Serving in the Kingdom - FDR’s Armband
The last major American figure to wear a black armband to symbolize mourning was FDR (he is photographed wearing an armband when he signed the declaration of war with the Empire of Japan… it was not for the event that he wore it… he was publicly declaring his grief and loss at the death of his mother. Arm bands for men and simplified dress for women had come about due to the economic hardship of the Depression during which acquiring a second wardrobe for a specific purpose was not always possible. By the fifties etiquette in social life and business held even these as inappropriate. Today, law enforcement officers and sports team still demonstrate this behavior in the loss of a member. Despite rules of social attire the reality still remains… happiness is a choice but grief is a certainty. Grief is universal and Christians are not immune.
When loss separates us from one we love there is a time when we think no one has suffered as we. Our method of handling grief is personal. A powerful emotion at loss is guilt. There is real guilt—that is when we have disobeyed God. False guilt, however, is a normal emotion of grief—it is feeling guilty over something over which we have no control. We are all imperfect humans in imperfect relationships. Our love for others is not perfect. The less perfect our love is, it may seem more necessary to ritualize grief in guilt. Sometimes guilt is present as a result of felt relief. We are thankful for one we love when they are released from suffering and we feel guilt in thankfulness. Sometimes awareness of our ill treatment of others can bring forth guilt which can be manifest as grief.
The pain of grief can bring forth resentment, blame, and condemnation. Grief quenches the normal zest for living—sensations and perceptions are altered. Anger and frustration will occur. The experience of grief is normal and can be experienced as a dark day when clouds block out the sun and we say it isn’t shining. In these circumstances faith in Chris is an advantage—we have grace and forgiveness. The Lord tells us to confess our sins and he will forgive them. This means guilt both the real and the false. Confession brings forgiveness and forgiveness brings freedom. If God willingly forgives us we must be willing to forgive ourselves. Moving through grief is an emotional physical and spiritual journey requiring effort and much energy. The psalmist explained “My tears have been my food day and night” (Ps 42:3).
But the sun is shining… somewhere. The prophet Micah said, “Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light” (7:8). In prayer, and in time, we can know “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Then, the times between periods of grief grow longer and memories become sweeter. We receive the comfort of the promises of God and hope returns. We are changed by the journey and how we are changed is our choice. The best prepared for the journey are those with deep faith and trust in God’s promises (before we need the deep faith and the trust). This avoids the common situation of trying to find and buy an umbrella once it has started to rain.
In the families of our congregation we can expect significant loss-grief to occur in at least one family each week. It is the love of those families who are not affected that generates our ministry of comfort. For those families who haven’t yet experienced grief we have the command of Scripture in the words of Isaiah “Comfort my people” (40:1). We follow this command. And, in doing so, we wear armbands.