived of them; but they who are affected with spiritual goods and truths and love them, grieve when they are deprived of them.
      Every one’s life is nothing but affection or love. Hence it is evident what is the state of those who are desolated as to the goods and truths with which they are affected, or which they love, namely, that their state of grief is more severe, because more internal; and in the deprivation of good and truth they do not regard the death of the body, for which they do not care, but eternal death.
  6. Grief is essential to reformation
    1. AC 2694:2 That they who are being reformed are reduced into ignorance of truth, or desolation, even to grief and despair, and that they then for the first time have comfort and help from the Lord, is unknown at this day, for the reason that few are reformed. They who are such that they can be reformed are brought into this state, if not in the life of the body, nevertheless in the other life, where this state is well known, and is called vastation….
  7. Grief serves the use of subduing externals — shakes us up
    1. AC 857:2 Temptations, therefore, have for their end that the externals of man may be subdued and thus be rendered obedient to his internals, as may be evident to every one from the fact that as soon as man’s loves are assaulted and broken (as during misfortunes, sickness, and grief of mind), his cupidities begin to subside, and he at the same time begins to talk piously; but as soon as he returns to his former state, the external man prevails and he scarcely thinks of such things.
  8. Grief in temptations
    1. AC 1917 In temptations there are vastations and desolations, and there are states of despair, and of consequent grief and indignation, besides other interior painful emotions and this with variety and alternation, according to the states of evil and falsity which are excited by evil genii and spirits, and against which the combat is being waged. The diabolical spirits desire nothing more than to find some falsity, in fact it is common with them to induce a falsity from themselves, and then at the same time to make it the subject of accusation.
  9. Natural grief is not a temptation
    1. AC 762 But spiritual temptations are little known at this day. Nor are they permitted to such a degree as formerly, because man is not in the truth of faith, and would therefore succumb. In place of these temptations there are others, such as misfortunes, griefs, and anxieties, arising from natural and bodily causes, and also sicknesses and diseases of the body, which in a measure subdue and break up the life of a man’s pleasures and cupidities, and determine and uplift his thoughts to interior and religious subjects. But these are not spiritual temptations, which are experienced by those only who have received from the Lord a conscience of truth and good. Conscience is itself the plane of temptations, wherein they operate.
  10. Evil spirits cause grief
    1. AC 6828 a “wilderness” signifies what is but little inhabited and cultivated, and also what is not inhabited and cultivated at all, thus in the spiritual sense a man vastated as to good and desolated as to truth, consequently a man who is in temptation; for he who is in temptation is in vastation and in desolation, because the falsity and evil in him come out and darken and almost take away the influx of truth and good from the Lord; and the truth which flows in does not appear to him to have sufficient life to disperse the falsities and evils. Moreover evil spirits are then present, who inject grief, and despair of salvation.
  11. Grief when we find ourselves in error
    1. AC 6559:e But as regards good spirits, if perchance they speak or do evil, they are not punished, but pardoned, and also excused; for their end is not to speak or do evil, and they know that such things are excited in them by hell, so that they have not come to pass by their fault; and the same is also observed from their resistance, and afterward from their grief.
  12. So what do you do about grief?
    1. Don’t feel guilty, don’t waste your energy punishing yourself
    2. Grief is normal and natural
      1. It may have a natural cause
        1. Health
        2. Personal failure or loss
      2. It may have a spiritual cause
        1. Temptations induced by the hells
    3. It serves a very important use of shaking us loose from the habits of life.
      1. And helps us stop to reflect on eternity, providence, etc.
      2. It’s also true that we may soon slip back into the habits…. Like the children of Israel who were able to witness the greatest, most spectacular miracles of all time, and within days be crying that Jehovah had brought them into the wilderness to kill them.
  13. Kubler-Ross
    1. The first psychologist who sat down and talked to people who were dying, and to the families who had just experienced a personal loss. Later, her studies on death and dying led her to an investigation of Swedenborgian teachings which she reviewed favourably in her books.
      1. Denial
      2. Anger – Why me?
      3. Bargaining
      4. Depression
      5. Acceptance
    2. Although almost everyone will go through all five steps when grieving, each step does not get equal attention.
      1. Some may be passed quickly and easily, while other linger.
      2. They do not necessarily come in this order
      3. Once a particular state is passed, it may come again in a different form.
      4. But by being aware of these states, we can cooperate in our own healing, assisting the Lord who is working in secret internal ways by keeping our external situation in order.

I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. {13} For I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, They scheme to take away my life. {14} But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” {15} My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, And from those who persecute me. (Psa 31:12-15) Amen.

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