The Sermon on the Mount states, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” But, the church has long sought ways to help those in the throws of grief. With mixed success. Many wish to help a neighbor in distress, but few of us know what to do.
Chris Boykin, a 48-year old widower and Hurricane Harvey survivor comes to mind.
“In August of 2017, I lost my wife to breast cancer, after a year-and-a half long battle,” Boykin said. “The following week, to the day, my house flooded in Hurricane Harvey. During the subsequent rebuilding of everything in my life, me and my youngest lived with my newly-wedded daughter.”
In echoes of the biblical Job, Boykin had endured much. Instead of seeking secular counseling, he found himself attending a group of fellow sufferers at Houston’s Sagemont Church, then leading one of his own at League City’s Bay Area Church.
“I had heard of the GriefShare program before, but never thought I would be attending it at my age. I took the course at Sagemont and absolutely loved it. I met other people going through the same things I was facing—the thoughts, the feelings, the struggles and the actions. I realized that I wasn’t alone. There was a community of people out there going through the exact same journey.”
Having completed the 13-week course, he felt God was calling him to help others in similar situations.
“So, when the call went out for leaders to teach, I reached out to my pastors and told them of my desire,” Boykin said. “They immediately responded positively and worked with me to get the materials and everything together.”
The response surprised them all.
“I ran my first GriefShare group the last quarter of 2018, finishing up just before Christmas. There was a tremendous response from people in the church, as well as people that found us online. We even had a few people join that had seen the marquee advertisement in front of the church. What I love most about leading GriefShare is that I continue to learn how to deal with my own grief, while being able to help others begin their journey. The sense of community and love you feel from others going through the same phase of life is amazing.”
Boykin’s group is in their current session now, but there are almost a dozen other groups meeting at Galveston County churches (see box).
Like Financial Peace, the well-known and unrelated budgeting program offered by many churches here, GriefShare is non-denominational and welcomes atheists, agnostics and anyone else in need to join their groups.
The Rev. David Miller, the community care pastor at Friendswood’s The Harbor church, is one of many pulpit fans of the program.
“Grief is intense and people often ask, ‘Is this normal?’” Miller said. “GriefShare helps people to see that the flood and the range of cascading emotions that they experience is very normal.
Its benefits are incalculable. They journey through grief together, discover that they are not alone, that their pain is not unique, but rather that they have a shared pain. So, the grief is shared and as the grief is shared, healing begins.”
Miller added that the program works because God is a great comforter and healer.
“Each one is able to find sustaining strength in God through the Bible, prayer and through the community called GriefShare.”
Next week in Our Faith: Up to half of pastors in some denominations have day jobs. What is it like to be bi-vocational and pastoral?