Grief and Powerlessness – those seem to be the overriding emotions of the day. It’s easy to feel grief stricken and powerless. Between
- The injustice and recent murders in our country,
- That overall feeling of uncertainty.
There is a feeling of powerlessness and grief that our country and our world has lost so much right now.
For some of us who lived through the sixties, things seem to have only gotten worse rather than better. At times like these, feelings of powerlessness and grief threaten to overwhelm us. However, we need to remember that there is something we can do. In fact, there‘s a lot we can do, however it may seem to be counterintuitive. Grief and powerlessness are only feelings.
We can get power to help us act in a way that makes us part of the solution to all of the above problems.
The first way is to explore the manifestations of grief. Grief is the natural response we have to loss. When life happens, we lose people, we lose things, we lose the way things used to be. This produces the feelings of loss and sadness. Sometimes sadness comes out as anger, deep sorrow, or depression. Sometimes we don’t feel the pain at all and our behavior comes out sideways.
- We overeat,
- We overspend,
- We use drugs and alcohol to dull the pain we refuse to feel.
Once we acknowledge our behavior and admit we are doing it, we can begin to change. Grief is not an easy emotion. It can threaten to overwhelm us and can take our breath away. If we stay with the emotion, and let ourselves go through the process of sorrow, it will eventually pass. Truth be told, dealing with grief is not a comfortable process at all but can be so very healing.
How can we deal with our grief?
- Explore where it comes from
- Nurture ourselves through the process
- Reach out for help if necessary
When we allow ourselves to undertake this journey, the rewards are tremendous. We can feel again and not be afraid that our feelings will overwhelm us. Enjoyment of life returns, we can once again belly laugh and not feel guilty for doing so. Then we can appreciate how far we’ve come. Feeling our feelings of grief gives us back our power. That is one way to tap into the healing power that will heal our lives.
The second way we can reclaim our power is to use prayer.
The etymology of the word prayer is from the Latin word precari, which means to ask.
When we pray, what are we asking for? We are asking to be changed.
Usually we enter the prayer experience, with a sense of humility. We understand that prayer is the channel we use to connect with the Divine. For those who don’t believe in God, you can still enter into the prayer experience. One can still tap into the spiritual energy which underlies all things. Athletes speak of this energy as the “flow” or getting into the zone. Whatever we choose to call it, we just have to admit that that power does not originate from ourselves. We are neither God nor the force that underlies everything. When we depend only on ourselves, eventually we run out of stamina. That is why we need to tap into something stronger than ourselves.
I stand by that statement – prayer is a powerful way to tap into power. However, I want to expand on what prayer is and what prayer does. Prayer in itself is a great start but unless is followed by action, it is wasted.
So, how do we use prayer to help us act? There are two types of prayer one can use. The first is a set prayer – one can use something from a religious or formal body of worship. It is a way to have a focus and use something that has been tried and tested. (Like praying the Rosary, reciting the Shema (the Jewish declaration of faith), or using The Our Father/Lord’s Prayer as a way to guide the mind.)
The second way one can pray is even simpler: You can talk to God as if (S)He were your best friend. When I suggest this, I am met with opposition. “How can God be my best friend?” To that I answer, “Have you ever tried just simply talking to God?” It really works!
I had a well-meaning friend who gave me a copy of “Jesus Calling” https://www.jesuscalling.com/. Okay, it was an odd gift to give to a Rabbi but I understood her loving sentiment. She was trying to ‘help’ me have a relationship with God and this book was a way for Christians to do just that. As a Jew it didn’t hold meaning for me but I happened to appreciate her gesture – the book was good! There is a reason it is a best-selling devotional. (I must confess that I regifted it to a Christian friend who I believed would have a deeper appreciation for it.) However, I understood the book’s message about having a personal relationship with God. It doesn’t have to be complicated or full of pomp and circumstance. You don’t have to go to a house of worship to talk to God. You can talk to God in your kitchen or in your bedroom. It may feel odd or unnatural at first to talk to God. After you practice it a few times, it becomes not only easier but more effective.
The Hebrew word meaning “to pray” is a reflexive verb, meaning that it acts on us. The effect prayer has on us is that it changes us. It makes us more open, gives us more energy and allows us to go off into the world a changed person. When we emerge from prayer, the whole point is not only to feel better but also to feel empowered and able to get to work. What is the work? The work is to change the world in whatever fashion you believe is best.
- If you see injustice, you are obligated to work for equality
- If you see brokenness, you must help bring wholeness
- If you see hunger, you can work to end or alleviate it
Many years ago, my friend invited me to her church to attend a Christmas play. The play took place after Jesus’ death where Paul was now in charge of spreading the message of Jesus’ life. He had to motivate a bunch of men who were grief stricken about losing their leader. Paul finally stops and yells at Jesus’ disciples to stop wallowing in their sorrow and to “Get Busy!”
That is the point of prayer. Prayer enables us to emerge reinvigorated and rejuvenated. We can use prayer as a tool to get us back to the business of fully living our lives. Prayer gives us the strength to work for a better world. When we do so, we can move through the feelings of grief and powerlessness to wholeness and empowerment.
Please share with me what emotions you’re feeling right now through these turbulent times. Even having someone listen to and honor your emotions can be helpful and healing.