By Walter Albritton
Since confession is “good for the soul,” I will confess that since my wife died, there are days when grief wins. The chilling absence of Dean in my life pushes me toward depression and self-pity. In every waking moment I miss the joy of sharing life with her.
Fortunately, I have been able to fight my way out of the darkness and pain of loneliness. Jesus keeps saying, “Walter, I love you too much to let sorrow ruin the rest of your life. I am going to help you be brave and courageous just like my Father and I helped Moses and Joshua. So don’t give up. Take my hand so I can help you endure this sorrow. Walk with me and I will fill your emptiness with my peace and restore your soul.” I’m convinced the only way to beat grief is to stay in touch with Jesus.
I read the Bible a lot because it’s there that I meet Jesus. He is in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. When in the 23rd Psalm David says, “The Lord is my shepherd,” that’s Jesus he’s talking about. The Lord Jesus is my Shepherd, guiding me, molding me, comforting me and teaching me how to serve Him. When the Psalmist says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147:3), he’s talking about Jesus, because that is what He does.
I meet Jesus in church. He had me in tears last Sunday when we began singing “Jesus is all the world to me.” Dean and I sang that song at our son David’s funeral. I choked up hearing the words, “When I am sad, to him I go, no other one can cheer me so.”
I had to stop singing as the people sang the final words, “I trust him now, I’ll trust him when life’s fleeting days shall end. Beautiful life with such a friend, beautiful life that has no end; eternal life, eternal joy, he’s my friend.” I thought, “Yes, Lord, Dean’s beautiful life has not ended! She is with you, and while she can no longer straighten my tie and tell me how handsome I am, she is still cheering me on to victory in my battle with grief!”
I often meet Jesus in a good book. The Lord led me to an old one I gave Dean 41 years ago, A Gift for God by Mother Teresa. As I reread it I found Jesus gently correcting my perspective on suffering.
The world discovered Mother Teresa while she was caring for the poor in Calcutta, India. Dean and I visited Calcutta and never got over seeing the dead and dying on the streets. In her early days in Calcutta, Mother Teresa was stricken with a high fever and became delirious. Later she wrote about it. “In that delirium,” she said, “I went to St. Peter, but he would not let me in, saying ‘There are no slums in heaven.’” In anger, she said, “Very well, I will fill heaven with slum people, then you will be forced to let me in!”
It rather surprised me to learn that Mother Teresa had a delightful sense of humor. Indeed, she insisted that the houses of her Missionaries of Charity (now 4,500 strong!) ring with laughter just as St. Francis and his friars once laughed their way down the highways serving Jesus.
Mother Teresa reminds us that we meet Jesus in the poor. In the poor we are touching Christ’s body. Her words began to chase away my lingering sadness: “In the poor it is the hungry Christ we are feeding, it is the naked Christ we are clothing, it is to the homeless Christ that we are giving shelter.” I thought, “In my remaining days I can wallow in sorrow or I can offer love to the poor and in so doing, offer Christ my love.”
Jesus used these words of Teresa to loosen the grip of grief on my soul: “The best way to show our gratitude to God and to people is to accept everything with joy. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the risen Christ.”
Thank you Mother Teresa. Thank you Jesus. I see the way home now. And with your help, and the prayers of my friends, I will not take another drink from the well of bitterness and remorse. The sweet water of your understanding and forgiveness is all I need.