The Spiritual Discipline That Helped Me Through Grief

Deepa David   |   January 16, 2024 

I still remember the day so clearly. It was June 20, 2023. It was around 8 am. My dad called to say that my grandfather had passed away. I remember moving in slow motion for the rest of the day. I remember crying with my husband and my kids. Friends came over to hug me and cry with me. The flight to Chennai, reaching my childhood home, viewing my thatha in a coffin. More hugs, more weeping. Meeting more family members over the next few days and collectively grieving the loss of a loved one.

If I thought grief was hard, the next few months that followed were harder still. We were simultaneously dealing with my house helper diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and fighting for her life. We also had to deal with my husband’s health issues and transitioning my son to a new school. I felt like I was swimming in the ocean, and the waves kept hitting me in the face over and over again. It felt like I was out of breath and drowning.

During that time, I had a friend who also happened to be a therapist check in on me constantly. She helped me wade through my emotional and mental mess. She would constantly pray for me when I couldn’t pray for myself. She would gently point me back to Christ.

During that time, I couldn’t read the Bible and pray like I used to. I was too overwhelmed even to think. I did not have the capacity to read and study the Bible, meditate, or do one-to-one bible reading with others. I could do absolutely nothing during those days. But one thing I knew was that I wanted to read the Bible, but I just didn’t have the drive to do it.

So, I started back slowly. Ever so slowly. I was reading through the gospels at that time. And I had the capacity to read just one bible story. It was either a miracle or a parable of Jesus. I would read one story, and I would stop. That’s it. I couldn’t do more. Then, I would ask myself where I saw myself in the story.

Was I the woman weeping at Jesus’ feet? Was I one of the crowd pointing fingers at her character? Where was I when Jesus calmed the storm? Was I a terrified disciple thinking I was going to drown, or was I a frantic disciple throwing water out and trying to help the situation? Was I calm like Jesus, sleeping through the storm? Where was I in the story?

When I met with another friend and told her this is what is helping me through my time of grief and difficulty, she told me that this was called gospel contemplation. These questions would keep coming back to my mind at various points during the day, and as they emerged, I was slowly able to answer them and pray about them—just a one-line prayer. If I saw myself as a woman condemned, I reminded myself that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If I saw myself sinking in that boat like the disciples, I thanked God that he was in the boat with me.

Some days, I couldn’t even do gospel contemplation; on those days, I would just focus on one word. If the Bible story talked about Jesus being filled with ‘compassion’ healed the leper, I would just focus on the word compassion. I would ask God to fill me with that kind of compassion for those around me. I would think about how that compassion can translate into my daily life.

Finally, after many months, I was able to get back to other spiritual disciplines, like journaling, fasting and prayer, praying scripture, etc. But during those initial days of grief and trying to get back into a rhythm, gospel contemplation really helped me.

Maybe you are in a season of life where life is just hard, or your spiritual life feels dry; I invite you to read short portions of the Bible and pause and see yourself in the story. God shows up powerfully in every page of scripture. Every story points to Jesus, and we find healing, hope, and restoration in Him.

 

 

Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

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Deepa David

Deepa David skillfully juggles her various roles as a wife and mother of three kids. Her biggest role is to support her husband in ministry, bringing stability into a demanding ministry environment. She has a heart for underprivileged women and has served with commercial sex workers and women in situations of exploitation and abuse. She is also theologically trained with an MA in Christianity from SAIACS. She is joyful all the time and never tires of hosting people in her home.

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